journey to fi: march 2020 spending report

Mr. Smith and I have a dream of achieving financial independence (FI). We’ve been on this path for quite some time. Most months, I report the percentages that we spent in each category, our savings rate for the month, and our progress towards our FI number.  

You might wonder why I’m reporting percentages and not the actual numbers. Personally, I think that percentages make a lot more intuitive sense for most people. For example, we often see general financial rules expressed as percentages such as the rule that your housing expenses should be no more than 30 percent of your gross income.  

I use Mint to generate the spending report and figure out our current net worth. It’s not perfect, but as Mr. Smith likes to say, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  

Going forward, I’ll discuss our top three expenses apart from housing and transportation. These two categories make up a large chunk of our spending and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Frankly, it’s boring and I think the other parts of our spending that are variable are much more interesting to talk about. 

Without further ado, here’s where we ended up at the end of March 2020. 

food and dining expenses  

Food and dining expenses made up 19 percent of our income and 30 percent of our spending.  

March was a departure from our typical food and dining spending. At the beginning of the month, we started to see inklings of the “stay-at-home” order that was eventually handed down by the Governor. We started to hear more about the need for “social distancing” and decided to stock up our pantry so that we could minimize going out for groceries. In normal times, we keep about two weeks of pantry staples on hand. We’ve increased this to a month.  

We stocked up on flour, rice, various oils, noodles, broth, frozen veggies, vegan butter, sugar, oatmeal, honey, various beans, peanut butter, and yeast. Potatoes and onions tend to hold well, so we also bought a bit more than normal.   

Of all the things we needed, we couldn’t find eggs anywhere. However, my brother saved the day and traded us 3 dozen eggs for three rolls of toilet paper. I guess we’re ready for the barter system.   

We also topped off our sick supplies with cold and flu medicine and Gatorade for the adults. Since our little one is under a year old, we made sure that we had saline spray, chest rub, Pedialyte, and Tylenol on hand. Since he has chronic lung disease, we must do everything we can to keep him out of the hospital during typical times (RSV and flu season), but even more important with lots of sick people around. I don’t keep a category for cold and flu stuff since it’s bought at the same time as groceries and I’m not a fan of splitting up the receipt.   

Our plan for April is to eat the pantry down to the minimum while continuing to receive our CSA basket of fruits, veggies, ½ loaf of bread, and 18 eggs. (Yes, we really do eat a TON of eggs!) I suspect that my Instagram is going to consist of a lot of Chopped and/or Cutthroat Kitchen examples in the coming weeks.  

gifts  

Gifts made up 5 percent of our income and 9 percent of our spending.  

For the final part of my birthday month gift, Justin set up a massage day for me and a buddy. I must say that the massage was heavenly, and I may need to continue having them regularly after this COVID-19 stuff passes and we’re allowed out again. My masseuse did a wonderful job of finding all the sad spots and working out the kinks. I didn’t realize how much stress and tension that I was carrying in my shoulders, but it makes sense when you remember that I cart around and 14ish pound human and his oxygen tank regularly.  

We also had an impromptu birthday party for my sister when she visited at the beginning of the month. It seems like a million years ago when my mom and sister were here visiting. So much has changed since then! For her birthday, we went to lunch, picked up a cake, and ordered Asian delivery. It was a pretty nice day.  

bills and utilities  

Bills and utilities made up 3 percent of our income and 4 percent of our spending.  

You know it’s a strange month when this category ends up in our top three. This category includes the electric and gas bill, the water bill, and our cell phones. We’re considering having solar installed in 2021 or 2022. It will depend on how much the system will cost and thinking about the rest of our big picture goals for those years. More to come when we start getting serious about the research.   

I’ve had the same T-Mobile account for 18 years. I don’t see that changing any time soon. We have a family plan with unlimited everything and Netflix.   

the actual percentages  

Below are the rest of the month’s spending percentages. I only include normal paycheck spending in these figures.   

We had a strange thing happen this month in-flow wise. I don’t want to call it income since it wasn’t money that we earned per se. Since LP is considered our foster child until the adoption is complete and he was born a preemie with significant needs, he qualifies for social security. Right now, the checks are sent to the adoption agency and then they forward them to us. This month we got four months all at once since that’s how long he’s been home. It was very unexpected. Once the adoption is finalized, we’ll head to social security and figure out if we’ll continue receiving checks. I classified the money under the “kids” category as I do for all in-flows and out-flows directly related to raising him. Of course, this caused our overall spending compared to our income look A LOT lower than normal.   

There were a few things that we decided to get for him this month including a new highchair since he is very much interested in sitting at the table and gumming solids lately. His formula is covered by our insurance due to his feeding tube. A lot of moms in my “tubie” groups were saying that their medical supply companies were having a hard time providing supplies this month. So, I got an extra six cans of formula on the off chance that the same thing would happen to us. Thankfully, it didn’t, and we have our full month of supplies.  

Our “home” category is a larger share of the chart than usual since we decided that now was the time to purchase a television and treadmill for the basement. We had been planning on doing this for months, but now that we’re cooped up in the house it seemed like the right time. It wasn’t an essential purchase and we were surprised when Amazon delivered them both much earlier than originally expected. We also had some gardening supplies included here. The plants I had ordered before all of this really became serious were delivered and I needed hanging planters for them. I’m looking forward to getting them installed during the first week of April.  

progress to fi  

As of this month, we are 35 percent of the way to our fi number. This is five percent lower than last month. Obviously, our investments took a huge hit due to the fears of a recession created by COVID-19. We’re long-term investors though and market dips like this don’t freak us out too much since we’re not planning on touching either bucket until we’re about 50 years old. We’re sticking with our savings strategy and know that things will bounce back eventually.  

How did your month go? Were you able to achieve your financial goals? 

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