We spent what felt like a lot of money this month. 

I have to admit, I put off adding up our expenses in January because I just knew we hadn’t done as well as I would have hoped when I set our big financial goal for this year. After all, we decided to go out of town for my husband’s birthday and splurged on a bigger rental house for the weekend, spent some time in breweries and restaurants, and started paying for some of the expenses (airfare, lodging) for a big trip coming up in May. Plus we went out of town again last weekend, but camped in the truck to keep costs down.

I couldn’t get myself to regret any of our purchases over the month, though, because they were in line with what we truly value. I went into this year knowing full well that the goal I set for us is a stretch one, and we may well fall short by some margin. However, we are in this thing for the long haul and won’t pinch pennies in areas that feel like deprivation. The goal is to be simply much smarter about where our money goes and make decisions about where we spend it, instead of coming to the end of the month and figuring out where it went.

Rainy truck camping picnic dinner
What we didn’t spend money on this month. 

1. Coffee and take out lunches

I did not buy coffee or lunch out any day this month (my husband did have a couple McDonald’s/Subway meals but I won’t begrudge him the occasional hot lunch – he has no microwave at work). I’ve been fighting this habit for a good year now, and it’s finally starting to feel like the new normal. As much as I love coffee shops, they were taking way too much of my money and I wasn’t getting nearly enough value in the exchange.

2. Clothes and shoes

We didn’t spend any money on clothes again this month (February marks a one year clothes ban for me!) and I still have plenty of clothing for my son in larger sizes thanks to hand me downs, clothing swaps, and occasional thrift store purchases. My husband got some great new work clothes for Christmas, so he’s covered for a while as well.

3. Books

All new books came from the library. The best part about this beyond the cost factor is that we get to read a ton of different books but we don’t fill up our house in the process. I really can never say enough good things about the library.

4. No spend days

We had another 12 days this month where we spent absolutely no money. I’m learning that these days are so powerful for us because they’re a way to cull the extraneous costs that don’t bring great value to our lives.

A walk in the park after a visit to the library
Now that I’ve outlined where we did and did not spend money in January, I should probably share the numbers. Like I said at the beginning, I really didn’t want to add everything up because I knew we’d spent too much. There’s no way we could have such a fantastic and busy month and hit our savings goal at the same time. We are solidly in the median income bracket for our area and don’t have crazy high paychecks coming in every two weeks.

However, I promised that I would be transparent and share our monthly spending for all of 2018, so I reluctantly added up my daily ledger – which I did keep up every day in January! I was proud to have kept up on tracking, at the very least. I told myself that I would share even when our savings rate fell well short of our 50% goal. So without further ado, our numbers for the month.

January 2018 Spending (Excludes mortgage + daycare)

Spoiler alert: we saved 53% of our income this month. Freaking fifty-three percent.

January 2018
Groceries $462.37
Restaurants $406.95
Fast Food $19.48
Gym $17.84
Gas $110.10
Car $28.11
Utilities $218.01
Pet Care $228.28
Vacations $588.69
Miscellaneous $53.00
Total $2,132.83
Savings Rate 53%
Excl Mortgage Principal 47%

**note that for better or for worse, we have seen a slight uptick in our take home pay as the new tax bill was implemented at the start of the year. 

I think it’s going to take a number of months of this high savings rate for it to feel real and achieving enable to me. We spent years doing “pretty well” with a 22-23% savings rate, but it honestly didn’t feel like there was that much room for improvement, unless we really wanted to give up our vacations and weekend adventures. Only now am I realizing how much fluff was actually in our monthly spending – and that most of us didn’t add much value to our lives.

I actually had to triple check that our mortgage had been paid (no, I do not automate almost any of our bills) because I couldn’t believe we still had so much money in our checking account after it had been pulled. As in, it now feels like we have a full extra mortgage payment to put toward savings every month because we’ve cut out the mindless extras. It never felt like we had inflated our lifestyle by that degree, because it came in small increments as our incomes increased, but we had really expanded our “needs” over time to fill our larger paychecks. My younger self working part time at Petsmart while paying off student loans would be shocked to see how much money we were able to spend every month. Lifestyle inflation is seriously a thing. And it’s taken a full year of incremental changes to finally take back our financial future into our own hands.

Nothing better than making your own birthday cupcakes
A few more months and I expect to have a good enough sense of our (new) regular spending to set some actual FI milestones for us. So far we’ve just been focused on increasing savings with a nebulous FI date somewhere in the next 15ish years. Since it’s so far out – and neither of us is ready to quit our jobs anyway – this calculation hasn’t felt as important. But as our spending shrinks and our savings grows, that fate looms a bit closer and I’d love to know where we really stand.

Where our savings has gone:

1. Slowly refilling our emergency fund, and then expanding it. After all the unexpected expenses we had this past summer, I’ve finally become a believer in a larger cash emergency fund.

2. Paying off our real estate investment. We paid off an additional $800 in January, leaving the final balance at $2,948.91.

3. Contributing to an IRA. I’m currently backfilling for 2017 because I didn’t max it out, and the tax benefits are greater for this tax season than next.

One successful month down, another 11 to reach our big goal this year of a 50% savings rate.

45 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: January 2018 

  1. That’s an incredible savings rate! You made some very good points about still spending money on things that are important and fulfilling to you and recognizing what you DIDN’T spend money on. Well done!

    1. Thank you! At some point I’ll stop being surprised at how well we’ve done, right? 😉

    1. It’s a new park. The neighboring city to ours has been doing an amazing job creating a “real” downtown where there really wasn’t one.

  2. For all your fear, and I totally get why you felt that way with the vacation expenses, your result was phenomenal in January!

    I am curious about one thing, is most of the cost in restaurant spent on the trips? I always debate whether to put that under vacation or eating out.

    1. I’ve debated that same thing because yes, at least half or more of that restaurant budget was spent on trips. For now, I’m keeping it all in restaurant spending and vacation only covers things like lodging/transportation costs that are specific to the trip. I figure it doesn’t really matter as long as I stay consistent.

  3. I didn’t know that you’ve done a year of a clothes ban. That’s awesome!

    I can’t believe you first told me 56% and then revised it downward to a 53% savings rate. That extra 3% of spending pretty much erases HOW AMAZING saving more than half of your income is! 😉

    1. I know, I know. Now we’re going to have to hit 56% some time this year so I can redeem myself 😉

      The last item of clothing I bought was some time in February, but I don’t remember exactly when, so I’m calling March 1 the “official” full year. I’ll make sure to write a follow up post when I finally get there. Amazingly it just feels pretty normal now.

    1. Haha, I still don’t expect it to be easy! But a small raise for my husband plus the new tax code did give us an unexpected boost. And the vacation spending is here to stay every month 😊

  4. Great savings rate there, and more importantly aligning your spending with your true values.

    And the cupcakes look awesome, I want some now…Cupcakes…cupcakes..

    1. They were totally awesome! It’s going to take some serious willpower not to eat the leftovers now 😊

  5. I hope we can one day get to this savings rate! We’re currently putting lots of extra money towards paying off our debt, so our actual savings isn’t impressive. We, too, didn’t eat out last month, and it now feels totally normal. We wasted SO. MUCH. MONEY (and time) buying food and coffee each month. I was amazed what a huge difference it made in our monthly spending/savings. Keep up the great work! I hope you’re able to meet your annual savings goal!

    1. I’d calculate your debt payoff rate with your savings rate then – will give you a sense of what you’ll be able to do once that debt is gone 😊 And yes – food and drink used to be our biggest expense, hands down.

  6. Great month!!

    Love that you guys camp in your truck, that is awesome…I think there’s some country song that goes, “I got an 8-foot bed that never has to be made…” good road trippin’ tunes!

    Love hand-me downs…I used to live by a gal that was the same size as me and she would just “get tired” of her clothes and bring them over. Sometimes with tags on them…and want nothing for them. hello. score. Of course we did buy our fair share of her kids selling things for school, etc. so somewhere in there I must have paid a lil’ for them. Wish I still lived by a gal like that!

    Great wins for the month!

    1. I definitely know that song 😉 My hand me downs most often come from my mom, which is so totally awesome. Since I’ve implemented my no clothes buying ban, I’m finding that I’m saying yes to things I might not have in the past. It’s definitely an interesting line to walk between accepting everything offered and not filling up your house with “free” stuff.

  7. That’s an awesome saving rate. You need to keep it up. 🙂
    The walk in the park looks like fun for the kid.
    We spent a bunch on vacation last month. I knew Iceland is expensive, but it didn’t really hit me until we have to pay…

    1. Thank you – I agree we do!! A bit harder on smaller salaries, but we’re managing. Just write a killer post about the experience and eventually the trip will pay for itself 😉

  8. Great saving rate! Keep it up.
    Your grocery bill is really good but it seems to be offset by a high restaurant expense.
    I am glad to see I am not the only one spending money on my pets! I love them:)

    1. The restaurant expense is mostly from vacations – I just split it out that way because it makes the most sense in my brain. And our one dog has heart problems and her meds are $$$$

    1. Ha yes. It’s a really weird experience. Maybe some day it will just feel normal – but that’s when complacency sneaks in I think.

    1. Oh we have definitely started down the travel hacking rabbit hole. We’ve had our Alaska card for years (hello $98 for 4 tickets to Hawaii!) But now I’m branching out with new cards.

    1. It’s actually easier coupled up in my opinion. It’s the kid that makes things expensive 😉

    1. I hope so!! We shall see what the next 11 months bring (definitely more travel).

  9. That’s a really good savings rate and since you are making an effort to be more conscious where your money goes, that savings rate can go higher.
    I’m with you on the library, they have so much to offer and you don’t have to worry about buying books/media. It’s all there!

    1. I’m honestly wondering if we have much higher to go at this point. Without cutting out the vacations, which we aren’t willing to do 😉

  10. Ammmmmazzing 53%!! Thanks for sharing the breakdown, $400 on groceries is really good! 12 no spend days! You are really rocking this. $200+ on pets- ugh totally can relate. I think I am at $150+ a month at least from now on, with vet + dog food + nail clipping.

    1. Thank you! Considerable amount of vacations and restaurants (while out of town), but that’s what we value. Our one dog’s medications cost almost $150/month by itself now.

  11. Just curious. I just did our budget for the month of January and I have some expenses I do not see on your list. Car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, house insurance, property tax, phone, internet access… Are these things grouped in something you’ve listed?

    1. Health insurance/phone covered by work. Property tax and home insurance covered in our mortgage payment (daycare and mortgage not listed here, but included in savings rate). Internet is just $34.99/mo and included in “utilities.”

  12. Hi there–new to the blog and this was the first post I’ve so far. It’s a good one! Congrats!
    I am just starting out trying to tackle our finances and save more of a percentage of our income per month–this post makes me feel a little more like it’s actually possible. My first step is to figure out how much we are saving right now before making any changes.
    My trouble is tracking our spending. I am trying to just use a good old fashioned notebook and pencil, but I keep forgetting to write things down or ask my husband what he spent that day. I know there are apps to automate this process, but I am really trying to REDUCE the amount of time I spend staring at a screen–so I’m torn.
    Ugh. I guess if it was easy everyone would be retired!

    1. Do you use cash or cards to pay? We used cards for everything (travel rewards!) so it’s easy to go online and pick up anything that got left out. For me, it’s easier to just jot a note in my phone any time we pay for something, but it may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you 🙂

      1. We mostly use cards because of the cash back but my husband does use cash sometimes. I’ve done it that way by looking online but I always felt like I was missing some things here and there. I think you are right about the trial & error!

      2. You could even just make a “misc cash” line for now. I’m finding things are starting to get ironed out now that I’ve had a few months of strict tracking under my belt. It does get easier.

  13. Hello. I just discovered your blog recently and wanted to share that I was in the same situation like your husband – no way of heating food at work, but wanting to keep bringing my own lunches preferably hot (to save money and also to eat better quality food, i.e. organics). And it was a struggle until I discovered thermoses! Now I heat up my lunch at home in the morning, pack it in a thermos and at lunch time it is still hot (occasionally only warm depending on type of food). Soups, stews and food with lots of liquid keeps it’s temperature the best and they are still piping hot after 4h in a thermos.
    The price of a thermos seems kinda steep, but they last a long time and they definitely paid off in my case. I’ve been using it 3-4 times a week and in over 5 years I only ever had to replace it once. This is the one I have:
    I don’t know how it compares to other brands since I only ever bought 2 of them and both from this same brand. They definitely work for me and the only negative thing that ever happened was that I twice screwed it too much (past the recommended marks) and haven’t been able to open it by myself.
    I hope this helps!

    1. That’s an awesome idea! I don’t know if he’ll go for it (many days he doesn’t have time other than to grab a handful of something), but this would be a great way for him to have a hot meal without having to resort to McDonald’s 😉

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