February marked three months of very closely tracking our day to day spending. I fell off the wagon a bit the second half of December but hopped back on with daily logging in January. So far, we haven’t quite hit the same low monthly spending as November, but it’s been close. We ate through our large freezer stores that month, so these months following have been more realistic for the long run.

Our vacation / restaurant spending continues to be our highest discretionary categories, which is purposeful these days. We could cut this out to really push our savings rate as far as it could feasibly go, but our long term goals center around making each day and year as fulfilling as possible, so that discretionary spending is here to say. Unlike last year though, these expenses are purposeful and chosen instead of “just happening” without a lot of thought.

So far, we are on track to save half our incomes in 2018 and we still get out of town for a short trip at least once a month. February spending included two camping trips (2 and 3 days each), plus prepayment for an Airbnb rental this past weekend at the beginning of March. Camping is obviously a really fun and affordable way to get away for the weekend, but renting a house with a group can be a lot of fun as well.

This past weekend, we booked a 4500 square foot house for a large group and it only cost us $66 per person for two nights – a bit more than camping, but we had a large place to cook and a warm spot to hang out in the evenings. Not all of our friends have a warm camping set up for the winter months, and it’s a lot of fun to go as a group.

Heck of a view for the weekend – and a favorite grazing spot for a herd of Roosevelt Elk!

Airbnb and other similar platforms make it really easy and affordable to get group lodging, and if you’ve never booked through them before, use this link to get $40 off your first stay. (Transparency here – I would also get $20 off our next stay, but as always, I will never recommend something I wouldn’t fully get behind).

Thus far, I’ve broken out our grocery and restaurant spending to their respective categories instead of lumping them into vacation expenses, but I’m wondering if it makes more sense to put all vacation money spent into one category. Any thoughts? I guess it doesn’t ultimately matter as long as I stay consistent, but most of our restaurant spending happens on vacation days, and our grocery bill is disproportionately higher on those days as well because we tend to splurge on good local food on our trips.

What we spent our money on this month

1. Three weekend trips

As I mentioned up above, we went on two camping trips in February and paid for the lodging for a group weekend with friends for the first weekend in March. Even though we were out of town quite a bit this past month, it really didn’t cost us very much because of the way we chose to plan the trips. Outside of a bit of extra gas and lodging, we really didn’t spend any more than we would have at home, and the lodging cost was minimal thanks to the camping trips and splitting the house with a big group.

Hanging with his otter friends in Port Townsend

2. Utilities

It has been abnormally cold around here lately, with lows regularly in the 20s and low 30s, and our gas and electric costs went up as a result. We also pay our water/sewer bill every other month, and February was that month. March will be considerably less expensive on the utilities front.

3. Date night

My mom offered to watch our son on a random Tuesday night, and we gratefully took her up on it. We love our adventures as a family, but it is nice to go out just the two of us occasionally. It wasn’t a big affair like we’ve done in the past, and we went for happy hour, but it was an extra restaurant night than we would have had otherwise.

4. Miscellaneous

This category was considerably higher than past months, due to a few one time purchases. We bought our absolutely fabulous electric blanket for wintertime camping, and it has already paid for itself by allowing us to camp comfortably in freezing temperatures ($30/night camping instead of $129/night for a cabin for our three day weekend to Port Townsend).

Our house backs up to a forested park, which means our roof gets covered in moss if we aren’t super proactive about it. This means every 3 or 4 months buying moss killer from Costco. We apply it ourselves, so save on the labor side of it, but the moss killer itself does cost some money. When our roof eventually needs replacing, we will put on a metal roof and take away this regular maintenance item, but for now, the goal is to keep the roof in good shape so it can last as long as possible.

The view out our backyard is awesome, but it comes with a maintenance cost to be sure

We also had a random $67 medical bill to pay this month, so that added to the miscellaneous category as well. I’m just thankful our overall medical costs are so low that they don’t warrant a category all on their own.

What we didn’t spend our money on this month

1. No spend days

We had another nine no spend days this month. Not quite as many as last month, but the percentage was almost the same since February is such a short month. I’d love to get this number up to 50% one of these months, but it still remains a difficult challenge for us.

2. Clothes

I made it a year without buying any clothes!! I know I mentioned this in my Friday round up already, but I’m seriously feeling accomplished for achieving this goal. Look out next week for the full rundown of what it really looked like for me.

3. Coffee and lunch

Okay, so I DID buy coffee out once in this past month, but it was an intentional purchase for a relaxing nap time hour while we were out of town, so it felt completely justified. Now that it’s a rare occurrence, it feels like a real treat. Other than that one trip, I didn’t buy premade coffee all month and continued my streak of no work lunches out.

4. Birthday party and presents

Our son turned three in February, and instead of spending a ton of money on presents and random stuff for his party, we made a whole variety of special foods from scratch and celebrated with his favorite people. He still received a couple presents from friends and family, and he had a wonderful birthday week.

February 2018 Spending (Excludes mortgage + daycare)

January 2018 February 2018
Groceries $462.37 $491.07
Restaurants $406.95 $440.00
Fast Food $19.48 $5.72
Gym $17.84 $17.84
Gas $110.10 $120.23
Car/Transit $28.11 $166.00
Utilities $218.01 $370.27
Pet Care $228.28 $209.95
Vacations $588.69 $274.65
Miscellaneous $53.00 $256.28
Total $2,132.83 $2,352.01
Savings Rate 53% 51%
Excluding Mortgage Principal 47% 45%

Where our savings has gone:

1. Just like last month, we continued to pad our our emergency fund. I haven’t quite decided on a number where I will stop adding to our cash reserves, but for now, I’ll divert a bit of each paycheck into our money market savings accounts. I keep meaning to transfer some of this to a high savings online bank, but I haven’t done it yet. Hopefully by putting that out there, I’m more likely to make it happen now.

If you have a favorite online bank, let me know! So far Ive been leaning toward the Capital One 360 savings account, but I’m more than willing to entertain other options.

2. Paying off the last of our real estate investment. We paid off $800 in January and $1,350 in February, leaving a balance of $1,610.45 at the end of the month. It feels so good to have so much extra money each month to make real strides in our savings and investments lately.

3. Contributing to my IRA. February was the last month I sent money as 2017 funds, as I had our tax appointment with our CPA and it turns out we don’t actually owe anything this year. Amazing what increased retirement funding and charitable giving will do to your tax bill. I’m now going to look at our withholding for this year because I’d rather not get a chunk of money back at tax time, but instead have that income each month to invest as I please.

In previous years, it may have been better for me to hide that money from ourselves to use as a lump sum payment once a year, but now that I have been meticulous about our daily spending, I’m confident I can do better to have that money up front. On the flip side, Melanie at Partners In Fire makes a great argument for the tax refund savings account strategy, so it really depends on what works best for your individual situation.

Looking forward into March

March is a three paycheck month for both of us, which means our income is going to be absolutely fabulous. I’m excited to really shovel money away with that extra cash flow. However, we are going to see some larger expenses as well, so not all of the difference will go to savings.

My husband had a few new tools to purchase (both for work and personal projects), and we have our dog’s follow up appointment with the cardiologist. I’m so thankful that she is doing as well is she is and that we have the means to pay for her vet visits and her daily medications, but older animals can have exponentially higher medical costs, just like people.

When she was a younger pup and didn’t cost so much money 😉

The truck will also need new tires in the next few months, so we’re starting to think about that now. With those expenses in mind, I’m going to really focus on the controllable expenses, namely our food budget, in order to keep our total expenses under control over the next few months.

The big difference between now and six months ago is dramatic – I’m planning and expecting the large bills, instead of reacting defensively after they happen. We may not have a budget in the traditional sense, but in keeping a close enough eye on the day to day numbers, we are ready to tackle anything that comes our way. It is such a powerful and wonderful way to be looking to our future.

48 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: February 2018

  1. That was incredible. Close to 900 dollars on food, vacation, and still around 2000 dollars? We get to 2000 plus without any vacation and not so much eating out. Trying to really focus this month. It is hard when only one of us is as committed.

    1. Plus mortgage and daycare on top of that 🙂 My husband isn’t quite as committed as I am, but I think that’s honestly a good thing as he provides balance so I don’t get too intense and forget to have fun along the way.

      1. I don’t add mortgage either. But I do include daycare – it is not so bad these days now that he has grown up a bit and I work from home thrice a week. About 300 per month.

      2. Yeah, two days a week of daycare is more than double that for us…

    1. That’s the goal!! Not willing to cut our spending so far that we can’t travel when we want to.

  2. Awesome month! You’re crushing your goal 🙂

    I also have a 3 paycheck month coming in March so I’m excited for the extra savings!

    I’m also looking to open a savings account at a higher interest online bank (as my current one is too small since I opened it out of convenience), I’ve been looking at Ally and CIT, but I’ll check out capital one 360 as well. I’m looking to do it in the next couple weeks so I’m gonna hold you to it as well! 😉

    1. Ha okay, it’s on! Apparently we both need to make it happen in time for our March monthly update 😉 I’ve heard about Ally but don’t know anything about CIT.

      1. Agreed! It’s only beneficial for us and now we’re obligated to complete it! I’ll let you know if I see any strong cases for a particular one 🙂

  3. i just wrote a post about how happy i have been with ally. details are in there, but they’re now at 1.45% if you keep enough in there and they just raise that when the fed funds rate goes up i think. when we eat out on vacation it comes out of the vacation bucket. that tire purchase is going to hurt i’m guessing. we just spent 700 and only for a mid sized sedan. doh!

    1. 1.45% sounds seriously awesome. I need to make that switch this month. And yeah, the truck tires will be somewhere in the $1200 range.

  4. As you know, I do all vacation spending, food and drink included, in my vacation category. I like the simplicity of knowing exactly how much I spent on vacation, and I also like that it doesn’t inflate my normal eating out numbers haha. But the consistency is key.

    I’ve got both Capital One 360 and Ally accounts. They’re both great, but Ally has a better interest rate (although let’s be honest, interest rates on savings are still a joke) and they have raised it incrementally multiple times since I opened my first account with them. Just my two cents (which is about what I made in interest on one of my smaller savings accounts last month 😂).

    1. Yeah I’m starting to think I’d rather break it out that way, but since I have three months of tracking this way, I’m not sure I want to go back and try and reorganize things haha. And that’s still way better than the fraction of a percent that we’re currently getting in our savings accounts.

  5. Looking good! We didn’t spend much in February because it was cold and we were sick often. We stayed home and hunkered down. Our travel bill busted the budget, though. 🙁

    Why don’t you include mortgage and daycare in your expense spreadsheet? Great job overall.

    1. To keep just a tiny bit of privacy when it comes to our overall income / expenses 😉 And also because those are two expenses that are really fixed in stone, so I’m not focusing on them. It might be different if we were looking to pay off our home early, but that’s not in the plans at the moment thanks to the low interest rate.

  6. Good job with the savings rate and that’s with the weekend trips you took last month.
    I currently have 2 high-yield savings accounts at Goldman-Sachs and American Express. Both have a 1.45% rate right now so you might look into those two banks.

    1. Hmmm yeah that is way better than what we have at our current bank. Honestly, that’s not hard to do since ours is practically zero.

  7. Wow, you guys are doing amazing! Plus that airbnb rental is incredible!! I also found a way to hack a savings rate for 1.85% with just $1k min ;). Coming soon to a blog nearest you :P.

    1. Make sure I read that post when it’s live! And the rental was so awesome. It was a new listing, so I expect the price to go up once they get a number of reviews.

  8. Great work, Angela! You’re inspiring me to find weekend getaways via Airbnb. We could’ve used one – ironically right after getting back from vacation in Nevada last week. Funny how returning to cold, overcast, snowpack can dampen one’s spirits.
    I’m curious if you’ve considered a home equity line of credit for your emergency fund, in order to free up your hard earned cash?

    1. Not really surprising at all – this part of the year is hard because winter started so long ago but spring isn’t here yet.
      As far as a HELOC goes, by husband is understandably not interested in leveraging our personal home. His risk tolerance is pretty low in that way 🙂

      1. True – maybe it’s time to bring up the subject again 🙂

      2. That would be correct! Well, where I first heard of it anyway 🙂

  9. I love that you guys do winter camping! I never really got into it. Partly I just really hate being cold. But if we ever buy a hard sided camper again, I would consider it. Or more likely just drive it some place warm. =)

    1. The good news is, the pacific northwest version of “really cold” is the 20s or 30s, so that electric blanket really goes a long way. I hear you on just getting somewhere warm though! I could use some spring or summer weather about now.

      1. We are pulling our kids out of school 6 weeks early this year, so I’m not sure I want them missing more school. But in the future, I see 2-4 weeks of travel to warmer places come Jan-Feb-March. I love the snow, but a little break would be great. Absence makes the heart grow founder, right?

      2. I’m really curious about how you go about pulling them out of school for that long! We have another 2.5 years until kindergarten and I’m starting to consider how that might impact our travel schedule.

  10. 50% no spend days?? Thats a tough goal! But it sounds like you are on track to get there. Thanks for the shout out too, that was a pleasant surprise!

    1. Yeah, it isn’t going to be an easy one to hit (and we may not), but it seems like a good goal to keep in the back of my mind.

  11. Your pup is adorable!! Love the graphics. I am very impressed with winter camping and even more so impressed with your savings rate and great 3 year old birthday party! I am getting excited about PNW summer camping this year as last year I missed out since I was heavily pregnant and could be mistaken for a PNW whale, haha.

    1. Oh yeah, I learned the hard way that backpacking (and camping in general) is no fun while pregnant. So much better with a toddler 🙂

  12. I have both the Cap 360 and Ally savings – The interest is similar on both. I also have a Cap 360 checking – which pays interest as well. The difference for me is – I can transfer easily from my Cap 360 savings to the checking if I need the money right this minute, The Ally takes a couple of days to transfer to my checking account. So far both have been great.

    1. Hadn’t thought about having it linked to a checking account – not sure I’d NEED the money that quickly, but it never hurts to have access to funds (though normally that sort of urgency can usually go on a credit card and then paid off once money transfers in a couple of days).

  13. I also need to move my emergency fund into an online higher paying savings or money market account. I recently found Ablebanking.com that has a money market account paying 1.7? It just has a minimum of 250 opening balance and was thinking about just opening to see how I like it before moving everything over. Have not taken any action yet. Would be curious to know what you think about it if you research it.

    1. Hmmm I’ve never heard of ablebanking.com before. I’ve never gone about opening an account at an all-online bank before, so I’m probably going to go with one of the big name ones just for my comfort level.

  14. Way to go on the savings rate. Those mini vacations are priceless. Don’t know if it was mentioned. Many in personal finance recommended 3-6 months of expenses in an emergency fund because it takes no longer than that for things like unemployment insurance and the like to kick in. That is recommended, you keep whatever amount lets you guys sleep at night.

  15. I’m new to the whole camping game but want to take my 4 year old son so doing a LOT of googling etc. Leaning towards the ease of just sleeping in our small SUV and prefer cooler months (I live in the south- summer= horrible heat.) So that’s the background info- the technical question is how do you power an electric blanket when camping? I recall you “car camp” as well in a van (did I read that here or elsewhere?) And also- if you have *any* other car sleeping/ camping tips I’m all ears. Thank you so much in advance!

    1. The electric blanket only works when we are in a campsite with power (think RV sites, but a lot of state campgrounds have power as well). My biggest tip for a first camping trip with a kiddo is to try one night out at home in your backyard/driveway so the kiddo can get used to it and you can always go inside to bed if he has too a hard time settling down. Then it’s not quite so new and shiny when you go do it for real 🙂

      Our “vanlife” weekends are really “trucklife” – here’s the post I wrote on it a while back, but please reach out with any other questions you may have! Camping with kids can be so much fun. https://treadlightlyretireearly.com/2018/02/12/our-familys-frugal-alternative-to-the-instagram-vanlife-weekend/

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