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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
|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.
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.