April was a crazy busy month. Mostly in a good way, but still extremely busy. I started my public service board commission for our city, sent some good friends off on a move to Hawaii, wrapped up a work project and began a new one, and we went out of town three separate weekends because I apparently don’t know how to sit still and relax, no matter how much I try and focus my yeses.

Vacations

Weekend trip #1 was a whirlwind ~24 hours down to Oregon so I could attend my college sorority’s annual alumni event. Long story short, our sorority doesn’t have the funds to continue paying for the house we’ve been in for the past 50 years, so after this year, there will be no more physical structure for the sorority at that campus. While I realize that the sorority is well more than four walls, I spent much of my time in college in that house and I have a lot of strong memories tied to it. And so, even though we really didn’t have the time to fit in a trip south that month, we made it happen. I’m very appreciative of my husband because I had talked myself out of it because of the timeline, but he brought it up again a few days before the event and so we made it happen. I had a wonderful, bittersweet time with my sorority sisters, and I’m so glad we made the trip. Allyson over at Auditing Myself is also a Delta Gamma, and conversations with her really reminded me that the sisterhood there is more than just my college’s campus and that specific house.

Since my alma mater is about an hour south of Portland, we decided to stay the night in the city, and I found a great hotel for a reasonable price within walking distance of one of the many neighborhoods downtown. My husband’s godfather, a local friend, and Bethany from HisAndHerFI joined us for an awesome dinner of bimimbap after happy hour at Kells Brewery. If you’re ever in Portland, I would highly recommend both places.

$4 beers at Kells

Trip number two was a camping trip out to – surprise – the Olympic Peninsula that had been planned for a while and we had quite a few friends join us. The forecast predicted rain for most of the weekend, but we lucked out and it only rained on us Saturday afternoon. The campground was free, and other than traveling to and from the area, our only expenditures for that weekend were food and beer.

The final trip we took in April was to Leavenworth, also last minute, but since we had Christmas gift money specifically earmarked for a weekend there, the overall cost was quite reasonable. It had been a good seven months or so since we had been to the area, so we really enjoyed being there. While it’s a very visitor centered town that was specifically designed to a Bavarian theme about fifty years ago to keep the town alive, there are a ton of great free things to do outdoors, some great kid centered shops and activities, and of course, great local wine, beer, and food. It’s a favorite spot of ours, and we go back a couple of times a year.

Sandwich fixings courtesy of Cured (Leavenworth)

Miscellaneous

The bulk of our “miscellaneous” category this month was the $78 charge for our son’s soccer classes at preschool. They’re an optional add on, but they’re his absolute favorite part of preschool, so it is a non negotiable cost for us. Our son had a rough time transitioning to two days a week of preschool instead of all mama or grandma time, so I’m forever grateful that soccer gave him something to look forward to on those days. He likes going to preschool in general now, but soccer is still his very favorite part of those two days a week.

Food and Drink

Once again, our food and drink costs are higher than would be expected of a family in the pursuit of financial independence, but they are much lower than they used to be. Amazingly, this was our first month where our grocery bill was under $400, but our restaurant (and brewery) costs more than made up for the lower “at home” food costs.

This was mostly due to the three weekend trips, but we also covered the cost of a nice dinner out with my parents. Even now, they still pay for most of the meals we share together, but we like to pick them up when we can (*ahem* when we can give the server our credit card faster than my father). That one meal alone added a chunk to our restaurant expense for the month, but I don’t regret paying for it for one minute. We have transitioned our regular meals with them to mostly home cooked meals these days though, partially because of this blog and my mom feeling like we shouldn’t spend the money out when I’m so focused on frugality and waste 😉

No Spend Days

We had nine no spend days this month. Not a record, but still close to 1/3 of the whole month. I know some people do much better at this than we do, but a lot of the spending days are just because that’s when we end up paying bills / going grocery shopping. The big reason why I still keep track though is because it requires me to stay mindful in our spending, even when it comes to “required” spending.

April 2018 Spending (Excludes mortgage + daycare)

January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018
Groceries $462.37 $491.07 $497.53 $343.37
Restaurants $406.95 $440.00 $243.63 $583.75
Fast Food $19.48 $5.72 $80.34 $83.54
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84
Gas $110.10 $120.23 $262.00 $199.76
Car/Transit $28.11 $166.00 $60.00 $0.00
Utilities $218.01 $370.27 $223.99 $366.55
Pet Care $228.28 $209.95 $769.90 $221.65
Vacations $588.69 $274.65 $129.51 $297.44
Miscellaneous $53.00 $256.28 $823.58 $177.49
Total $2,132.83 $2,352.01 $3,108.32 $2,291.39
Savings Rate 53% 51% 61% 53%
Excluding Mortgage Principal 47% 45% 57% 47%

Future Expenditures

I’m really happy with where April ended up, especially considering how much travel we did. While not our least expensive month since beginning tracking, we reversed the trend since January of creeping up the costs each month (though last month was mostly due to vet bills and planned tool purchases). However, the next few months will likely be a bit more spendy. In the near future, we will be spending money on truck tires, annual vet appointments for the dogs and cat, home maintenance, and a follow up hearing exam for me. We will also be out of town on a road trip for a couple of weeks in May, so while we won’t spend a ton of money as far as vacations go, two weeks of travel will still incur some costs.

We’ve just managed to squeak by with an overall savings rate over 50% thanks to the three paycheck month in March, and while this may dip over the next few months, I’m optimistic that we should be able to hit that 50% savings rate goal for 2018.

Do you put money into set sinking funds for things like vacations, vet bills, and home maintenance, or do you just float the money when the expense arises? If you do use sinking funds, any tips? I’m debating this for the future. 

57 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update – April 2018

  1. I do not put specific money in vacation funds etc, I just float everything. It’s always worked out for me, and if I ever run a bit short in my checking account for say a more expensive vacation I’ll dive into the emergency to cover it, but that’s pretty rare. And if I do that I always replace it soon afterward.

    1. Yeah, that’s the way we’ve done it so far. Honestly I like just keeping things simple, and since driving our costs down to about half our income this year, we have lots of wiggle room in expensive months.

      1. Yeah, we do the same thing. High savings rates allow for less thought in terms of sinking funds and common financial advice. I like to keep it as simple as possible, since I like to spend my time on hobbies/family/friends and not managing my money.

      2. Yeah, a year ago a big emergency fund / sinking funds mattered more than it does now that we have our spending on lockdown. Though the draw of sinking funds is then it doesn’t feel so painful when you have to drop $3k in a single go.

  2. I use YNAB for my budget so we are able to set aside money in categories. For example I always budget extra for pet care every month, because something is inevitably going to happen that will require a trip to the vet. I’ve also experimented with using Betterment to save up for a recent vacation and to save for our next vehicle. I’m not sure that I will continue with having multiple accounts to save for specific expenditures, but I would absolutely continue to have money set aside within the budget. I like knowing I have money budgeted for expected upcoming expenses in addition to a general emergency fund.

    1. Yeah, with how much we’ve spent on vet bills over the last year I can definitely see the reason for having money set aside specifically for that purpose. But like you, I’m not sure I want lots of separate accounts.

    1. Thank you!! Buying our house in the bottom of the market and locking in low housing costs has been the cornerstone for us to be able to manage it on normal salaries.

  3. While I’m not a Delta Gamma, my sorority at my alma mater also had to sell their house last year so I understand the bittersweet feelings and the emotional pang. I’m glad you got to go visit! Cheers to lifelong sisterhood. 🙂

    1. Oh what a bummer 🙁 How has the transition been away from a house?? So glad I got to visit.

  4. If we’re ever in the Portland area, I’ll be sure to check out the brewery. Always up for exploring some new brews!

    Amazed again at how far you stretch things with three weekends away!

    1. Hah yeah I didn’t quite realize we had so much travel in April until I wrote it all out.

  5. Those are always the best months when you do a lot of travel and exciting things, yet also keep the expenses in check! Congrats on (yet another) month over 50% savings rate!

  6. we use the bucket approach to saving for what we know we’ll spend. one is for the roths/traditional, one for taxes since our place is paid off, there used to be one for my overtime and mb’s art sales, the interesting one that’s worked well for us for about 12 years is the vacation/gift/home repair fund. they’re all together so that in a big house maint. year like this one the vacations will be relatively low cost. it didn’t used to be necessary when we had 2.0 incomes but now we’re down to about 1.3. i decided i don’t like it that lean! ha ha.
    we used to hang out about an hour south of portland near newberg and mcminnville in pinot noir country. i love it there.

    1. That definitely makes sense to have a beefier emergency fund when you have less coming in each month. At 1.8 incomes, we have quite a bit of flexibility in what we have left over every month.

  7. I’m so impressed that you can keep your grocery budget so low. We struggle to keep our food budget to $200 per week. We always seem to go over. We were doing good for the last two weeks, until we made a trip to Costco and burned through $190 of this weeks food budget. We cook almost everything from scratch and don’t have exotic diets. Its a constant struggle for us. I guess that gives us a “constant” budget item to work on.

    1. Ha well did you see our restaurant expenditures for the month? Our total food bill isn’t super low 😉 Our grocery budget has been something I’ve really focused on this year and it’s slowly gotten under control.

    1. They were so good! We stopped at an awesome cured meats / fancy cheese shop in Leavenworth and then took it back to the campground and ate it there 🙂

  8. Great job! Impressive savings rate. I really like the way you’ve set up your spending chart. It’s interesting to see those month-by-month changes. I may blatantly steal this idea. 🙂

    1. Please do steal it! I feel that tracking spending is only so good without comparing it to previous months 🙂

  9. We don’t really have a budget for vacations since we have funds in various accounts we can cover for traveling.
    I agree on spending for your son’s soccer classes, if he really likes playing soccer it’s an automatic expense for something like that. I would do the same if my son loved to play any sports/interest.

    1. We’ll see what sports look like in the future for him (he’s already counting down to when he can play t ball in two years), but he is LOVING soccer for now 🙂

  10. We use YNAB for our budget now. We don’t have enough income to swing the lumpy high expense months like where we pay property taxes and a trip and other irregular things, so I like setting money aside each month for various things. I have no interest in managing multiple savings accounts, but I don’t mind doing it with categories in YNAB.

    I will say though that sinking funds are especially great for anything that you try to talk yourself out of spending money on. All of our appliances are about twenty years old, so we assume we will have to replace them in the next few years. We set aside about $200/month for general condo maintenance, which is the average of what I spent on projects in the first few years. We spent less last year since we have been doing fewer discretionary projects, so some rolled forward, which will be helpful when things break down!

    1. I tried to go down the YNAB path a year ago and I really struggled with it getting to make sense for us since my husband’s separate account pulls from our joint account, so it’s not a straightforward deal.

    1. The sandwiches were sooooo good! And we’ll probably never get our grocery budget that low again haha.

    1. Vacation and related spending is definitely the largest discretionary part of our budget for good reason 🙂

  11. Nice! It’s very interesting to see you brake down your expenses by category and track them over the long term. I also haven’t read many other monthly finance reports from other bloggers so this was nice to read 😄 you’ll surpass your 50% savings goal for the year for sure haha.

    Oh! Regarding saving for vacations. I make sure to put a percentage of my income into an Ally bank savings account specially reserved just for vacations. Like maybe 5-10% of income every paycheck. It flunctuates depending on life situations but stays around there. Right now it’s at 10%. That way it’s earning around 1.45% interest the whole time I’m not using it (compound interest etc) and when I go on my once a year to twice a year vacation, it’ll be more than I put in. So like win win all around 😂✈️

    -Jack

    1. Yeah, we have vacation spending (at least some) pretty much every month, so I guess that’s a little different than if we did just one or two big trips a year.

  12. I would tell you to chill out and take a weekend off already but I’d be the world’s largest hypocrite if I did that! 😂 Plus I’m happy you’re going to be so busy in May since it means I get to meet you!

    The only sinking emergency fund I have is for my car, because something about taking car expenses from my actual emergency fund feels really awful to me. Maybe it’s because owning a car right now is 100% optional and not at all necessary haha. I’ve thought about starting one for my annual one-time expenses but so far haven’t done that. I guess you could say a lot of the money in one of my savings apps is also a sinking vacation fund, mostly because I look at that as slush money and frequently transfer bits of it back to my checking account to cover vacation expenses. It’s loosely earmarked for travel anyway.

    1. We’re going to be busy in May in a very different way than April though – one big trip away instead of squeezing it into the weekends and then also having dinners with neighbors / evening commission commitments etc 🙂

  13. The PNW is so great for day trips and weekend trips. Olympia national park, Mount Ranier, Mount Hood, Vancouver… and summer time is perfect up there.

    I like how your mom holds you accountable for frugality and waste because of the blog. So funny!

    1. Exactly true – we love traveling locally year round, but the sunny summer days are pretty dang magical. Nowhere else better.

  14. Baited me with the bibimbap to Insta! What sort of expenses do you guys put in vacation? I think my husband and I use that term strictly. If we go out to eat with friends, it’s under entertainment. If we go out to eat alone, it’s eating out. Man maybe I need another table to define everything.

    1. The bimimbap was sooooo good. Some of the best I’ve ever had. “Vacation” spending is strictly lodging/travel expenses/any entertainment expenses. For some reason I don’t include restaurants/grocery spending while traveling in vacation spending, but the trips are why that category was so high in April.

  15. I just found your Blog, awesome numbers! We too are hovering around that 50% savings rate, which i feel is about to get blown out of the water in the next couple months 🙁

    I’ll be looking out for future posts! Cheers!

    1. Good luck!! Every month you get there is another month with a serious chunk of money to savings 🙂

  16. Great report! Our savings accumulate more rapidly in the winter and offsets a lot of the traveling and vacation expenses we occur in the summer. The joys of the cold and snowy Midwest. 🙂

    I agree with the others, the food and drink looks excellent!

    1. We do our traveling throughout the entire year. Definitely an upside to the more mild northwest winters (plus our anniversary is in November and we usually travel for that).

  17. We do sinking funds using ynab to track them. The beauty of ynab is it doesnt matter where the money is physically, you can have it in 1 account or 10 accounts.

    I’ve been doing sinking funds for about 5 years and have gotten to the point where we have a good chunk of money just sitting in a checking accouny. So now I’m thinking about doing things differently with the physical money, such as everything in checking over $X at the end of the month will go into an investment account. But I’ll still keep track of the sinking funds via ynab.

    I like the accountability in ynab for the discretionary money, knowing I can only spent X on decor or Y on eating out keeps me from going overboard.

    1. Maybe I need to give YNAB a second go around. So many people say such good things about it.

  18. Lol. So it seems the key to sinking funds is ynab. I went back to ynab 4, but the concept is the same and it helps even things out. I can float some things, but my savings rate is not to the point I can just float whatever by not saving as much. For me if I am floating it is coming out of groceries, and you can only do that so much.

  19. Hi! I’m really enjoying your writing. Thank you and keep it up!

    I’m really new to the RE world and my income and expenses are both much lower than yours. I failed with budgets and buckets a few times and couldn’t really get into any of the apps I tried. (Although I refused to pay for any so my experience is limited there!)

    What I’ve found for me is that separating out normal day to day expenses, monthly expenses (rent, bills), and occassional expenses really helps me.

    I picked an estimate for yearly expenses on some things I wanted to make sure I could afford without missing my saving goal, or feeling like I couldn’t tell if I was on track that month or not. It was a total guessing game in some categories and I missed some big ones (taxes .. duh!) But I set aside a mental amount of money for dental, clothes, bicycle, and home improvement that I felt was reasonable and likely for the year.

    Each month when I get paid, a portion goes into my real savings account, and a portion goes into my “deferred spending account.” If I have to buy a new bike, go to the dentist, and replace my couch all in the same month I know the money is there. For me, this means I have a chequing account, an investment account, an emergent fund (savings account), and this extra savings account. I think I can keep better track of my day to day expenses and my chequing account this way.

    I keep a journal and put in monthly spending notes and one of the areas I’m making notes on I’d what I spent in each category and what categories I need to add for next year. A vacation budget is definitely going in next year!!

    1. Glad you’ve figured out what works best for you. Definitely some trial and error to land on what is best for your personal situation, and deciding what’s worth the extra expense and what’s not.

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