To cut to the chase, July was our most expensive month to date. There were a lot of reasons for this, both voluntary and non voluntary, but the fact of the matter is we spent considerably more this past month than we have any other month this year, including May which saw us on a two week road trip on the East Coast.

For that reason, it was really, really tempting to just skip over this month’s financial update and wait for August, which will be a much better month, both on the income and expenses sides. However, I promised myself (and everyone who reads this blog) that I would stay transparent and accountable by sharing how we did every single month, good and bad. And the bad months are the ones that are probably most important to share anyway. The only way to keep things on track is to know exactly what and where we’ve spent our money, and that means not putting my head in the sand when it ends up being more than I’d like.

Non Voluntary Expenses

The biggest non voluntary expenses this month were vehicle and pet related. My husband’s truck needed some work, and while he initially attempted to do the work himself, it still wasn’t starting well and so he took it into the auto shop. They do a great job and charge a fair rate, but obviously any time you have to pay a mechanic it is going to cost a decent amount. Since this truck is both his work vehicle and our camping “van,” keeping it in good running condition is essential.

The other significant nonnegotiable expense in July was our vet bills. Both dogs had to go in for their annual check up and shots, and our older dog now requires blood work and additional tests since she has a heart condition. That vet appointment combined with her monthly medications that cost us close to $150 means that we spent quite a bit on pet care, and starting next month we’ll also be spending $100 per bag of dog food for her because she is going on a special kidney diet.

I feel very strongly though that if you choose to bring animals into your home, you take care of them properly. This means not skipping vet visits and paying for the food and medication she needs to stay healthy. A year ago we weren’t sure she would still be around now, and she is worth every extra dollar we’ve spent to keep her healthy. She turned eight years old yesterday, so happy birthday Ellie. We’re so glad you’re still here.

Such a good, patient doggy

We also had some home maintenance expenses this month, including needing to replace part of our master bathroom sink because the drain piece and stopper was really old and starting to disintegrate. Instead of replacing the entire sink – or paying someone to do the work – we went to Home Depot and paid for just the pieces we needed and my husband did the work himself.

Voluntary Expenses

Now on to the voluntary expenses for the month, because they were significant as well. July is the month that we share in the cost of a half of a cow from a local farm. Last year we split a quarter between two families, and this year our neighbors were also interested so we ended up splitting a half between three families. Our third of the cost was just shy of $600, so we completely blew through our grocery budget for the month.

We will continue to eat meat, though, so my goal is to purchase it in the best way possible, which is direct from a local farm where I know they treat their animals well and minimize their impact on the environment. A bonus of that is the meat tastes so much better than anything we can buy at the grocery store, and we don’t pay more per pound, though we do have to pay for it all up front. So while this expense may be disproportionately charged to our July budget, it will cut the cost of our grocery bill for many months to come. In terms of our annual savings rate, this cost doesn’t change things.

We also bought our plane tickets for our next trip to Hawaii, though they cost us only $11.20 a person, so the flights weren’t a significant part of our expenses for the month. We did book four nights of a rental house for that trip though, which was a much larger number (though we will be booking a couple nights via hotel points so the number is smaller than if we paid out of pocket for the whole trip). I like spreading the cost of a vacation throughout the months leading up to the trip, so we don’t pay for it all in one go. It just means that July bore a significant chunk of those costs.

Gratuitous Hawaii sunset

I could have waited to book the house until August to keep our expenses down in July, but I wanted my pick of houses and each month we wait to book the fewer choices we would have. The point of spending well below our means is that I can make my choices based on what will be best for the long run, even if it means an artificial spike in expenses for a specific month. The numbers ended up a bit painful this month, but when I remove the non typical expenses, we didn’t spend more than average.

The question is then, should we have not spent any of the money that we did this month? Vehicle, home, pets, those expenses were absolutely non negotiable. Bulk meat purchase? We agreed to buy from the farm months ago, and it will save us money over the next six months or more. Vacation spending? We are taking my grandmother to Hawaii for the very first time. No, we absolutely wouldn’t take back that money spent.

So July was just an expensive month, and August will be time to buckle down and bring the curve back in alignment for the rest of the year. After all, what’s the point of saving your money if you aren’t living the life that makes you happiest? We want to be financially independent at some point in the future, but we aren’t willing to ignore the present in the chase for some day.

July 2018 Spending (Excludes mortgage + daycare)

Jan 2018 Feb 2018 Mar 2018 Apr 2018 May 2018 Jun 2018 Jul 2018
Groceries $462.37 $491.07 $497.53 $343.37 $658.76 $353.25 $1,041.77
Restaurants $406.95 $440.00 $243.63 $583.75 $1,040.03 $529.21 $329.83
Fast Food $19.48 $5.72 $80.34 $83.54 $120.78 $75.89 $117.72
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84
Gas $110.10 $120.23 $262.00 $199.76 $263.60 $242.89 $117.72
Car/Transit $28.11 $166.00 $60.00 $0.00 $30.00 $737.53 $640.86
Utilities $218.01 $370.27 $223.99 $366.55 $200.25 $266.25 $126.98
Pet Care $228.28 $209.95 $769.90 $221.65 $273.96 $277.56 $578.63
Vacations $588.69 $274.65 $129.51 $297.44 $971.66 $148.00 $483.45
Misc $53.00 $256.28 $823.58 $177.49 $354.68 $164.62 $629.79
Total $2,132.83 $2,352.01 $3,108.32 $2,291.39 $3,931.56 $2,813.04 $4,084.59
Savings Rate 53% 51% 61% 53% 44% 44% 30%
Excluding Mortgage Principal 47% 45% 57% 47% 39% 38% 23%

YTD: 48% savings rate

Even with a drastic drop in our savings rate in July (ouch, seeing that number in black and white isn’t so much fun), we are still at a 48% savings rate for the year, which is just shy of our big goal of 50% for 2018. As long as we keep on track the rest of the year, we should hit it, which feels a little surreal when I look back at our savings rate in 2016 and 2017, which were both just north of 20%.

I might be a little frustrated with our savings rate in July, but I have to remember that it is still higher than the average for the years previous. We’ve so significantly changed our savings rate through careful tracking of our money to ensure that we are spending on what brings value to us.

When I compare July to last summer, the change is especially noticeable. We had a few very expensive months back to back right after I started this blog, and I wrote about them: home and car maintenance, emergency vet bills, and finally, when we had to use our emergency fund. The culmination of thousands of extra dollars in unexpected expenses led us to a point where we were outspending our income, however briefly.

Comparatively, this past month meant just a drop in our savings rate, though we were still well in the black financially. We may be many years out from financial independence with no plans to quit our jobs, but that pursuit of financial independence has given us such a margin in our monthly expenses that even much higher spending for a given period still allows us to send money to savings instead of needing to float out our expenses on the next month’s credit card bill (even if paid off before interest accrued).

That margin gives us such peace of mind and the confidence that we can handle whatever a specific month throws our way. That alone is a reason to pursue financial independence, even if you have no interest in retirement. The freedom there is really what it’s all about.

49 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: July 2018

  1. we just had to buy flea/tick medication last week. it now comes in a pill form and lasts 3 months but it’s 55 bucks. i have to research this and see if there is a cheaper solution. you gotta take care of your vehicles even when the costs hurt a little, eh? and you get to go back to hawaii! looks like dollars well spent to me.

    1. $55 for 3 months of flea/tick medication sounds like a deal to me! We have two dogs and a cat so that definitely adds up between the three of them.

  2. I feel you on July being an expensive month… definitely did not feel great pulling the numbers together but it looks like yours were very worth it! I feel like whenever travel is booked it’ll be an artificially high month, but that’s not something that’s recurring and if you look at it spread out over the year it looks a lot better.

    (Ps your picture at the top says only 45% savings rate.. you gotta give yourself more credit than that! 😉)

  3. Comparing your progress to last year it’s epic – well done Angela and family. I always have bumpy months as well and my spending varies widely for things like holidays which I tend to book and pay for all at once.

    Your dog seems so patient and so much fun – I soo want a dog if only I could commit.

    1. Exactly – I was feeling pretty darn frustrated with the month until I forced myself to look back at previous years. Our dogs are seriously the best kid dogs. We lucked out.

  4. Some months you just spend more! And you are still on track for the 2018 BHAG! We are totally prepared to start upping our spending on our dogs as they are now seven. Well worth the money, and a must for pet owners. I haven’t looked at our July spending at all yet, which is probably good for me, but it was probably a bit higher than normal since we were out of town every weekend. I need my fill of the Great Lakes each summer!

    1. Our dogs haven’t cost us a lot of money over the years (especially with a roommate to watch them while we’re out of town), but she is sure making up for it now!

  5. You’re doing so well with your savings rate! You have the money in the budget to pay the vet and car repair bills, and taking care of the pets and truck will save you money and heartache in the future. Buying local meat is so important, and it’s incredible that it costs the same as meat from the supermarket. As far as the memories with taking your grandmother on her dream trip to Hawaii – that’s priceless!!

    1. Thank you!! Part of writing this post really did a good job reminding me about how far we’ve come in just a year; last summer, this would have been a super stressful month for all the expenses. This year, it’s just a little annoying seeing a lower savings rate, but that’s it.

  6. As long as you have the money to pay for your trip to Hawaii then you can save more later. You should consider your July expenses as bump on the road. You can focus the rest of the year to raise your savings rate to 50%. You are doing better compared to last year Angela, keep it up!

    1. Thanks! Sometimes I have to remind myself to look back at where we’ve come. And I don’t begrudge any of that Hawaii spending for sure.

    1. Thank you!! Hard to step back and look at the bigger picture sometimes when I just want to see that savings rate be hit every single month 😉

    1. Shake, shake, shake, shake it off. Working on that 😉 But also want to acknowledge it so it is just a one off month and doesn’t become our norm once again.

  7. Hi Angela, I fell the same about my report this month. I wanted to skip it because of the high travel expenses! But then I reminded myself is that I promised full transparency but I also need to track ALL my expenses for my own planning and the bumps are part of it:)
    We are overdue to bring our dog and two cats to the vet this month, I am not looking forward to the bill and my car is making funny noises…I guess August won’t be that great again!

    1. Full transparency is HARD, but those are the most important months to share (even when we don’t want to 😉)

  8. July just seems to be a budget-buster all around! But even with that you’re so close to being at a 50% savings rate for the year so far, which is amazing. I’m so impressed with how far you’ve come in the last year!

    Oh goodness that picture of the kiddo and Ellie is adorable 😍

    1. Sooooo close – makes me feel like it’s totally doable (especially with the help of a 3 paycheck month for August). And Ellie was so ridiculously patient with him.

  9. We just logged a $400 vet bill after July’s $3000 in vet bills. Whew, I really need us to be done with those for the rest of the year, except for a recheck. Our new pup is turning out to be an allergy dog too so you can imagine my cry face on that.

    That’s an outstanding savings rate for the year even with a July out of whack bump. You are doing it right! 🙂

    We’ve been averaging something around 30-35% for the past couple of years, but I also haven’t tracked it very carefully like you’re doing here either so now I’m wondering what changes I can make to my spreadsheet to include this info … hmm.

    1. Ouch. Allergies are NEVER cheap. Good thing dogs are worth it. And without tracking carefully we were just north of 20%, so changing the way I pay attention this past year has been HUGE.

  10. I’ve sometimes thought of buying a side of beef or lamb, but I’ve never taken it further than just thinking about it.
    With a houseful of adults, we go through a LOT of meat…

    1. It is SO worth it. And while it’s a good chunk of money up front, it does save over the long run. And so easy to skip grocery store trips when your freezer is full too.

  11. Wow that is incredible, 50% savings rate. I have never seen your blog before but We will be following now. We are at about a 20% savings rate currently. We just acquired a rental property a couple months ago and have been looking at other investments since then. We have just started our Fi journey so we’ll be following you to see what the next step looks like. We too have 3 pets so we know the pain of that yearly appointment. We’ve found that buying the heartworm meds in one year packs, some companies offer rebates for buying in bulk, but it still stings when you have to pay for it all at once. BUT we all love our pets to the moon and back, they are worth every penny 🙂 Keep up the great work!

    1. We were at just over 20% before this year, so the change with close attention has been staggering. Amazing how much different your financial situation looks when you start making it a priority (a few small raises that go straight to savings helps too 😉)

  12. I find it pretty amazing that you had a high expense month and your savings rate it still 48% YTD. I love the thought of splitting a local cow with another family. That up front cost can also help you to meet a minimum spend on a credit card.

    Great line, “After all, what’s the point of saving your money if you aren’t living the life that makes you happiest?”

    1. Unfortunately we have to pay for the cow via check or cash, so no credit card point bonus! Still totally worth it.

      1. Yep! And you know I’ll be all over it if they ever change this policy 😉

  13. WOW! savings rate of almost %50 with your current expenses! this is an outstanding achievement! I will be scouring your blog to looking for much needed inspiration and tips on how to pull off this wonder! Congratulations on your success! keep up the amazing work. This is a great inspiration to all.

    1. Thank you so much 🙂 It feels a little incredible when I look at where we were last year.

  14. Amazing what you’re managing to save, even with the greater expenses this month! Congrats!
    We’ve considered buying meat in bulk again too. We did it many years ago & it was fantastic, but we’d need a bigger freezer to do it now. Not sure if buying another freezer is worth the reduced cost of the meat. I’ll have to look into it, as 5 adults create big food bills, even with 3 meat free meals per week! Blessings. Kerryn

    1. We haven’t gone the second freezer route yet, so we just have to do a really good job of eating down the contents before we get the bulk order. It actually works really well for us that way because we’re forced to look hard at what’s been in our freezer for way too long 🙂

  15. I enjoyed your financial update. We recently had to pay for unexpected car repairs on two cars. It really threw off our finances, but we are trying to get back on track. I actually wrote a post about how to recover from financial setbacks because it was such a head ache. I would love to hear more about how you manged to get flights so cheap! Do you have a post about that?

  16. 48%, wow, that is impressive. I am starting to see the logic in posting your monthly results. I have not budgeted that closely in the past; aside from my time in the military when I was making about $20,000 a year. I am always looking at other ways; cutting my own grass, choosing my own electric supplier, cutting the cable cord, and things like that. I just never wanted to budget that close; my parents were not well off, and had to watch every dollar. I think in some way I reacted to that by being unwilling to do so. Granted, my wife and I do save around 20 – 25% of our income per year, when we consider contributions to 401k, individual investment accounts, and things like that. Still, to get to FI, we need to ramp it up a bit.

    Well done!

    1. We’ve always been reasonably frugal, so getting to financial independence by typical retirement age was just going to happen; making that number much sooner has required looking a lot more closely.

  17. Wow for a family with dependents, those are quite low, efficient expensives already!
    Mortgage is always the biggest expense for everyone. Once that is out of the way, and managed, FI path is pretty breezy.

    1. Thank you! Of course, those numbers don’t include the mortgage or daycare, which even at part time is almost another mortgage 😂

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