Apparently these days we either have a really great month or a not so good month where our savings rate is concerned because in between hasn’t happened for some time now. And since August was by far the best month of the year for our finances, September had to be one of the pricer ones, and without the buffer of a three paycheck month to smooth out the ride. Still, I’m tracking overall for the year, and things are looking a whole lot better than last fall when we had to use our emergency fund.
Any time I’m frustrated with our spending this year, I have to remind myself to re-read my words from just one year ago to keep my annoyance in check; our worst month this year is still better than the average for all of previous years. And when we are spending more money on certain things this year, I can’t draw out any big expense to regret, so I guess we’re doing it right. I just can’t help but always wanting to do better no matter the life circumstance.
Increasing recurring expenses
To begin with, some of the increased costs we dealt with in September were outside of our control. To begin with, our property taxes went up 10% this year and our monthly mortgage payment now reflects that increase. I realize Washington state still has pretty darn low property taxes compared to some states, but it still means our “fixed rate” mortgage is a larger payment going forward since our taxes and insurance are paid out of the escrow account. And living in a smaller, less expensive home keeps these costs down compared to the home we could have upsized to, so I do keep that in mind.
Our son’s preschool increases rates at the start of the school year, and just like last year, the costs has increased another 8%. A few people have suggested that I push back against this price increase, but the place he’s at is actually a reasonable cost compared to some of the most expensive preschools in our area.
They have also transitioned to all full time childcare for any new children, so we are grandfathered in at two days a week. Beyond that, he goes Mondays and Tuesdays instead of the more typical Tuesdays/Thursdays for part time care. We just lucked out that he started soon after the ownership changed and they were more flexible and willing to accommodate alternate schedules.
Because of those reasons, I’m really hesitant to rock the boat in any way to save a few dollars each month. That and the transition to preschool was really hard on him and I’d like him to stay at one place until he goes to kindergarten in two years. Public school (and public school schedules) will have its own set of challenges for sure, but it will absolutely be less expensive than what we’re paying right now, even if some of those funds end up getting funneled into after school activities.
September’s other big expenses
Surprisingly enough, pet care was not one of our big expenses this month. No vet appointments, no need for another bag of $98 specialty dog food, just the standard mix of medications and non prescription food. Just around $200 is about as cheap as we can expect to possibly have for a month. We don’t have any vet appointments scheduled for October either, so hopefully we can have a repeat of September.
So while pet expenses were low in September, there were plenty one off expenses that weren’t. To begin with, my husband is heading out for a hunting trip in a little bit so he’s bought a few things for that, to include some new all-weather gear that will also be used for camping, plus hunting specific items, like deer pee, which definitely felt a little interesting to be logging in my expense tracker.
Beyond that, my husband has had his eye on a new chain saw all summer after multiple attempts to fix his old one hadn’t been successful. It was a cheap garage sale find in the first place, and it eventually just wore out. He uses the chain saw for both work and home, so it does see quite a bit of use. They’re expensive new though, so he’s been perusing the discount aisle at Home Depot for months and just found an almost new (but previously opened and returned) one for 30% off. Even so, chain saws aren’t cheap, and combined with a few other items (including a bit of mulch for my garden) the trip came to just over $400. Definitely not a cheap day.
My husband also purchased a new pair of work boots, which aren’t particularly cheap, but as he works construction, they have to be good quality. He goes through them more rapidly than I do my shoes, but he does wear them out before needing a new pair. And regardless, even if he just chose to buy a new pair of shoes (or anything else), we do have partially split finances for exactly that reason. I may feel like we didn’t need a new chainsaw right now, for example, but the cost comes out of his income directly, so he is able to choose to spend as he pleases.
While this may be a little different as I’m attempting to track our overall spending and saving when I don’t have full control over our household expenses, it has been a key part of how our relationship has worked since day one. Because we have separate checking accounts, we’ve not had to have any big fights over money, which I believe is pretty rare. Not that we don’t have other disagreements, but having our own money to do with as we please (while also having joint funds) has worked well for most of a decade now. Though, I don’t think this would work if we didn’t both land on the naturally frugal side of things; neither of us are apt to blow more than a few hundred dollars on something the other views as frivolous and unnecessary.
Spending on vacations is something we both agree on, and September saw its share of expenses here. Like I mentioned last Friday, we took my grandmother back to Leavenworth for her birthday, and we splurged on a fancy dinner one night and the whole restaurant sang her happy birthday along with the live accordion music. It was a wonderful weekend and one that was well worth the money on the trip. Most physical things aren’t worth the extra money, but time with family and friends almost always is.
Of course, that wasn’t the only vacation expenses for the month. We also returned from our Labor Day weekend camping trip on September 3rd, so there were some campsite and ferry costs as well, though that was a very inexpensive trip as are most of our camping trips.
Finally, I bought my plane tickets to Denver for Cents Positive the first weekend in November. The flights would have used up a ridiculous amount of credit card points compared to the cost of the tickets, so I bit the bullet and paid for them with cash. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve paid for plane tickets out of pocket, and I have to say I don’t like it. Perhaps I could up my travel hacking game and not care about blowing through miles needlessly, but as we tend to buy 4-6 plane tickets per trip, I wanted to save them for future vacations, so just went the cash route this time.
|Apr 2018||May 2018||Jun 2018||Jul 2018||Aug 2018||Sep 2018|
|Excluding Mortgage Principal||47%||39%||38%||23%||63%||25%|
Year to date: 48% savings rate
It’s funny how much this month feels like a “failure” in terms of our savings rate at 31%. Now that I’ve set the goal for us at 50% for the year, anything less in a given month feels like we haven’t done well enough. Just like July though, I need to remind myself that even that savings rate is significantly higher than our annual average for the last two years and a darn good job for two average salaries in a high cost of living city.
That said, there’s a balance between giving myself grace for having a lower than desired savings rate for a certain month and allowing that to then feel like it is good enough for every month. After most of a year tracking our spending closely, I know that we can absolutely hit closer to that fifty percent savings rate most months without giving up the spending associated with the things we value most.
How do you balance the way you talk to yourself about achieving goals?