Well, for a month that started off with plans to be a “no spend” month, October was definitely NOT a no spend month. I guess I’ll start off with the good part – we are still at a cumulative 47% rate for the year through October. The less good news is that in order to hit that 50% savings rate goal for the entirety of 2018, we will need to average 67% for November and December (64% even if I round up).
Considering the only months where we’ve hit a savings rate upwards of 60% twice during the year, August and March, and both were during our extra paycheck months that come with a biweekly pay schedule, the odds are that we wouldn’t hit the needed savings rate even if we were perfect through the rest of the year. And while we tend to have relatively budget friendly holiday traditions, we will be spending more than just necessities around those days.
So for those reasons, as well as the point that my husband isn’t quite as gung-ho about needing to pinch every last penny (and probably rightfully so), my goal is to continue to stay the course and keep our spending in check much like the rest of this year, but I won’t be pushing us to the point of deprivation just to hit an arbitrary number I set for myself at the beginning of the year. After all, we are pretty much certain to at least blow our previous two years’ savings rates out of the water since they were just over 20% each.
So now to the nitty gritty of the big expenses this month and every month. Unsurprisingly, we have spent a significant chunk of money on our animals this year and last year since our older dog went to the emergency vet overnight with her problems. She is doing amazingly well and is stable, but she is still on medication twice a day, special food at night, and goes to the vet For check ups once every three months. And if her heart could take it, we’d be spending even more money on getting her teeth cleaned. But, if you choose to have animals in your life, then you are absolutely responsible for taking the best care of them. And so that’s what we do.
We have also spent a lot less on our animals because of our roommate. Every time we head out of town, he is able to med, feed and take care of them while we are gone. Compared to having a house sitter or boarding or any other combination of pet sitting, we have saved thousands of dollars by having him in our home. We also charge him very low rent, so it’s a good deal for all of us.
So far we’ve spend $3,383.88 to date (considerably less than last year when we spent almost that much in just one month). Well this is obviously less than we’ve spent on housing, food, or vacations, I can’t think of much else we spend this much money on. Anyone tells you that animals aren’t expensive either have young pets, or have gotten very lucky. And yet, they are worth every penny.
Everyone should absolutely have an emergency fund. Not matter your situation, life will throw curveballs at you some time or another. While I’m not one to say that everyone needs the same amount accessible in cash since our lives are all so different, having some runway is so important to having financial peace of mind.
That said, we haven’t come close to needing to touch ours this year, which feels so, so much better than having to use a significant chunk last year. Once we ratcheted down our spending and are now saving anywhere between 30% – 60%+ every single month regardless of what expenses have come our way, we simply have a lot more flexibility and regular savings that allow us to cash flow bigger expenses that we would have previously needed to save up for or temporarily raid from savings to cover the immediate cost.
Now, a month that has one, two, three thousand dollars more in expenses than a typical month just means that we get to send less to savings that month instead of worrying about having to shuffle money around to come up with extra cash. The emergency fund is great – and we won’t be doing away with it – but my favorite source of emergency cash these days is simply spending way less than we earn.
No Spend Days
A key part of our wildly increased savings rate this year has been my focus on no spend days: days that I spend zero dollars, including necessities. By tracking spending daily, and specifically looking to spend no money on as many days a month as I can, I find that I am much more mindful of where our money is spent overall.
However, as this month shows, no spend months aren’t a solution by themselves. I had eleven no spend days in October, just one shy of my record twelve during my original no spend November last year, but we spent significantly more money this time around. But then, when you spend $1,000 on vehicle expenses in one day and $340 on furnace repairs another, you can avoid spending money for most of the month and costs are still going to be pretty high. Though I’m certain they were lower due to paying attention to the no spend days I still could have.
General “regular” expenses
While these expenses would certainly fall under the category of “sinking funds” if we budgeted that way, we don’t maintain a monthly budget in that way and prefer to just cash flow all but the biggest expenses, these costs simply mean that more of our incomes went to costs this month rather than savings.
My husband replaced two of his truck tires back in June but just got around to replacing the other two (plus buying a spare), so our vehicle expenses were not small this month (plus reloads of my toll pass and transit card since I’ve been taking the bus more frequently these days).
We also had to have our furnace repaired and that cost another $340. This bill was especially frustrating because they charged us the $129 trip visit fee PLUS their hourly $189 fee for twenty minutes of work (part was free though because it was under warranty – we installed the furnace six years ago). If anyone local has a great HVAC repair company they’d like to recommend, I’m all ears, because I’m just about done with the company who installed the furnace.
Unsurprisingly, our vacation spending wasn’t our smallest line item this month (as it rarely is). This month wasn’t spendy due to one specific trip, but a combination of a number of them, and not all limited to October.
Tickets went on sale for FinCon 2019 and thanks to all the awesome people who attended last year and had a fabulous time, I decided I had to buy a ticket for next year. Now, the odds of me actually being able to attend a mid-week conference next September are pretty small, so perhaps I won’t actually realize this cost if I end up selling the ticket closer to the event, but I wanted to have it just in case I can finagle the time and can get there after all. I also don’t know when the next Cents Positive is, but I know absolutely want to be there if at all possible. Though that conference is mostly a weekend event, so it’s more likely regardless.
I had a work trip to Spokane at the very beginning of the month, and while the majority of the travel was paid for, my son and mother in law joined me for those few days, so I did have a few additional expenses while we were there. Totally worth it though, and I’m glad we took the time to tack on some exploring time on to the end. Since lodging and transportation were covered, we had a very, very cheap trip.
The third weekend in October saw us back in Leavenworth for Oktoberfest, but we had prepaid our lodging months prior so we really only spent money on food and gas while we were there. On the flip side, we prepaid for the campsite for the guys in Port Townsend the weekend I was in Denver for Cents Positive at the very beginning of November.
Lastly, we took a day trip out to Bainbridge Island when Simplistic Steph and her husband were in town, so we had ferry costs associated with that trip as well (though we bused to Seattle and then walked on the ferry so the cost was considerably lower than our usual ferry trips). I want to graduate school on Bainbridge but hadn’t been back in the intervening four years, and it has gotten a LOT busier since then, at least on the weekends. Still a fun spot and worth the day trip if you’re in Seattle for just a short time.
October 2018 Spending (Excludes mortgage + daycare)
|May 2018||Jun 2018||Jul 2018||Aug 2018||Sep 2018||Oct 2018|
|Excluding Mortgage Principal||39%||38%||23%||63%||25%||25%|
On Setting Goals
To be perfectly honest, I’m sick of not hitting our savings goals these last few months. Once I set the goal of hitting a 50% savings rate this year, I’ve been determined to hit it. I am someone who is extremely goal oriented and anything that falls short of my goals feels like failure. Even though I knew it was going to be a really challenging thing to more than double our previous savings rate without a significant increase in income, I still expected myself to make it happen somehow.
But I am in this as a partnership, and we also have furry and human dependents as well as a home that we own and cars that we drive, so not everything is 100% under my control. And, I suppose, me a year ago would have been thrilled to see a 47% (technically 46.6%) savings rate the first ten months if the year. Even so, I’m someone who was never happy with anything short of an A grade, and this feels like a B+.
Just like last year though, everything expensive seems to be piling up in the autumn months, but at least this year we are still putting money into savings during these months instead of needing to use our emergency fund. Okay, so in just writing that out, I’m reminded about just how far we have come in this past year as I’ve turned my attention closely to our finances.
It’s true that we are saving less than I’d like right now, but it’s still a heck of a lot more than if I’d continued not paying attention. Perhaps I need to just learn that our expenses are higher in the fall for whatever reason and adjust accordingly. Or perhaps, I should give myself some grace and allow myself to appreciate everything we have accomplished so far this year, even if it isn’t exactly as perfect as I hoped.
A little reminder from January 2018 Angela to November 2018 Angela:
“50% is a big, huge goal for us, and one I’m not totally confident we will reach, but I strongly believe in setting reach goals for yourself, because they will push you further than you would go otherwise.”
Along those same lines, I’ll end with this wisdom from Military Dollar, because I need to remind myself of this regularly, and sometimes it’s easier to listen to someone else giving the same advice you’d give yourself:
“If it was an audacious goal, then coming close is success. It’s when you set manageable goals and fail to achieve them that you should be disappointed.”