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.

Pet Expenses

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.

Emergency Funds

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.

Vacation Spending

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
Groceries $658.76 $353.25 $1,041.77 $393.91 $375.58 $358.12
Restaurants $1,040.03 $529.21 $329.83 $422.17 $562.84 $508.23
Fast Food $120.78 $75.89 $117.72 $65.55 $148.45 $75.95
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84
Gas $263.60 $242.89 $117.72 $258.94 $275.12 $236.54
Car/Transit $30.00 $737.53 $640.86 $88.12 $114.05 $1,113.27
Utilities $200.25 $266.25 $126.98 $129.58 $320.25 $304.17
Pet Care $273.96 $277.56 $578.63 $391.38 $207.77 $228.09
Vacations $971.66 $148.00 $483.45 $110.11 $808.13 $414.17
Misc $354.68 $164.62 $629.79 $232.95 $1,009.10 $476.83
Total $3,931.56 $2,813.04 $4,084.59 $2,110.55 $3,839.13 $3,733.21
Savings Rate 44% 44% 30% 67% 31% 32%
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.”

51 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: October 2018

  1. I could easily cut our spending if my wife didn’t have a say in things but that’s a part of marriage that your partner is going to have different view on things and then just compromising. So I know exactly how you feel when you say you could penny pinch more…And our saving rate is extremely high already so I don’t challenge her too much, and the fact she brings in nearly all of our income, seems like it would be a jerk move on my part to not let her spend some of the money she’s bringing in.

    1. Yeah, I definitely feel that. And to be honest I would have to say we gave a more enjoyable life because of the way we balance each other out. And to be fair, my husband still isn’t a big spender by any means, which sounds like your wife as well.

  2. Woo Hoo 47%! Smashed it! I think our might actually be the same but you know with a minus in front! I havent gotten round to my October update yet but hoping to do it tomorrow! Deep breathe…….

    1. It is freaking HARD to go through and fully lay out your finances when they don’t look as good as you’d hope. But I would say those are the most important times to do it.

  3. That’s so true, you are doing amazing!! I agree I’m with you though, in that when I set a goal I really want to achieve it. In this case like you said, not everything is in your control, and it’s important to take everyone’s thoughts and considerations into it. Plus furry friends are definitely expensive!

    1. Yeah, that’s really the only sticking point – my personality is so hard wired into reaching goals at whatever cost. Maybe coming up short on this one will actually be a good learning experience for me.

  4. You’re doing really well so don’t be so hard on yourself. Great job.
    October was very good for us, but November isn’t looking so good. We got a new stove for the rental and that will cut deep into our rental income. It’s cold now so we’re mostly hunkering down at home on the weekends. So our expense is down. That’s a plus.

    1. Yeah, new appliances aren’t so cheap, but you definitely want a solid one for a rental so you never have to mess with it again. Easier to give other people grace than it is to give it to myself – working on that 🙂

  5. It is all about perspective. Sometimes when I get frustrated at our seemingly lack of progress I have to take a step back and look at what I have actually achieved year over year versus where I think we “should” be. I sometimes have high expectations for us and we usually only reach some of our stretch goals. One of my friends always has to remind me of how far we have come in the past few years with savings and paying down debt for my perspective to change. You guys are doing awesome and I am super impressed with your savings rate! You more than doubled it over the past year which is hard to do.

    1. And for whatever reason it is SO much easier to see that perspective when you’re a few steps back and looking at someone else’s life and not your own. Writing it out and sharing it does help though.

  6. Still sounds like a super successful month to me considering all the things you did and places you went. It’s nice you have the blog and can go back on what you wrote at the start of your personal challenge to reflect on the mindset you were in at the time. Now you can move forward and keep optimizing your life in what feels best in the moment.

    1. That is true – at least there isn’t one thing that sticks out as “omg we shouldn’t have blown all that money there.” And yes, it’s nice that my blog has been around long enough now that I can go back and reread what my past self was thinking and feeling.

  7. I have pets who are mostly in the ‘young’ category, but I’ll be dropping Poppy and Jeff off at the vet this morning to get their teeth cleaned. I’m expecting a bill for at least $500.
    They’re only 5, so this will probably be a recurring expense every year.
    I think you’re doing really well with the savings rate. Let’s face it – if you hit your goals every time then you’re not aiming high enough. 🙂

    1. $500 for teeth cleaning for TWO dogs is freaking awesome! I want your option there haha.

      And YES – “if you hit your goals every time then you’re not aiming high enough.”

  8. Stretch goals are great. No matter how good you do, it’s disappointing not reaching it. Even if you know you may not.

    I’m impressed with all the trips, pet expenses etc how far you DID make your funds stretch and still have savings.

    You should be proud!

    1. I *am* mostly proud. But there’s a part of my brain that is still very frustrated with knowing we won’t hit that goal, although we’ll be close. And yes – I wouldn’t trade all our adventures to hit it, so there’s that.

  9. st. pauli girl costume alert! i don’t know if we have ever touched our emergency fund in about 13 years. but ours is set up and topped off with future roth funds and travel money so that part is different, as you know. i never calculated our savings rate when we were really accumulating hard and fast. now with one lumpy income i’m still not sure where it would land, but somewhere around “good enough.”

    1. “Good enough.” I like it. Not ever having to touch your emergency fund is really impressive.

  10. I think you are being a little hard on yourself but it will also help drive you to your goal. I am not sure why you don’t include mortgage. Its there and its part of the expenses so you are only fooling yourself by not including it. Perhaps I am missing something?

    1. Oh I do include it – whoops I forgot to include that not that I have in previous months. These numbers don’t include mortgage or childcare but they are calculated into the savings rate percentage. Just not sharing every last cent for the world to see 😉

  11. “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.”

    HOLY crap your damn right. I had one “friend” on Facebook and she always gets several cats/dogs/pets strays. She holds them for a year or so and then usually some pet medical expense happens so she gives them away like she got them. I understand affordability is an issue but shes’s doing a lot of mental and self esteem damage to those pets by re-abandoning them again. 🙁 🙁

    The strays run so rampant in her town because everyone has bigger issues, heavy poverty is one. I feel so bad, absolutely no wins here. But I’m a big animal person so…ya’know..I tend to blame the humans overall.

    1. Oh yeah, there are definitely situations that land on you that are different than when you took the animal into your home, but I’m speaking more toward the people who didn’t have the money in the first place / CHOOSE not to spend their money that way even if they have it. But yes. Animals are a GIANT commitment and should be treated like the living beings they are.

  12. Congrats on that savings rate—huge! We’re prob. not going to hit our net worth goal either, and I love the quote you closed out with. You set an audacious goal and almost hit it—that’s a win for sure!!

    1. MD was spot on with that note – love her clarity ❤️ Net worth goals are extra dicey because there is a LOT there outside of your control.

  13. Congrats on a really good savings rate despite falling short of the target – I know exactly how you feel and I will most likely not hit the 50% target I had for 2018 as well, but we must remember that saving +40% of our income is still extremely good – very few people have the possibility and determination to do that 🙂

  14. Cut yourself a break! (Though I too hate falling short of a goal.) Our savings rate goals were hit largely because my husband is seven more frugal and resourceful than me. Regardless of where you land at the end of the year you’ve saved so much!

    1. It’s definitely a balance between cutting myself a break and still staying focused to do the best I can 🙂 and I agree – thank you!

  15. Only in this community is a 46.6% savings rate any semblance of a failure. You are kicking ass; just think of the year over year improvement!!! In that example, you’re up 130-ish percent?!!!! INCREDIBLE

    1. Hahahaha that is so true. That and I set a goal for myself of 50% 😉 But wow yeah. 130%. Dang I’m good.

      1. As Brad and Jonathan talk about, it’s about anchoring. 50% was a lofty goal, and you acknowledged that it might not be possible. But by setting your sights on 50, you achieved ALMOST-50, which is amazeballs!

      2. That is so very true – and we shall see how close we land at the end of the year.

  16. Anglea, can you do a post (or have you done a post) more specifically on how you track this (like the specific calculations, I am assuming this is on your income after taxes but not sure) and do you do a check-in in the middle of the month to see if you are on track etc. Also I have a couple side gigs that bring in different amounts each month, how would you suggest I factor this in?

  17. Don’t beat yourself up! You guys are still killing it. Great job:)
    We just spent $420 for the annual check up for my dog and two cats. I get a discount for having more than one pet! Bonus:)

    1. Hey now, I don’t get any sort of multi pet discount! Or frequent customer. Hmmm maybe I should be asking 🤔

  18. That’s a really savings rate for the whole year. Many would love to save close to half like how you guys are. Hopefully you get to over 50% for the year especially here in November and December.
    Yes emergency funds are important!! We all need to put some funds away in case some does happen. The last thing we need in an emergency situation is not have enough money!!

    1. Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to hit 50% overall even with a stellar November and December 😉 Like you said though, it’s a freaking awesome savings rate regardless.

  19. Life is all so relative. Huge financial wins can be overshadowed by comparison to other even larger wins. Our family also set a 50% savings rate in January. We have failed to hit that marke in 11 out of 11 months, LOL. I suspect we will get there as we continue to bank all raises. I keep reminding myself FI is not a sprint but a marathon and I love the journey.

    1. Well, that makes me feel better for sure 🙂 Stretch goals are a serious stretch for a reason, right?

  20. Y’all are doing fantastically, that is all, especially since you have so many people/animals in the mix and therefore large parts of your spending aren’t solely under your control. I don’t have that excuse! 😂 I also LOVE the idea of emergency money being an increased cash flow. I really need to figure out how to make that work better for me in my own finances

    1. The increased cash flow emergency money deal has seriously been the best thing to happen this past year. I’m never going back.

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