We doubled our savings rate this past year. Literally doubled it. When I first started tracking our finances closely, we’d been doing “reasonably well” for years when it came to our finances, but there was a lot of mindless spending that occurred each month and we didn’t have a very big buffer left over each month.

This lack of space between spending and saving came to a head in late summer of 2017 when our dog got sick and we unexpectedly had to spend thousands of dollars at the vet for overnight stays, bloodwork, and medication. She is doing well now, and I absolutely don’t regret spending the money to do so, but that in combination with other extra expenditures in the months leading up to that point meant that we found ourselves in a place where we couldn’t pay our credit cards without pulling a significant amount of money out of our emergency fund.

While of course that is what an emergency fund is for in theory, it made me realize we were spending significantly more than we needed to every month and that we needed more space. We make a reasonably good – though still moderate – income, and don’t spend a lot of money on cars, toys, and other typically expensive things, but we did spend a whole lot on food, drink, and other random stuff.

Even so, with the expensive summer and fall months, thanks to a No Spend November and a slow recalibration of our spending throughout the year, we still ended 2017 with a 23% savings rate. Absolutely a respectable number, and outside of the financial independence community, an enviable amount. But we could do so much better – and so 2018 was the year that we made a real change in our spending habits. Between much more mindful spending, small raises, and a change in the tax code, we hit a 46% savings rate for the year, fully double anything we had ever done in the past.

Why We’re Able To Save So Much On A Moderate Income

While 2018 was our big breakout year in terms of a hefty savings rate, it was a long process to get ourselves to the point where that kind of savings was possible. I’d love to say that anyone can save close to fifty percent of their income even with a middle income, but there are so many reasons why it may not be.

For us, the big reasons why it IS possible to save such a portion of our incomes are as follows:

1. We bought our home in the absolute bottom of the market and it is a simple “starter” home that we haven’t overly remodeled (the things we’ve done have been almost entirely for energy and water savings). And then we also rent out one of the bedrooms to further reduce our housing expenses. As a result, our housing and utilities costs are significantly lower than they could be.

Our mortgage (including taxes and insurance) is just 16% of our gross income. Where housing is considered “affordable” as long as it doesn’t exceed 30%, we are seriously lucky to spend just half that in an area where many people spend well more than that.

Pretty sunny January walk close to home

2. We have one child, and we pay for just two days a week for childcare thanks to support from our family the rest of the week. There are so many reasons beyond the financial benefits to have our son cared for by his grandmothers every week, but the financial ones are pretty dang significant as well.

The daycare our son is at is “reasonably” priced for our area, but it’s still a shocking amount for people who don’t live in a high cost of living area; we have friends who live an hour and a half south and pay less than we do and their child is at the most expensive, top notch school in their area full time. If we paid for full time childcare we would spend more on that than we do on our mortgage.

3. Of course there are a million other little reasons why we are able to save the money we do (great company health insurance, cheap cars, access to some awesome hand me downs from clothing to furniture), but those are the two biggest ones that aren’t easily replicable. We could be living close to the twin of the life we do, but without the ability to buy the home when we did and the proximity and willingness of family, our base expenses could easily be close to double what they are now.

Monthly Financial Update: December 2018

This may be my last financial update for 2018, so the details of this post are a bit broader than my typical monthly updates, but I still think it’s important to walk myself through the reasons why we did – and didn’t – save money this month specifically, not just an average of the year.

Christmas Presents

Since we decided to have a more restrained Christmas this year with our whole extended family beyond just the three of us, I didn’t so much Christmas shopping or preparing before December this year other than a few stocking stuffers picked up over the months. But because we didn’t expect to spend the money on big gifts for everyone and instead focused on smaller, mostly handmade gifts, the cost really wasn’t too significant to our overall budget since the expense associated with handmade gifts are often measured more in time than money.

Still, there were SOME presents

I know that some people love the idea of a sinking fund that they contribute to over the year in order to pay for Christmas painlessly, but I think I do a better job restraining myself when it’s paid for all in November and December. I do love giving gifts, and this helps to keep it in check. Just like us, our families don’t want to add more stuff to their homes, and it was really nice to have a Christmas that was focused more on the people than the gifts.

Pet Care

I took our older dog to the vet once again in December for another round of bloodwork, and amazingly her kidneys are back in the normal range! The special kidney diet that costs a ridiculous amount of money appears to be working after all, which is awesome. I’m not ready to say goodbye to our old pup yet. Our cat got bloodwork done as well since he’s 9.5 and considered a senior now, and the vet seemed honestly surprised at how good all of his panels looked, especially for a mostly outdoor cat.

Not the most expensive pet care month ever (hopefully we won’t have to repeat that monthly cost ever again), but definitely a happy one considering the feedback we got because of it.

It’s near impossible to get a decent photo of them both 

Food and Drink

Our grocery budget was a bit higher than normal, but that isn’t terribly surprising when you consider Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s Eve all fall in December. Honestly, I feel like we did a really good job here for a category we are prone to go way overboard on. I’m hoping to bring it down a bit more in January, but we’ve done a good job keeping it mostly in check.

December 2018 Spending (Excludes mortgage + daycare)

Jul 2018 Aug 2018 Sep 2018 Oct 2018 Nov 2018 Dec 2018
Groceries $1,041.77 $393.91 $375.58 $358.12 $501.61 $527.76
Restaurants $329.83 $422.17 $562.84 $508.23 $418.73 $437.17
Fast Food $117.72 $65.55 $148.45 $75.95 $142.56 $54.27
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84
Gas $117.72 $258.94 $275.12 $236.54 $245.75 $178.23
Car/Transit $640.86 $88.12 $114.05 $1,113.27 $5.00 $30.00
Utilities $126.98 $129.58 $320.25 $304.17 $187.06 $323.57
Pet Care $578.63 $391.38 $207.77 $228.09 $217.64 $701.74
Vacations $483.45 $110.11 $808.13 $414.17 $310.03 $272.68
Misc $629.79 $232.95 $1,009.10 $476.83 $914.22 $766.77
Total $4,084.59 $2,110.55 $3,839.13 $3,733.21 $2,960.44 $3,310.03
Savings Rate 30% 67% 31% 32% 47% 38%
Excluding Mortgage Principal 23% 63% 25% 25% 41% 32%

December Savings Rate: 38%

Total Savings Rate For 2018: 46%

So. We came up short from that 50% savings rate goal I set back in January of last year. I may write more on this later, but I’m trying hard to stick to the positives in this post and not beat myself up for not quite making that big, hairy, audacious goal. After all, I could have easily set a lower bar for the year and we would have hit it, but we also would have likely come up with a savings rate below 46%. And to be honest, I don’t see any one place where we overspent without reason. And if you want to read about my frustrations with missing that goal, I did that plenty in my October update.

While there are things we could have cut out to make it there, we wouldn’t have had a good of a year. As someone who very clearly lands on the side of attempting to live a life now like the one you would once you reach financial independence – rather than the Dave Ramsey concept of “live like no one today so you can live like no one else” years down the line. While I think this idea can be helpful for paying off significant debt and setting yourself up on stable financial footing, once you’re there, I think it’s very important to reconsider that all out push.

None of us has any guarantee of the future, and while I absolutely believe in making good financial choices for the long term (obviously, or I wouldn’t be so focused on saving so much now), I also believe that we need to enjoy ourselves now too. And if that means that we spent a few thousand dollars of discretionary funds that kept us from that 50% savings rate? Then so be it. Happiness now is important too.

Lake Crescent on the way to Forks

Now to go into the big expenses for 2018 beyond our home and childcare, which are largely fixed costs at this point, but also hands down the two most expensive budget categories throughout the year by some margin.

Pet Care

We spent $4,306.55 on our animals this year, which was less than last year thanks to an overnight vet visit and other big expenses. Even so, that means we averaged over $350 a month on pet expenses, and they aren’t going down in 2019. We also did get $100 less in rental income back in May when we reduced our roommate’s rent after he watched the animals when we were out of town for two weeks.

Part of why we keep his rent so low is the agreement that he watches our animals when we go out of town (he pays less than half the going rate for a room in our area at this point). This has been a great deal for both parties because he gets super low rent, doesn’t have to do much when we’re gone, and we don’t have to pay a pet sitter. Considering how many weekends we travel and only bring the dogs occasionally since they aren’t great travelers, having our roommate around has saved us a significant amount of money over the years.

Vacations

We spent slightly more on vacations than pet care in 2018, coming in at $4,808.52, or $400 a month. This number is actually artificially low because I have tracked food and gas expenses in those categories instead of within vacation spending. I go back and forth whether I should continue doing it this way or lump those costs in here as well.

This does seem like a lot of money to be spending on vacations, but we do travel A LOT and find a lot of value in these trips. We maximize our savings through reasonably priced Airbnbs and a bit of travel hacking, or this number would be thousands even higher than it is now. This line item probably makes it pretty clear that we value experiences and not things.

Port Angeles mural of the old MV Kalakala Ferry

If you haven’t stayed in an AirBnB before, I would highly recommend it. We love the flexibility it gives us while traveling as a family – full kitchen, laundry, and extra bathrooms, and it’s usually considerably cheaper than a hotel, especially when you travel as a group. Plus plenty of places are like this ones, with toys and games or other supplies that can really enhance your stay. If you’re new to AirBnB, here’s a link for $40 off your first stay (affiliate link).

Food Expenses

Gulp. We spent $12,917.87 on food and drink in 2018, or $1,076 a month. $6,005.10 on groceries, $5,922.52 on restaurants, and $990.25 on fast food type meals (I’m looking at your work lunches, husband). The *good* news here, I suppose, is that we have more than cut our food budget in half from our highest point, but over a thousand dollars a month for a family of three is still kind of a lot.

I’m not sure where I want to land here for 2019, but I’d be happy if I could get that average cost to under that four figure mark, even if not by a lot. My husband expends a ton of energy at work and subsequently eats a lot, and our almost four year old is competing for an adult appetite, but we can still do better.

Miscellaneous

This category ended up at $5,859.31 for the year, or close to $500 a month. While I don’t think I want too many more categories than I already have, I think I should probably add a few, namely home expenses, garden, clothes, and gifts. While we will go months where those categories are zero, they are big enough expenses through the year it would probably be enlightening to see their totals separately. I’ll be adding these categories to my 2019 monthly updates.

Overall 2018 Spending

Excluding our mortgage, daycare, and insurance, we spent $36,667.10 on 2018, or slightly over $3,000 dollars a month. In order to actually hit a 50% savings rate in 2019, we really need to get this under $3,000 a month, or increase our incomes slightly. I’d really like to see both happen so we can solidly pass that 50% mark.

Overall, in regards to our big financial goal, I would give us a B for 2018, with some room for improvement but nothing glaring that I absolutely wish we hadn’t spent money on. For what our situation looks like, I think we’ve done pretty darn well. And at the point we stop paying for childcare in less than two years we will be able to put away some even more serious cash.

Other Financial Achievements

So, we didn’t hit the one big goal I set for 2018, but I had some sub goals within that post that we absolutely did accomplish this year.

1. Continue to share our monthly savings rate here on the blog.

Well, obviously, that one has been a success. Not only do these monthly updates help to keep me honest, it’s been fun to look back and calculate our detailed spending picture for an entire year. I’m looking forward to when I have years of data I can look back on and compare. There are lots of reasons that blogging is a rewarding hobby, and this right there is a big one.

2. Keep cooking meals from scratch.

From homemade cupcakes and pizzas for a houseful of people for our kiddo’s birthday to neighborhood block parties to financial blogger meet ups, I’ve definitely met this goal. And yet we still spend a lot of money on food. This is why we didn’t spend even more in 2018, but it’s time to now start paying attention to cost per meal.

3. Max out my IRA for the first time.

I. DID. IT. And not only did I do it, but I sent the last payment on January 4th. Not quite 2018, but months ahead of March or April when I expect I would probably squeak in just before the deadline. It felt so amazing to log into Vanguard and have it show 100% funded. I’ll have to bump this up 10% this year since the maximum contribution for upped to $6,000, but I’m confident I can achieve it yet again. And perhaps we can max out my husband’s as well? We shall see.

4. Continue my clothes buying ban

March will mark TWO YEARS of my clothes buying ban. I fully don’t expect to hit three years, but I will put some parameters in place once I finally do break it. At this point, the only thing I really expect to need before year three thanks to a few key hand me downs and Christmas presents is a new pair of work shoes, but I can make do past March with what I have for sure. Perhaps I can get lucky and find a pair to trade or something else, but odds are I will be buying some at some point this spring or summer.

5. Pay off our real estate investment.

This happened with our first paychecks in March. Looking back, this felt like SUCH a big number, but now it is simply a cash flowing asset and not something we have to think about (we are passive investors, much like a REIT). Once I buckled down and decided it was time to pay it off for good, it disappeared much faster than I expected it could.

6. Visit the library. A lot.

We visit our local library at least once a month now, and we’ve visited a number of libraries during our travels as well. It has saved us a ton of money both with books for me but also a ton of clutter with the ability to rotate out children’s books instead of trying to buy enough to keep things interesting. We still own way too many children’s books, but I haven’t been able to pare them down very well yet because we read a lot of them even beyond all the books we check out from the library. We were there again this evening just before closing, and it made my heart happy to see it so busy.

7. Get serious about travel hacking.

Success here as well! We are going back to Hawaii later this winter and we spent $11.70 a person on the plane tickets thanks to signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and will be staying two nights for free (with two hotel rooms with balconies and partial ocean views) in Kona during that same trip. Since we’re looking at Iceland for next winter for our tenth anniversary, we’ve gotten started with the Capital One Venture but I’m not sure what’s next. That will be an expensive trip if we aren’t careful, so travel hacking is going to be a big deal going into 2019 as well.

Last sunset of our 2017 Hawaii trip

2019 Goals

I actually haven’t set any goals for 2019 thus far, but going through and looking back at the ones I had set for 2018 makes me think I want to do so again (though this post is long enough so it will be another day). I’m a big believer in beginning challenges for yourself when you’re ready and not just because it’s January 1st, so for now, I’ll just continue working toward that big 50% savings rate goal, avoiding buying new clothes, and maxing out my 2019 IRA. Everything else can wait for now.

Have you set goals for 2019 yet? How are they going so far?

52 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: December 2018

  1. Oh my! You are so hard on yourself. I would give you an A- (not a B as you had graded yourself). You may have missed your savings goal by just a smidge but getting that close to 50% is seriously impressive, my friend! Really!

    Looking forward to hearing about your 2019 goals once you set them. (I haven’t set my 2019 goals yet either.)

    1. I had initially put that as a B+ but then decided that was too nice Hahahaha. If we’re heading on a curve, it’s an A+ anyway 😉

  2. “B” – after DOUBLING your savings rate!?! I sure am glad you weren’t grading any of my class work when I was in school 😂😉 this performance deserves an A+ when you put it into perspective!

    Sure there are things you think you could improve upon. We all have those in our spending. But like you said, it’s not all about racing towards FI, you’ve got to make sure you enjoy the journey! I can’t imagine you are going to look back with any regret on the year with your experiences just because you missed an arbitrary number of a stretch goal you set!

    Best of luck working towards your 2019 goals!!

    1. And this is why growing up I knew I’d never be a good teacher because I’d be the super harsh unrealistic grader that everyone hates 😂😂😂

      1. It definitely is! I thought I stayed pretty dang positive in this whole post haha

  3. You’ve done amazing well for the year! What is your real estate investment? Is it an actual property that you own or co-own or just a pure paper investment?

  4. “None of us has any guarantee of the future, and while I absolutely believe in making good financial choices for the long term (obviously, or I wouldn’t be so focused on saving so much now), I also believe that we need to enjoy ourselves now too.” <<< 100% agree!

    1. That basically sums it up. And why I can’t beat myself up too much for not getting to that elusive 50%. We could have, but I wouldn’t have given anything up we spent on to get there. Nothing major, anyway.

  5. 46% is amazing, and a very impressive increase from 2017. Pets really can be expensive: we had to leave Jax at the vet for tests for a whole day last year and the cost was astronomical. The things we do for the fur babies we love…

    1. Thank you! And yes. Pets (especially as they age) can get SUPER pricey. Worth it, though 🙂

  6. we maxed out both roths and continued with 13% to my 401k. the darned home repairs took a bite out of our travel/fun money last year. i would have to guess we spent around 40k total and i think a huge chunk of that was on vino. i’m gonna cut that down this year. i feel like we’re in good shape and it seems y’all are too.

    1. Home repairs were definitely larger for us in 2017 and we’ll have more of them in the coming years (fence rebuild and eventual reroof to name a few). I do love owning our home, and while our base cost is kept low because of that, it can get pricey sometimes! That vino though – less of that is better for both your health and your wallet 😉

  7. A great year, to be sure. Doubling your savings rate, and maxing out Roth IRA, among all the other accomplishments. You are an inspiration to soo many. May 2019 be even better.

    1. I expect it will be for you as well! Amazing what close tracking and attention to your finances can do 🙂

  8. Wow, I am so proud of you!! You’ve hit so many goals, and that pesky little 4% will happen in 2019! And I really appreciate that you still try and have a life and don’t follow the Dave Ramsey rule. It’s refreshing because I often “starve” us out of fun, and a friendly reminder to have fun and to live while still working on long term goals is necessary. Haha. I’m still a bit of a sprinter instead of a marathoner, and I’m working on changing my mindset.

    1. Thank you!! And I tend to fall more your direction of going a bit too hard core, but I have my husband to pull me back to reality and balance me back out. A decade together and I’m finally starting to do this more naturally.

      1. Yes! My husband is similar (thank God, otherwise… I’d be waaaay too intense for the world, haha), and I’m learning to have fun while achieving goals. It’s hard work. Haha.

  9. Very cool update. I still haven’t completed our entire family’s financial analysis (since my partner and I keep things separate), but I also gave myself a B for the year which might have been lower if I hadn’t committed at the beginning of the year to be less mindful of expenses. It sounds counter-intuitive, but after the long slog of getting to Early Retirement, I felt like I needed a break from spreadsheets and analysis and goals. But now I have a new baseline to work off of, and I’m excited to see where we can go with things. Cutting back on the groceries and out to eat categories is foremost in my mind, but I also have some potential savings with the kiddo.

    1. I’ve heard that from a number of people now, so it sounds like that’s something to pay attention to. It makes sense to need a break though, and after so many years of staying focused you have to have a good sense of where you’re at without tracking exactly.

      1. Also I would be remiss if I didn’t give you a huge virtual high 5 for doubling your savings rate. That is huge. Seriously. With all this FI stuff even when you have a partner who is on board with everything, I think having good balance is key because I think some of us (I’m speaking about myself) can go a little overboard with things. The roommate situation – does anything about that feel like you are giving up a large amount of privacy? I’ve been planning and putting numbers to paper on a “garage apartment” of sorts to rent out for Air BnB purposes and folks keep telling me that I would be giving up a lot of my privacy, etc. I live literally feet from my neighbors as it is right now anyway and have a postage stamp size yard, so I don’t feel like having a room over my garage with a separate entrance would be feel invasive, but just curious.

      2. *High five* In The FIRE community it can sometimes feel like big accomplishments aren’t quite as big because there are so many people saving more, doing more, etc but I’m pretty darn pleased with where we’re at.

        As far as roommates go, we’ve always rented to people we’ve known, and almost all of the situations have worked out well. We’re both pretty extroverted so having an extra person around has never been a bad thing, and our roommate is back to working nights so we don’t see him much regardless. At the point he does finally move out though, I don’t think we’ll rent the room out again unless it was the absolutely perfect situation.

  10. Wow! I am so impressed with what you accomplished and the post itself. You are so close to 50%, you can certainly reward yourself and be proud of your approach.

    Also, I’m drawn to your site because of how much you talk about pet care and include them in part of your financial life plan. In addition, I think it’s awesome that you only need to use daycare two days a week! I had a talk with my mom yesterday about how she may be retiring soon. Hmmmmmm….. is what you have me thinking!!!! I can’t imagine what that would do for our finances if she decided to help out here and there. Anyway, best wishes. I’m curious to see what your goals are for this next year.

    1. Well yeah, if you own pets you’d better take care of them properly. Or at least those are my strong feelings on the matter 🙂

      The family support with childcare is HUGE. Our financial – and life – picture would look so different without it.

  11. Ahahahahahaha a B for doubling your savings rate, taking a ton of trips, and maxing out your Roth IRA?! Um okay, friend. 😂

    I’m still figuring out what my goals will be for 2019…how late is too late for that? Haha. One day I’ll be able to write a post about them.

    1. I know I know I know. But you should also know me well enough not to be surprised 😂😂

      And I’m going to say… February or March. Because that’s when I’m likely to write them out myself. Haha

  12. You seem to be meeting not only your savings goals but also your spending goals like travel with your family. I’m glad that you’ve kept your savings goal at 50% because if that’s the number where your income/spending is optimized then that should be your goal for this year and future years. I’ve been tracking our spending for 18 months now but updated our spending goals 6 months when we changed our goals. I’m not sure what our savings rate was for 2018 yet because I don’t really know what our income was yet (waiting a few weeks for the W2s).

    I had to take a dog in for an overnight emergency hospital stay just before christmas and while it wasn’t my favorite way to spend money (and my dog was sad and sick) I glad that I wasn’t worried about how I was going to pay for his treatment as I signed the estimates that they kept bringing out for me to approve. We are not quite meeting our grocery spending goal but I’m also not too worried about it. We have cut down on our eating out and we’re better about planning meals and have cut back on buying beer and wine. It was aggressive to think we could cut our food spending by 50% over last year so maybe I just need to adjust our budget to be more realistic.

    I am really curious as to how some people have such small grocery budgets. Like curious enough to want to compare actual receipts with people. Is it regional costs? am I buying too much meat? too many vegetables? What are other people eating? Maybe I don’t want to know. I don’t want to waste money but I also don’t want to eat specific meals because they’re the cheapest per serving. Or do I want to make cheap breakfasts and lunch so I can not worry about dinner? I don’t know.

    1. It does feel so good to be able to pay vet costs without being worried about how you’ll pay them. Sitting in emergency rooms makes it clear how many people have to make choices they don’t want to because they can’t pay.

      As far as the grocery budget goes, meat is a BIG cost, and so is the fact that my husband eats more like two people. And then of course, high quality food does cost more. We could get our grocery bill lower, but not nearly as low as some without giving up some things we have no interest in giving up. Definitely a balance there.

  13. This is AMAZING. How do you actually keep track of every purchase? Do you just keep receipts for everything or do you use Mint or something that connects with your account and just use cards? My goal this year is to become a master budgeter, and I want to know all the things!
    Also, I feel you on the daycare. Ours for two is almost $500/month than our rent. It’s worth every freaking penny, but we may also never own a house until we’re 40.

    1. I actually do it old school and write down every purchase (in my phone, but more or less just like writing it down on a notepad). Occasionally I have to go back and look at credit card receipts, but for the most part I write down as I go. More work, but I find that I’m way more mindful if I track it this way. Budgets have never worked, but this has for some reason.

      To go back to the beginning of regular tracking, here’s my rundown of the first “no spend” month I did and how it basically changed everything for me:

      https://treadlightlyretireearly.com/2017/12/04/what-i-learned-about-our-spending-habits-from-a-no-spend-month/

      That isn’t to be said you’ll find it to be the best way for you – personal finance is so personal and you have to find what works! And ask away with any questions you may have!!

  14. Really impressed that you doubled your savings rate last year Angela!!. I remembered that you were discouraged about not reaching 50% but you got close. That’s a goal you should aim for in 2019, over 50% savings rate. Keep setting that bar higher!!

    1. Thank you!! And a bit discouraged still, but writing it out this way and laying my accomplishments out makes me realize we still did something pretty amazing this year. And yes, onto 2019!

  15. Great work! That’s a lot of progress, and I’m sure you’ll continue to find ways to improve. We split our spending up into a lot more categories, but I think the major ones that we have for what you have as “miscellaneous” are: general household, major purchases/repairs (like if we bought furniture or had to replace an applicance), yard/garden, ATM (random cash purchases we can’t categorize), hobbies and fun stuff (for us), and gifts for others. I’m sure yours will be different, but perhaps this helps…

    1. Hmmm yeah. So far general household stuff tends to get lumped into grocery since that’s where we buy it, but maybe that’s not fair…

      1. That total makes sense! Our toiletries and stuff are definitely in grocery. I can’t even think of what goes in our general category… stamps? We also have a separate category for hardware, but that’s probably not necessary. I like how everyone’s is different!

      2. Yeah, I need to decide in the next couple of weeks before I put out January’s monthly update anyway 😜

    1. Yeah, that’s a hard one, though in 20/20 hindsight I wish I’d at least put some money there as soon as I possibly could, even $20/month, because then I would have had the habit solidly created for when I had more money to throw that way.

  16. I think it makes sense to track food at least in the normal food category when you’re on vacation because you’re going to eat during those periods no matter what. But at the same time, I suppose it could be said (at least for us) our food costs are higher because of vacation. We tend to try to enjoy things we don’t get at home and that costs more no matter how cheaply we do it because it’s out of our norm.

    We travel less frequently than you but on bigger trips so I bet we average close to the same.

    I think we’re close to the same on food but I don’t really track spending in categories like this anymore and am not sure I’m willing to make the effort to break it out since so much of our spending is at Costco.

    CONGRATS AGAIN ON THE IRA MAX OUT!

    Our pet costs were a lot higher than usual this past year too, and I’m hoping for a really healthy year outside of maintenance, in 2019. Fingers crossed for both of us!

    1. Yeah, that’s why I keep going back and forth on the vacation spending – we do spend more than we do at home, but at the same time, we have to eat (and I think I might give myself more of a free pass if it was lumped into vacation spending).

      I don’t expect our pet spending to go down as long as we have our older dog around because she’s on the medications / regular appointments for life. Still, hopefully we can keep away from any overnight visits again this year.

    1. Thank you so much lady!!! I have to remind myself to step outside the FIRE community sometimes and realize what a big deal it is.

  17. Congrats on a great year! When big goals are set and we fall a bit short that I usually still much better than setting a softball goal and hitting it easily. Doubling your savings rate is awesome. And I secretly love the fact that you didn’t sacrifice things like going out to restaurants every once in a while to get that last 4 percent. I know restaurants are expensive but they are something that we enjoy on occasion as well, especially for date nights with two kids at home.

    Best of luck on your 2019 goals, whenever you get around to finalizing. I still need to get my goals for this year down on paper. Right now they are just rattling around in my head.

    1. As a former softball player I hate the “softball” analogy, but I get what you’re saying 😉 2019 goals are starting to take shape but it will be a bit yet before I get them out here on the blog.

  18. I think your overall annual spending is basically what we pay for rent and utilities alone 🙂

    So far we’ve spent about $2k this month on travel and pets alone. Our cat had an eye issue, so we had to go to a cat ophthalmologist, which was several hundred dollars. Last year we spent about $2,400 on the cats.

    Your travel costs are great for a family! Re: food spending while traveling, I tend to lump it in with travel, because our eatings habits are way different than when we’re at home. At home we barely eat out, and when we travel eating out is nonstop.

    And your roommate gets a great deal on pet sitting! Here, we pay $25 per day for pet sitting. It definitely eats into the overall vacation budget!

    1. To be fair, that amount DOESN’T include our mortgage/insurance and daycare 😬 And the occasional time that our roommate joins us for a trip we get a “deal” at $25 a day to pay a neighbor kid for pet sitting. If we had to go with Rover or boarding it would be a LOT more, like easily double.

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