Again, I think this is one of those months where I am way too hard on myself. After missing out on my 2018 savings goal by a few percentage points, I went into 2019 with a renewed focus to hit that full fifty percent savings rate this year. Of course, January was also the month where we left for our trip to Hawaii, and we brought my grandmother there for the very first time.
Oh, and we also took a trip to Forks at the beginning of the month for my husband’s birthday (but lodging was paid for by the in-laws as a Christmas/birthday gift) AND a one night, kid-free trip to Port Angeles to celebrate another friend’s birthday. Long story short, January was filled with a LOT of travel related expenses. So much for starting 2019 with a seriously awesome savings rate.
But I do always say that we want to live now and travel and enjoy our days with family and friends, right? Right. And this month we definitely proved that with our spending.
Monthly Financial Update: January 2019
The good news is we are closing in on another three paycheck month in March, and February spending looks pretty decent as well. We did spend most of the first week of February in Hawaii, but we really only paid for food and gas while we were there a everything else was cash flowed previously. Previously being, for the most part, January.
I know that some people are huge proponents of sinking funds for things like vacation spending, but we’ve always just cash flowed those expenses as they arrive. Of course, booking things like lodging and plane flights (though we rarely pay for those) up front does spread the cost out a little bit naturally.
This means that when our incomes were smaller, we went on fewer and less expensive vacations, but we still never saved up for them in advance. And we never put them on a credit card. Beyond being adverse to paying interest in any amount outside of our mortgage, the idea of paying for something after you’ve already experienced it has always felt like a terrible idea to me. If it’s passed, then the spending should have passed as well.
We spent $5,859.31 on “miscellaneous” stuff in 2018. While I had initially decided I didn’t want to have an endless list of categories broken down each month, realizing that the miscellaneous category averaged out to almost five hundred dollars a month made me realize that I needed to add at least a few more categories to be able to look back and really track where our money was going.
Miscellaneous spending totaled just $70.50 for January with my new categories added for 2019, which seems like a much more respectable amount. In theory, the new ones should cover *most* of what fell into miscellaneous last year, but who knows what surprises the rest of the year will bring.
New Category: Vacation Food
The biggest new category for 2019 is most definitely this one. I went back and forth a lot last year trying to decide whether to break this out from our regular grocery / restaurant spending, but since the bulk of our restaurant spending really is done while we are traveling and we tend to splurge on local grocery stores as well, it seems fair that this should get its own category this year.
As you’ll see, this added up to $364.99 for January, so I’d say this probably makes sense. Of course, we DID pick up a few things for home while grocery shopping in Port Angeles at the fancy natural foods store, but the majority of this was for meals while we were there.
We also had a couple meals out in Forks, though not many, and the last day of January was fully spent in Hawaii as we had arrived the night before. It was one of the days we were staying at the hotel as well, so all of our meals were cooked by others that day. When I list it all out, I’m now just glad this number isn’t higher. Good thing we aren’t traveling any more this month.
While I added Vacation Food as a category, I also deleted Fast Food as its own separate category. Really, this is almost entirely my husband’s work lunches and it included food trucks and grocery store deli food as well as actual fast food restaurants, but at under $100 a month on average, I decided I’d just lump it in with our regular restaurant spending (though he does pay for it all himself when I go through our bills each month).
And then, there’s the rest of the vacation spending for January and the real reason why we don’t have a higher savings rate for the month. Vacation spending alone came in at $882.18. This included: ferry trip fares for the two weekends on the Olympic Peninsula, our share of the Airbnb cost for Port Angeles, our share of the Airbnb cost for Honokaa, Hawaii (second half payment), the car rental for Hawaii, and two tickets to the luau.
The luau tickets alone were $290 (luckily they don’t charge for kids under five so we squeaked by there). This isn’t something we would have done on our own – and not something we did on our last trip to Hawaii – but it was one of the absolute highlights of my grandmother’s trip, and so I would make that same choice to go if I had to do it over again. Sometimes things to cost a little bit extra, and that’s okay.
New Category: Home/Tools
Since my husband buys tools on a semi regular basis – though always on sale – and as we do have maintenance to do and pay for as homeowners, I decided that this needed its own category. For this month, the saw my husband had had his eye on for months finally went on a big sale at Home Depot and he picked it up when we were there last.
This also included a bit of miscellaneous hardware etc, but the total cost of the Home Depot trip was considerably smaller than it could have been thanks to a gift card and our 10% military discount, or the equivalent of not paying tax because that’s how high our sales tax is in our area now.
I am not including general home / cleaning supplies here but instead leaving them in the groceries category because we buy those things at Costco or our local grocery store and it would be too much of a pain to split them out separately. Since we mostly use zero waste versions of things like paper towels, this number isn’t huge anyway and a Costco package of paper towels will last us well over a year.
New Category: Gardening
Again, I don’t spend a huge amount of money on the garden each year now that the raised beds are mostly set up and I save a portion of the seeds, but since I’ve been tracking the spending separately this is an easy one to break out anyway. Last year it was just a couple hundred dollars in the miscellaneous category. So far, we’ve spent zero dollars on the garden since it’s winter and not quite planting season yet. Odds are I won’t spend any money (or at least very little) until March since the garden is still well covered in snow right now.
New Category: Gifts
Again, this is one of those categories that will likely see a number of zero dollar months and probably never an overly expensive month since we tend to lean toward experiences and not things when it comes to gifts, but it also seemed like a natural split out from the more general miscellaneous category.
New Category: Alcohol
This category is specifically for alcohol only purchases, rather than splitting out a single bottle of wine from a grocery store purchase. So this will only show trips to Total Wine and trips to breweries and that sort of thing. Perhaps it would make sense to split out all alcohol purchases, but again, I don’t want to have to go into that level of detail in splitting out receipts.
New Category: Clothes
Obviously, this category doesn’t include me at this point, though that will change eventually once I finally break my clothes buying ban. March first marks the two year point, so any purchases will absolutely be after then. For January, this expense was for a new pair of Carhartt overalls for the kiddo when we were in Forks for the weekend.
No Spend Days
So while this month was obviously not a record low spending month for us, it was a record for number of No Spend Days in a single month, at fifteen. I’d managed a couple of months at twelve days, but January blew those out of the water. While our spending overall wasn’t near our lowest, I credit my extra focus on No Spend Days for the fact that it wasn’t also a record high expense month either.
These days are what generally stop me from grabbing lunch out at work just because “I feel like it” and other mindless spending that really shouldn’t happen, but would if I wasn’t tracking things closely. Of course, our vacation spending blew our total out of proportion, but being more mindful during the rest of the month really kept things under control.
January 2019 Spending (Excludes Mortgage, Daycare, Insurance)
|Excluding Mortgage Principal||34%|
Sharing My Giving Rate
So this is something that I have gone back and forth on for most of a year and even took to Twitter last week to get some extra opinions. That poll with over one hundred responses clearly leaned toward share or at least share percentages, so I decided to make the leap and at least partially pull back the curtain there. I did decide to share percentages of our overall total instead of dollar amounts, and I won’t be sharing where those dollars go, but this feels like a good middle ground for now.
I started really tracking my charitable giving in 2017 and it became very clear that the more I gave and the more I paid attention to giving, the more I did it. 2018 I stepped it up a bit more, and this year I plan to continue in that direction. My hope in sharing percentages publicly is that I will be even more incentivized to increase that number and perhaps inspire others to do also as they are able.
Even those of us Middletons in what is generally a pretty high income personal finance community are doing pretty well for ourselves and could probably do better to share that with others. As my income grows, I hope to grow my giving as well. We are in pretty darn good shape to be chasing a fifty percent savings rate and there is no reason I can see for being tight fisted with our money when twenty dollars won’t break us but can be used in a significant way elsewhere, especially as its added up with other contributions.
What do you think? Should I continue to share my giving rate? Or is that best kept personal and closer to the chest?