April was a good solid month for us, with a nice balance of travel out of town and hanging out around home. The weather has finally warmed up enough that I’ve gotten to spend a decent amount of time in the garden, more time on the trails behind our house, and it’s now light enough in the mornings that I can walk to work after dropping off the kiddo at preschool.
The month started with a one night camping trip out on the Olympic Peninsula with our neighbors who are moving out of state soon. One of the things they’re going to miss most about this area is the camping, so we squeezed in an extra trip with them, even if it was a short one.
We then spent a weekend in Skagit County with a day on San Juan Island. We hadn’t been to the San Juans for far too long, and a day up there just had us wanting more time, so I expect we will be up there at least a couple more times this year.
To close out the month, we took a five day trip to Arizona with my mother and grandmother to visit other family (and get some warm – okay HOT – sunny weather during our usually gray spring). Even with all the travel we did in April, thanks to frugal choices and some airline miles, we really didn’t spend very much on vacation expenses, especially considering the number of days we spent away from home over the month.
Monthly Financial Update: April 2019
April was another good month as far as income was concerned, though not anything like the three paycheck and bonus month that was March. We got a tax refund for the first time in five years or so thanks to upping our retirement contributions, to the tune of about a thousand dollars. While not everyone agrees with receiving money back at tax time, I have to say it felt awesome to receive a check instead of write one.
I may not want to end up with many thousands of dollars in either direction, but I’m sold on the idea of getting a smaller amount back, even if we lose out on just a tiny bit of extra interest we could have received if we’d had that money through the course of the year – and then didn’t spend it, of course.
We also received another real estate payment, which is always appreciated. When we were paying off the balance of the loan, we always rolled those checks directly back into that debt, and it feels so amazing now to know that the money we receive is fully ours (though it’s now being rolled into the next opportunity there).
And yet again, our total food expenses came in north of the thousand dollars a month I’ve been shooting for this year. Maybe it will happen in May? So far we’ve had yet to have a month to come in under this goal, but I do know it would be considerably higher if I wasn’t paying attention to it.
Notable food expenses for April include a date night, lunch at San Juan Brewery while on that day trip, plus a few meals out while in Arizona. Otherwise, there were a few other restaurant meals, and my husband’s work lunches, which totaled $138.04.
We’ve talked about it, and he is fully aware of the money he’s spending on lunch, but unlike me, he’s decided that money is well spent. The whole purpose of us having separate accounts as well as our joint ones is so that we can decide individually what we want to spend our excess money on, within reason, and those lunches are a good example of that.
Even so, it feels like we still spent a lot on food, yet again, but I also don’t see any glaring example of money I wouldn’t spend again if I had it go do over. Quality food and drink is something we clearly value, including the social and environmental costs, so perhaps I just need to come to terms that this part of our budget will be much higher than the typical frugal family.
We also spend almost nothing on entertainment, clothing, or vehicles and our housing costs are extremely low for our area, so there is a balance to our high food bills. That, and realizing that we could eat the same in a lower cost of living area and spend a lot less as well, just due to higher costs here. Summer is coming though, and as the garden produces in earnest we should be able to cut down some of our food costs, at least in terms of fruits and vegetables. And they’ll all be organic.
Like I mentioned above, we spent a decent number of days and nights away from home in April. Of course, we were either staying at a campground or in an Airbnb with family, so the cost of lodging wasn’t very high for the number of total days. We did also rent a car in Arizona, but that cost was split among family as well.
Other than food, lodging, and transportation (including a couple of ferry trips), the only other expenses that fall under vacation spending was a nominal admission fee to visit a venomous reptile exhibit at a ghost town in Arizona and the price of two days of pet sitting.
Our roommate ended up heading out of town the weekend we were in Arizona, so we enlisted the help of a couple of our teenage neighbors for those two days and paid them accordingly. As we aren’t used to paying for pet care while out of town, paying for a couple days felt like a lot of money and reminds me that we have a good deal going on with our roommate; we pay a ton less in vacation costs and he pays less rent all the time. That said, I also don’t mind paying the neighbor kids from time to time either, because they have limited ways to make money at their ages.
Pet Care Expenses
Beyond the aforementioned pet sitting costs, we had quite an expensive month as far as pet care is concerned, though this has been more typical the last year and a half since our dog originally got sick. She now has a new ailment, which I mentioned last month. Two of her toenails have grown out really funny, and even though the vet has cut them really short a couple of time (originally thinking they’d just been damaged and would then grow out normal), we went to the animal dermatologist, who told us she would likely need the two toes amputated.
When I got the estimate of $4,000 – $5,300 for the surgery, I decided to first check in with her cardiologist when we had her appointment with him. We discussed it, and for now at least, we’re going with the oral medication and waiting to see how it goes. The nails don’t look great, but they aren’t bothering her for now, so I’ll take the sixty dollars a month and no surgery option at this point.
The good news from that cardiology visit though is that her heart looks NORMAL now, which is something I never expected to hear, and apparently her conditioned was caused by her food, which we now are supposed to submit to the FDA as they have been doing a lot of research on her condition as of late. We’ve lowered some of her medications and hopefully we will be able to wean her off of all but one – of course, the remaining one is the most expensive, but I’m very happy on that front.
Between the X-rays, echocardiogram, and cardiology consult, that one visit to the vet cost $890. Within a year though, we could easily save that much with the reduced cost of her medications, to give an indication of how much they’ve cost since her diagnosis in August of 2017.
Otherwise, we spent a bit on dog food and twenty dollars on new heat lights for our snake. Clearly, one of our four animals costs well more than the rest.
Pretty standard month for “miscellaneous” purchases, the biggest being the soccer classes our son attends at his preschool. They aren’t cheap, and they’re a cost on top of the already pricey daycare tuition, but it’s hands down his favorite time there so this is a nonnegotiable for us.
Otherwise, my husband bought a few Kindle books and a couple other minimal Amazon purchases. Nothing terribly interesting to report here.
No Spend Days
I wrote about this in detail a few weeks ago, but my perspective on No Spend Days is evolving as time goes by. I had just six of these days in April, but we did a good job on keeping our spending in check, other than food and pet care, which are the same two categories each month, and zero spend days wouldn’t do much against those big expenses.
I’ll still be tracking them moving forward, but with a different mindset, namely paying attention to my spending on all days, not just the ones I have a hope of hitting zero. And I’m debating giving myself an “allowance” to eat out at lunch once during the week, as I find that I miss those meals and that amount of time won’t make a significant change in our overall spending.
Since finding my church home last summer, I’ve been giving monthly to their general fund, and April was the groundbreaking of a permanent homeless shelter for women and children on a corner of the church property. I love that I’ve found a church where I feel that I belong, and I love even more that the money I send their way is used for such good.
April also saw small donations other places, such as the wildlife rehab center on San Juan Island, and other places where I saw I could use my income in positive ways. Overall, my giving category shows the same percentage as January and February, three percent, but it is a bit of a larger dollar amount thanks to a bit larger income. My hope is that by giving now – and pushing myself to give more – I’ll continue to grow that number as our incomes grow.
Monthly Expenses (Excludes mortgage, daycare, insurance):
|January 2019||February 2019||March 2019||April 2019|
|Excluding Mortgage Principal||34%||40%||66%||47%|
I have to say, I’m pretty pleased with a 47% savings rate for April, even if that means we yet again didn’t quite reach that 50% savings rate goal. Working through my thoughts in regards to no spend days also made me relax a little bit in regards to how important it is to me to actually make that goal no matter what.
As we don’t have a set goal to retire on X date, and more so that we don’t even want to retire at this point, the difference between a mid-forties savings rate and fifty really doesn’t make a difference to our lives right now. That doesn’t mean I’m going to let up with my attempts to reach that number, but more that I will (hopefully) be more relaxed on the months where we come up a bit short.
And to be fair, if you take out the one $890 visit to the animal cardiologist, our savings rate jumps to the mid fifties. More than a bit painful that our vet bills are so high these days, but the fact of the matter is we are still saving a dang impressive amount on middle incomes, even with those added expenses. And we are still at an average 47% savings rate for 2019 regardless.
It’s been a year since I initially downloaded Personal Capital and started actually tracking our net worth. While savings rate is still more important to me because it’s what we can actually control, there is something to be said for having a sense of your overall net worth.
I was unconvinced for a long time that I even needed to track our net worth, but I’m so glad that I finally set up an account where I could track it all. I especially appreciate being able to look at the graphs for individual area, like investment accounts and cash savings. We have a bunch of separate accounts, so it’s really nice to see them all in one place. I’m also working on growing our overall cash savings, and Personal Capital aggregates them all across four different banks, which makes things a lot simpler.
If you haven’t set up a way to track your net worth, I’d recommend Personal Capital for that purpose, and if do decide to set up an account, I’d love it if you’d use my affiliate link here to sign up (you’ll also get $20 from them for signing up). One word of warning though, at the point your linked accounts cross the $100,000 mark, they will call you and try and convince you to let them manage your finances with one of their advisors. If you ignore the calls, though, they will eventually stop calling. I don’t have a use for their advisory services, but their interface to look at your full financial picture works well, and it’s worth doing.
Do you budget or track your expenses? What system do you use?