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).

Food Expenses

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.

Vacations

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.

Miscellaneous

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.

Giving

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
Groceries $382.11 $530.94 $448.95 $387.07
Restaurants $332.61 $302.23 $717.76 $550.39
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84
Gas $188.43 $212.72 $280.00 $159.49
Car/Transit $166.00 $152.90 $129.46 $60.00
Utilities $223.98 $353.82 $308.60 $193.46
Pet Care $210.18 $257.93 $790.49 $1,063.70
Vacation $882.18 $373.60 $217.50 $458.79
Vacation Food $364.99 $464.36 $213.05 $376.98
Home/Tools $281.94 $93.86 $53.45 $90.22
Gardening $0.00 $36.61 $0.00 $0.00
Gifts $28.31 $90.00 $45.98 $28.39
Alcohol $55.93 $136.45 $99.52 $83.47
Clothing $29.28 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Misc $70.50 $195.80 $195.89 $203.37
Total $3,234.28 $3,219.06 $3,518.49 $3,673.17
Savings Rate 28% 34% 62% 42%
Excluding Mortgage Principal 34% 40% 66% 47%
Giving % 3% 3% 4% 3%

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?

40 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: April 2019

  1. I also use Personal Capital mainly to track our expenses and net worth. We no longer have a set budget as we have a fairly decent grasp on our monthly expenses. Like you, our biggest battle is with dining mainly because DH is on the road a lot and does not eat meat. His food options tend to be more pricey because he eats fish/seafood. It is what it is.

  2. I use MINT religiously and that is my monthly budgeting tool as well as getting a snapshot of my total investments and net worth trending. Personal capital isn’t available in Canada so I have stuck with MINT and it works for my needs.

    I’m sure you mentioned somewhere before but did you pay off your mortgage?

    Nice work on all the other expenses and with all our chats on the food budget being that your are so frugal elsewhere I can support what you are saying with how this one expenses is the balance in your life from an enjoyment and social perspective. That is the same way we treat eating out although at a smaller level.

    1. Nope, I just don’t share the mortgage / daycare costs to keep some things slightly private 🙂

      I tried to like Mint but it just didn’t work well for me. I actually prefer the (electronic) pen and paper method for tracking expenses.

      1. Hahaha no… I just write each entry as it’s made! (For the most part). It keeps me mindful throughout the month.

  3. I’m going to start tracking my expenses by category this coming month (my financial month starts around the 12th) to see where my spending is at in various categories But I’m probably going to do it by hand (by which I mean “Excel sheet”) just to keep things simple. I’ve tried Mint in the past but it kept miscategorizing stuff. To be fair, it’d be a lot more accurate now that Tim isn’t around, buying sodas at gas stations (causing it to look like we spent a bunch on gas). But still… I think for one month I’m just going to try doing things on my own. Then I can always enlist the help of Personal Capital or Mint if I find it too frustrating.

    1. Being a single person is going to make it a LOT easier as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if something like Mint or PC would be simpler now too.

  4. we don’t really have a system for budgeting and i only track expenses every now and then when our situation changes. we switched things up in our house a couple of months ago so i had to figure out our grocery costs. i was surprised that most months are under 500 bucks. also, out of curiosity i looked back at 3 years of credit card statements for wine expenses and that was just obscene. but the restaurant category is usually near zero most months unless we go to nola, so it balances out.

    those veterinary services are just crazy. jeez. that’s really interesting on the food thing. what kind of food was it before? our previous dog was really sensitive to certain foods and we had to be very careful about his diet.

    1. Okay I am super impressed that your grocery costs are so low without tracking. Ours definitely were not haha.

      And our dog has a super sensitive stomach as well. We were feeding her the lamb Kirkland signature food from Costco, and apparently the lamb was the problematic ingredient.

  5. Don’t feel bad about all that money spent on food. When it means a lot to you, it is money well spent. Our eating out budget is atrocious, but we like it dang it and i won’t apologize.

    1. The crazy part is it used to be double what a high month is these days – I definitely don’t want to go back there, so I have to keep paying attention.

  6. Taxes – I always prefer to get a small check back than writing a check. I know it’s psychological and I don’t care 🙂

    I’ve been tracking our numbers every year for quite a long time but how I’ve done it has evolved and bounced around. I used to use Yodlee when it was still around for bills tracking but I’ve now created my own Excel spreadsheet to cover that as well as our net worth tracking. I don’t bother tracking every single expense because I’m mindful about each expenditure at the point of purchase.

    I think it makes sense that your food expenses are still on the “high” side (it’s all relative depending on what baseline you set, right?) between your valuing good quality food, the amounts each person needs, and the HCOLA.

    1. Yeah, it’s not wrong to make a choice based on the psychology of it. And I agree – we are close to where I’d be happy with our food spending (maybe a couple hundred dollars a month too high from ideal).

      1. I think I only like it because I’ve been using it for what seems like forever. I definitely have FOMO about Capital One and YNAB, but I don’t have the energy to start that up!

      2. Yeah, I tried YNAB as well and I could never get into it. Loved reading the month of daily emails though!

  7. Great job reaching such a high savings rate in April! I wouldn’t stress too much about the food expenses as it seems like it’s giving you plenty of life quality in return – and it seems like you have the other large cost buckets at very reasonable levels 🙂

    1. Thank you! And agreed – it’s the other big cost buckets that we keep low that gives us flexibility in our food spending. And for vet bills haha.

  8. Those pet costs though 😳 that definitely hurts the spending category, but I know you’ve said before that it’s complrtely worth it!

    Otherwise it seems like a pretty great month full of travel to me!

    1. Yep 😳😳😳

      Anyone who’s debating getting a pet but isn’t sure they can afford it should read these updates 😬

  9. We are the same way when it comes to our budget, perhaps because we value similar things. 🙂 We spend next to nothing on clothes and usually $10.99/month for entertainment (Netflix!). Food is our biggest expense since we buy high quality stuff even though we mostly cook at home. But we tend to save more in the winter from our garden because of all the greens and our summer garden is a little rough because it sometimes gets quite hot – our back yard is south facing which is awesome for the solar panels but the summer garden, not so much. I’m not a budgeter – I just keep an eye on things and take a look at the big picture at the end of the year and set some intentions for the next year when the previous year is clear. And when I decide to dig in a little deeper, I’m kinda old school and set up my own excel spreadsheet and do pivot tables and other nerdy things like that. I figure it’s like ppl who like to tinker with mechanical stuff, I like to look at numbers and tinker with them and analyze them different ways to see what I might learn. I don’t like to be forced into someone else’s view of it. I do like Personal Capital, though, for net worth tracking.

    1. Okay, yeah, it sounds like we do our finances VERY similarly. Except for swapped seasons for the garden thanks to differences in climate 🙂

  10. I love that your husband has decided spending money on food is “money well spent” and that you respect his choice. I know plenty of people who try to dictate their spouses spending. You want to reach 50%. He wants to eat tasty lunches, but is willing to spend less in other areas. It’s great that he is open to standing his ground and you are open to not judging those choices. Resentment can quickly grow when one member of the family becomes a super saver and the other feels like his or her choices are drastically limited to the point of being unhappy. Congrats on talking through the options and choices together.

    1. This is ultimately why we haven’t 100% combined our finances. He would likely say my focus on continuing to up my giving isn’t the best focus either (though he’s never once voiced that, so maybe not). We really don’t have money fights because when you each have your own money there isn’t much to fight about. Of course, that would look different if one of us was a spendthrift.

    1. Yeah, we’ve always “spent less than we earned” but getting to “way less” has taken a much closer eye.

  11. I’m glad to read your pooch is doing alright!
    I can relate about the work lunch situation. For the longest time I avoided buying lunch at work. It spiked my blood pressure to even think about, as a frugal weirdo. Nowadays I will maybe buy lunch once or twice a week and call it a consequence of my poor work life balance. Time to make some changes, methinks…

    1. Me too! She’s doing amazingly well.

      And for whatever reason, that food part of the budget is never going to be a set and forget it sort of thing.

  12. I love that you still treat yourself to things like good food and travel while practicing frugality. You seem to have found a good balance for these (seemingly competing) values. It’s inspiring!

    To answer your question, we use a plain old spreadsheet for budgeting and tracking expenses.

    1. Thank you! And yeah, I’m realizing there are more of us “simple spreadsheet” finance trackers out there than I realized.

  13. I just created a budget spreadsheet and expense tracker for the month of May. My goal is to keep track of expenses as well as you do. This has always been a weak spot in our finances. Here’s to being more intentional. Another solid month and Amen to fresh organic garden produce. Let the summer begin.

    1. It will be interesting to see how it changes your spending habits in May! That first month tracking to the penny was wildly eye opening.

  14. Getting close to the 50% savings rate, keep on pushing!! I love using Personal Capital. I track all of my investment accounts on there. They make it easier to track how my accounts are going and provide any recommendations for what I may need to do.

    1. Constantly close to that 50%, but I’m wondering if we will end up another calendar year slightly short. If so, I hope I can keep this new perspective about how little 47% versus 50% really matters in the grand scheme of things.

  15. We only started tracking expenses a few years ago after we learned about the whole FI thing. It was definitely eye opening and helped us cut a lot of costs right away. I always used Quicken for tracking our investments and now use it for the costs. I don’t like paying for it, but I haven’t been able to get Personal Capital to work the way I would like (such as splitting costs and showing monthly trends of numbers).

    I never built a budget historically. However, with early retirement on the horizon I started building one. It’s actually been a fun process (even if I am making a lot of guesses). The finance nerd is me is coming out with all the financial projection models I am trying to build now.
    -Dragon Guy

    1. Amazing how many of us went for so many years without keeping a close eye on our finances. Looking back I’m kind of impressed we had the savings rate we had when not paying attention.

Leave a Reply