The month of May was a busy one for us. We returned from our Arizona trip the last day of April and went back to work May 1st, and then spent the following weekend at Fred Meyer and Home Depot and at home setting up my two newest raised beds for Mother’s Day.

At the end of the month, we headed out of town again, this time to the San Juan Islands. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know already, but if not, here’s the full story of the sixteen hours we spent waiting for the ferry home from Orcas Island on Memorial Day. We love ferry travel, but there’s a reason why we don’t generally do it during the busy season.

Otherwise, we spent a lot of the month outside either in the garden, at the park, or sending off our neighbors on their next adventure. You’d think summer would be a less expensive time since there are so many free things to do when the weather is good, but we also tend to throw more parties (though usually cheaply) and the weather is better for big home maintenance projects (less cheap).

We spend a lot of time on these trails year round, but especially when the weather is nice

Monthly Financial Update

So last month I said I wasn’t going to stress so much about not hitting a fifty percent savings rate this year, though it is still ultimately my goal and I’ll continue to keep an eye there. We definitely made a few choices over the month that were more expensive, but we made them intentionally, so I won’t let myself regret them. And to be honest, I am a little shocked that we came so close to that 50% mark this month.

I did get a raise this past spring, and it has been banked 100% in a way that I don’t ever see it hit my bank account, and that has helped so much. We may not have a strict budget or immediately separate all our our extra every month, but having a portion automated makes things so easy.

Not automating all of it means we have flexibility to cash flow each month what other people use sinking funds for, but automating some of it means that we have a base savings rate of somewhere around twenty percent between that and our standard mortgage principal payment. Considering our savings rate in 2016/2017 before I got more serious about our finances was 22-23%, that base savings rate we have now feels really dang awesome.

Groceries and Food Expenses

This is the first month all year our grocery line item landed under $300 for the month! We’ve been working on eating down the freezer in preparation of picking up our share of a quarter cow as well as starting to have more produce ready to harvest from the garden, so this number shouldn’t shock me. Still, it does, because we struggle so much with keeping our food budget reasonable.

Our restaurant and vacation food spending wasn’t the lowest ever, but my husband and I had a date night happen in May as well as a short date day while on Orcas island, so with those in mind, I feel like we did pretty reasonable here. The husband’s work lunches still worked out to over a hundred and fifty dollars, so that’s a decent chunk of the overall expense for the month. That said, we have some separate finances and while I do record them here for an overall savings rate for our household, it is up to him to spend that money as he pleases.

Some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever tried (Island Skillet, Orcas Island)

This month also included a lot more spending on Memorial Day itself thanks to being stranded near the ferry terminal waiting to finally get off island. We spent about a hundred and fifty dollars that day alone on food and drink – all three meals plus snacks and some hard cider slushees – but spending that money definitely turned what could have been a completely miserable day into a surprisingly enjoyable one, all things considered. Like I said when I recapped it previously, it goes to show that having space in your budget to spend on a whim can sometimes really improve your situation.


The only out of town travel we did in May was to Orcas Island over Memorial Day weekend. The most expensive part of that trip, other than food, was the glamping tent we stayed in on Sunday night. The cost for that was just under two hundred dollars, which is more than we generally spend for an overnight for just the three of us, but it was so much fun and so worth the cost.

We spend a significant portion of our discretionary funds on vacation and food expenses, but those are the things we never come to regret. I may not have purchased a single item of clothing for myself in over two years, but I’ll spend well more than the cost of a pair of shoes for a worthwhile evening or weekend away.

Final sunset on Orcas

Pet Care

You know you’ve had an older, sick animal for a while when your pet expenses are over $350 for a month and that feels so reasonable and cheaper than expected. Granted, the month prior was quite a bit more, and June will be as well, but I’m going to take the win of the one less expensive month for now. And continue shoveling a bit of extra money to a separate account to pay for the approximately five thousand dollar toe amputation surgery I expect she will need within the next year.


Well. 2017 and 2018 along with the start of 2019 were seriously cheap in terms of gardening expenses, especially when you consider how much food we harvest each year. Thanks to a lot of perennials, a good amount of seed saving, and raised beds set up for long term use, we have gotten away with spending close to nothing even with a good sized garden.

For Mother’s Day this year though, I asked for help in building two new 8′ x 4′ raised beds to expend my growing capacity a bit more. To set them up right, they aren’t a small amount of money, but they are an investment in the future of the garden, and I expect the rest of the year as well as 2020 to look more like the previous expenses, except that we now have an additional sixty four square feet to grow things in.

The garden has been a long time coming to where it’s at today


Miscellaneous costs this month included more preschool soccer costs, a doctor appointment copay, and a new fan. The kiddo was also home sick at the beginning of the month, so I picked him up a few things that made some not so fun days a bit better.


This month in terms of actual cash giving looks pretty similar to the rest of the year, but that’s because my big give of the month used airline miles instead of dollars.

One of my close neighbor-friends has a friend who moved to Hawaii some time back, and that friend has since been diagnosed with terminal cancer. When it was clear my neighbor was not going to be able to see her again due to the financial cost of flying all the way to Hawaii, I told her that I would send her. I’ve been hoarding credit card rewards for our upcoming trip to Iceland this next winter, but this was an immediate need and one I had the means to help with.

Clearly, no amount of money can fix an awful situation of a mother of four teenagers and good friend to many who is set to be gone from this Earth far to soon, but money can at least send a friend to visit and sit with the situation that won’t get better.

So, I set about using the Chase-British Airways-Alaska Airlines gauntlet to buy my friend a round trip ticket for $11.20 and 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. British Airways was have a sale though and were offering 30% more miles if you transferred from Chase to Avios (their rewards program). Talk about the universe – God – stepping in to say that what you’re doing is the right thing.

That trick require direct flights though, and only on the way back could I find a flight that worked to the island she needed to go to. For the way there, she’d have to fly to another island and then take a hopper flight over. I didn’t have the right kind of miles to make that part happen, but Seonwoo did. I talk often about how great the personal finance community online is, and he exemplifies that supportive, giving nature that I find there so often.

He knows me, but he doesn’t know my neighbor, let alone the friend she was traveling to go see. That didn’t matter though – he stepped in and booked her that flight to complete the trip to her friend. Talk about an amazing human, and a way to live your life.

I hesitated initially on whether to share this year – just like I initially didn’t share even my giving percentage – but I decided that ultimately it was worth sharing if I inspired just one person to look at their situation and realize they could do so much more for the people around them. Those of us who are pursuing financial independence are particularly fortunate, and I think it’s the least we can do to look up from chasing our goals and figure out how we can do good now.

Monthly Expenses (excludes mortgage, daycare, insurance)

January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019
Groceries $382.11 $530.94 $448.95 $387.07 $273.58
Restaurants $332.61 $302.23 $717.76 $550.39 $418.46
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84
Gas $188.43 $212.72 $280.00 $159.49 $217.98
Car/Transit $166.00 $152.90 $129.46 $60.00 $0.00
Utilities $223.98 $353.82 $308.60 $193.46 $185.97
Pet Care $210.18 $257.93 $790.49 $1,063.70 $366.29
Vacation $882.18 $373.60 $217.50 $458.79 $444.81
Vacation Food $364.99 $464.36 $213.05 $376.98 $367.00
Home/Tools $281.94 $93.86 $53.45 $90.22 $88.66
Gardening $0.00 $36.61 $0.00 $0.00 $434.39
Gifts $28.31 $90.00 $45.98 $28.39 $20.00
Alcohol $55.93 $136.45 $99.52 $83.47 $107.38
Clothing $29.28 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Misc $70.50 $195.80 $195.89 $203.37 $230.36
Total $3,234.28 $3,219.06 $3,518.49 $3,673.17 $3,172.72
Savings Rate 28% 34% 62% 42% 38%
Including Mortgage Principal 34% 40% 66% 47% 44%
Giving % 3% 3% 4% 3% 3%

44% savings rate. Just two years ago I wouldn’t have even imagined that was possible, especially while doing so many fun things. We may have come up just short from a 50% savings rate (we’re now at 46% for the whole year to date), but we are saving a significant portion of our incomes.

A year and a half in to tracking our money monthly and I think I’m finally starting relax a bit about what a forty-something savings rate means compared to officially saving half our incomes. While I still very much hope to hit that goal for the over 2019 calendar year, I’m not stressing about those last few percents – at least too much.

We hope to be financially independent by the time our son graduates high school in fourteen years, and we should get there by or before then if we just continue on this same path (especially banking 100% of any future raises). Since we really don’t see a path we’d rather be on right now that would to significantly change or better our lives before then – and may not change anything even then – it’s the financial independence piece that is the important part.

And to be honest? Having a big space between our income and our expenses as well as a decently hefty net worth does almost as much for us as full financial independence would at this point. Could that change in the future? Absolutely. But for now, getting there a little bit faster or a little bit slower doesn’t really change the trajectory of how I see our lives over the next ten or twenty years. And that’s a pretty amazing place to be.

Net Worth Tracking – Personal Capital

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 advisers. 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.

28 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: May 2019

  1. Hi there, Angela. That’s so cool that you were able to use your points to help someone in your community see a loved one. That could be a thing people in the PF space replicate. I wonder if the travel partners would consider a ‘donate points’ option someday…

    Your spending is pretty awesome. We aim to keep ours around $3500 a month or so but the mortgage makes it hard to achieve some months. Some months we can hit it, some we’re way over.

    1. Remember that the spending reflected here excludes our mortgage and childcare expenses. Gotta keep something secret since I’m not anonymous online 😉

      And yeah – it’s SO replicable. We treat cc points as something so easy to collect, and yet we hang on them for dear life.

    2. Your budget went toward some pretty amazing things and experiences this month! Love the story of getting your friend to Hawaii. Truly warms my heart. Stuff like that is what makes me truly enjoy spending money (or points).

      1. It’s funny how I can be so tight about spending money on us, but the purse strings are way looser when it comes to spending on other people’s happiness ❤️

  2. What a month! You would have been close to that 50% mark without that day at the ferry dock; however, like you’ve mentioned previously, having that big gap makes it easier to be flexible and reduce stress levels when unexpected things happen. One of the things I like to keep in mind is that if a big thing on my house needs fixing, like my roof, for example, it’s not a big deal because we have the means to fix it on hand at all times. While needing to replace a roof is an expense you can anticipate, the mindset persists because we are always in a position to manage whatever comes our way and I can’t think of many things in our lives that would be much more expensive than a roof. 🙂

    1. That’s very true – and yeah, at the point we have to replace the roof it’s going to be a lot of money, especially since we’ll replace with a metal one. Gulp.

      And yes. Wouldn’t trade a less fun long ferry wait for that 50% savings rate check in the box for sure.

  3. 5000 smackers for a dog operation. y’all know i really love dog, like, a lot…but geez. you planning on shopping that one around for a better price or solution? we would probably spend it too.

    1. Yeah…. gulp. It doesn’t seem to be urgent yet so I am definitely shopping around. Ugh. So much money.

  4. Your food spending truly soothes me 🙂 I’ve been shamed so many times for mine!

    So glad you had a nice time glamping! Did you take pics of the tent at all?

    And woooof at the dog surgery costs. Sorry 🙁

    And the beauty of points is you can use them for any last-minute travel. It’s so wonderful you could use them to help out a friend.

    1. HA! So glad I can help you feel good about food spending 😂 We are pretty comfortable where it’s at now (half to a third of what it used to be. gulp)

      I shared one photo of the tent cabin in the Orcas Friday post, but I’ll DM you a couple more on insta 🙂

  5. I about choked on my coffee when I read the part about the $5k puppy toe surgery. Can you geoarbitrage that animal surgury to Mexico or Canada? Kinda joking, but Canada might be a possiblily.

    Here at The Smart Fi Ranch, we “struggle” with the 50% savings mark too. I use quotes for struggle because it is a first world FIRE problem to be sure, but I totally agree on getting to 50% slowly through banking raises.
    Thank you for the great read.

    1. Yeah, I’m still not sure what we’re doing about the toe surgery. Not urgent at this point, so I’m exploring our options.

      And yes – “struggling” to 50% is totally a first world FIRE problem.

  6. Nice month, 44% savings rate is pretty impressive nonetheless. Don’t worry too much about that 50% savings mark. The garden sure is looking good. We previously thought about getting a whole cow or a whole lamb but now we are eating less and less meat, we have scrapped that idea. 🙂

    1. Thanks! I’m reasonably happy with where we’re at – really, I can’t think of much I’d willingly cut at this point 🙂 I’m working on eating less meat, but there are two guys that I live with who sure aren’t!

    1. Please reach out if you ever wanna chat about the money stuff! And join my Women’s Personal Finance Facebook group for more motivation if you’re interested 🙂

  7. $5,000 for surgery for your dog 😳 ouch that one really hurts.

    Glad you had a great month though (and has fun!) and nailed the savings rate. Such a nice thing you did using point for your friend! Not many people out there would have done something like that..

    1. Yeah, still trying to figure out a reasonable way to take care of it, because yikes.

      And since it’s such a different way to help out a friend, I wanted to share here in case it gives others the inspiration to do something similar 🙂

    1. Thank you very much! And the goal isn’t to save as much money (and points) as you can without sharing the love, in my opinion ❤️

  8. I once adopted three elderly cats (just as their warranty was expiring, my husband said). I have never spent so much on anything except our house (luckily it was pre-kids). I have in-law relatives who are from Mexico and they get good vet care for a small fraction of the costs up here (I’m in Canada but still). I think they saved in the range of 80+%. Since the toe surgery is so costly, it might be worth a (points?) trip to Mexico (although there’s the environment impact of the flight to consider). Maybe you could batch a geoarbitrage trip with a vacation…?

    1. If only we were within driving distance… she is 115lb and older (almost 9), so I can’t imagine that flying her would be a great idea. But I LOVE the idea of medical tourism for pets. Definitely never considered that before.

  9. What a beautiful gift that you and Seonwoo were able to give to your neighbor. My beloved mama passed away from cancer in May, so I know all too well how precious every moment was that we were able to spend with her. Your kindness has brought me to tears. Sending a prayer for your neighbor’s friend and her family.

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