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).
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.
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.
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.
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|
|Including Mortgage Principal||34%||40%||66%||47%||44%|
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.