Let’s just say that this has been an expensive summer. Between vet bills, backyard fence replacement, and spending for future vacations, we have spent significantly more money than is average for us.

That said, for July in specific, we knew it was going to be expensive because of our dog’s surgery, so we spent accordingly on discretionary items. We still spent more than a bare bones budget, but we definitely tightened our belts a little bit beyond a typical month. We knew this summer was an expensive one, so we wanted to be ready. All told, this expensive summer feels very different from 2017, when cash flowing didn’t happen unless we drained our emergency fund.

To be honest, months like this are the biggest reason in my opinion to chase a high savings rate regardless of what your ultimate financial goals may be. By having quite a bit of space between our base expenses and our income every month, we are able to cash flow the big stuff as it arises without having to worry overly much.

Bandage is off now, but cone is still on for another few days

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Groceries and Food Expenses

I’ve had a goal this year to spend under $1,000 in a month on groceries, eating out, and alcohol. On average though, we’ve been spending around $1,200 – $1,400 a month, which is more than I would ultimately like but still half of what we used to spend.

We ate out less often than normal, only spent one weekend out of town (and brought food with us while we were camping), and we’d gotten the second half of the Lopez Island cow in June. Even so, we could have easily spent more than we did, but we made an intentional effort to eat at home and make due with what we had in the freezer and in the garden.

Even so, I was pretty shocked when July food and drink spending added up to just $900.32. Of that, I think the most shocking was our vacation food spending, which was $113, which is also the lowest we’ve ever spent in that category. My husband spent approximately $150 on work lunches for the month (and I even spent a little myself – which I’ve been doing without guilt ever since working through my though process there). Overall, I’m very happy with how this category landed for July.

Weekly morning routine at the coffee shop – special time just the two of us

Vacation Spending

The only time we went out of town in July was to go camping the last weekend out on the Olympic Peninsula. Camping, even in a campground, is an exceptionally cheap way to travel, and that weekend was no exception. The cost was even lower because we were able to share the cost with friends, both the campsite and the ferry fees.

I also paid for my ticket to the Seattle Cents Positive in October, which was $275, so the bulk of the vacation spending cost on July. Perhaps this should go in a separate “blog expenses” category, but if and until I actually get serious about bringing in real income with the blog, it doesn’t seem right to exclude them from our overall savings and spending as I’m definitely not coming out ahead when all my travel and conference related expenses are added in.

If you’re a blogger, how do you calculate your spending and savings rates as a household? Do you lump them in like I do, or do you have a completely separate “business expenses” spreadsheet? Clearly, I’m not treating this blog as a business at this point, so I haven’t separated out the costs and (very little total) income.

Camping – day trip up to Hurricane Ridge

Vet Bills

Toe amputation surgery. Need I say more? Of the $2,500 that we spent on pet care in July, over $2,000 of that was for the surgery and relayed costs. We are slowly weaning her off of the medication she takes for her heart condition, but the most expensive one ($105/month) is here to stay.

Crossing fingers and (remaining) toes that the rest of this year is minimal on the vet bill costs. I had started a separate savings account a few months ago to prepare for the surgery costs before I knew how much we could reduce the total bill by driving to a veterinary hospital south of us.

Now that the bill came in significantly lower than originally quoted by local places, I’m planning to just keep that money set aside and cash flow the surgery. As much as it would be nice to reduce the cost we’re paying out of pocket this month, we can make it work, so we’ll keep those funds for an extra rainy pet care day.

Ps – she turned 9 today! Happy birthday, puppy dog! We are so glad to still have you around.

Miscellaneous

We pay monthly for our kiddo’s soccer classes at preschool on top of day care costs, so I put that payment in here because there isn’t really anything else like it. Otherwise, my husband went to Kirkland Uncorked with a couple of friends. This kind of felt like “vacation” spending, but since it was a local event, I put it in the miscellaneous category instead.

Giving

It would have been really easy to find (legitimate) excuses for why we didn’t have the excess to give in June and then July. However, we still did put money into savings both months. Perhaps not as much as we would have liked to, but we did. So clearly, we still had some space to give. If we wait until a month looks great to give freely, we likely won’t give much at all.

July 2019 Spending (Excludes mortgage, daycare, and insurance)

February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019 July 2019
Groceries $530.94 $448.95 $387.07 $584.58 $603.42 $338.40
Restaurants $302.23 $717.76 $550.39 $418.46 $493.34 $329.92
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84
Gas $212.72 $280.00 $159.49 $217.98 $147.20 $193.64
Car/Transit $152.90 $129.46 $60.00 $0.00 $30.00 $165.30
Utilities $353.82 $308.60 $193.46 $185.97 $296.78 $146.48
Pet Care $257.93 $790.49 $1,063.70 $366.29 $654.98 $2,520.51
Vacation $373.60 $217.50 $458.79 $444.81 $1,044.85 $409.26
Vacation Food $464.36 $213.05 $376.98 $367.00 $179.50 $133.15
Home/Tools $93.86 $53.45 $90.22 $88.66 $1,211.12 $222.33
Gardening $36.61 $0.00 $0.00 $434.39 $0.00 $48.82
Gifts $90.00 $45.98 $28.39 $20.00 $242.61 $20.16
Alcohol $136.45 $99.52 $83.47 $107.38 $116.79 $98.85
Clothing $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $84.46 $0.00
Misc $195.80 $195.89 $203.37 $230.36 $310.56 $168.91
Total $3,219.06 $3,518.49 $3,673.17 $3,483.72 $5,433.45 $4,813.57
Savings Rate 34% 62% 42% 33% 13% 19%
Including Mortgage Principal 40% 66% 47% 39% 19% 26%
Giving % 3% 4% 3% 3% 2% 2%

After two very expensive months, June being our most expensive one since I started tracking closely two years ago, we are at a 34% savings rate, year to date. Considering we were well into the forties through the month of May, this is more than a little bit painful. I was hoping to finally hit a 50% savings rate for a year in 2019, but those odds have shrunk after these summer months.

We are closing in on $6,000 of pet expenses this year already, and we have five months left to go. In comparison, we spent $4,300 in all of 2018. We have two dogs, one cat, and one snake, so that total seems somewhat reasonable. Double that feels quite a bit more painful. I hadn’t started tracking closely when we had the costs related to our dog’s heart condition diagnosis and follow up care, and we had to put down our last ferret in that same month. So while I don’t know exactly what we spent in 2017, it wasn’t cheap.

This year though, compared to 2017, means that we simply have a much lower savings rate that we would like – which is still higher than our overall average for all of 2016 and 2017. Keeping close tabs on our overall costs and mostly just spending on the things we really value has completely changed the way we are able to work through big expenses. Instead of worrying about draining our emergency fund or needing to open up a 0% credit card to float the difference, the difference is only seen in the amount of money we are able to send to savings.

Oh. And if you take away the vet bills, we are at over a 50% savings rate for the month. It’s a good thing we love her, because she sure isn’t cheap.

Net Worth Tracking – Personal Capital

It’s been more than 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. If you use this link to sign up, you’ll also get a $20 Amazon gift card for doing so.

34 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: July 2019

  1. Medical expenses, people or pet are the land mines on the trail of life. Too bad they don’t have health savings accounts for pets? Even though our kids have health insurance they are always being hit with budget breaking bills. Keep it up you continue to inspire.

  2. i calculated just regular dog ownership costs for us around 800/year a couple of years ago. that was for a healthy dog just feeding/preventative meds and the occasional kennel stay when we couldn’t take him out of town. i’m glad you came to the dark side with a sinking fund for future pet costs. we have had a crazy expensive year for us too. our attic studio project was way over budget (we had half of what we paid saved) and we just paid cash for a car replacement. we paid from our vacation money so the official “emergency” bucket stayed fully intact. we’ll just spend a little less on conveniences and travel until the rest is back where we’re comfortable…except for wine, that is the last item to be cut.

    1. Yeah, pets are not cheap, even when they’re healthy. Though… $800 sounds pretty darn cheap right about now 😂

  3. Since the blog barely makes any money, I don’t bother separating those savings and income from our household income. It’s my time which would otherwise be used for other household things, I suppose.

    Happy birthday, TLRE puppy!

    Our vet bills, yeah. OMG.

    1. Yeah, that’s how I feel at this point as well. And yeah, vet bills. Ugh. You know it well. But so glad we are celebrating birthday #9 with her!

  4. Definitely worth the peace of mind to be able to pay those vet bills debt free. We have a high deductible health insurance plan and I take a deep breath before paying those doctor visit bills, but that’s usually it in terms of worrying. Hope the doggo feels better soon.

    And I had a Cents Positive fee to pay last month too. Yeah!! See you there (if not before)!

  5. My blog doesn’t make a lot of money, so I don’t separate out business expenses. I just calculate my savings rate after I’ve paid off the credit cards (including my business card). That said, I don’t list business expenses in my spending. Which I guess I should start doing? Hmmm I’ll have to think about that one.

    1. Yeah, I just lump it all together at this point. Not sure when I would start splitting it… maybe at the point I made any real dollars here. But maybe not – there’s something to be said for laying it all out together.

  6. Oh man, do I ever feel you on the expensive summer thing!

    Maybe a little random, but can I just say how much I appreciate the transparency on the grocery budget front? I feel like so often, I see posts about people who spend like, $50 to feed eight people and I’m like, OK, awesome but also how???? We’re lucky if we spend less than $500 between the two of us per month!

    Hope your pup is feeling better!

    1. I’m so glad – because I feel you about that exactly! I realize HOW people can get their grocery bills down way lower than ours, but for now, we don’t want to. And that’s okay.

  7. Dang, those vet bills stack up! We lost our cat a little over a month ago. The only silver lining was that it was so sudden, there wasn’t a drawn out process with lots of bills. We miss her very much though.
    Great work with controlling the food budget. I want to be better in this area, we’ve made great progress, but it’s tough not to indulge in a nice dinner out when there are sooooo many options! I think I just need to become such a good chef that we won’t want to leave the house for foodz ever!

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your kitty 🙁 That is at least some silver lining though – too often people end up spending thousands of dollars just to have to put their pet down. Talk about serious salt in the wound.

  8. Wow, those vet bills! It’s basically like having a whole additional child! Thankfully, I already know I am the least responsible when it comes to taking care of animals, so at least this is one bill our household can avoid. On the flip-side, I am super impressed by your grocery spending. It’s the one area we’re constantly trying to tweak, but still can’t seem to get low enough.

    I just hopped over and read your Cents Positive review from last year. What a wonderful event! If only I hadn’t maxed by PTO for 2019 and 2020, this would be very tempting. Looking forward to reading your review for this year!

    1. Don’t be super impressed by our grocery spending – it’s taken a couple of years to even get it to this level, and not even consistently 😉

      And Cents Positive is totally worth attending at the point you get a chance.

  9. Pets really can be expensive. We had a couple somewhat recent scares with our older pup, Jax, and those were into the four figure range each time. It’s a cost, no doubt.

    “To be honest, months like this are the biggest reason in my opinion to chase a high savings rate regardless of what your ultimate financial goals may be.”

    I love the way you put this. The high savings rate is often the hallmark of FIRE folks but there’s no reason for that to be the case. It helps to have that cushion no matter what path you’re on, if you can swing it.

    1. Exactly right. Kind of like we are on the FI path even if maybe not the RE one. More cushion is ALWAYS going to be helpful, regardless of your long term goals. And a good buffer against money anxiety.

  10. Oh man, the vet bills can add up. Hopefully one of these years there will an option to add a pet for your medical benefits at work because there are a lot of pet owners out there and having that would be great.
    At least the food portion of your expenses was down. Hopefully you can keep the groceries/restaurant expenses at the same rate for the rest of the year.

    1. There are pet insurances, and this experience has made me want to put the numbers in a spreadsheet and see if it makes sense for future pets.

  11. I can appreciate this feeling. We’ve been burning it like it’s weed… I would argue for keeping your business expenses separate. I’ll generally factor net income from our businesses into our savings rate and leave it at that. We’re at 83% this year – so it’s easy to justify blowing money like a fool.

    1. You’re businesses are more profitable that this blog by write a bit though 😉 and 83%! Holy cow that’s impressive.

  12. I haven’t tracked our savings rate this summer b/c we’re in this weird FI limbo (waiting for our last paid off house to sell so we can pay this one off). It would be pretty low though! This summer’s been expensive for a lot of bloggers. Maybe it’s just the different routine from the school year? Ours is primarily from moving (home improvements in the thousands per month right now) so I’m glad to be cash-flowing it and will catch up the ol’ 401K before the end of the year.

    1. Yeah, it’s been a theme the last few years that summer is the expense time of year for us.

  13. Oof, I feel this. I’m dealing with thousands of surprise dog vet expenses, too. CCL repair plus laser therapy and hydrotherapy for rehab!

  14. Happy birthday poor pooch!! Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
    Love that you are still finding room in the budget for giving.
    It’s still a huge accomplishment to be able to cash flow these things and it sounds like it’s all intentional spending. Great job!

    1. Just about time to (finally) take off the cone!! And yes – feel that giving needs to be something that happens every month or there will always be a good excuse not to.

Leave a Reply