Every time I’m behind writing a monthly finance update (like this month), I’m reminded of why I’ve committed to sharing our spending here on the blog every month. Two thirds of the way into September, it would be easy enough to ignore my August recap and just continue on forward like the month didn’t happen. And in this case, it isn’t even because the month was a bad one financially, but that it’s been a busy time since then.

I kicked off September with Labor Day, then FinCon, then a weekend to the Olympic Peninsula for a wedding, so this is actually the first weekend of the month that I’m home. All of that simply adds up to ignoring what our finances looked like in August, and without the accountability of sharing here, I would have just let it be and not looked back at how the month went.

I do still – loosely – track our day to day spending, so pulling the numbers all together don’t actually take that long, but the reflection of how that spending went is important as well. I credit the biggest reason for the doubling of our savings rate in 2018 to tracking our spending every month and being intentional about where our money went every month. In order to continue to do that, I need to keep up these monthly updates. That, and it’s pretty great to be able to look back at almost two full years of spending at this point to get a really good sense of where our money goes. Monthly spending can fluctuate quite a bit, so the longer I have this data, the more we can look bigger picture at where we are really at financially.

Ferry ride home from Gig Harbor (Bremerton run)

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Monthly Financial Update: August 2019

August was a three paycheck month for us, which is always appreciated in a big way. It was also when we received our quarterly payment for a real estate investment, as well as an Ebates/Rakuten check and some other minor payments. I also received my affiliate income payment from Julie’s blogging course (thank you to those who signed up through me! I really appreciate it, and the course is 100% worth the cost).

It feels a bit odd to share blogging income because it’s been such a small amount of our total monthly income, but to be fully transparent here, I wanted to mention that this was also my biggest month for blog income ever. Thanks to that, I can now cover my FinCon2020 ticket and it was a good part of why my giving was higher than normal this month as well.

March was still a higher income month for us thanks to some work bonuses, but August comes in second for the year. As I’m reminded with every three paycheck month, income really is a huge part of being able to save a significant portion of your income. If this is what our incomes looked like every month, we would have no trouble hitting a 50% savings rate for the year, even with dog surgeries to pay for.

Of course, with a bigger income comes bigger temptations, but there is something very powerful about having more money come in every month that the financial independence community likes to ignore much of the time. It’s harder being a money middleton and chasing FIRE, but definitely not impossible. The journey is just a bit longer and requires different choices than someone who commands a high income.

Groceries and Food Expenses

We paid for the second delivery of the cow share from Lopez Island, which totaled $306.75 for our share. If it wasn’t for that cost, we could have been under $1,000 in food spending for the second month in a row (also the second month in 2019 period). Even so, our spending on all food and drink for the month of August came to $1,179.08, which is still one of our lowest.

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Peak garden season

In general, our spending in these categories was pretty average, though my husband’s lunch spending hit two hundred dollars for the month. The fast food restaurant he often visited closed down for redevelopment and the grocery store nearby was remodeled to a much fancier one, so his options for lunch have gotten more expensive. Even so, he’s making these decisions purposefully when it comes to his meals during the work week, so I don’t expect this to be a place where we cut spending at this point. That, and part of why we have somewhat separate finances is so that we don’t argue about spending the other does that we don’t necessarily agree with.

Vacation Spending

Oddly enough, we didn’t spend a single weekend away from home in August, which meant our vacation food spending for the month was $0 for the first time this year. I actually had to go back and read through my Frugal Five updates for the month because it was so shocking that we didn’t go somewhere in August. Though, when I think about it, this really isn’t a surprise because we tend to stay closer to home during the summer months.

We prefer to do most of our traveling in the off season, and that choice was solidified after our Memorial Day weekend ferry fiasco. A big part of why our overall food spending was down in August is definitely because we stayed home as well. We still went out to eat on the weekends, but we tend to be a little more judicious even with those costs than when we go out of town and find new places to try out.

That said, we did still spend a thousand dollars on vacation expenses in August, but all for future trips. We bought our plane tickets to Iceland, though much of that cost was defrayed by credit card points, so we only spend $633 out of pocket for four round trip tickets. I also paid Military Dollar for my share of the Airbnb at Fincon, which was $195 for the full trip, significantly less than if I had shared a hotel room, plus I had access to laundry. I also paid for the RV Airbnb that we stayed at while in Gig Harbor for a wedding earlier in September.

If you haven’t stayed in an AirBnB before, I would highly recommend it. We love the flexibility it gives us while traveling as a family – full kitchen, laundry, and extra bathrooms, and it’s usually considerably cheaper than a hotel, especially when you travel as a group. If you’re new to AirBnB, here’s a link for $40 off your first stay.

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The kiddo is now sold on the travel trailer idea

Pet Expenses

We only spend two hundred dollars on pet expenses in August. Not two thousand, TWO HUNDRED. And half of that was on the one medication our dog will continue to take long term, so we basically spent nothing on our animals for the month. Or at least, that’s what it feels like when the previous month was $2,500, and the one before that $650. We have now broken the $6,000 mark ($6,066.98, to be exact) year to date, but hopefully things are settled down on the pet care front for now.

As frustrated as I am at times that it looks like we won’t even hit the same savings rate as last year, let alone that elusive “save half” mark, I have to remind myself just how much we’ve cash flowed this year as far as vet bills are concerned.

Our month-to-month finances are so much more solid than when our dog had her first round of emergency vet visits back in 2017 and we had to ponder draining our emergency fund. The fact that we are well in the positive every single month, regardless of what life has thrown at us this year? And that we’re also spending a good deal on vacations? We’re doing pretty well.

Home Maintenance / Tools

This category included a number of new tools: a new level, measuring tapes, drill bits, a tool bag, glass suction cups for moving large windows, etc. Some of these purchases should be work expenses, in my opinion, but my husband wants to own them himself for future use once he’s done using them at work. I suppose there is some logic to this, as he’s able to do a lot of the home maintenance and repair on our home by himself these days, but we have certainly spent a good deal on tools because of it. When we eventually move and remodel our kitchen though, and he builds the cabinets himself, we will likely make up that full cost and more.

Miscellaneous

Our miscellaneous spending for August was the very definition of miscellaneous. That includes heavy duty tent stakes, skydiving and go karting (bachelor party), and tickets for The Juliana Theory’s reunion tour, my very favorite band from high school. We did get a break from paying for our son’s soccer because they have a gap during the end of summer, but we’re back to adding in that expense in September (plus preschool costs have gone up again).

Giving

I definitely went overboard with my giving in August. While this was partially due to the three paycheck month – I like to up my giving proportionately – I went well beyond that. instead of 2% – 4%, giving expenses were 7% of our income in August. However, a good part of this was funded due to increased blog income for this month, so I felt good about spending that money in this way.

Percentagely, I gave away much more of my blog income than I do the rest of the money that comes in on a given month, and I see myself continuing that as I go forward. Not every month will bring in those same dollars, but I love that I can make a bigger impact on the months that do.

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

March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019 July 2019 August 2019
Groceries $448.95 $387.07 $584.58 $603.42 $338.40 $635.52
Restaurants $717.76 $550.39 $418.46 $493.34 $329.92 $424.00
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84
Gas $280.00 $159.49 $217.98 $147.20 $193.64 $115.55
Car/Transit $129.46 $60.00 $0.00 $30.00 $165.30 $65.00
Utilities $308.60 $193.46 $185.97 $296.78 $146.48 $142.86
Pet Care $790.49 $1,063.70 $366.29 $654.98 $2,520.51 $202.90
Vacation $217.50 $458.79 $444.81 $1,044.85 $409.26 $1,099.30
Vacation Food $213.05 $376.98 $367.00 $179.50 $133.15 $0.00
Home/Tools $53.45 $90.22 $88.66 $1,211.12 $222.33 $345.38
Gardening $0.00 $0.00 $434.39 $0.00 $48.82 $0.00
Gifts $45.98 $28.39 $20.00 $242.61 $20.16 $63.66
Alcohol $99.52 $83.47 $107.38 $116.79 $98.85 $119.56
Clothing $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $84.46 $0.00 $21.25
Misc $195.89 $203.37 $230.36 $310.56 $168.91 $270.88
Total $3,518.49 $3,673.17 $3,483.72 $5,433.45 $4,813.57 $3,523.70
Savings Rate 62% 42% 33% 13% 19% 56%
Including Mortgage Principal 66% 47% 39% 19% 26% 60%
Giving % 4% 3% 3% 2% 2% 7%

Even with purchasing our plane tickets for our trip to Iceland, August was our cheapest month for the year since March. Things got expensive in the middle of the year, but I’m hoping we’ve settled back down now. Reducing our food budget by a few hundred dollars a month has definitely helped on that front, but veterinary expenses are definitely the biggest wild card.

Instead of creating a separate sinking fund for vacation spending, I prefer just cash flowing expenses for large trips for a number of months before the vacation itself. Plane tickets, lodging, car rental, and food for the trip to Iceland will still add up to a good amount of money even with the travel hacking I’ve done, but spreading it out over the course of six months or so makes the cost not feel so extreme. That, and every big I can reduce the cost up front is more money we can spend on food while we’re there, which is our biggest travel priority in terms of cost when we visit new places, largely because nature is free.

Year to date, we are at a 41% savings rate. Considering there are only three more months to round out the year, I’m not certain we can match the 46% from last year, though it’s not quite impossible yet. Even so, we’ve done pretty well. And I think I will break out the extraordinary veterinary costs when I do my full year recap to see where we would be without surgeries and lots of medications and vet visits. We did still spend the money, but hopefully 2020 won’t see quite the same thing on that front. And maybe that can be the year we finally hit a 50% savings rate.

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.

28 thoughts on “Monthly Finance Update: August 2019

      1. Yeap, winter is coming… It was pouring during soccer practice. The kids were soaked, but they still had a lot of fun.
        Nice job with the saving rate. 60% is huge!

  1. I’d like to hear more from your husband’s perspective – have you ever interviewed him or asked him for a guest post? From the viewpoint of the spouse of a FIRE-chaser. I love when podcasters bring on their significant others for their perspective. Like what kinds of things does he think about day to day with finances, retirement, spending/saving, what kind of goals did he have around these topics before you met?

    1. He has very, very little interest in the financial stuff, so I doubt I could ever convince him to do a guest post. He is fully on board with the long term goal of financial independence though, because he sees the reasons for it.

  2. So jealous of your utility bill. That’s $30 less than I pay for my electric bill alone. Stupid AZ summer rates! My spending went pretty well last month overall. I’m still trying to determine exactly how much I spend in a given month, but I’m starting to get a rough idea at least.

    I did almost as ridiculously well as you this past month, but that was due to a large check from the ACA insurance company as a refund. So it’s kind of a cheat in a way, since that allowed me to save almost $780 extra this month. Next month I have to contend with the FinCon hotel expense, so we’ll see how well that goes.

    1. Yikes, that is a big utility bill. Definitely incentive for solar if you can manage it then. And our water bill is every other month, so this month doesn’t show it.

  3. I added up all my pet costs since March and I’m hovering around $3,000. I was mortified. But all cash flowed, so that makes it better. I have two beagles (19 and 12).

    This post encouraged me to fill out my SRA form to hold a little back from each paycheck to increase my savings rate, so thank you for this post!

    1. Yay glad you made that change!! The little dollars add up. And yeah… old dogs… aren’t cheap.

  4. My husband is also in construction and has way less interest in financial matters than I do. I wonder if this is a trend, or just their personalities? It seems like there is a lot of pressure to have the big truck, to buy lunch everyday (or at least drinks/snacks at the convenience store), and of course, tools!
    On a completely different note- when reading your spending graph on a mobile device, I have to scroll all the way over to see the most recent month’s data. I wonder if it is possible to reverse the order of months left to right?

    1. It definitely seems to be a trend, in my experience anyway. And thanks for the suggestion on the chart – that’s a good idea! Maybe six months is too much to share at a time anyway? Thoughts?

  5. While I do track my spending & saving rate, I don’t publish monthly reports. Reading your post, I can see the value in it from an accountability standpoint. Nice rate, BTW!

      1. Right on! Nice work in August. Hope those pups stay healthy … And though I know you don’t necessarily want to make the blog a business, I’m glad you are making some $ for the effort especially since I think your content is impactful and adds value to others.

      2. Fingers crossed they’ll stay healthy at least through the end of the year. And your comments about the blog money side of things mean a lot, so thank you for sharing them with me.

  6. I loved The Juliana Theory in high school too, but haven’t though much about them since then. Thanks for the blast from the past!

    Whenever I have high spending months, I also reflect that I’m in a much better position to handle them than ever before. A little gratitude takes the sting away.

    1. Ahhh yay! Most people I mention them to don’t know who they are, so it makes me so happy that at least one person reading does 🙂

  7. Gotta love the three paycheck month, I think I have mines coming in October? Can’t wait!!
    Good job on the 60% savings rate, hopefully you can match the 46% rate from last year or between 41% to 45%.

    1. Yeah, I’m not that hopeful that’s we will March that 46%, but at this point I’ll be happy to stay above 40%. And cross my fingers for 2020.

  8. Hitting a 60% savings rate in a month is no small feat, friend. Well done!

    We like AirBNBs, too, though we go back and forth on whether we prefer them to hotels. A great AirBNB tends to beat a great hotel, in our opinion…but there’s a lot of variance with an AirBNB that we usually don’t see with hotels. And internationally, just meeting up with them to let you in to the place can be tricky, unless you have a phone plan that works. :/

    Agree on the pet expenses: they really can wreak havoc on a budget.

    Here’s to some more good numbers in September. Have a great time in Iceland!

    1. Now the trick will be for someday hitting a 60% savings rate on a month where we don’t get three paychecks 😉 And so far so good on the Airbnb front – they aren’t all stellar, but I’ve had less than stellar hotel experiences by far, so there’s that as well.

  9. We had a similar situation with one of our cats last year. She had liver cancer, but they were able to lobe off part of her liver and get it all out! So we get to keep her around for a few more years! She has been doing great ever since and her labs came back normal earlier this year. I think it was over 3k in total. Yikes. Out-of-pocket costs for our furry friends can certainly add up!

    Max

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