September was a month of quite a few travel expenses, from FinCon (both 2019 travel and my 2020 ticket) to the weekend in Gig Harbor for a wedding, and Leavenworth for my grandmother’s birthday. Between all of that, I only spent two of the five weekends in September at home, and it showed with our expenses.

This was another month where, if not for this blog, I wouldn’t have bothered to fully go through our spending for the month. It is such a useful exercise though, and I’m always glad I’ve done it once I’ve gone through the process.

As much as we generally have a handle on our finances just by paying attention day to day, I find the look back every month to be very helpful in seeing the overall picture. And overall this year, we’ve spent a lot, mostly on pet care and vacations, but we’ve still saved significantly more than we did pre-2018 by being intentional with our discretionary funds.

Checking out a park in Gig Harbor

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Groceries and Food Expenses

Unsurprisingly, we did not land sub-$1,000 for our food and drink expenses in September. I ate out a decent amount while at FinCon, and my husband and kiddo had a number of take out meals while I was gone as well, so in some ways we duplicated our spending during that trip.

We ended up spending just over $1,300 over the month, but it would have been higher if my grandmother hadn’t paid for most of our meals during her birthday trip to Leavenworth. It was unexpected, but appreciated, and we always love spending those weekends with her.

My husband’s lunch expenses went up a bit this month as well, as the cheaper lunch options near work have closed down for new construction / have been remodeled to pricier places. We check in each month though, and he feels it’s worth the money, and it’s his money to spend, so it’s not an expense we’re looking to cut. Again, having separate and combined finances has been our greatest asset in not arguing about money.

Vacation Spending

We spent a good amount on vacation related expenses in September. To start, I changed my flight last minute to stay in DC an extra day for FinCon, and paid $150 for that change. The final day ended with a great impromptu party in the basement of the hotel and I stayed out until 1:30am (before a 7am flight home), but it was absolutely worth it. Very glad I spent the money.

I also purchased my FinCon 2020 ticket when they first came available to lock in the lowest price for the year ($200). I’m still not 100% certain I’m going, but odds are good, so I picked up my ticket. Other than conferences like FinCon and Cents Positive, I don’t spend much on anything related to this blog. Even so, with the cost of those events, my annual hosting and domain fees, I’m starting to wonder if I should track blog expenses separately. Then again, I don’t have the blog income to match, so it would consistently show me in the hole. Maybe just a separate category for next year.

The only piece of “work” I did for the blog at FinCon

We also spent quite a bit on Airbnb in September, both for trips that month and for a future trip. I decided I wanted to rent a big house for a whole group of friends for my birthday this year, so we paid up front to reserve the space. It’s looking like we may have a dozen or more people along with us, and it should be a good time.

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.

We also finally reserved our car rental for our Iceland trip, from Green Motion on recommendation from friends who just spent a couple months in Europe. (We booked our lodging and flights a while back). The cost was a little more than half of the other options we were able to find, though we will have to take the bus back to the airport to pick up the car. Worth it though, as the cost of the bus will be way less than the cost to get the car in Reykjavik (we’re spending the first half of the trip car-free in the center of the city).

Pet Expenses

Another month where we spent just over $200 on pet expenses! After a very expensive year, it feels like we’ve finally gotten to breathe a little the past couple of months. Fingers crossed the rest of the year will look the same. In theory, we don’t have any other appointments or procedures scheduled for the end of the year, but you never know, especially with older animals.

Year to date, we’ve spend $6,271.30 on our pets. At this point, if we can keep the year total under $7,000, I’ll be ecstatic. And hopefully 2020 will be a calmer year there as well. Regardless though, I’ll be putting a bit of money aside each month into a separate Ally savings account for vet bills just in case.

Miscellaneous & Home/Tools

Again, we spent our monthly $72 on our son’s soccer classes at preschool. While this is an additional cost on top of very expensive childcare – that *only* went up another 4% this year – he absolutely loves the class and it’s what he looks forward to most. While we clearly can’t say yes to everything he enjoys, paying for him to get outside and play for an extra time at school is totally worth it.

We also bought a pumpkin carving set (who know what happened to the last one?) and other minor household items. My husband also had a litany of tools and parts purchased this month. One look on our garage and you can see we are well stocked on the tool front, but he does use them all to save us money on house maintenance and shares with neighbors so duplicates aren’t always purchased.

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

Apr 2019 May 2019 Jun 2019 Jul 2019 Aug 2019 Sept 2019
Groceries $387.07 $584.58 $603.42 $338.40 $635.52 $355.73
Restaurants $550.39 $418.46 $493.34 $329.92 $424.00 $341.53
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84
Gas $159.49 $217.98 $147.20 $193.64 $115.55 $295.76
Car/Transit $60.00 $0.00 $30.00 $165.30 $65.00 $120.95
Utilities $193.46 $185.97 $296.78 $146.48 $142.86 $125.74
Pet Care $1,063.70 $366.29 $654.98 $2,520.51 $202.90 $204.32
Vacation $458.79 $444.81 $1,044.85 $409.26 $1,099.30 $835.75
Vacation Food $376.98 $367.00 $179.50 $133.15 $0.00 $477.86
Home/Tools $90.22 $88.66 $1,211.12 $222.33 $345.38 $573.23
Gardening $0.00 $434.39 $0.00 $48.82 $0.00 $21.80
Gifts $28.39 $20.00 $242.61 $20.16 $63.66 $189.88
Alcohol $83.47 $107.38 $116.79 $98.85 $119.56 $124.05
Clothing $0.00 $0.00 $84.46 $0.00 $21.25 $99.07
Misc $203.37 $230.36 $310.56 $168.91 $270.88 $383.32
Total $3,673.17 $3,483.72 $5,433.45 $4,813.57 $3,523.70 $4,166.83
Savings Rate 42% 33% 13% 19% 56% 28%
Including Mortgage Principal 47% 39% 19% 26% 60% 34%
Giving % 3% 3% 2% 2% 7% 3%

Well, another month where we didn’t come close to a fifty percent savings rate (though we hit 60% in August thanks to a three paycheck month). September came in at 34%, holding the 2019 average at 41%. At this point in the year, it’s pretty clear that we won’t make that 50% mark for the year. Granted, if we were to take out pet costs, I think we would actually be there.

And then, there is our vacation spending this year. To date, we’ve spent $5,766.04, not including food, as compared to $4,808.52 for all of 2018. This year is our 10th wedding anniversary though, and that’s clear from the prepayment of Iceland expenses for the trip later this winter.

We also spent money to take my grandmother to Hawaii in January, visited family in Arizona back in April, quite a few weekend trips for a number of different reasons, and then I went to DC for FinCon and purchased my ticket for next year. We also just bought plane tickets to visit our old neighbors in Austin and meet their new baby.

While we could clearly save more money – a lot more money – if we cut out or way back on our travel budget, there is nothing I would have skipped this past year looking back on our travel. Travel hacking has significantly reduced this cost, but as we are regularly purchasing flights and/or lodging for four or more, those points go quickly.

Even so, without careful planning, we could have easily spent all of those funds just on the Iceland trip if we paid for everything out of pocket and needed to stay in nice hotels. We’d much rather keep the costs down and get to travel more and see our loved ones more often. Though we’ve talked and expect 2020 to be a much more low key travel year with more northwest travel instead.

So tell me – what do you think about our discretionary spending this year? Should we be traveling less and saving more, or do you think we’re doing it right?

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.

24 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: September 2019

  1. travel while you’re on the younger side. i know this. you might be less interested in leaving home as often as you age. it happened to us. now we really prefer driving trips to getting on a plane. sometimes you just have higher spending years. for you it was your pets this year. for us we replaced a car. it’s good to be in a position not to borrow for these things.

  2. Not surprisingly, I’m going to vote for all in on the travel expenses! Given how many places you’ve gone/will go this year, the total cost is not unreasonable at all. Plus, these are memories that are going to last you forever. And a ten year wedding anniversary is certainly something to celebrate! Ultimately, if you’re happy, then it’s worth it 🙂

    1. Yeah, it’s just a lot more than we’ve spent in the past. But I suppose that’s part of paying close attention – choosing where we would best like to spend that money.

  3. It seems to me you’re doing a fantastic job of doing lots of travel and the things that make you happy (travel and pets) while keeping an eye on spending and avoiding mindless spending!
    Also, I hear you on the tools. It feels expensive when my boyfriend buys another tool, but it does mean he can do loads of our own home maintenance, like your husband does. Really big tools or one-offs often get borrowed from my father in law rather than bought, which is great.

    1. Yeah, tools are NOT cheap. Wish I could get the husband to borrow more, but at least he shares the ones he has 🙂

  4. It’s cool to hear about your Iceland trip. It’s one of our very favorite places — I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time.

    Our pet expenses are also high recently, for all the wrong reasons. :/ But such is life when you have these furry loved ones in your family.

    I keep thinking that maybe I’ll go to FinCon one day but to be honest, I’ve seen some posts recently that made me think it’s more about helping content creators monetize their blogs, but also having a really good time with friends. Like you, my blog isn’t really a money maker and I like to keep it that way — think FinCon has enough content to be worth it for someone like me?

    1. FinCon for me was 100% for hanging out with friends. I guarantee you would have a great time.

      Okay – I did record one podcast while I was there. But that was literally the only “blog work” I did. The rest was just for fun 🙂

  5. I think it sounds like your travel has all been really important and valuable kinds of travel, particularly because a lot of it has been about relationships, not just seeing new places.

    Not that seeing new places isn’t valuable, but relationships and people are even more important in my book. So, I think you’ve chosen well.

    1. Yeah, we are suckers for the relationships thing even more than the new places. Though new places are great too.

    1. That’s true – 41% is still great. I just realllly want to see 50% for a year someday!

  6. Great work, you are kicking butt! What may look severe/perfectionist to some, is living with intention to others.

    And look at all that adventure!

  7. It’s always inspiring to read these updates! I especially appreciate that you still share updates when you don’t quite hit your goals. The internet needs more openness and honesty like that. <3

  8. I think you are doing it right! Iceland is great, check out the Golden Circle if you don’t already have that planned! How long are you going for?

    We came in low (41%) since we had our cats teeth cleaned (there is no max out of pocket for pets!) and planning a two week trip to South America, but overall we are at 62% year to date for W2 income and 73% if we include passive income!

    Cheers,

    Max

    1. We’ll be there for 12 days! And will be staying all around the Golden Circle. I’m very much looking forward to it.

      Congratulations on the savings rate! Pet care sure isn’t cheap.

  9. I’m glad Fincon is in Long Beach next year because at least if I don’t go, I can still come down and say hi to everyone outside of the conference! I love Leavonworth! I used to go there from time to time when I lived in Seattle. So cute. Pet expenses. I get that one! It’s weird that I don’t have that anymore. 🙁 Lastly, Iceland is amazing!

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