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.
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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.
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.
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).
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|
|Including Mortgage Principal||47%||39%||19%||26%||60%||34%|
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?