At this point, we are absolutely not going to hit a 50% savings rate again this year, though we should be above the 40% mark. Much more than last year, I’m actually okay with that. I expect that we will hit that savings rate eventually (or, at least, when we stop paying for childcare), but we don’t have a short term goal that means we need to hit 50%+ versus 40%+. This was also true for last year, though, and I was a lot more frustrated at this point in the year knowing that I wouldn’t hit that big goal I’d set for myself – we landed at 46% at the end of 2018.

That was the first year I’d really attempted to up our financial game, and it showed. In 2016 and 2017, we saved 22% and 23%, respectively. So *only* reaching 46% meant an actual doubling of our savings rate (and more that doubling our actual savings, as our incomes increased slightly due to raises as well). Because of that new found focus – and thanks to diving more deeply into the financial independence community where incomes tend to be higher, I spent the end of 2018 feeling like we could have just done a little bit better to hit that “save half” mark.

This year though, I realized early on that the 50% savings goal was likely a bit too high and we would likely not reach it. Much of this was due to vet bills, as well as bigger – and more frequent – travel. It’s taken a while, but I’m now okay with that. We are on this path to financial independence in a real way, but we also don’t have an end date of when we want to leave our careers. For us, financial independence is about freedom and options in the future, and the security that comes with having enough financially. Not an early retirement date.

We are fully on the SlowFI path, and I feel like I’m finally settling in to the fact that it’s okay that I don’t have any big medium term goals in the 2-5 year time frame. I plan to write more about this in a separate post later, but I feel like I’m starting to be okay with sitting with this stage of life. For so long while I was growing up and through my twenties, I constantly had big goals and dreams: graduate college, get married, buy a house, finish grad school, have a baby, grow my career. I now *have* all those things, which is incredible, but it’s left me in a weird place for a while with floating in the now. Now, finally, I’m getting to a place where that’s okay. Not just okay, but good.

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Groceries and Food Expenses

While not under that $1,000 benchmark I’ve set for us this year (with little success), we weren’t wildly over in this category either, which is an okay win, if you know us. We did spend more this month on both groceries and eating out, but very little on vacation food. We were home the full month of October, except I did spend a weekend at Cents Positive at the beginning of the month, and did spend some money on food. While I didn’t technically go anywhere overnight, I’m going that as vacation spending. The husband and the kiddo took a day trip that same weekend, and I coded that spending the same way.

Our grocery and alcohol budget was a bit inflated as well, thanks to the neighborhood Oktoberfest we hosted. While others did bring things to share, we made and provided the bulk of the food and drink, which cost a a bit more than our typical weekend spending. That said, we would have spent significantly more than that had we gone to Leavenworth for the weekend like we did the previous year.

Oktoberfest spread

Vacation Spending

While we didn’t go anywhere in October, we did spend some money on vacations. Again, the husband and kiddo went out to Port Townsend for the day while I was at Cents Positive, so they did spend money on the ferry. We also booked plane tickets to go visit our old neighbors who moved to Austin. I did use a few Chase Ultimate Rewards points (thanks to whoever signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred through my link!), but we didn’t have enough for all three tickets thanks to the Iceland trip, and we paid the remaining $541.60 out of pocket.

Pet Expenses

We again managed to stay under $300 on pet expenses in October. There’s a time where that would seem expensive, but not this year. Year to date, we have now spent $6,568.62 on our animals, and the vast majority on our one dog. This month, beyond our standard medications for her, we bought two large bags of dog food and a heated bed for our cat. Cross your fingers for us – maybe we can stay under $7,000 for the year.

She’s able to go for long-ish hikes again!

Miscellaneous

Again, we had our recurring soccer payment for our kiddo at preschool. I also had copays for the dentist and the doctor as well as some medication. My husband also replaced the locks on his truck himself from parts he ordered, which cost some money, but way less than if he’d taken it in to the mechanic. We may choose at this point in our lives not to do our own oil changes, but the work he does do saves us considerably more than the few dollars on an oil change. Our time is precious, and only some things end up being worth the extra time.

He also bought himself an archery target for the set up in our backyard. while the target itself was $100, he’d previously used straw bales that were composting into the ground. By having his own set up in the backyard, he is able to practice more often and it saves over going to a range, which isn’t cheap.

Side note – my husband also did buy himself some Carhartt overalls (he and the kiddo can now match!) so that’s the clothing cost for the month. Oh – and we bought ourselves some Yaktrax for our Iceland trip (and for the next time we have a Snowpocolypse locally). I wasn’t sure where to code those, but they felt more like gear than clothing, so I put them in with the rest of the miscellaneous category.

I also paid for my annual car tabs, which cost $102. Washington State just voted this month to cap car tabs at $30, which was extremely disappointing, as they fund transportation and our light rail system. People were upset about huge ballooning car tabs, but that was only true for the newer, fancier cars. This vote will hurt our region, and hurt those who can’t afford it the most.

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

May 2019 Jun 2019 Jul 2019 Aug 2019 Sept 2019 Oct 2019
Groceries $584.58 $603.42 $338.40 $635.52 $355.73 $350.94
Restaurants $418.46 $493.34 $329.92 $424.00 $341.53 $522.59
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84
Gas $217.98 $147.20 $193.64 $115.55 $295.76 $151.46
Car/Transit $0.00 $30.00 $165.30 $65.00 $120.95 $290.91
Utilities $185.97 $296.78 $146.48 $142.86 $125.74 $289.42
Pet Care $366.29 $654.98 $2,520.51 $202.90 $204.32 $297.32
Vacation $444.81 $1,044.85 $409.26 $1,099.30 $835.75 $573.89
Vacation Food $367.00 $179.50 $133.15 $0.00 $477.86 $117.45
Home/Tools $88.66 $1,211.12 $222.33 $345.38 $573.23 $68.04
Gardening $434.39 $0.00 $48.82 $0.00 $21.80 $0.00
Gifts $20.00 $242.61 $20.16 $63.66 $189.88 $96.70
Alcohol $107.38 $116.79 $98.85 $119.56 $124.05 $162.39
Clothing $0.00 $84.46 $0.00 $21.25 $99.07 $77.06
Misc $230.36 $310.56 $168.91 $270.88 $383.32 $457.66
Total $3,483.72 $5,433.45 $4,813.57 $3,523.70 $4,166.83 $3,473.67
Savings Rate 33% 13% 19% 56% 28% 34%
Including Mortgage Principal 39% 19% 26% 60% 34% 40%
Giving % 3% 2% 2% 7% 3% 2%

October was our third cheapest month of the year, which felt great. Only in January and February did we spend less, and not by a lot. Even so, I feel like we could definitely spend less if we buckled down. We are choosing not to, though, so this is a pretty good balance for us right now.

We are at a 41% savings rate for 2019 so far, and I expect we will end the year at about that rate. November and December should be reasonable for costs unless something unexpected pops up – which is always possible. No matter what, we are well on our way to a significant net worth and financial independence likely in the next decade.

And while we might not have a “high” income, we very much have a high enough one. That, coupled with a low mortgage payment and part time family childcare, our incomes stretch a lot further than they would otherwise. While financial independence – or at least financial stability – is a great goal for anyone, I do appreciate and realize how fortunate we are to even talk about that reality for us. No matter where you are in life, though, finding just a little space between your monthly expenses and the next month is a huge, life changing deal.

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.

22 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: October 2019

  1. Graet planning of your personal expenses and this is the only way we can at least think of achieving our envisioned goals. Saving @40%plus is unbelievable and rest assured you are going to accumulate big for your retirement. Your exhaustive analysis of monthly expenditure is commendable but dont you think that controlling of expenses is not only the sure shot way to relaxed retirement?

      1. Personal finance management is not only about controlling your expenses but addition to income resources also plays a major role for a relaxed early retired life Thanks. Keep writing

  2. That octoberfest spread looks delicious! Sometimes it’s fun to treat other people to that kind of night! 🙂 I can totally relate to the vet bills. It was getting very expensive taking care of Pepe in his last few years. Vet bills are no joke! Congrats on the nice savings rate!

  3. “while financial independence – or at least financial stability – is a great goal for anyone, I do appreciate ”
    and realize how fortunate we are to even talk about that reality for us.”

    Thank you for acknowledging this fact. I read a wide variety of blogs, including several FIRE-based ones, but rarely is it mentioned how fortunate one is to even attempt to obtain financial independence.

    1. We are all SO fortunate if we are having this discussion. Even an “on time” retirement is so much more than many people will end up with.

  4. Likely a weird thing to pick up on but a heated cat bed?! I need to know more about this haha. We have two (spoiled rotten) kitties who I think would find that very interesting, especially coming into Canadian winter!

    Re: car maintenance. It amazes me how much money we have saved in this area since hubby started learning more about basic maintenance. We still take it to the garage sometimes (mostly when we fail to plan ahead) but even doing some of it can save a lot. Last week, hubs did the tires for winter; it started to rain near the end but it did save us a chunk of change. Can’t complain!

    A 40+ per cent savings rate is pretty awesome — especially since there are still a couple months to go. Maybe a bit shy of the initial goal but definitely something to celebrate…so…insert party horn emoji here! That’s awesome. Congrats!

    1. Yep!! He’s an outdoor/garage kitty so the heated cat bed is a good thing for him in the winter. It never freezes in the garage, but it can definitely get on the cold side.

  5. Great savings rate! And I love reading about all your frequent neighborhood dinner parties! Makes me kind of wish we lived in more of an actual neighborhood since we’re pretty rural and don’t come across neighbors too often. But our church small group does have dinner together every week, so that’s pretty nice. So great to gather with friends!

    I love that you’re embracing the SlowFI lifestyle more and more, too. We are definitely on more of a slow path, but we’re also chasing better balance in our lives — healthier habits, more time together, work we enjoy that doesn’t necessarily pay as much as before. I totally hear you on figuring out how to really enjoy living “in the now”. I think it’s pretty normal for most people to constantly be chasing the next big thing. It’s definitely a challenge to just rest and lean into my current phase; I want to have big goals but also appreciate the present. Frequently these days I remind myself “these are the days” to cultivate gratitude. I know one day I’ll look back on this time in my life wistfully, but I hope I won’t have regret because I enjoyed every moment as best I could. Anyway, thanks for your reminders to embrace where you are and your current phase of life!

    1. I sure do love my neighborhood 🙂 I honestly think writing about the here and now helps remind me how good things are.

  6. I know you’ve been excited about Slow FI and I can tell you’re on the right path for you with the way you write about it. It’s about the journey, and I don’t think I’d be pursuing financial independence if I couldn’t enjoy our time while approaching it.

    Pet expenses were high for us in October as well. And we definitely blew too much money on Oktoberfest, but no regrets.

    Best of luck these past few months of the year. Getting anywhere even close to 50% is an amazing achievement.

    1. Chad made a comment to me on Facebook that really resonated – that I would much rather be saving 40% and working 80% than saving 50% and working full time. And yes, paying too much for an Oktoberfest party is totally worth it.

  7. so…you accomplished all those large goals and look around and kinda shrug? it reminds me of that song “is that all there is to a fire?” peggy lee made it famous but i like the p.j. harvey version with john parrish. i hope you visit casino el camino for a hamburger in austin. casino is from buffalo and used to play in a band with our friends. i’m sure your pals will know all about it.

    1. Okay, adding that to my list for when we’re there! And they weren’t a shrug at the time! More in the rear view mirror now.

  8. I really love your desire to get at a 50% savings rate! You may not get there this year but keeping that goal and really trying to go for it will eventually pay off and hopefully next year you can reach 50%.

    1. Yeah, eventually we will get there! And by shooting for that we’re landing at 40%+ instead of 30% or less.

  9. Good work on getting things back on track with the spending. It seems you are mindful of enabling yourself to let your spending get a bit out of control so keep up the effort on not going off the rails 🙂 Find that balance

    1. Yep, and mindful that the most expensive stuff hasn’t been things we would be willing to change. But keeping a handle on it or it could easily get out of control 🙂

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