We had dinner last Wednesday night with our old neighbor’s family while we were in Austin, and it turns out that his sister works in finance. We had some great conversations in general and I really liked her (and the kiddo had a great time with her two girls), but one comment really stuck with me from that night.
We were talking about more general personal finance advice, and she made a comment about saving at least 10% of your income. The thought that automatically went through my head was “or like 40% or 50%!” Sometimes I get so trapped in this bubble of the financial independence community that I forget that 10% IS a really big deal, and a target that most people aren’t hitting.
I may know that intellectually, but emotionally, I’ve had to work through feeling like we’re behind with our retirement and other savings goals. I’ve been working on turning my focus toward our slowFI goals, but it’s hard not to compare to others in the community that make saving 50% and more seem so easy. We are doing a darn good job, and I’m slowly settling into that place (though I still always do want to save more).
My mindset has changed a lot here over the past few years. When I was paying off my student loans, I was hyper focused on putting every dollar I could to reduce the interest I was charged. Once that balance was zero, we spent some money on home upgrades, saved money for a baby, and then had our kiddo.
After that, we definitely floated for a few years, and when I got back to focusing on our money, I got focused with a vengeance, landing us at a 46% savings rate last year and lamenting coming in short of saving half our incomes. This year, we won’t quite hit the same savings rate at last year, but still well more than the average, and I’m happy with the extra we’ve spent that meant we didn’t save as much.
Of course, I wouldn’t have minded not spending money on our dog’s surgery, but it was money very well spent. Above all, I think 2019 has been our best year in terms of balancing saving for the future while spending for happiness now.
Groceries and Food Expenses
So, while we’ve done pretty well the past few months on food expenses, we blew that out of the water in November. We ate out a few times at home like normal, but we also picked up take out dinner while in Portland, went out for a tasty (but pricey) dinner at Din Tai Fung before a concert, and our anniversary night dinner and drinks. Clearly, we have a big upcoming trip planned to celebrate our tenth anniversary, but we still wanted to celebrate on the actual day as well. More expensive overall, but worth it.
And then we headed down to Austin for a week and ate a lot of tasty, tasty food. We only sat down to eat at restaurants twice over the six full days we had there, but we picked up take out the rest of the days. We averaged one meal out a day, which adds up. It may have been balanced out some with the meals cooked at home (and take out is clearly cheaper than dining in), but it was a pricey trip when it came to food.
That said, we covered part of our flight costs with Chase Sapphire Ultimate Rewards points and had no transportation or lodging costs while we were there since we stayed with friends. It could have been a VERY frugal trip, but the food made it just a kind of frugal week. I don’t regret a single meal we had down there though, and I know my husband and kiddo feel the same.
Even so, we spent $1,745.08 on food and drinks in November. Ouch. That is a lot of money. Not quite as bad as our highest spending months, but closer than it’s been in a long time. And clearly, when we do go to Iceland, our budget buster will also be food. I guess I can’t argue too much with our savings rate if it is impacted by very discretionary spending like this.
If you ignore the food and drink portion of our food spending ($523.70), we didn’t spend much on vacations otherwise. Which is pretty good if you consider we went to Portland for a weekend and to Austin for a week. Of course, we *did* spend a lot on vacation food, so this category wasn’t so low this month after all. But well worth it.
A couple of our pets have to go in for check ups early next year, but for now, all we are paying for is food, our dog’s meds, and pill pockets to feed her said meds (still under $7,000 for the year!). After my experience with #PlasticFreeDecember though, I think I am going to finally attempt to make my own pill pockets.
In theory, they should be easy to make, and significantly cheaper than buying them from Amazon. My time is limited, so I can’t do it all, but we use enough of them that it likely is worth my time to give it a go. If any of you have ever made your own, I’d love a recipe that’s tried and true.
Our transportation costs were a bit higher this month, and varied. We took the bus more often than normal (paired with late night Lyft rides home twice). And we used more gas as well getting down to Portland and back. We carpooled down with Purple though, so split between four people it was a reasonable cost / use of resources.
I’ve also been working on leaving my car at home more days during the week, and a couple of times in November I managed two to two and a half days a week without my car. It bumped up my transit costs a little, but meant less wear and tear on my car, less use of gas, and less cost in comparison.
Similar to many months, we had a payment for my son’s soccer at preschool. Perhaps I should have broken this out and lumped it in with general health/exercise costs – new category next year? Same with doctor visits and medication.
We also paid to go to Wild Lights, though thanks to a wonderful commenter, it looks like there might be a way to get cheaper tickets next year (though, as the money goes to support the zoo and its conservation efforts, I’m okay not saving every last dollar there).
November 2019 Spending (Excludes mortgage, daycare, insurance)
|Jun 2019||Jul 2019||Aug 2019||Sep 2019||Oct 2019||Nov 2019|
|Including Mortgage Principal||19%||26%||60%||34%||40%||43%|
You’ll notice that while our spending was higher than in October, our savings rate was as well. Thanks to some work bonuses, we brought in some extra money, which more than balanced out the extra spending. Any time we have a higher than average earning month, I’m reminded just how much income matters in this financial independence game. Sure, you can do really well financially on a lower income, but it’s just simply easier with a higher one.
Thanks to that higher income, we finished November with a 43% savings rate for the month, keeping us at for the year, the same as last month. Clearly shy of that 50% mark, but it’s looking good for staying north of 40% for all of 2019. And like I began my thoughts with at the start of this post, I’m good with that.
My giving rate was also 2% in November, which is pretty average for the year. This is where the power of tracking and sharing publicly is so huge – I’d not had anything come up that moved me to give that month (likely because we were constantly doing something), so I realized in the last few days that I’d be well short of that 2% mark.
To push that number up, I decided to give $100 to the animal rescue we adopted our older dog from back in 2010. They are a fabulous group, and one I know that can always use a bit more cash. Next year, while I will definitely keep tracking to keep pushing myself to give more, I’m thinking about focusing in on just a few places and giving more to them, rather than $25 here and $50 there. My giving dollars aren’t huge, but they can be big to small organizations, especially if I consolidate them to just a few places.