And with that, it’s a wrap on 2019 and the second full year I’ve tracked our expenses to the last dollar. I feel like maybe I should be more frustrated that we ended our year short of a fifty percent savings rate – even short of last year – but I’m really not.

I would still absolutely like to save half of our incomes at some point, but that doesn’t feel like the all encompassing goal like it did last year. I expect that we will get there eventually, but it’s okay that it hasn’t happened yet. There’s more to life than saving every last dollar possible, and there really wasn’t any discretionary spending of any significance that I would have forgone to hit that arbitrary number.

That probably means that a low-40s savings rate is probably more realistic for us, but fifty percent will continue to be my stretch goal. Otherwise, I think it would be easy to justify increasing our spending when we already have more than plenty for a pretty great life.

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Groceries and Food Expenses

Unsurprisingly, we didn’t come in under the $1,000 mark on our food and drink spending in December, but I had no illusions going in that it would happen. Between my birthday weekend, Christmas, and the beginning of our Iceland trip, we had a lot going on when it came to reasons to spend more than a typical month.

Considering all of that, $1,517.63 feels pretty okay. If anything, December showed me how incredible it is that we used to spend upwards of $2,500 a month or more without any kind of special occasion. We didn’t hold back in December, but our baseline has dropped considerably, which saves us real money every month.

Pizza our first day in Iceland (sleep deprived before getting to check in)

Vacation Spending

Thanks to prepaying for both trips, we spent very little in December on anything that could be categorized as vacation spending outside of food and drink. The biggest cost here was our Lyft to the airport.

I hadn’t considered the difference in leaving on a weekend instead of a weekday in terms of public transit to the airport, but when we realized it would take us two and a half hours (compared to a forty minute drive), we bit the bullet and booked a Lyft. We also had quite a bit of luggage with us, for us, anyway, which would have been a huge pain to haul through two buses and the light rail.

Splitting the cost and the ride with our roommate made it seem like the reasonable choice in this situation. I prefer to take public transit whenever possible, but some trips make it significantly more difficult.

Walking around Reykjavík was free

Pet Care

And with that, we kept our pet care expenses under $7,000 for the year. Our old dog took a two hour leisurely walk with us yesterday though, so that money feels well spent at this point. I’d rather not have needed to spend it, but I’m so glad it looks like we get to have her around for a while yet.

If it wasn’t for those expenses, we would have come very close to that fifty percent savings rate or maybe even would have hit it. I haven’t calculated it out though, because I think I’d rather not know (and animals still do require some costs even if they stay healthy through the whole year. Cross your fingers for us that this budget category is way lower in 2020.

Gifts

The majority of the spending in this category was obviously for Christmas presents, but it also includes birthday gifts for two of my son’s friends at the beginning of the month. We have well scaled back with Christmas presents with our extended family, so the majority of this cost was on Christmas cards and calendars (mostly of the kiddo) printed for a number of family members.

While mailing physical Christmas cards isn’t the most frugal option – or the greenest – I adore the tradition and plan to continue it at this point. I think a lot of this comes from having friends and family scattered across the country, and a tangible card feels important during the holidays. We did buy gift cards for teacher presents at preschool as well, which also feels like a non negotiable.

Christmas morning

Miscellaneous

Our miscellaneous expenses in December were across the board. There was a doctor visit copay, a year’s worth of contact lenses for me, and our living Christmas tree.

We also had our old neighbors in town for a long weekend, so we finally bit the bullet and bought this bed (and sheets and a frame) for our kiddo’s room. He still co-sleeps with us, so his bed is a playroom at this point, but we’d been meaning for a while to get one for guests. Their trip up here pushed us to finally do it, and it’s really nice to have a bed in there. No more air mattress to offer guests when they stay with us.

Giving

Since it was Christmas, my giving was also up this month, the second highest for the year and the highest for a month without three paychecks. The holidays, more than any other time of year, remind me of how bountiful and blessed our life is and how much we really can afford to give away.

November 2019 Spending (Excludes mortgage, daycare, insurance)

Jul 2019 Aug 2019 Sep 2019 Oct 2019 Nov 2019 Dec 2019
Groceries $338.40 $635.52 $355.73 $350.94 $481.78 $348.90
Restaurants $329.92 $424.00 $341.53 $522.59 $612.91 $489.72
Gym $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $17.84 $32.84
Gas $193.64 $115.55 $295.76 $151.46 $225.43 $140.79
Car/Transit $165.30 $65.00 $120.95 $290.91 $165.81 $0.00
Utilities $146.48 $142.86 $125.74 $289.42 $189.42 $314.42
Pet Care $2,520.51 $202.90 $204.32 $297.32 $205.13 $212.01
Vacation $409.26 $1,099.30 $835.75 $573.89 $204.12 $137.14
Vacation Food $133.15 $0.00 $477.86 $117.45 $523.70 $540.74
Home/Tools $222.33 $345.38 $573.23 $68.04 $352.24 $416.65
Gardening $48.82 $0.00 $21.80 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Gifts $20.16 $63.66 $189.88 $96.70 $160.23 $513.35
Alcohol $98.85 $119.56 $124.05 $162.39 $126.69 $138.27
Clothing $0.00 $21.25 $99.07 $77.06 $143.13 $61.40
Misc $168.91 $270.88 $383.32 $457.66 $681.42 $898.39
Total $4,813.57 $3,523.70 $4,166.83 $3,473.67 $4,089.85 $4,244.62
Savings Rate 19% 56% 28% 34% 37% 26%
Including Mortgage Principal 26% 60% 34% 40% 43% 32%
Giving % 2% 7% 3% 2% 2% 4%

So we ended the year with a 40.4% savings rate. I’m glad that it didn’t drop into the thirties, but I am mostly content with this number. It’s hard comparing ourselves to the FIRE community, especially since we make more average incomes than many, but I’ve done a better job this year looking outside of that bubble and remembering how well we are doing on the whole.

We don’t have a goal to walk away from our jobs as soon as possible, and our lifestyle right now is pretty dang good. To save a significant portion of our incomes for the future is still very important to me, but so is living now. If a SlowFI journey means we enjoy each year more, I’m willing to pay for that.

Net Worth Tracking – Personal Capital

It’s been more than a year and a half 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.

25 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: December 2019

  1. A friend sent me your website a while ago. I have really been enjoying reading it – and this weekend finally got started with personal capital, and plan to play around with it a bit more this coming weekend. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for commenting! And personal capital has been really fun to play with the longer I’ve tracked our net worth.

  2. Good morning!
    I am a new reader (a few weeks?) and I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your reality-based approach of living life now and savings lots for later.
    I’m enjoying your blog!
    🙂 ErinH in Canada

  3. US avg. savings rate ~ 8%.

    You’re rockin’ it w/o a miserly existence.

    What’s that big Christmas tree looking thing? I’ve heard Iceland is pricey. Did you find that to be the case?

    1. Do you mean the big church at the end of the street?

      And it’s definitely expensive, but we found that the restaurants really weren’t that much more than home because their prices include tax and tip, which is 30% for us.

  4. Saving 50% is really tough. You need to be in the sweet spot where you don’t make too much (taxes) and not too little (COL.) We barely made it last year. I think anything over 40% is really awesome already. Great job.
    Iceland! I love it there. How is it in the winter? Looks cold. br… 🙂

    1. It was cold part of the trip, and frigid the other part 😉 We definitely need to make it back there in summertime.

  5. A 40+% savings rate is astounding! Sure, a handful of people in the FIRE community crank it up higher, but it’s not for everyone. As you said, getting “outside the PF bubble” is nice to realize just how fantastic you are doing with your money.

    Glad you enjoyed your Iceland trip and hope you have a wonderful 2020! Keep up the great writing.

  6. Um, was that pizza as amazing as it looks? Because it looks TASTY.

    I’m with you on the whole Christmas card thing. We don’t mail a lot of cards, but we do fill out a lot for our friends / coworkers and…I just think it’s kind of nice? I typically try to write something personal in all my cards, which I think adds to it. Love the idea of doing calendars as gifts for extended family! Will have to keep that in mind if we have kids some day 🙂

    Way to go with the 40 per cent savings rate! Sounds like you had a pretty great year overall.

  7. I love and can relate to SlowFI so much! We also tend to save in the 40% range and for our family, it seems to just work better. We also spend a lot for food and eating out is a particular pleasure!

  8. Love the shot of that church in Reykjavik — brings back memories. Will have to go back and read your post on the trip.

    I hear what you mean about taking your time with the path to FI — we try to do the same. Better than rushing there as quick as you can and forgetting to enjoy your time along the way.

    1. I really need to get around to writing out the full post while the trip is still fresh in my mind.

  9. You are doing really well with your savings rate. It is really hard to get to a 50% savings rate, heck even 40%. Yeah, it’s better to not worry about how the rest of the FI community on their savings rate and focus on yourself on what make you happy which is more important.
    Keep it up as usual Angela and can’t wait to read a recap of your Iceland trip!!

    1. It is SO dang hard to get to that 50% mark. It drives me bonkers when people talk about how you can just make simple changes and get there.

  10. Hitting the 40% mark while not working full-time and having a solid work-life balance, is a win in my book. Maybe you’ve shared it before and I wasn’t paying close attention, but how does your family handle Christmas presents? We made it known a 4-5 years ago that we would prefer ppl save their money and not give us presents and we have made consumable gifts (sweet and spicy nuts) for folks the past couple of years. Some still insist on getting the kiddo a gift, and I don’t argue with it, but we prefer the gifts not be the primary focus. It’s awesome to stay out of stores that time of year, to be honest.

    1. We’ve moved away from doing presents for the most part and replacing them with time (and then some consumable gifts + the Christmas calendars). My siblings and I also “gifted” each other a future camping trip this year.

  11. Yes! I finally found someone who started where we did and spends more than $500 a month on food. I can’t wait to brew some coffee and settle in on my desktop and read your story! Thanks for sharing. I’m dreaming of a 40% savings rate.

    As a fellow dog lover I appreciate how much they cost but the value they add is immeasurable and I would not want to live a dog free life.

    1. It was SO hard to shrink our food/drink costs, but I feel like $1,000-$1,500 is reasonable for us at this point (that does include basic household sundries as well). The dogs, well one of them, are probably our biggest barrier to that 50% savings rate at this point, but like you, I love my life with them in it.

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