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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
|Including Mortgage Principal||26%||60%||34%||40%||43%||32%|
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.