January was a month we’d expected would be an expensive one, since the majority of our Iceland trip landed then. We also had our “second Christmas” with my in laws in January thanks to the sickness that pushed off celebrating on the actual day. Even so, July was a more expensive month with our dog’s surgery.

We also had a three paycheck month in January, along with a decent bonus, so our income was way up higher than is typical for us. Thanks to the combination of spending a bit less on Iceland than expected and more earned income, January ended up with a very good savings rate. Not quite what I was expecting, but in the best way possible.

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Groceries and Food Expenses

These costs were way too high considering we were in Iceland for the first eight days of January and I separate out our vacation food spending. We landed the evening of the 8th and started our time back at home with take out teriyaki for dinner while we were jet lagged and trying to stay up until a normal bedtime.

After that, we spent more or less normally for the rest of the month, but we didn’t cut back to balance out the Iceland trip. I suppose maybe we should have, but we didn’t NEED to, so we didn’t. We also did make a trip to Total Wine and stocked up quite a bit there (10% off if you buy 6 bottles of wine, etc), so our liquor cabinet is quite full at the moment.

That said, we actually spent considerably less on food and drink while in Iceland than I expected to. It’s not that we didn’t spend a lot ($1,150 in January plus another few hundred dollars at the end of December), but I’d expected to spend closer to $2,000 on the trip, so we did well here thanks to balancing meals out with cooking ourselves quite often.

Free dessert for the husband’s birthday our last night in Iceland (though the dinner wasn’t cheap)

Vacation Spending

We may have spent less on food in Iceland than planned, but we did spend more on other vacation expenses than I’d hoped to. This was entirely due to weather, which in hindsight shouldn’t have been too surprising since we were there in the middle of winter. We had to leave Vestmannaeyjar a day earlier than expected to get back to the “mainland” before a big storm hit, so we paid for an extra ferry ticket having paid for the original trip in advance. That also meant we had to pay for an extra night at the guesthouse we stayed at in Keflavik at the end of our trip.

We also paid a bit extra for the car because we kept it past their check in time on our last day, but considering the blustery winter weather and the late night out the night before, we weren’t ready to turn it in and head to the airport any earlier than we did.

We’d also spent money on the Blue Lagoon, but thanks to another storm, we skipped out on our reservation there so my husband could drive the mountain pass to our next destination in daylight, which was the right decision based on the white out conditions we encountered. Not a cheap waste of money, but it was the safe choice.

As the weather cleared

Pet Care

I’m really crossing my fingers for a much, much cheaper year when it comes to vet bills. So far so good, and our dog seems to be doing quite well, but it’s clearly early in the year yet. Our cat went to the vet early in February for his annual check up and the dogs will go this summer, but in theory we have no other big pet expenses coming up. In theory.


The biggest miscellaneous cost in January was the credit card annual fees we paid. Considering how much money travel hacking saves us, I am more than willing to pay the fees on the cards I want to keep (namely the Chase Sapphire Preferred and our Alaska Airlines credit card. I think I may keep the Chase Business Ink as well as a business card for this blog (not that my expenses – or income – are high, but to keep them separate), though I may downgrade it to a fee free card.


The amount we gave in January was pretty typical, but looking back, it should have been higher considering our disproportionate income for the month. That said, what we did give was done in a much more intentional way. January marked the first month where I set up recurring giving payments to a few places, and that felt really, really good. One of my goals this year is to give more intentionally and larger, more regular sums to a few places, and setting up recurring payments is part of that.

January 2020 Spending (Excludes mortgage, daycare, insurance)

Jan 2020
Groceries $368.63
Restaurants $425.21
Gym $17.84
Gas $78.88
Car/Transit $194.59
Utilities $293.98
Pet Care $169.30
Vacation $528.07
Vacation Food $1,150.33
Home/Tools $335.08
Gardening $0.00
Gifts $137.67
Alcohol $241.95
Clothing $0.00
Misc $654.89
Total $4,596.42
Savings Rate 58%
Including Mortgage Principal 61%
Giving % 2%

I was absolutely NOT expecting even a fifty percent savings rate for January, let alone 61%. Every time a three paycheck month rolls around – and even more when a month includes a bonus as well – I’m reminded of how much a larger income can mean you can do bigger things financially. “Just save half” is a great concept if you make a good amount of money, but much harder when you make less. Not that it’s impossible for a middle income salary, but there aren’t the big easy costs to cut when you don’t have the fancy car to sell or the fancy home to downsize.

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.

7 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: January 2020

  1. Its interesting that you track your net worth. It sounds like it is valuable tool. Does this include your mortgage too? I am unsure if I am ready for this step but its interesting to think about. Maybe in the future. Also if you dont mind me asking, what are the fees for the Chase and American Airlines card? I appreciate your transparency!

  2. What do you think of the Chase Ink Business? I just applied for a card under livehardxlovehard and they are totally making me jump through all of these hoops to get it. Worth it?

  3. Well done on the savings front, especially considering the vacation and all those unexpected additional expenses! I love those three paycheck months! One of those three always goes straight to my Roth IRA, since I’ve never figured them into my budget.

    “Just save half” is a great concept if you make a good amount of money, but much harder when you make less.” – Yes, exactly. This concept was pretty intimidating to me when I first discovered this movement and couldn’t understand how people were saving so much. I loved the Frugalwoods, but was baffled by their super high savings rate in a HCOL area. I assumed they earned a lot and also had each other to share the bills. It’s much, much harder for me to save a high percentage than it is for them. Once I realized that, I felt better about my savings rate.

    Anyway, great job and hopefully no more expensive vet visits this year!

    1. “Just save half” is SO intimidating when you don’t have the big ticket items to cut from your budget!

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