March was the first full month that our lives were entirely impacted by the Coronavirus, and this financial update clearly shows how different the month looked than previous ones. April will look different yet again, and it’s hard to know right now what the rest of the year will bring.
For the same reason that I’ve continued to diligently write my Frugal Five posts on Fridays, I’ll be writing these monthly spending reports to have a diary of this time, as I expect we will not see something like this again in our lifetimes (though, with climate change, we may see some more very different times).
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Food and Drink
We blew our grocery spending out of the water in the month of March, especially at the beginning of the month, when we overstocked our emergency preparedness items as I outlined in this post. At the very beginning of the month, it felt like we were perhaps overdoing it, but it doesn’t feel that way any more. With continued shortages of many common grocery staples like flour and yeast (and less common ones like tofu and spam), it feels good to know we have what we need on hand. We’re going to the store once every week or two (more toward the two week mark), but we could go for well more than a month at this point if we needed to.
With news of large pork suppliers shutting down due to COVID-19 and increasing grocery prices, having a lot of food on hand – and growing more – feels like a really good security measure right now. This number also does include a few nonfood items like toilet paper, paper towels, and bulk soap, but not at “stock up” levels other than soap because we use so little of them thanks to our zero waste alternatives.
Our restaurant spending was also high this month – almost double a normal month – which was also very purposeful. I now run a restaurant support group on Facebook for our local restaurants and we are now eating out for dinner a couple nights a week, plus a few lunchtime pickups. We are clearly foodies, and keeping our favorite local restaurants alive (and their staff employed) feels very important right now.
It’s a weird time to feel virtuous for buying take out, but I’m not complaining. (Our alcohol expense is up for the same reason, as we’ve been purchasing more from local breweries and wine shops, which is clearly more expensive than Total Wine or the cheaper grocery store options).
We spent the least on transportation expenses in March than I think we have in a month before. My husband is still driving to work some to do maintenance type work, but I’ve been working from home since the very beginning of March. The only driving I’ve done is to pick up food, pet supplies, and to visit my family – at a good distance. I haven’t filled up my gas tank since mid-February, and I haven’t had to refill my toll pass or bus pass either.
Zero. Zero spending on vacation expenses, and zero spending on vacation food. This is the first time this has happened since I started tracking our expenses back in November of 2017. Clearly, we enjoy our weekend and bigger adventures and the tasty food that comes with them. We’re missing our favorite spots and missing getting to explore new places, but we’ll get back there someday. For now, we’re just staying close to home like everyone else.
Our total giving in March almost doubled, completely on purpose. We are both still employed – as is our roommate – so it feels like it is our duty to share some of that with those who are less fortunate than we are.
I’ve donated to our local food banks and to other community groups who are feeding the families of children who can’t afford food now that they’re out of school. I’ve continued sending money to my church like normal as well, which feels particularly good as the day center for homeless women and families operates in the basement and it’s the church donations that have kept it open and operating at this time – with extended hours and overnight as needed. It took a long time to find a church that really felt like “home,” but again and again they blow me away with how they operate like Jesus actually would.
And I’m also including the really big tips from takeout in this section – anything over what would be “normal” for us I’ve marked as giving instead of as food spending. A non-local friend also sent an extra $50 to share with our area since she knew we were particularly hit hard, and it felt so good to write some massive tips at pickup time.
March 2020 Spending (Excludes mortgage, daycare, insurance)
|Mar 2020||Feb 2020||Jan 2020|
|Including Mortgage Principal||45%||31%||61%|
We also did pay full price for our daycare in March, though the kiddo didn’t go a single day. I called and talked to them at the end of the month, and they did not pull tuition from the families who weren’t going to be attending in April. While I definitely feel cautious about our income and didn’t feel like I could pay for a full unused second month, I had them pull $100 for April anyway, and I do feel good that his space means that they can take all the children that need childcare still (the allowance for kids per room has been lowered during quarantine).
March was definitely a good savings month for us, but we still spent considerably more than we could have with vacation spending at zero and transportation close to it. April will look similar – no vacations, but plenty on food and our local community. And then padding out our savings as well, as I would love to have a full year emergency fund at this time, just in case.
Net Worth Tracking – Personal Capital
**Even with the wild stock market swings as of late, I’m glad to have my net worth tracked via Personal Capital. Full transparency, I still haven’t looked – we don’t need retirement funds for a long time yet, so knowing how much our investments have dropped really helps no one. Things look better there than a month ago, and it will be interesting to look back on our net worth chart in the future. I’m glad that I will have a record of this time going forward, and we’re in it for the long game. And knowing where our money stands is a big part of that.**
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.
15 thoughts on “Monthly Financial Update: March 2020”
Seems that you’re spending aligned with your values and that you’re doing what you can in this terrible situation. Great job! It’s a great thing to be able to give back to your local community. Awesome that you set up a local Facebook group, I like that idea. Stay safe!
You know…. you could always start your own 😉
I’d like to say that I really admire the way you live and how your values come through in your spending. I am big on self-sufficiency and being prepared and tend to shrink away in times of perceived danger and limit my help to those very close to me. I don’t have a good neighbor network like you do but am very close to my immediate neighbor and often share with her. We are both gardeners as well and with the current situation I am often in the garden checking on how things are growing, weeding, identifying spots where I can plant some more. I have been reading you for over a year and really resonate with what you stand for. On the personality spectrum I am an introvert so being at home suits me fine. I also live in a climate/zone quite different from yours, but always read with interest your garden reports. Saw mention of you potentially thinking about getting chickens. I have a handful and they are very useful especially now. Good luck with all your endeavors, I very much enjoy reading your posts.
I am SO tempted by chickens these days! Okay, I already was, but even more so now. We’d really have to set up a secure space for them though, so that slows things down a bit. And thank you for your kind words today – I really appreciate them ❤️
That pizza looks AMAZING. We’ve also been trying to do takeout a little more than normal along with shopping at some smaller local shops I enjoy. It doesn’t feel like nearly enough most of the time but it’s something.
Our giving is also up and like you, that’s intentional. We’re both still working (my unit is on WFH, but we’re considered essential), still drawing a full salary, etc so it feels like the right (and most like-Jesus) thing to do.
Thanks for sharing even in the midst of this strange, strange time. Take care.
Oh it was. Their vindaloo pizza was one I was initially skeptical of but our roommate had tried it initially and I got hooked.
1100 clams on groceries. wow! i think after an initial couple of stock up trips ours is near the same as always. i really want to save up for travel later in the year because i’m guessing our beach trip in may will be cancelled but we are holding out hope. i get a lot of vacation time these days so 6 weeks off over 7 months seems like a lot. a full emergency fund is a good thing right now. you just never know what this economy will look like the rest of the year. i’m optimistic but also realistic.
Optimistic but realistic is a good way to put my perspective most of the time.
Our March spending looks very similar. We also had a dramatic increase in groceries, take-out, giving, with a bonus of unexpected house maintenance supplies when things at home went sideways. I think April will mimic March’s categories as we are still giving and buying supplies as we need them every 2 weeks, and keeping a reasonably decent backup supply so that if we can’t go every 2 weeks we won’t be totally out of stuff. I do wish we had figured out a small part of the garden to have SOME source of fresh fruit in case that’s an issue later but there’s nothing we can do about going back in time now 🙂
We might experiment with starting a couple plants indoors for science experiments now though, just to see how that goes. Strawberries, anyone? Actually I guess grocery store strawberries may not be the best way to start some strawberry plants. I should look into this.
Yeah, I expect April will look similar for us as well. And not too late to buy strawberry plants!
Your church sounds amazing! I’m glad you’re in a position to support such a great church, since it sounds like they’re living their mission.
It’s totally amazing ❤️
Anyone else notice that the only comments on FIRE blogs come from other fire bloggers? lol
Not entirely! If you read through my other posts I’m lucky enough to have some regular readers who comment occasionally. Bloggers are just more set up to comment. I was a lurker reading blogs regularly for 7 years before starting my own and I never left a single comment 😉