Exposed! The MMM Family’s 2011 Spending!

Once a year the rubber really meets the road for the Money Mustache Family, when we have to add up the entire amount we spent on everything, and reveal it to you the readers for comparison and scorn.

Last year’s  Exposé had us spending a fair amount, but with bold predictions of grand reductions in the spending. To quote the old article:

Total of Everything for 2010: $30,500
Total excluding Mortgage interest: $26,885
Estimate for next year (no mortgage, child in elementary school, no cruises!): $21,695

You see, 2010 was quite a while ago, so its numbers included monthly mortgage payments on our main house. In early 2011, we paid off the rest of that mortgage. Plus, Little MM graduated from preschool and we all started enjoying the benefits of public education.

But in my optimistic forecast above, I forgot to account for the mortgage interest costs from the first few months of 2011, the preschool bills from January to May, and the fact that even the full-day kindergarten class in our local school carries a tuition of $275/month. So those bloated the budget quite a bit.

As it turned out, 2011 was also a bumper year for holiday travel. We began the year by waking up in a tent on South Padre Island, and the vacations continued regularly from there. As a family, we took trips to Canada, Moab Utah, and Arizona. And as individuals, Mrs MM went on a decadent Ladies’ trip to Las Vegas, while I spent an extremely fun and irresponsible week around Park City, Utah snowboarding with the Boys.

Food costs went up voluntarily as well, as the Mrs. switched to a gluten-free diet (and I partially followed her lead) leading to more eggs, vegetables, and meats. We also started buying even more organic food, which costs about 50% more in my area. I justified this only with the fact that we could truly afford it – if we still had debts or were stuck working in unpleasant jobs, I could have easily kept the food costs below last year’s levels.

As a side benefit of adding the vegetables and cutting out bread (and some of the booze), however, I think we accidentally boosted our health quite a bit. Both of us seemed to reach record levels of fitness and non-flabbiness in 2011, even though we’re more than double the age of when either of us last set a record (sometime around age 18). I think this whole health boost thing could make a good article in the near future, to coincide with finishing the popular Tim Ferriss book I’m reading called “the 4-hour-body”. (Hint: my approach is drastically simpler and less exotic than his).

So by now, you’ve probably heard enough of my excuses and are sarcastically making the Tiny Violin symbol at your computer monitor as you read these justifications for an expensive lifestyle, so I will shut up and lay out the spreadsheet:

Mortgage Interest3,6001,500(2,100)2011: paid off mortgage in June
Property Taxes2,2922,334420.6% of home value - Gotta love the low property tax rates of the Western US.

Groceries3,8555,0071,152This increase falls entirely on my shoulders as I'm the shopper. But I am now using Costco more, which should bring it back down in 2012.
Healthcare3661,087721Mrs. M. experimented with a frivolous health care practitioner, then determined that plain old barbells were more effective at fixing all problems.
Utilities (gas, electric, water/sewer, weekly trash, recycling)1,2601,35696Lower energy consumption than last year, but city and utility rates went up.
Wine/Beer269226(43)Brewing beer at home raised consumption due to deliciousness, while cutting costs.
Restaurants, Coffee Shop565149(416)In this department, having a child who is a picky eater really pays off - no point going out to eat until he is a teenager.
Home Renovations/Maintenance1,8192,105286Renovated master bathroom this year.
Gas777316(461)2011 non-trip gas
Insurance (House+Vehicles)707648(59)House + Car
Donations/Charity3741,8861,512More donations due to feeling more relaxed about income.
Crossfit1,0801,11030Damn that is expensive. But I believe Mrs. M. still makes a "profit" on it due to improved health. She looks like Jillian Michaels now, but without the annoying facial expressions ;-)
School Tuition6,6652,630(4,035)May 2012, baby, then we're off the hook.
Cell Phone (MMM)1201200Mrs. MM still gets free phone from part-time work - smart lady.

  Shoes & Clothing444Umm.. I don't think any of these clothes went to me, 'cause I have exactly one non-ripped pair of pants.
  Entertainment262232011: Netflix, books, movies
  Lessons for boy1562011: Swim + Soccer
  Target5007652011: May include some grocery
  Amazon500584Gifts, clothes, household items, school supplies
  Car Maintenance3296car battery, oil changes for two cars
  Manly Items245Video Card, Stereo amp for Construction Van
  Other1,5243302011: Passports, checkbooks, crackpots DIY pottery shop, iTunes, Bike, Staples, Annual Haircut for Mrs., car registrations
2010: Clothing, lessons, car registrations
Travel (including gas for roadtrips)4,1515,0368852011 includes gas + food for trips
  Denver Bachelorette146
  Pre-book summer 2012 trip airfare for 2315
  Winter 2011 Arizona Trip1,265gas, hotel, zoo admission, etc.
  Family Summer 2011 Trip1,008
  Las Vegas Girls Trip673airfare, hotel, food/drink
  Spring 2011 Moab Camping Trip122
  Safety Pirates March 2011 Snowboarding Trip647gas, lift tickets, accomodation, beer, whiskey, food
  Late Summer 2011 Men's Camping Trip21Gas+campsite. The trip where we invented the future hit business called "Wilderness Cauldron".
  2nd half of Mega Winter Roadtrip to TX839gas, hotels, etc.

TOTAL Without Mortgage26,88226,95371
Subtracting Tuition, Donations19,84322,437
Subtracting travel, crossfit14,61216,291
Subtracting organic/luxury food13,34014,639
Subtracting home renovation expense11,52112,534This is what our "no frills" living cost would be, (we'd have to move to a smaller house to go below this)

So what have we learned from this year’s figures?

First of all, I was amazed at how close 2011 was to 2010. Things tend to average out over a large period of time like that and become fairly predictable.

But secondly, I was pleased to note just how much of our expenses I consider to be optional luxury spending. If you take the “total without mortgage”, it looks like we’re living on about $27,000 per year. But if you back out things like the $2600 of tuition that we are now done with, the $5000 of travel, the $1800 of  charitable donations, and all the other things mentioned at the end, our basic life could be sustained comfortably at just over $12,000 per year. Even after we start paying private health insurance premiums in the near future ($240/month for the family as quoted in this earlier article), the bottom line could still be under $15,000.

For a 3-person household, that’s well below the US definition of poverty, yet it would still let us pay for everything including property taxes and utilities on a large house, plus vehicle ownership costs on a car and a van, keeping the fleet of six bicycles in good running order, unlimited netflix movie streaming to the basement home theater.. and even my beer brewing habit!

So our lifestyle still has quite a toasty jacket of decadent fat around it, and this is important to note because we’re often accused of living some sort of bare bones lifestyle that people aren’t even sure if they could handle. This is just plain wrong: thirty grand plus a paid-off house is more than enough to raise a family.

So life goes on… and we’re now re-motivated to try to beat these figures for next year!

  • Brad June 1, 2012, 12:38 pm

    I read through most of the comments….do you guys have health insurance? Where does that cost go, if so?

  • Sauce June 2, 2012, 9:45 pm

    you mention “mortgage interest” but where are the mortgage payments? are you excluding them?

    • IAmNotABartender January 27, 2015, 5:12 pm

      Principal payments are savings rather than expenses, since they add to your equity.

  • Shilpan June 10, 2012, 3:46 pm

    You’ve done amazingly well. I only wonder about health insurance premium and cell phone bill. Both are way lower than average American household would pay. How do you manage to save so much?

  • Mark December 31, 2012, 1:56 pm

    Good stuff, MMM! I’ve been reading through all the articles for the last few days, and was inspired enough to make few additional frugal choices!

    I noticed that your insurance premiums are super low, and you mentioned 5K homeowner’s deductible. Could you give examples on how you decide to raise your deductibles to save on ins premiums?

    My example:
    200K house,
    current 1% or 2K deductible, 678 annual premium
    I called my insurance agent today and got these quotes:
    a) 2.5% or 5K deductible for 514
    b) 5.0% or 10K deductible for 371

    So using simple arithmetic if I wanted to save 164/year in premiums by raising my deductible from 2 to 5K, I better not file a claim more often than every 18 years ($3000/$164).
    With option b, my breakeven point is 26 years.

  • Heath January 14, 2013, 12:49 pm

    I really want to see another one of these for this year! I always look back at this article whenever I hear a complainypants say that it’s impossible or ridiculously restrictive to live on only 30K per year. Great stuff!

    • Rob aka Captain and Mrs Slow January 16, 2013, 11:58 am

      In Canada the cost of living for a family of five EXCLUDING rent/mortgage/car/CC debt is $31,181.32 a year, I calculated that you would need to earn pre tax 40,000 or two min wage jobs ($10 an hour in Ont) add in mortgage rent, car, CC debt and you need a ton more money.This are the actual numbers that Derek over at free33.com provided

  • Lee December 17, 2013, 3:47 pm

    Any chance you’ll be doing one for 2013 soon?? This is the fist year we’ve used Mint and it is so fun to be able to look back at a year’s data. Can’t wait until I have multiple years to look at!

  • Ronda April 30, 2014, 10:06 am

    This is so encouraging to me! So often when I read money blogs, I get kind of discouraged because they generally start with an “average income” of $50,000 or so. Since we have never come close to that income level in all our 30 years of marriage, it tends to make me feel like we are failures and doomed to second-class lives. We aren’t really able to save a lot, but we manage, and I am always looking for ways to stretch the money. We do still have three teens (well, one twenty-two-year-old and two teens) who live here, so we can’t get by on the amount you mentioned, but it does give me something a little more realistic to go by. Sometimes I am quite daunted by the expectations of these blogs. We can’t really just put a certain amount in savings as a general rule, because my husband’s business as a contractor makes for a sporadic income, but I feel validated to know that we CAN make it on a pretty small amount. Makes me want to go total ours up and see how we compare! I also appreciate the fact that you mention being mortgage-free as a possibility! :) We have been debt-free for years, and I can’t imagine how we would have made it otherwise. it is so much cheaper to pay for things up front!

  • Jill October 7, 2015, 4:21 pm

    Mr Money, it’s shocking how much money you are spending on your child’s public education. I must admit, that it seems quite unmustachian! I have chosen to homeschool both of my boys. In my area, $80/month is the average preschool cost. So, for one of my children, I figure I have saved $1440 by teaching them at home. That’s $2880, for both. Now that they are at grade school level, I find that I’m saving in unexpected areas, like clothing and school supplies and being able to take family vacations during off peak times.. There are a multitude of free resources for learning at every level (Khan academy, iTunes university, YouTube).

  • Ky Christensen November 2, 2016, 8:17 am

    First of all… I think you (based on your self description) are awesomeI get this is 5 years ago but may I ask how you are paying less than $700 for car and home insurance? I live in Colorado (Springs) …have a cheaper home than you and our homeowners is $1000 a year…(hail storms here maybe…)
    And where do you get your car batteries where you can change your own oil twice and replace a car battery for $96!!! I think with regulations today you can’t get a car battery alone for less than $100

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 2, 2016, 12:36 pm

      Costco, my man. The battery for the small car was only in the $60s back then, probably a bit more today to adjust for inflation.

      The house insurance was from Safeco at the time – note that you save a lot if you use a high deductible ($5-10k)


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