Every year, the Money Mustache family is forced to drop its drawers and reveal everything we spent money on, in as much detail as possible, to you the readers. It’s a fine annual tradition that is meant to set the stage for both learning and friendly competition. If you’d like to learn how to spend less and save more of your income, the categorized results and tips below might help you find the budgetary leaks. If you’re already running a tight ship, you can make fun of my spending and share the ways in which you’ve out-badassed me.
While we are far from being icons of perfect frugality, I still get regular accusations of living an impossibly inexpensive lifestyle, or at least questions about how it can be done, so this article is meant to answer some of the questions.
I went through last year living more lavishly than ever. With our basic retirement income (from one rental house and dividends from some index funds) locked in and stable, no debt, and most of the costs of a young child behind us, things felt quite cushy. On top of this, both Mr. and Mrs. MM continued to do enjoyable side projects, and gosh-darnit, they happened to provide still more income. The lady helped a few close friends buy houses, generating real estate commissions. I built a few nice things for friends and neighbors, generating construction invoices. And this blog took off unexpectedly and started producing cash – ridiculous amounts at times. By my standards, we were living in a bath of Infinite Money.
Although you’d never see me out shopping for a new Acura NSX or buying $200 wine even if I woke up with several billion dollars of net worth, I did feel like I was letting loose. I bought my son a beautiful little mountain bike, and ordered parts for all the other bikes whenever they were required. I flew to Lake Tahoe for the annual snowboarding trip with the Boys. I bought some new outdoor clothing to replace worn-out things.
And oh, the food. We started eating a more Primal/Paleo diet, which meant less low-cost starches and more pricey fresh vegetables and local, organic grass-fed meats. Wine with dinner whenever we felt like it. Homebrews and microbrews as needed. I built a huge and elaborate fence around the entire back yard, painted the exterior of our bulky 2600 square foot house, and added two big South-facing windows for solar heat gain. Plus there was the usual 2 month trip to Canada, and plane tickets to Hawaii in December.
Since all of our spending happens without a budget, I was expecting an embarrassingly large total to show up when Mrs. MM did the annual spreadsheet. And here’s what she came up with:
Total Spending: $25,046
A few categories were rearranged this year to align with the way things are tracked in Mint, which has continued to be useful in doing much of the tracking.
|Mortgage Interest||3,600||1,500||0||2012: Mortgage paid off in 2011 (should you? see article)|
|Property Taxes||2,292||2,334||2,358||I admit it: property taxes are low here in CO. Good consideration next time you move.|
|Food and Dining||4,689||5,382||6,238|
|Groceries||3,855||5,007||5,733||Adding occasional fancy meat is expensive.|
|Restaurants, Coffee Shop||565||149||225|
|Healthcare||366||1,087||2,048||2012: doctor visits, dentist, CPR class, pharmacy, insurance|
|Doctor Visits||1,034||2012: this includes the one-time $600 optional procedure ;-)|
|Health Insurance||710||2012: started health insurance premiums on Nov 1 (see article)|
|Pharmacy||67||Any prescription antibiotics, aspirin, bandages, etc.|
|Auto and Transport||777||316||1,537||2010 & 2011 includes gas only|
|Registration & Testing||217|
|Speeding Ticket!||75||2012: MMM missed the "Speed limit 30" sign outside of Fairfield, IA. Photo radar reminded me of my sin.|
|Service & Parts||169||2 Oil filters, 12-pack of oil, windshield wipers, 1 new battery for construction van.|
|Utilities||1,260||1,456||1,463||Electricity, natural gas(heat,water,stove), water, trash, recycling. (33% of annual electricity use comes from the 1 month we rent out our house to other people each summer!)|
|Cell Phone||120||120||240||2012: Both Mr. and Mrs. MM have iPhones running on $10/month plans (see article) - Yahoo!|
|Internet Access||360||We keep this cost down by sharing a high-end connection with a friend: (see article)|
|Home||1,819||2,105||2,556||2010 & 2011 numbers included renovations only|
|Home Renovations||1,819||2,105||2,147||2012 Projects: Fence, windows, exterior paint|
|Donations/Charity||374||1,886||1,734||Personal donations only (business including this blog donates separately)|
|Crossfit||1,080||1,110||1,175||This is Mrs. MM's ongoing present for financial independence. Fees are for Classes and Competitions|
|School Tuition||6,665||2,630||1,110||Tuition ended May 2012 (yay for public school! - see article)|
|Insurance (House+Vehicles)||707||648||n/a||2012: this year insurance was included in home and auto categories|
|Shoes & Clothing||444||327|
|Sporting Goods||426||2012: Bike stuff, REI|
|Shopping Misc||738||2012: Mostly Target, which could include clothing & groceries|
|Books||71||2012: All for our son, including xmas gift|
|Entertainment||26||223||2012: this is under "Other" this year, but our entertainment consists of Netflix for movies, Pandora for music, Library for books, a play or two at the local theater, and Nature for the rest. No TV service, of course!|
|Lessons for boy||156||2012: this is under "Other" this year|
|Target||500||765||2012: this is under "Shopping Misc" this year|
|Amazon||500||584||2012: this year we reviewed all Amazon purchases and sorted them into the right categories|
|Car Maintenance||32||96||2102: moved to "Auto - service & Parts"|
|Manly Items||245||When I buy non-business gadgets or accessories, they go here. None this year.|
|Other||1,524||330||789||2012: Netflix, kids activities, swim lessons, school supplies, annual haircut for Mrs. MM, local plays, apps, CC annual fee, cash withdrawals (typically used for groceries)|
|Travel||4,151||5,036||1,876||2012: Safety Pirates Snowboarding Trip, camping, two of the flights to Hawaii (this year we didn't include gas in this number). MMM's hawaii flight accounted for as blog business.|
|TOTAL Without Mortgage||26,882||26,953||25,046|
|Subtracting Tuition, Donations||19,843||22,437||22,202|
|Subtracting travel, crossfit||14,612||16,291||19,151|
|Subtracting organic/luxury food||13,340||14,639||17,259||Assuming a 33% increase on groceries due to organic + meat.|
|Subtracting home renovation expense||11,521||12,534||15,112||This is what our "no frills" living cost would be, unless we moved to a smaller house (Note: Misc category could be cut down a lot as well)|
So wow.. that was a pleasant surprise. Even with the big grocery upgrade spending, our total still came out pretty close to the other years. It is amazing how things average out over time.
If you’re new to this blog and overwhelmed by all the numbers, and just want the top points on how to live well on less than half of what your neighbors spend, here they are:
- Arrange your life so that you drive less, and use less expensive cars.
- Cook your own food
- Take care of your own stuff (yard, body, housecleaning, fingernails, etc.)
- Don’t buy anything on impulse. Think about it for a few days (or years).
- Ride a bike
- Realize that all the steps above will dramatically improve your life, not representing any negative sacrifice or suffering at all.
It goes much further than that, of course, which is why there are 300 articles on this blog. But since new people show up here so often and want the low-down right away, those are good places to start.
Keep living the good life and here’s to an even better 2013!