Exposed! The MMM Family’s 2012 Spending!

revealedWow, has it been a year already?

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

Quick Note:
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 Interest3,6001,50002012: Mortgage paid off in 2011 (should you? see article)
Property Taxes2,2922,3342,358I admit it: property taxes are low here in CO. Good consideration next time you move.
Food and Dining4,6895,3826,238
   Groceries   3,855   5,007   5,733Adding occasional fancy meat is expensive.
   Wine/Beer   269   226   280
   Restaurants, Coffee Shop   565   149   225
Healthcare3661,0872,0482012: doctor visits, dentist, CPR class, pharmacy, insurance
   Doctor Visits   1,0342012: this includes the one-time $600 optional procedure ;-)
   Health Insurance   7102012: started health insurance premiums on Nov 1 (see article)
   Dentist   172
   CPR Class   65
   Pharmacy   67Any prescription antibiotics, aspirin, bandages, etc.
Auto and Transport7773161,5372010 & 2011 includes gas only
   Gasoline   777   316   684
   Insurance   313
   Registration & Testing   217
   Express Tolls   79
   Speeding Ticket!   752012: MMM missed the "Speed limit 30" sign outside of Fairfield, IA. Photo radar reminded me of my sin.
   Service & Parts   1692 Oil filters, 12-pack of oil, windshield wipers, 1 new battery for construction van.
Utilities1,2601,4561,463Electricity, 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 Phone1201202402012: Both Mr. and Mrs. MM have iPhones running on $10/month plans (see article) - Yahoo!
Internet Access360We keep this cost down by sharing a high-end connection with a friend: (see article)
Home1,8192,1052,5562010 & 2011 numbers included renovations only
   Home Renovations   1,819   2,105   2,1472012 Projects: Fence, windows, exterior paint
   Home Insurance   353
   Landscaping/Plants   56
Donations/Charity3741,8861,734Personal donations only (business including this blog donates separately)
Crossfit1,0801,1101,175This is Mrs. MM's ongoing present for financial independence. Fees are for Classes and Competitions
School Tuition6,6652,6301,110Tuition ended May 2012 (yay for public school! - see article)
Insurance (House+Vehicles)707648n/a2012: this year insurance was included in home and auto categories
   Shoes & Clothing   444   327
   Sporting Goods   4262012: Bike stuff, REI
   Shopping Misc   7382012: Mostly Target, which could include clothing & groceries
   Books   712012: All for our son, including xmas gift
   Entertainment   26   2232012: 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   1562012: this is under "Other" this year
   Target   500   7652012: this is under "Shopping Misc" this year
   Amazon   500   5842012: this year we reviewed all Amazon purchases and sorted them into the right categories
   Car Maintenance   32   962102: moved to "Auto - service & Parts"
   Manly Items   245When I buy non-business gadgets or accessories, they go here. None this year.
   Other   1,524   330   7892012: Netflix, kids activities, swim lessons, school supplies, annual haircut for Mrs. MM, local plays, apps, CC annual fee, cash withdrawals (typically used for groceries)
Travel4,1515,0361,8762012: 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 Mortgage26,88226,95325,046
   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   17,259Assuming a 33% increase on groceries due to organic + meat.
   Subtracting home renovation expense11,52112,53415,112This 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:

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!

  • Katie January 22, 2013, 1:36 pm

    This inspired me to compile my 2012 spending. Oy! We’re aspiring towards numbers like yours but have a long way to go… Let’s just say our house payments and debt payments (almost gone!) are each more than your annual spending.
    There are some areas where I’m quite certain we can’t go as low as you have (i.e. – health insurance with a child with spinal cord issues). However, looking at your budget also shows me a several areas where we can cut further.
    Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Trudy January 22, 2013, 1:53 pm

    So glad to see you starting to spend a little more on food frankly. I’m researching a ‘trouble with Costco’ article I may submit – factory farmed meats and cheap petroleum-laden grains are bad for the planet, bad for animals, bad for us. Most Americans need to buy better food and eat less of it. You have enough money to buy decent food.

    I’m with you – eating out is a punishment for me not a joy – mediocre slop, high priced, full of wrong fats, salt and sugar. UGH. Would LOVE to see some sample menus – tho I cracked up at “the bowl of almonds with coconot oil, ground flaxseeds and a fuckin’ banana” for breakfast. could I do that? hmmmm – must try. Need more samples please. (and only a few curry-laden ones, not a fan)

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 22, 2013, 2:37 pm

      Remember that big stores like Costco aren’t necessarily good or bad – they just reflect efficient delivery of what the mainstream public buys most often. While lots of that stuff doesn’t work for me (bulk jellybeans, white bread, 60″ LCD televisions and programmable turkey fryers), there is quite a bit that I find useful. They have loads of organic food there (all of the coffee, coconut oil, milk, ground flax, apples, chicken breasts, soymilk, and olive oil I get there are organic, for example). And I can only see this trend increasing over time to meet changing consumer tastes. It is also the best place I’ve ever found to get a new car battery :-)

  • Matt January 22, 2013, 2:07 pm

    The 6 bullets at the end of the article really say it all. Living is a state of mind and will be enjoyable if you want it to be.

    You could almost post those 6 bullets in the title block to show the direction and reason of the blog.

    I’m going to recommend this blog to my girlfriend and hope she jumps on board the MMM train. I’m sure I can convince her that this is what life should be lived like.

  • Sister X January 22, 2013, 4:14 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for reminding me how insanely cheap my life is compared to other people’s. Not counting the money to pay off student loans (more than the minimum, of course! :P ) we spent a little less than $30,000 in 2012, but we had an expensive trip over the holidays (AK to Maine for a family reunion) and we rent at the insane cost of $1100/month. (Yes, we are looking into other options. Housing is NOT cheap around here!) Also, we managed to save about as much as we spent, not even counting what went into my retirement account. I feel like we’re bleeding money but this put it into perspective once again.
    Here’s to an even better 2013!

  • Mrs. Money Mustache January 22, 2013, 4:52 pm

    A note on groceries: everything we bought at Costco (which is usually only food, but might occasionally include some other stuff) and the grocery store is included in Grocery. Deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, cleaning products, etc. is all in here, although we spend very little on these things.

  • Purple January 22, 2013, 5:36 pm

    This is very interesting for me, particularly since you describe your family and their different objectives and needs – and you note how these change over time.

    So much financial advice assumes a level of stability and consistency which I have not actually had in my own life. Also, a great deal of it assumes an individual who does not have a family or seems to have a family which magically falls into line with budgetary objectives.

    Part of the MMM genius is that the whole family is achieving a badass life with predictable and inexpensive baseline costs. Since these things are a team effort, I love it whenever you talk about these complexities. Also, that is one of the reasons I love hearing from Mrs Money Mustache (she is also really insightful).

  • That Girl January 22, 2013, 11:51 pm

    It’s really interesting seeing where you allocate your spending. I can definitely tell you that my retirement will look a lot different! I also find it funny that our total yearly spending is within 2k of yours but we do quite a few of the things you recommend against: monthly hair cuts, driving, multiple pets, expensive hobby, and a couple others. Guess I know where to trim if we need it! And I”m really looking forward to being done with school so I can quit driving. Quick question, though. Despite having unlimited money, donations/charity comprises only 7% of your spending. Do you have an article about that?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 23, 2013, 10:03 am

      Yeah! As noted in the table, the charitable stuff only represents what we donated out of our personal money. This blog also earns money and I recently set aside most of it ($20,000) to create a stream of donations to various places. I’m still learning about it and writing it up, but here’s where it was first described:

      … and the fund is invested in Lending Club (because of extremely high returns and the opportunity for me to learn about peer-to-peer lending), which had its first article here:

      • That Girl January 23, 2013, 10:53 am

        Thanks! I used the search function (durrr) after I posted, so whoops. That’s really admirable of you to put so much towards the lending club.

        I struggle with this issue a lot right now, since I hesitate to put money towards charities while I’m trying to save for retirement but I feel guilty not doing so since I’m pretty financially blessed comparatively. I donate my time (and blood) mostly for now, and I try to match the money I spend during the holidays with donations to worthy causes, but I’m looking forward to retirement when I can put more time & more money towards charitable giving.

        I hope I get to see more posts about the lending club in the future! I just recently started following and I’m loving it all so far.

  • gail January 23, 2013, 7:30 am

    Which insurance company do you use for auto and homeowners? I will be moving to Denver in the next couple of months.


  • Matt Westgate January 23, 2013, 3:04 pm

    Mint.com is great for tracking finances though I’m still figuring out some of the nuances. Mr. Money Mustache, how do you filter out your blog business using Mint? Do you exclude the transactions altogether or just file them under a custom category?

    Similar question for “Travel”. When my family goes on vacation we tend to spend more money on eating out which in turn throws off my general food & dining budget. Any insights? Do you tend to lump sum all vacations costs under one category or how have you found the best way to manage these kinds of things with Mint?

    A pre-statchian.

  • Freeyourchains January 24, 2013, 9:51 am

    I think Jacob (ERE) would be ashamed of this!

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 24, 2013, 11:19 am

      Haha! You’re probably right. We should ask him. Are you out there, Jacob?

      Jacob lives on $7,000 per year, but that’s just for him. His budget is $14,000 per year for both himself and his wife. If we allocate another $7,000 for our kid (which may not be justifiable), then we’re at $21,000 for a family of 3, so maybe our number isn’t too bad. I think $21K would be pretty easy for us to do with some minor adjustments.

      Plus, we are living the good life here… we do not hold back in our spending at all!! We don’t even have a budget and often don’t know how much we spent until we look at it at the end of the year.

  • Rob aka Captain and Mrs Slow January 27, 2013, 12:21 pm

    I’ve tracked my spending for years, a habit developed in the glory days of debt reduction, but it was always pen and paper and I never kept everything. So inspired by MMM and other bloggers I’ve started tracking everything (via excel) So in a few months I’ll post more specific numbers

    So rent/utilities

    2012 – 20,421.90 euros (rent 1000 a month)

    2011 – 20675.44 euros

    Ouch, didn’t quite realize how much we spent! Cable and healthcare are included (2700 in total)

    Moving in a few months to a much more energy efficient location (Germany from Spain) so no cable and private healthcare but higher rent, so I expect the numbers to be the same.

  • PFgal January 31, 2013, 11:16 am

    These numbers look great! I’m curious about your spending on gifts, though. I know that in the past you mentioned not buying gifts for holidays like Mother’s Day, but what about gifts for others for birthdays, winter holidays, etc. I imagine Jr. MM gets invited to a lot of parties where gifts are expected. While I don’t spend a lot on gifts, there is still some, and it’s always hard to figure out the best way to handle it.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 31, 2013, 4:25 pm

      Miraculously, we seem to have freed ourselves from the entire “buying” portion of the gift scene. Nobody wants gifts from attendees for their kid birthday parties around here (and why should they? It’s a ridiculous tradition to buy plastic crap for each other). We make a bunch of cool stuff for each other around holidays and birthdays, and my gifts to adults are usually things like helping them out with projects (or money if it is someone who needs it).

      Even if you don’t follow this trend exactly, it’s probably a pretty small part of your budget, so no need to stress over it either way.

      • PFgal February 1, 2013, 8:25 pm

        That’s fantastic! Thankfully, my family was never into expensive winter holiday gifts, but I see a lot of pressure on others to do that. I’ve made it clear to everyone that I don’t want more “stuff” and I generally don’t give as many gifts. When I do give, I donate to charities in honor of the person, and I always choose a charity that I know has special meaning to them. The feedback has been amazing. Almost everyone loves it, and prefers it to getting “stuff” as gifts.

  • Russell Kith February 22, 2013, 8:34 am


    Just came across the post again and I gave it another look over. I can vouch for the high crossfit cost, I’ll admit I pay even more annually as costs are higher in my city. It’s just the way she goes there, I am addicted to something that makes me stronger, healthier, and feel better- it’s worth every cent. I also love cooking and eating well which comes at a slightly higher cost. Again, the prices are probably different but I also spend quite a bit on wine and beer for hosting. How do you keep that number down? Are you a DIY/MYO beer/wine maker? I might have to make some to create a cost analysis. Cheers!

  • Dean December 20, 2013, 9:05 am

    WOW. I wish we could do that. Maybe once we have the mortgage paid off. Currently, we’re spending about 57K a year on everything. If we could get rid of our $1,800 a month ($21,600 yearly) payment, we might be able to trim the remaining fat ($10,000) to get us to 25K, granted there are only two of us ;)

    • Insourcelife December 20, 2013, 9:09 am

      I would count any principal payments you make with your mortgage as savings and not as expenses. This might make you feel a little better about your current spending.


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