For several years I have been very frugal when it comes to my spending. Ever since achieving my financial goals, I have been lax on budgeting. My dining out and entertainment expenses have gone up quite a bit. I was able to get under $3,000 this month, which includes at least $1,000 in elective spending.
In my pursuit to learn more and improve my budgeting skills, I try to keep track of my monthly spending no this blog, as well as document my monthly income.
In this post, I will go through each category, talk about what worked and what didn’t. It’s probably more helpful for me than it is for you. However, I suspect that the budgeting healthcare professional will go through a similar process at some point. The skill is incredibly valuable whether you are simply doing it for your household, or have to one day do it for your business.
Total Monthly Spending June 2017
Though my spending is all over the place month-to-month, I keep track of what I need to spend every month in order to have the lifestyle that I desire. This month I spent a total of $2,957. I am quite content with this sum – it seems in line with my lifestyle goals.
From the graph below you can see what my monthly spending is and how my investments serve to replace that income. In a recent post I outlined how potent my dividend income is and how much more I value it now that I track it.
Groceries – $616
Lots of ready-made stuff from the grocery store probably killed this budget. I have calculated that with <$400/month I can eat my healthy, organic and vegan diet. That’s 225 kcal per dollar – on par with other statistics I’ve come across.
My home alcohol consumption has gone down a lot. I used to drink a bottle of wine a week but now that I have switched to organic wines, they are harder to come by. I have switched to having green tea at night – just as fun as wine.
Entertainment – $560
Well, $560 may not seem like a lot but I think a more realistic entertainment budget for me is $150/month. Most of this spending was done shooting pool with a friend or socializing. A good portion was spent on alcohol.
As always, to put this into perspective. I would probably need a $250,000 real estate property investment in order to earn $560/month on an ongoing basis. Or I would need nearly $180,000 invested in equities to earn that much month after month.
Work/Business Expenses – $367
My work expenses are things such as a bus ticket, taking Uber to a work meeting or buying food at work, etc. I rarely work these days so these are uncommon expenses.
The majority of the money is what I spend on improving my skills. It might be courses I take, podcasts I’m subscribed to, books I purchase or money I spend on food when socializing with network groups.
The money I spend on improving my skills is an investment, not an expense. Of course, when it comes to budgeting, every outgoing item is considered an expense.
Coffee – $261
Yea… that’s a lot of money spent on coffee. However, I am still tipping really well, that’s where the majority of the money goes to. It’s something I have been doing for about a year now and I’m happy with it. If my coffee costs $2, I might time $5 or $6. It might be excessive, not sure, going to continue this experiment for now.
Exercise – $243
Usually I spend <$100 on my exercising, however this month I needed new bouldering shoes. I spent $60 having the soles replaced on my old shoes last month but didn’t shop around enough for a good cobbler and got a shit-job. Lesson learned – always value any spending, research it well and pay for quality.
Healthcare – $228
I pay for my own health insurance and dental insurance. This has been a back-and-forth decision for me but I finally settled on paying for it myself in order to feel less dependent on another company.
See, it’s always best to have as many of your ongoing expenses covered by your employer because it’s harder to write them off on taxes. Even if you can write them off, you are less likely to be able to get the whole amount deducted. However, I’m not employed, I don’t have a reasonable option to have health insurance covered.
Housing Expense – $172
For 2017, I haven’t had any major housing costs. And for June I haven’t really had anything major, either. The main cost every month are my HOA dues. My property taxes are paid every year and though I budget money aside for it every month, it’s not money that I will spend until the end of the year.
Property tax is partially deductible, so all my housing costs are a touch under $300/month.
Vacation – $135
I don’t even know where I went – too lazy to look it up. But I’m sure it was a flight somewhere. I’m not a traveler, at all. I don’t enjoy the airport environment, feels more like a prison que before getting into a cell.
Dining Out – $111
I have spent far more than $111 in June on dining out. But not every dining out expense is for the reason of just wanting to eat out. If I’m dining out with someone when networking then that’s a business expense. When I dine out because I’m working a shift then it’s a work related expense. Eating out with friends is entertainment – and so on.
This is important in budgeting because it trains us to view an expense in regards to the value we get in return for the dollars spent. Automated budgeting, as done through Mint or Personal Capital where each expense is categorized for you, isn’t effective.
I’m quite content with $111 – somewhere around $100 should be very doable for me.
Miscellaneous – $137
In this category are my expenses on utilities ($20), home internet ($50), transportation ($15), and donations ($50).
My Core Spending And Wiggle Room
Seems that my core spending for this month was somewhere in the $1,700. In the traditional personal finance space, and especially with the FIRE community (financial independence, early retirement) there is a lot of emphasis on replacing one’s exact spending. However, that’s not realistic.
We are human and adapt to our conditions, spending changes with changing circumstances. Furthermore, every household will have a different level of flexibility in their spending and even in their earnings. In my case, I can cut my expenses down to $1,000/month comfortably and I could increase my income to $400,000/year without much effort.
However, I wouldn’t be able to work a full-time job and only spend $1k/month. A job is a very resource intensive undertaking. That’s why as circumstances change, so do expenses.
My core spending for this month was $1,700 – it’s what I would need to spend to be able to comfortably do the things I did. Because I had the extra money, I decided to be slightly more wasteful. I assure you that if I had decided to live off my investments and every dollar mattered, I would be spending $1,200/month and stashing a little away just in case – it’s what each of us would do, if we had to.
Ignore my numbers.
What matters for you is what your particular lifestyle is like, what you enjoy spending money on and what you value most. The concepts I am laying out here are scalable both up and down – at least that’s what I am aiming for.
When budgeting, I find it important to aim for a particular budget and learn how to achieve it. However, life will play it the way it wants. Just because you end up spending above your budget doesn’t mean you fucked up. You’re a winner because you budgeted – something that the majority of our peers don’t do.