Where are we going, where have we been? (a New Year’s Day Post!)

New Year’s is a nice time to take a minute and reflect on where we are in life and where we’re hoping to go.  It’s not the only time — I tend to be constantly evaluating and looking for ways to optimize life.  And whenever I have a vacation it’s a natural time to take stock — usually there’s one at the end of each year.  So here we are at the end of 2018.  Let’s see what we’ve accomplished and what we have to look forward to!

It’s the end of our first calendar year of tracking our combined expenses!  Using my own home made spreadsheets, I’ve done my best to record and categorize all of our spending in a way that makes sense to me and now, with a year’s worth of data, it’s time to take a look.

Recall that I did a rough calculation of our 2016 spending and estimated it around $110,000 (details and caveats here).  I was appalled.  But, since it’s now been 9 months since I made that realization, the number has become less shocking.  I’ve internalized it.  $110,000 was our baseline spending for 2 adults, 1 toddler and a cat.

With the birth of our adorable baby girl this year, we’ve leveled up to 2 adults, 1 toddler, 1 baby, and a cat.  And so, with that in mind, I totaled up all we did in 2017, and learned that we spent……. (DRUMROLL!) …


You read that right.  Despite all the tweaks we’ve been making, we managed to spend even more than last year.

BUT.  Some of this ($2,979, to be exact) is actually money we set aside for expected 2018 expenses.  Those expenses are our 2018 property taxes, certain insurance we only pay once per year, certain shared expenses for our HOA (snow removal, for example), our annual daycare registration fee, and our annual car registration fee.  So, since we paid for those things in 2017 as they came up and also set aside for those expenses when they arise in 2018, it’s like they’re being double-counted this year.

And, we didn’t start the journey until 3 months of 2017 had elapsed.  The first few months of the year before we started paying attention were prettttty spendy.  I keep thinking that if we hadn’t started this, 2017 would have been THAT MUCH WORSE!  We managed to more or less halt lifestyle creep in its tracks, and I’m hopeful that we’ve reached a turning point.

Which is not to say that we’ll actually spend less in 2018 — as it happens, we’re putting another child into daycare (starting tomorrow!!!!! WAAAHH!!!!), which will double one of our largest expenses.  But hopefully we’ll be able to continue making good choices and keep things in check and on a downward trajectory in some other categories.  As I keep reminding myself, having to pay for expensive daycare is a temporary phase in childrearing, and if all goes according to plan there will be many years of less expensive schooling before college rolls around.

So time for some details.  Let’s see where all that lovely cashola went this year:

2017 Total 2017 Monthly Average
Mortgage $23,528 $1,961
Daycare $17,266 $1,503
Food $12,147 $1,044
Medical (insurance + out of pocket) $11,217 $964
Home furnishings $7,965 $717
Travel $4,501 $409
Home Improvement $4,453 $401
Home goods & services (like cleaning supplies and our once/month house cleaners) $4,351 $381
Entertainment $4,323 $378
Kids (non-daycare — things like clothes, strollers, babysitting) $3,900 $309
Utilities $3,831 $348
Gifts $3,044 $276
Insurance (other than car ins) $2,413 $219
Personal care (things like dry cleaning, cosmetics, shampoo, haircuts) $1,968 $169
Car stuff (gas, repairs, tolls, insurance) $1,712 $153
Health & Fitness $1,404 $128
Clothing $1,232 $112
Donations $1,187 $108
Cell phones (for the actual phones – not service) $732 $67
Public Transport $585 $53
Cabs $291 $26

So.  Obviously there are parts of this that are more or less out of our control (medical costs, for example), and parts where there’s room for improvement.  But at the beginning of this journey, I had only a vague guess as to where our money was going (other than the big obvious things like mortgage and daycare).  So this understanding is a big step forward for us this year.

A roundup of other financial positives from 2017:

  • We finally combined our finances after 5 years of marriage;
  • In doing so I updated my spending spreadsheets to be both simpler and more powerful;
  • We cut WAY down on the amount of takeout food we were eating just for convenience;
  • We also cut way down on impulse purchases by instituting the “ask the other person if you’re buying something that costs more than $10” rule;
  • We sold a rental property that took a huge hit in 2008 and was underwater until THIS YEAR.  This seriously simplified our lives and eliminated something we felt was a big financial risk in our portfolio.
  • Overall, we’re much more thoughtful about our spending!  The journey to financial independence has begun!

And what do we have in store for 2018?  Friends, there is so much to look forward to!

  • TOMORROW, I’m going back to work after 6 months of maternity leave.  My husband and I are both dropping down to part-time schedules.
  • We’ve started meditating daily, and have kept it up for over 3 months now.  I think the practice has started to help me keep life in perspective and cultivate a feeling of gratitude.  I can only imagine this is very healthy… and on top of that, that attitude is one key to killing your desire to acquire more material things.  I look forward to continuing the practice and seeing where it takes me!
  • I’m on the job hunt.
  • Based on the 2017 spending roundup, we’ll be setting some 2018 financial goals.
  • I’m hoping to dedicate more time to writing this year for my own projects (this blog, and fiction).  I’ll talk about it in a future post!
  • I’m hoping to spend more time with my kids, and be a generally less harried human being.

Thanks, y’all, for reading, and best wishes for an excellent 2018!

2 comments on “Where are we going, where have we been? (a New Year’s Day Post!)

  1. Pingback: Where are we going, where have we been? (a New Year’s Day Post!) – Talking FI

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