Sunday morning and the living's easy

August Expense Report – A Trip Up North, Bachelor Party and Trip to Colorado

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August was a busy month for our pack and the expense report shows it!

First, we headed up north to visit a good friend  in town from California! We drank wine, beer, Bloody Mary’s, and hung out on the water. It was great catching up and enjoying Michigan’s lakes in the summer.

Sunday morning and the living's easy
The view from my friend’s cottage in the Leelanau!

We took a weekend off from travel to preserve the food our garden and mini-orchard are producing. Growing our own food has helped to improve my habits.

Next, we headed to Colorado to visit with college friends. We hiked, struggled with the altitude, checked out some breweries, and hung out around campfires. It was great to recharge and see new places. The mountains are awesome, but I think I prefer freshwater lakes.

Finally, Mr. Kiwi organized and attended his best friend’s bachelor party. They did a ropes course, visited breweries in Grand Rapids, and played yard games. He blended frugality and spending by splurging on the activity, but cooking breakfast for everyone the next morning. We paid for snacks and breakfast, so that means our grocery spending was a bit higher this month.

Somewhere in there we found time to rescue some treasures and  work our standard 8-5 jobs. I’m looking forward to FI when I won’t need to interrupt my day with going to the office!

August Expense Report Intro

A monthly feature on the blog is a detailed breakdown of our expenses aka spending. The intro will be the same each week, so if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all, so skip to the table below. For those of you who are not aware we are a pack of two adults and two six year old dogs (who I still refer to as puppies). The puppies really don’t cost too much (except in September when they are due for their annual vet visit), so you can blame the humans for being spendy. One of the dogs would be happy to hunt and forage for her own food, but alas, we live in suburbia.

Why Track Spending?

After the infamous and life changing conversation at my friends’ (it was a joint party) birthday party, our pack decided to get serious about how we manage our finances. This meant endeavoring to track every dollar (or Tanzanian Shilling) on our balance sheet. I chose to go back a month from the conversation and started the tracking in December 2014 (hooray credit cards, you already do most of the grunt work).

Blueberry Field
I had the first Friday of the month off and spent it solo-picking blueberries. We are stocked up for the winter with 13 lbs of frozen blueberries

This has been one of the most eye-opening experiences of our seeking FIRE. Second only to reading the Stock Series. We use our very own categorized spreadsheet to track our spending, but use Personal Capital too. Personal Capital (sign up today, it is free!) can only link to one of our work 401k/457 accounts, so we always add that amount to our net worth when we check it quickly there. As time passes, and I’ve been on the FIRE path for a couple of years I’ve relaxed my net worth obsession. It was awesome growing that first 100k, but now it is old habit. Don’t get me wrong I love watching it grow, but I’ve just relaxed a little in my stressing.

We also don’t have a monthly budget. By tracking our expenses we have a record of what we spend, and  quickly realize if things are getting out of whack. We spend based on our values, which doesn’t require a budget for us.

In the 2.5 years of tracking our spending we have recognized that not all of our spending practices align with our values, and have cut our spending significantly. Just seeing where all the money was seeping out the sieve was so EYE OPENING! Lifestyle creep had started to set in, and we were falling victims to the rat race. Frugality took up its sword and slashed the waste and negligent expenses. Now, we are a lean, mean, and saving the green pack (DINKs FTW).

What’s Missing?

You may have noticed that a couple of typical spending categories were missing in this August expense report breakdown. I’ve done my best to explain them here, but if you have any questions or notice any gaps let me know!

Taco Night
One of the meals we made in August using produce from our garden!
  • Car Insurance for our two (cringe) cars: We pay our auto insurance once per year to take advantage of a discount
  • Water bill: We have a well and expensive water softener
  • Cell phones: Mrs. Kiwi has a work provided cell phone, Mr. Kiwi is on the in-laws family plan. We pay them $20/month, in one or two installments over the course of the year.
  • PMI: We put 20% down on our house, so no PMI for us!
  • Car payments: both cars are paid in full (2006 Chevy Cobalt and 2010 Chevy HHR)
  • Gym memberships: We seek out free (or super cheap exercise). We walk, have an exercise bike, elliptical, adjustable weight dumbbells, do body weight exercises, ride our road bikes sometimes, and practice free yoga using doyogawithme.com

But now on to what you are really interested in…the August Spending Report!

August Spending Report

Here’s all the August expense report details for our pack:

Category Total Spent Notes
Mortgage $950 Includes property taxes on home insurance
Restaurants $67.99 We treated our friends to dinner when we went up north and Mr. Kiwi went to dinner for the bachelor party
Gas $143.05 Lots of travel = lots of gas
Car $0 Nothing to fix this month!
Entertainment $56 Ropes course and fun for the bachelor party
Internet/Netflix $7.99 Prepaid for Internet in June
Travel $475.15 This is what we spent in Colorado, the total trip cost $808 with plane tickets. Not bad for a six day vacation.
Gift $210.09 Mr. Kiwi is the best man in a wedding next month. This is the cost of his tux rental (ugh, so expensive). We also parked at a friend’s house to avoid paying for airport parking, and he drove us to and from the airport for our Colorado trip. A $10 thank you gift to save us from paying $80 to park.
Clothing $4.07 I had coupons to Sears and Kohls and picked up a swimsuit for Mr. Kiwi and three pairs of sunglasses. After the coupons this is all we paid.
Pet $0 Stocked up in June!
Grocery $287.94 This is a little more than normal, but I’m stocking up on local produce to freeze or store. We have 15 pounds of carrots now (only $5). We also paid for breakfast and snacks for the bachelor party. It’s funny that this is our second most expensive month of 2017, this is $50 less than our average month last year
Medical $165 Eye Doctor, Prescriptions, and Do.ctor Copays. I’m grateful we have good insurance.
Utility $125.30 It is safe to say that we won’t use any AC in 2017
Rewards -$96.63 Our Ebates (get $10 for signing up through this link) check for 11.87 arrived. We sold some books on craigslist, earned some interest on our checking account, and cashed in some credit card rewards. We cashed in some of our DiscoverIt bonus for our spending last year!
Total $2,396

Summary

The August expense report includes some pretty awesome experiences! We worked to intensely cut our spending that provides us little happiness, which allows us to easily afford spending time we friends and achieve a great savings rate in the same month. We both definitely acknowledge our privilege to be in this position and to have started our journey in middle class homes with the expectation of going to college.

Garden Pics
The pumpkins are almost ready in our garden, leaves are starting to change, and the nights are getting cool. Summer has been awesome, but I’m ready for fall!

We typically hover around $2000/month in spending including our mortgage. So many changes and efficiencies made to our spending took place in the first two years of tracking. Thus, 2017 has been a fairly consistent year of practicing frugality and embracing all the fun that comes with it, the August expense report clearly shows that. Things really are on autopilot for us, as much as I would like to be tweaking things.

We previously pre-paid a couple months of Internet to hit a minimum spend requirement for a credit card bonus, that’s why you don’t see an Internet cost here. We are half heartedly into credit card hacking, but aren’t as committed as many others. Our spending is so low that sign up bonuses are hard to hit without prepaying for things, so we only open 4 cards/year between the two of us.

 

Every month we evaluate our spending to compare, engineer, optimize, and track our spending using Personal Capital. Join us on the adventure to FI! What exciting things did you do this month?

 

*AFFILIATE DISCLAIMER – This website contains endorsements or advertisements for products and services, which means when you click on a link that I recommend, I may receive a commission.

 

2 comments on “August Expense Report – A Trip Up North, Bachelor Party and Trip to Colorado”

  1. You spent only $2,396 and that was a little higher than normal? Nice job! We spend easily over $5000/mo in expenses which is why I still work. Even though I am a little frugal, my wife is not, so there’s a lot of friction at times. I am very impressed that you keep your food and eating-out expenses so low.

    I lived in Colorado for 2+ years and absolutely loved it. My wife can’t drive in the snow (she’s afraid to) otherwise that might be a place I would reside in if not the Pacific Northwest. The first time I visited CO, my buddy and I went up Pikes Peak and for whatever reason jogged to the other side to get a different view. Big mistake! No air. Thought I was going to pass out!

    1. Reply

      We’ve been optimizing for a few years to get our spending down and feel no pressure to continue cutting spending. The only areas left to cut would be to move and drive less!

      Colorado was awesome, but our lungs definitely burned when we got above the tree line!

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