When I started this blog, I thought I needed to do everything exactly like “successful” personal finance bloggers. That meant writing a detailed post (filled with affiliate links) of everything that I purchased in the past month. I actually wrote posts like that for January and February, but didn’t really enjoy writing them. In fact, I felt uncomfortable sharing that level of detail on our housing and childcare expenses. (Which are astrof*ckingnomical). After having an exestential blogging crisis, I realized that I am really only blogging for my own enjoyment. Therefore, instead of doing a full spending report, I decided to write a “money well spent” post each month.
In my “money well spent” post, I’ll write about what was unique about our spending for that month. And share some details about what we did as a family. Being a father is so much of my life right now (both personally and financially) it feels weird not to write acknowledge it.
So without further ado, here is my money well spent post for March, 2019.
Money well spent- major expenditures in March 2019
I don’t want to just minimize the money we spend, but I’d also like to be frugal in how much we’re taking from the earth. Posting our utility usage helps me be accountable for that. Nothing too different from a normal month. But here are some highlights:
- We used slightly less natural gas since it’s getting warmer outside (slowly). According to our utility we used 8% less natural gas than the average home in our city. But we also don’t have a gas hot water heater, so we’re probably on the average or slightly more.
- We used less electricity in March than February. (about 0.6 kWh/day). This probably from our boiler pump & fireplace blower operating less.
- We drove a little bit more than normal. That’s because we went on “vacation” for spring break.
We spent a lot less than our average ($612) on groceries this month.
- I was on work travel for 10 consecutive days. So there was on less person eating food.
- We did a “meatless March”. Or more accurately a mostly meatless March. We allowed ourselves to eat the meat we had in the refrigerator that would go bad otherwise. And we also bought some lunch meat to take on our spring break trip.
- For the record, I did not go meatless the entire month. It’s hard enough to travel and eat gluten free. It’s even harder to go gluten free vegetarian while eating in restaurants. I know that I can always order a burger without a bun in nearly every restaurant. (I also kept all of my travel expenses off the report since they’re covered by per diem)
Normally we just avoid restaurants (6 month average restaurant bill is $26/month). However, we decided to do some fun things with the kids for their spring break. We spent the first 4 weekdays at home with the kids- grandparents watched them for 2 days and I watched them for 2 days.
- During one my days with them, we met my wife for lunch at the Indian buffet restaurant near her work. It’s a special treat to go there and the kids typically enjoy the all-you-can-eat nature of it. I can’t speak for my wife but I didn’t find it as enjoyable as usual. Our middle child was *very* excited about the desserts and kind of impatient to get to that part of the meal. As often happens, while taking the kids out for something special *sounds* fun, it turns out to be a lot less fun while it’s actually happening. Furthermore, I always have this moment where I think, “we spent how much to suffer through a meal in public”?
- I also took the girls out for ice cream one day. That was enjoyable.
- At the end of the month, I was sick in bed so my wife took the girls out for pizza so I could rest in bed. I’m not sure if the kids enjoyed the pizza, but I would have gladly paid $20 for the recovery quiet time. (Did I mention I’m married to a saint???)
Dates are absolutely the best thing we spend money on every month. I *love* my wife. I love spending time with her. Unfortunately we both work, I have to travel, and the kids are so full of life that we don’t get as much time as we’d like to talk and hang out and catch up.
We’re pretty good about having “at home” dates after the kids go to bed, but it’s fun to have extra time away from together too. This month we had the babysitter come in the afternoon and we went for a bike ride, grabbed a pitcher of cider, and relaxed for a few hours before coming home, putting the kids to bed, and then continuing hanging out after they went to bed.
It seemed like in February the weekend days were *too long* with parenting and we’d be frequently burned out and crabby by the time they were in bed. I liked this mid-day date because neither of us lost our cool all weekend.
Oh man. I could write a thousand word post about this. But we decided to take the kids to Chicago over spring break for an overnight trip. Here are some frugality wins:
- We got into the Museum of Science and Industry free with our local children’s museum’s reciprocal benefits.
- We packed all of our food- picnic lunches. Dinner was spaghetti cooked in the kitchen of our hotel room. We like to stay in the Home2Suites chain by Hilton since their pools open at 6 AM (our kids wake up EARLY) and they have cooking space.
- Really our only expenses were parking and hotel. And maybe a swimsuit?Not sure how that number came out to $215.
Anyway, it was cheap. The trip was less than enjoyable because :
- I started to come down with a horrible sickness that the kids were recovering from. Our single hotel room was a cacophony of coughs all night. I didn’t sleep well.
- The Science and Industry Museum was packed solid. Like maybe the fire marshal should have come to see if it was unsafe. I think this was because we went during spring break??? But basically we couldn’t do or see anything because it was too crowded or the lines were too long. I remember this museum being awesome as kid but it kind of disappointed as an adult.
- The kids were *so excited*. Even when I’m feeling 100%, I am not as patient as I should be with excited kids. With me walking around with a giant headache, sore throat, and the start of a fever, I was wreck.
I feel bad that the kids didn’t get the experience I’d hope we’d have had as a family. But I think we learned some lessons and it didn’t really cost that much…
Long term progress
We were able to save 54% of our income this month (I include our mortgage principal payments as “savings”). I think that’s pretty good given our childcare outlays.
Our monthly snapshot at how close to FI we are looks good. I like to measure it two different ways. Our two biggest expenses are childcare and mortgage. If we retire early, we won’t need to pay for childcare. Also, since we are planning on paying off our house before achieving FI, we won’t have principal and interest payments on our house at that time. So I calculate our current & “expected” percent FI.
We’re definitely making progress towards our goals. Since FI needs to wait until mortgage payoff which is about 4 years away, I’m not too concerned about the actual percentages.