Money well spent March 2020

by Government Worker FI | Last Updated: April 15, 2020

Here’s our “money well spent” spending recap for March 2020. I write these posts to reflect on my life right now and give you insights into our lives and our spending. For a larger explanation of why I write these posts, check out March 2019’s post.

Obviously, March 2020 was a very unusual month for everyone around the world. Mrs. Gov and I still have our jobs. But we’re sheltering in place with our three young kids. Our lives have completely changed since our February 2019 post. Our priorities are different, our lives are different.

My goal, throughout this, has been to make sure everyone in our family is doing the best they can be doing during this time. I want people to be happy and perhaps thrive. For 99.999999% of our lives, Mrs. Gov and I have lived frugally and saved. Now I see no reason to be frugal. If the kids are bored, I’m buying them books. When I realized we could have upwards of 4 Zoom calls at once, I bought a new router. (Best purchase ever!) We’re spending money like never before and I’m okay with it. I am not going to beat myself up over spending money. So- here is our spending report, COVID-19 edition.

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Money well spent- major expenditures in March 2020

Money well spent March 2020 infographic
Here are our numbers for March

Environmental impact

I try to track our environmental impact just as I do with spending. My heart wasn’t really into it this past March. We were marooned at home. I wanted us to be comfortable, temperature-wise. I wanted us to take showers if they would cheer us up. In short, I wasn’t super concerned about how much energy we were using. While I feel slightly guilty about that, I also feel that keeping our thermostat turned up and taking extra showers brought us a lot of joy this past month. And I didn’t have to travel for work, so that’s an environmental positive.

We drove 120 miles this past month. That’s a new personal low for us! I find it hard to believe we drove that far. However, I think it included some trips before the “Safer at Home” order was issued. And we are grocery shopping not just for ourselves but are delivering groceries to a couple of other families as well, taking 3 shopping trips and combining them into a single trip. We don’t drive a lot anyway, but it’s fun to see how few miles we can drive.

Despite not rolling back our thermostat during the day and taking more showers than usual, our numbers suggest we managed to use less natural gas and less electricity than last month (even when adjusted for degree days). However, my utility billing cycle runs from the 15th to the 15th approximately. Therefore, my reported numbers actually don’t include much of our quarantine activities. I’m sure April’s numbers will be a shocker.

Screen time

"Play date" COVID-19 style
“Play date” COVID-19 style

Last month I wrote a really long thing about how each hour on my phone was an hour on this planet that I wasted. I said I was going to report my screen time each month. I LIED. I’ve been checking my phone more during the pandemic. I’m cutting myself some slack. In the future I’ll use it less and I’ll tell you about it. I’m being kind to myself and not even looking at the number.

Groceries

In February, we only spent $430 on food. March was not such a kind month. We spent a whopping $792 on groceries. I think this might have been one of our biggest months ever (and certainly the biggest month since we started using CountAbout to track our expenses). Although this number seems shockingly large to me, it’s still less than the USDA “thrifty” food budget plan of $882 per month (used to determine the food stamp allowance for our size and age of family).

As we were bombarded with pictures of empty grocery shelves on TV, I felt like an idiot for being so frugal on groceries. Eating through the pantry and buying the minimal amount of groceries is a great way to save money… Until a pandemic hits and grocery shopping becomes an Olympic sport. Luckily we’ve been able to find all of the food we need at the grocery store. We’re not hoarding food, but making sure our pantry is well stocked with staples in case there is some reason we won’t be able to make it to the store.

Also, I feel like there is so much that we *can’t* spend money on. If we can buy food, and food is bringing us comfort during this time, then it seems silly not to splurge on food a little bit.

Restaurants

I’m old enough to remember the sentiment after September 11th. It was our patriotic duty to go and spend money. It was important to go to the mall and spend money to show the terrorists that they didn’t win. In many ways, I feel like we’re in the same boat today. It feels like our duty to buy takeout food to help the economy in any way we can. I guess we only spent about $30 on takeout last month, but we usually never spend money on restaurants. I know our April restaurant bill will be higher as well. And I’m okay with that. It’s helping break up our days at home, and it’s helping keep some people employed.

Kids

Are kids expensive? Besides daycare– I think having kids is in many ways, cheaper than advertised (especially when you have more than 1 kid). So I’m sharing our spending in the “kid” category this year.

12 year old with a saw
The 12 year old had a lot of fun using hand tools and building stuff

This past month we spent about $200 on kids. And it was all discretionary. We bought books and puzzles to keep the kids happy. When we started sheltering in place, it felt scary, especially for the kids. Being able to give them small presents that they weren’t expecting was a great comfort to them.

We’re very lucky to be in a position to not have to worry about our spending. And it makes me sad about all of the families who weren’t able to have a magical box from Amazon arrive to make things slightly better.

That being said, our kids are doing great. We’ve all settled into a happy rhythm. And being stuck together as a family has brought out the best in everyone.

GovTween has been using hand tools to build stuff with no supervision. She expanded from the “structure” in my previous post about finding joy when the coronavirus is everywhere to making an actual functional swing and a bench with planters.

wood work
GovTween has converted our front yard (if we even have a yard) into a studio for her woodworking creations.

The younger two are bonding in very adorable ways. The 8-year old is reading to the 4-year old every day. And the 8-year old taught the 4-year old how to ride a pedal bike with no training wheels. It was so sweet- it was really hard to tell who was more proud that day.

Slowing down as a family has allowed us to love each other in new ways. It’s beautiful, really.

Gas & Auto

We spent $185 on car ownership last month even though we barely drove the car! Unfortunately it was our month to renew the car registration. We also filled up the tank once. I think we must be one of the only families in the country who spent more on their cars in March 2020 than February 2020!!

Long term progress

Money well spent March 2020 long term numbers.
Long term progress to financial independence.

Lots of things happened this past month to shake up our FI journey. Our daycare closed, the stock market crashed and then rebounded, and we spent a lot more on “non-essentials”. So our savings rate is higher than last month (because there was less daycare). Our passive income at a 4% withdrawal rate is approximately 35% of our expenses because both our expenses and spending went down. However, our “future % FI” is down quite a bit, since we took a lot of the money we were spending on daycare and spent it on food and kids and other goodies.

So- that’s Money Well Spent, March 2020 edition! How did COVID-19 affect your ? Leave a comment!