March 2017 Spending and New Habits Update

After our expensive year in 2016, we set ourselves a goal to reduce our spending by 10% in 2017. We want to do this because it has a double effect. Firstly, it frees up more money to invest for our future. Secondly, if we can live on less, then it brings that future much closer. In 2016, we spent $80,000. To generate that using passive income and the 4% rule, we would need $2,000,000 invested!

Last month I got the feeling that March would be spendy… and it has been. We paid our health insurance to put off the price rise for 12 months (but they always get you in the end). We also had a long weekend trip to Mudgee.

Mudgee Trip $659.80

From past experience, I know what we are like when we go away – we eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So for the first time in my life, we went prepared. I didn’t want to spend the money, and I also didn’t want to over-eat. I purchased some Weet-Bix breakfast biscuits, because they are convenient, and you don’t need milk. Also, I took along some fruit. While this certainly contributed to a reduction in the number of meals we purchased (8 vs. 14), we still spent a combined $369.80 on food/alcohol at the pubs! We also spent $290 on accommodation, because we booked late for the meet-up, and it coincided with a weekend where there was a classic car event on in Mudgee as well. There was limited accommodation.

Weet-Bix GO Apple Cinnamon flavoured breakfast biscuits
Apple Cinnamon flavour – they weren’t bad.

Looking back, I know how it happened. We were constantly with a big group of people, so the drinks were flowing at the pubs. We were also making purchases independently of each other, so weren’t communicating as we went along. Lessons learned? Book accommodation early for the group rides to take advantage of cheap prices. I also think we need to take cash to the pub so there is a much better awareness of how much is being spent, in real-time.

Daily Spending Rate

Our daily spending rate in March was an eye-watering $229.36. This brings our average over the year to $192.34, only barely squeezing in under our goal of $194.34. We’re still barely on track to reduce our spending by 10%, fingers crossed April is less spendy!

Food $797.12

Mrs. ETT, you just told us you spent $369.80 on eating out and alcohol! Why isn’t it reflected here? Good question. Initially I had it all broken down into the food category, but that blew all of our numbers out by ridiculous amounts. Then Mr. ETT pointed out that the budget is designed with those limits based on our normal monthly activities. If we wanted to take account of an extraordinary activity like a mini-holiday, then we should have planned ahead and allocated extra money to those categories. The thing is, we already have a category for going away (GTT/Holidays), with its own budget. All spending for the Mudgee weekend has been taken out of that, and in future I will continue to work like this.

So, not taking the holiday into account (is that cheating?), we managed to reduce our total in-month spending compared to February, and we spent less than half of what we spent last year. Crazy what you can achieve when you try, isn’t it!

(If you are unable to see the graph, you can view it on Tableau Public.)


We had a couple of social occasions this month, so the “Groceries Want” category nearly reached the budget limit (we just managed to stay within what we had budgeted). We’ve spent the least this month on “Groceries Need” of the whole year. This is thanks to Aldi, and I think also because I am trying to plan at least one vegetarian meal a week. Not only does this make them cheaper, they seem to stretch a lot further, so we get multiple meals from them.


Not including Mudgee, we only spent $14 this month. Fabulous! In Mudgee, I purchased some liqueur at the Farmers Markets by Baker Williams Distillery. This would have blown our alcohol budget, so I bought them from my personal spends. I do kind of regret it – I should have  waited until Mr. ETT and I go back another time to do the wineries. Then I would have had the experience, as well as the product. I didn’t practice delayed gratification on that one.

Eating Out

For the second month in a row, we barely managed to stay within our budget.  We went out to dinner/lunch with family three times. We also had one weekend where we found ourselves at our major shopping centre. Now we have discovered FI, we barely go there anymore – because there is nothing we really need. Usually the only shopping we do is to the local grocery store. However, we were there, and it was lunchtime, so we decided to get lunch while we were out. It wasn’t planned, or a celebration. It’s almost like we think – look, we’re here, doing stuff we have to do, let’s reward ourselves with lunch. It was OK, but it wasn’t really worth the $40 we spent.

A better choice would have been to visit the noodle place, where we can share one container between the two of us, which would have only cost $13. Of course, the best choice would have been to go home to the lunch we had ready there. Still, the graph is more representative of how I would like to see our eating out spending. This month we mostly spent on experiences together, which better aligns with our values.

Graph of Eating Out Spending based on who spent what.

Insurance $119.60

Wow, who would have thought it would take me so long to wade through Product Disclosure Statements and make decisions? The good news is that I’ve started. The bad news is that suddenly the decision isn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. You’ll hear more when I have finalised what we are going to do, it is definitely a post in its own right.

Gifts and Giving $301.70 Each

March is usually a slow month for gift-giving. This mostly represents the finalised payment of a Christmas gift. I’m sure others put in their share last December, but from the budget point of view, it’s easier to just count the full amount at this time. That means we could give a decent amount to charity, which was to WWF Australia (another of Mr. ETT’s choices – one of my has to come out soon, surely!) and a small donation to Bikers Against Child Abuse, which one of the women was collecting for on the Mudgee weekend.


Urgh, the dreaded annual health insurance price rise. Each year we race down before April 1 to pre-pay for 12 months. It’s just putting off the inevitable, though. Once I wade my way through the Life Insurance Swamp, I think I’ll dive right in to the Bog of Health Insurance. We paid for our annual anti-virus subscription. This is the second month we have gone over in our online subscriptions budget category, so I am going to raise the monthly amount we allocate. We paid for Frank and Jelly’s boarding for the Mudgee trip, along with another planned trip we have coming up.

We also did a little home improvement! Our house has a tendency to shift with the weather, because it is built on clay. The older the house becomes, the more significant the shift. This means that our doors often stick. This time, it had gotten to the point where we couldn’t open the front door from the inside without yanking it, or kicking it open from the outside. On the last day before we decided to enough was enough, we couldn’t open it at all, and I had to leave the house by the backyard and through the side gate!

So, we did what we are learning any good (OK, skill-less but trying) handiperson does and turned to YouTube (thanks Dave’s Door Opening!) For the price of a trip to Bunnings, less than an hour of our time and $3.50, we now have a working front door! I am grateful every morning when I leave for work that I don’t have to fight to get out of the house.

Personal Goals

While I fall within the healthy body weight range, I actually weigh about 10% more than is normal for me, and I’m very unfit. Much like lifestyle inflation can negatively impact your financial future, succumbing to the dreaded middle-aged spread can impact your future health. At the end of last year, through some introspection, I identified that I ate too much. I ate because I was bored, stressed, or when something in the fridge or cupboard caught my eye. I couldn’t remember feeling hungry – I was constantly eating before my body had the chance to fully digest and process my last meal. I decided to try to implement some small changes to habit:

This month I reached halfway to my goal, in that I lost have now 5% of my initial body weight. What was more exciting, though, is that pushed me below a certain decade of kg that I haven’t seen since before I turned 40! Take that, middle-aged spread.

Go for a walk before work one day a week. Result Pass

The weekly walks are going well, and I am definitely fitter than when I started at the beginning of the year. I want to up the stakes a little, but I am limited in the amount of time I can spend because I need to get ready for work. As I can’t walk for longer, I have introduced a small jogging leg. Each walk, at some point, I need to jog at least the distance between one light post and another. The idea will be to slowly increase the distance I am jogging over time. I’m also vaguely possibly barely considering that I might be able to walk twice a week. We’ll see.

Eat less. Result D

Groan. How can someone possibly go backwards in this? I was prepared for overeating in Mudgee, but I actually did quite well. My problem came with my Friday night gaming group, followed by a Saturday board games night. On Friday nights a few of us bring snack food and wine to share. When I decided to eat less, I stopped, but this Friday I left without my dinner, stopped in at the grocery store, and there was my downfall. Straight back to old habits of buying and eating too much junk. Follow that up with the same the next night, and it was a most unhappy Mars. ETT. Where was my willpower? Who does that to themselves, even know that they are going to have to confess it to the world at large on their blog? Am I crazy?

11 thoughts on “March 2017 Spending and New Habits Update

  1. Miss Balance says:

    I wrote a big comment and it error-ed out 🙁

    Now for the recap before I get back to work.

    Weet-bix breakfast biscuits are awesome! I’ll have to keep a look out for that apple and cinnamon flavour, sounds delish.

    Holiday funds are the way to go. It always makes me regular expenses look so good when I’m away, but I do tend to spend more, especially on eating out so I think it skews it to look at it any other way.

    Going to the shops, or to a party on an empty stomach is always a bad idea. If I find myself in this situation I tend to grad sushi or a bread roll, or something else somewhat healthy and filling so I don’t eat/spend too much.

    Have a great day!

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      I’m so sorry, Miss Balance, I hate it when I lose comments! I’m now in the habit of copying them before I submit because I got so frustrated. Of course, I don’t remember every single time, and guess which ones I then lose…

      Thanks for the holiday comment. I really felt a bit like it was cheating, but we want to enjoy ourselves on holidays, and that will definitely mean eating out more!

  2. Get FIRE'd asap says:

    There’s a lot of detail there Mrs ETT so I’ll just comment on a couple of things. Firstly, accommodation when you head away. Are you open to the suggestion of camping when you travel? For $300 to $400 you can get a small but decent tent, air mattress, and some simple cooking gear that would more than suffice for a few nights. I do think that private campgrounds are pretty high priced here in Oz at $35 plus a night but the facilities are generally very good. However, $35 a night is a lot cheaper than $120 a night. What do you think?

    And medical insurance. Since my time in Oz, I’ve found a lot of people have medical insurance here more as a habit than necessity. Looking at the premiums most pay each year, unless you have serious medical issues that rely on insurance, I doubt that most families really need it. If you have a medical emergency here, you’ll be treated in the same hospital whether you have it or not.

    I’m not prying into your health but is this something you could do without and save a heap each year? Or am I a naive kiwi not having insurance hehe?

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      Hahahaha! Mr. ETT will not stay anywhere without his own private toilet. It’s a thing, it’s always been a thing, and that’s cool. So camping is out. We certainly could look at the cabins in caravan parks though – thanks for the reminder. They can still be a more affordable option.

      Darn health insurance. The penalty for leaving if we want to get back in at some stage is pretty high at our age (and some body bits are beginning to break down!) I do need to sit down and assess whether we can get a better price, or whether it’s cheaper overall for one of us to pull out and just pay the penalty when the time comes. We only have the most basic hospital cover we could get when we signed up. I bet there’s a better price out there though.

      • Get FIRE'd asap says:

        Ok, ok, so you’re married to a princess lol. Well for another $150 you can have your own chem-bog and separate dunny tent if he wasn’t going to be tooooo fussy.

        Yeah, I looked at med insurance when I first moved over here and just came to the conclusion that if it was serious enough, I’d be treated anyway in a public hospital. And would just pay for any elective stuff. I’ve been lucky so far. I’m a little bit fit and pretty healthy and don’t have any serious family medical history probs to worry about. Just keep taking the healthy pills and hope I’ll go the full distance.

  3. Adventures With Poopsie says:

    Sounds like a decent month overall. Definitely put your travel costs separately to your normal costs, that’s what we do. This month you’ll see we had a high travel cost (although due to Poopsie being away again, also a high grocery cost).

    Great job on the continuing fitness. Starting to jog between light posts is awesome and a really good way to start. Keep it up!

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      I saw your travel costs, and it makes me feel like ours are pretty normal, which I what I needed to hear. J at It’s Only Money was also talking about not feeling guilty about spending money on travel. Sometimes I get so deep into the FIRE thing that I forget it is OK to enjoy our money too!

  4. weenie says:

    Well done on that weight loss goal, Mrs ETT and hope this continues.

    I’m finding that as I’m spending more time at home, I’m snacking, something I didn’t do when I was at work. My solution is to not have any snacks in the house (once I’ve eaten all the snacks in the house as I don’t want to waste them haha!), or have only stuff like nuts and fruit if I really feel the urge.

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      Thanks Weenie. I was beginning to lose motivation, but your comment has encouraged me to fight harder! We also need to keep the junk out of the house. My willpower is stronger on some days, weaker on other. Our grocery bill has enjoyed it as well. That’s not to say I don’t find myself staring into the cupboard or fridge still, hoping that chocolate or chips will materialise…

  5. J @ Hey, It's Just Money! says:

    That’s a huge drop on expenses, YoY, great job guys! If excluding holiday food and booze is cheating, then I cheated the whole of 2016, because that’s exactly what I did. Heh! Planned expenses worked out very well for me in the end, I’m sure you see the benefits of that too. 🙂 $14 on alcohol for the month, that’s awesome. I don’t drink but my bf does and he spends at least $13 a week on alcohol. We don’t really go out to drink, so I guess that’s okay? Congratulations on your personal goal progress, too! I’ll be looking forward to how much distance you end up jogging daily by the end of the year. Good luck!

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      Hehe, I can see myself making up a new empirical measurement unit of “street lights”! Thanks for sharing about your holiday spending too – the more people that tell me that’s what they do, the better I feel about it. The $14 on alcohol is a big change for us this year – we were spending way too much on something that was becoming a habit instead of something to enjoy. Some nights I think – I really want a glass of wine, but it ends up going away eventually.

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