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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?