May 2017 Spending and New Habits

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!

Daily Spending Rate

May was a return to normal after our holiday in New Zealand. And when I say normal, I actually mean expensive. We had two big bills, and two unexpected expenses. Our daily spending rate goal is $194.34; we managed to spend $204.19. That’s a big ouch, and up goes our cumulative daily spending rate to $183.14. Yes, we are under target, but I know of another big bill due in June. The only thing that’s kept us on track is that I specifically excluded our 2 week holiday in April from the goal.

Graph of Cumulative 2017 Daily Spending Rate.

One happy surprise is that I received some leave loading paid as a lump sum. That was an extra pre-tax $400. Pretty good for taking a holiday! For readers who don’t have leave loading, it is a remnant of the unionised workforce from the 1960s. The idea was that men who took holidays shouldn’t have reduced pay due to missed opportunities to earn overtime, so 17.5% was added to holiday pay-packets. While of course I enjoy benefitting from this, it does now seem like an outdated concept. In these days (years) of stagnant wages, though, it’s very welcome. In case you are wondering why you’ve never seen this, leave loading is not a standard offering in Australia. Only some awards contain the provision.

Food $949.78

Unbelievable. Below budget, but our most expensive month in the year so far. This is partially to do with the break in routine when returning from our holiday. I also stocked up to feed 9 people for a meal next month.

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

Groceries

We just managed to squeeze under budget in the “Groceries Want” category, but our “Groceries Need” went over by $3.10! This happened because Mr. ETT only updates the budget weekly. We could easily have not purchased a sale item to have kept it below budget. Lesson for me – when we seem to be getting towards the upper end of our budget, I need to see what I can do to encourage more frequent updates. We are continuing to meal plan one vegetarian meal a week (which usually covers 2 meals). We’ve mostly been enjoying our discoveries. Mr. ETT wasn’t keen on the mushroom and black-eye bean burger – he refused to eat them for a second meal. I didn’t mind them, so ate them for three meals. I’m a bit like Mrs Picky Pincher was – I’ll pretty much eat food no matter how it turns out.

YNAB Food Spending Categories. Groceries Need is in red, as we overspent.
It’s red! That means we have to roll with the punches and move money from another category to cover the overspend.

Alcohol

While I haven’t cracked them open, and therefore can’t attest to their quality (or otherwise), I picked up two bottle of red wine from Aldi for $6.68. No, that’s not each. That was the total for two bottles. That’s just crazy! I have slowly been upping my wine drinking, so need to focus on bringing it down again next month. I’m letting myself get back into the habit of having a glass of wine after work. There is no good reason for this, and it needs to stop.

Eating Out

I actually thought that this would be more than it was – it appears that this is one category where we did just return to normal routine. That’s not to say that we don’t need to work on reducing this. We do. Also, look at the breakdown. It’s the total opposite to March, where a lot of the spending was Mr. ETT and I eating out together. This month the only “together” spending was some hot chips I bought as a side for a home-cooked meal. You can clearly see evidence of my blowout here. This month’s pie chart has made me sad.

Graph of Eating Out Spending based on who spent what.

Gifts and Giving $55.98/$108

Not too much in the gifts department this month, so the giving has outstripped it. We didn’t draw from a hat, because I was home for the Salvos Doorknock Red Shield Appeal, which made it very easy to donate. I only purchased one Big Issue magazine – I don’t see my vendor for the second issue this month. There was also a small donation to Gold Coast Cat Rescue, as part of the check-out process for my online cat food supplier.

General

Our two big known expenses were Home and Contents Insurance (keep an eye out for some upcoming posts), along with registration of my car. It is SO expensive to own a car, even an older model. My rego check, pink-slip and greenslip totalled a massive $1136! Also, the registration was due on a Monday. I left it until Friday to pay – still three days in advance, no worries. Except, if you pay by credit or debit card, there is a surcharge. I could have used BPay, however that takes 3 days to clear, and when two of them are over the weekend… surcharge it had to be, because I couldn’t risk my car being unregistered. I have put a note in for next year to make sure I pay it well in advance.

The first unexpected expense was for our NRMA Roadside Assistance membership. A 3 year renewal came up for Mr. ETT’s motorbike (well, we didn’t have to pay for three years, but that is the cheapest unit cost option). They also notified us that membership for our two cars is due in June. I hadn’t thought about it previously because we renew for 5 years each time. I’ve now added an extra line item in the budget to cover the payment when it next comes due in 2022.

The Saga of the Clothes Dryer

The second unexpected expense came when Mr. ETT went to use the clothes dryer (he should have hung them up inside instead…) Anyway, it wouldn’t work. When he pulled the lint filter out, it was full. This isn’t something that we allow to happen, we think that our house guests may have used it. Anyway, I decided I’d pull the back off just to look at the motor. I couldn’t see or smell anything wrong. What I didn’t realise is that the barrel attaches to the back panel, and once that was out of alignment, it was never going back!

Back of our clothes dryer. Doesn't look like anything is wrong.
Even at over 15 years old, it still looks in great condition.

We diagnosed that we couldn’t fix it, so researched a new one. They have certainly changed in the last 15 years. Mr. ETT asked what I wanted, and I said “cheap”. We’re lucky if we use it 4 times a year, so fancy would be a waste. After research, we settled on a slightly more expensive, yet also more energy-efficient, model. While searching for the best price, I remembered that my Union offers access to the Good Guys Commercial. I was able to purchase our new dryer for $60 cheaper than anywhere else that was practicable for us, and we could go and pick it up the next day.

The motor in our dryer. Doesn't look burned out.
Doesn’t really look or smell like it’s broken. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t?!

Now for the sucky bit… we put the old one out the front, relying on the neighbourhood to dispose of it for us (it took 3 whole days this time). Before it disappeared, Mr. ETT was idly flicking through the manual and read about the reset button. He went out the front, pressed it… and it clicked. By then it was way too late, I’d basically destroyed it. What a waste! We should have RTFM first!

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:

While on holiday, I definitely put on weight, but not too much. What was worse is when we returned, it took me nearly 2 weeks to pull myself together and shake the bad habits it seems so easy to fall back into. I finally managed, but have learned that routine and habit are key factors to my success when it comes to self-discipline. I need to further explore what this will mean for me when it comes time to step away from the structured working world into the self-directed world of retirement. Luckily that is over a decade off, so I’ve got time to put checks and balances in place for myself.

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

I’ve decided I am no longer going to report on this. Like giving up sugar in my coffee, I now feel that this is an embedded habit that I don’t need to struggle with to complete. I jog each time I walk, and push myself to go just that bit further when tired. Even getting up on the cold winter mornings hasn’t been too much of a struggle, because in a way, I look forward to it. That means my one and only focus for change becomes…

Eat less. Result C

As discussed above, habit is clearly a strong predictor of success for me here. I’m doing OK with breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon piece of fruit/yoghurt while at work. It’s coming home where I’ve slackened off. I might have a glass of wine. I have definitely been eating bigger meals (I think it is to do with the cold weather, but I’m seriously not that hungry). Some nights I have gone to bed with a cup of hot Milo. Delicious, but these are kilojoules my body doesn’t need, and (aside from dinner), aren’t contributing to good nutrition in any way.

I really, really want to reach my goal weight. I’m not that far off, and I am sick of not having clothes that fit. I don’t want to buy new ones, though, until I have finished losing weight and stabilise. To that end, I am setting a more specific goal:

By July 31st, 2017, I will lose 2kg by continuing a reasonable level of exercise, and eating less (particularly at night after work).

This is definitely achievable with discipline. It’s only 250g/week – the weight of a single cup of water. I can do it!

Affiliate plug!

I use, and totally love, YNAB to track my spends and budget. Mr. ETT doesn’t exactly love it, but he does use it – super important when more than one person is involved in spending money. YNAB offers a 34 day free trial period. If you try YNAB and after your free 34 days, you love it as much as I do, then by signing up through this link, both of us will get a free month in our subscriptions!

12 thoughts on “May 2017 Spending and New Habits

  1. Steve from Arkansas says:

    Ok, as an old guy from rural USA my clueless opinion includes two observations. One, you guys spend a fortune eating out. Two, exercise needs to be vigorous and five to seven days a week to offset a sedentary office job. That’s just my free opinion worth exactly what it cost. I’m early retired and FI mostly due to being a frugal high earner. Still getting up to run at 4:50am with my wife even though we are retired.

    • Hey Steve! Welcome, and thanks for commenting. You are absolutely right – we do spend way too much eating out. We succumbed to lifestyle inflation, and it is difficult to go back. I am working on constant improvement – as you can see, we are only spending 30% of what we were spending in 2016 – but we have quite a way to go. It’s convincing Mr. ETT not to buy lunch at work…

      I get up at 4:50am every weekday. One of those days I go for my walk/building to a jog. I could exercise every morning, but if I did then I wouldn’t be able to blog, or complete my volunteer work tasks. I’ve struck the right balance for me right now. I have plans to work part-time in the future, and further exercise is definitely something that will be prioritised.

      I appreciate hearing your thoughts, and massive congratulations on being early retired. I’m curious – what is your definition of old? We are starting late (mid-forties), so I’m always interested in people who didn’t retire by 30.

      • Steveark says:

        I retired when I turned 60 but could have retired much earlier. I really enjoyed work as one of my favorite hobbies until the last couple of years then it was time to go. My pay basically doubled the last four years due to ownership changes and promotions so I stayed around partly because it was hard to walk away from what seemed like ridiculously high pay. Then I finally realized I had about a 100% safety margin and retired.That was a year and a half ago. I am enjoying 4 paid side gigs now and seven volunteer ones but still work well less than half a normal work week.

        • Your retirement sounds ideal (although as discussed in a previous post, I know I can’t just take other people’s retirements and plonk them on my life.) we are working on being able to retire at 60, but I also enjoy my work at the moment. I’m hoping that in the next few years a move to part-time will give me a better balance, earlier. Thanks for telling your story!

    • Yes, that’s the same for us! My car is older and worth much less, yet costs more to insure. I’m not yet at the stage where I drop full comprehensive and move to third party, but it’s probably only a couple of years off.

    • Thanks Mrs. Picky! We’re not too bad these days; it’s pretty rare now that we find something isn’t to our taste. I just don’t want to waste the food, money, or time spent preparing it if it isn’t absolutely terrible.

      Thanks for your tips on keeping vege scraps to make stock – I’ve started collecting, so we’ll see how we go.

  2. Ahhh! We are the same! Our eating out expenditure is so high as we succumbed to lifestyle inflation and our love for trying new exciting things. We have been cutting down drastically tho some months we fall back into our old habits. Whoops. You are doing brilliantly tho!

    • Hi Pia! It kinda sucks that it’s harder to do the right thing, and so much easier to slip back into bad habits. Thanks for the support. I checked out your blog – those illustrations are gorgeous! It’s a beautiful looking blog, and I love the name as well. I’ve added you to my RSS Reader, and I look forward to reading posts on whatever it is you feel you want to blog about.

  3. That food spending graph: that’s huge drop from May 2016! You guys are doing so well, keep it up!

    We also tend to spend a bit in eating out, though we only really do it on weekends. We’re a lot better these days, but that’s only because my partner is being good as he’s motivated to lose weight.

    I’m keen to know how that Aldi wine tastes. That’s so cheap! I don’t drink often but my partner does (not these days though) and he buys Blackstone Paddock’s The Player from Aldi. It’s cheap-ish but not $6.8 for two bottles cheap.

    Good luck with your fitness goals, you can defnitely do it!

    • Honestly, I look at those numbers from last year, and have no idea how we could possibly have spent that much. It almost feels as if they are fake amounts (but unfortunately, I know they aren’t.) We were crazy, we just didn’t know it at the time.

      I opened one bottle of red, and I have to say it was just fine (note that we aren’t wine connoisseurs, I either like something or I don’t). I’d buy it again as a “have at home” bottle, although now I can’t remember what it was! I’ll have to take note next time.

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