September 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!

Urgh, this was a month of excess and things breaking down. Also, there was a mix-up with my pay at work, so it arrived over a week late. While this has no practical implications for us (it affected December’s budgeting) we spent $400 more than Mr. ETT earned. While I know (cerebrally) that we can’t live our current lifestyle on one pay, this made it real. I sense a goal for 2018…

Daily Spending Rate

Despite all the repairs we needed to affect this month, yet again we stayed under our daily spend rate. Once more, I believe that’s because we had no annual bills to pay, which always takes a big chunk out. 3 months to go!

Graph of Cumulative 2017 Daily Spending Rate.

Our Budget

As I reflected after one year of blogging, I want to be more transparent in reporting our numbers. This is the first step – everything we budgeted and everything we spent via our top-level YNAB categories.

Top-level YNAB Categories - Budgeted and Spent.
Top-level YNAB Categories – Budgeted and Spent.

Food $1063.62

YNAB Food Categories - 3 out of 4 are overspent.
I don’t like red. I don’t like what it says about us.

I’m really cranky with us. Another month way above $1,000. Clearly we had no self-control. This behaviour is not just damaging financially, it’s damaging to our health. We’ve got to stop. If nothing changes, then nothing is going to change. I’m going to institute a weekly budget food meeting, so we can talk about what’s going on as it happens


We spent less than budgeted for Groceries Need, but we overspent on Groceries Want – the junk food. Writing up this post, I can’t even tell you it was for anything specific. It’s just junk that we had at home. Even so, altogether we spent less than our budget, so I’ll grudgingly accept that as a win while working to make sure it doesn’t happen in October.


OMG. Most of this was to buy spirits for a get-together with friends where we made cocktails. Was it a fun night? Yes. Was it worth what we spent? No. While shopping for this, Mr. ETT called to say a particular bottle I like was on super special, did I want that to keep at home? Stupidly, I said yes. I should have been stronger.

Mr. ETT also went out a few times for a beer. That didn’t add up to much, though. Then right at the end of the month, he bought another bottle of spirits to drink at home. It’s all too much. We had to cover some of this from our “Stuff I Forgot To Budget For” category, the first time this year. We talked about how we could have invested that money for our future; both of us were regretful.

This is the first time our 2017 spending has exceeded our 2016 spending.

Eating Out

Last month I realised that I should be quarantining Eating Out money for a café or restaurant that we visit together. Like pay yourself first, but for food. My plan worked! Well, almost. On day 1, I put a fake entry into our eating out budget as a holding amount for the restaurant we were going to during the month. It turns out that for this particular restaurant, I didn’t quarantine enough, and we still spent over budget.

There’s a couple of wins here, though. Firstly, look at the pie chart. For the first time, our together spending outweighs either of our individual spending. That, my friends, is an example of spending matching our values. Secondly, although we went over budget, this is the reduced budget I implemented last month. If we were to look back to July then it only came in $5 over. I know this sounds like cheating, but I really feel that without going to a super expensive restaurant this month, we’d be fine. Mr. ETT continued to take his lunch each day. Winning!

Graph of Eating Out Spending based on who spent what.

Gifts and Giving $23.99 Each

A very small month on the gifts and giving front, which is unfortunate because I drew out Tassie Devils. Mr. ETT particularly loves Tassie Devils, and we spent a wonderful afternoon at Devils@Cradle, a sanctuary at Cradle Mountain that contributes to conservation and research. Actually, I decided to increase this with my spending money to $50, for which you can “adopt” a particular Devil for a year.



The mixer tap in our kitchen became loose, so was swivelling around. I found the excellent video below (yes, FIREstarter, it’s another Aussie “how-to” video!), picked up some mixer tap spanners for $10.50, and in about 5 minutes, Mr. ETT had fixed it! We tried asking around but couldn’t find anyone who had a set. Purchasing the spanners was worth it for us, because we know it will happen again. We have them stored right under the sink, ready for next time.

The stupid pop-up plug in our bathroom sink also broke. I’ve never liked that thing from the beginning. I got home from work one day to find Mr. ETT drawing on more of his new-found plumbing skills to replace it. Our bathroom installer had used silicon to put it in place. Apparently to do the job properly, you need a special plumbers putty. Unfortunately, try as we might we couldn’t find anyone who had some, or anywhere to buy it – even the local plumbing supply store didn’t stock it. I drew the line at ordering it from England, so we went the old route and used silicon as well.

Tools for fixing the bathroom sink.
We borrowed the large wrench from our next door neighbours.

A Fallen Tree

A tree fell on our house! I got up that morning, let the cats out and pottered for a couple of hours before Mr. ETT woke up. He said “Did you hear the wind last night? There was also a big bang. Maybe something in the laundry fell over.” I hadn’t heard anything! When I walked out into the back yard, there was the tree.

Luckily there was no damage, but it was heavy. Also lucky we get on with those neighbours as well.

Once upon a time, this would have completely thrown us. We would have called an emergency tree lopper on a Sunday when everyone else was calling them, and paid a fortune. Instead, we stood and contemplated it for a while, then decided to go in for a good breakfast and a coffee. After breakfast, we came out and just tackled it.

Mrs. ETT on the roof using a chainsaw to cut branches.
I didn’t realise just how dangerously I was behaving. Not safe, Mrs. ETT. Not safe.

It wasn’t big enough to do any damage, thankfully, but it did tear the cat netting. I climbed on the roof and cut off as many branches as I could reach, but we decided that the trunks were too heavy for us to handle. Also, we didn’t want to risk damaging the netting any more, so we did call in the experts – for the next week, when no one was in a rush.

Cut branches from the tree.
The results of our work removed much of the weight of the tree on the roof.

The change in our attitudes since discovering FI has been amazing. It’s not just about money – we are becoming more competent human beings!

Retire Early Goal

On a happy note, we have now saved enough to retire 2 years early, based upon our 2016 spending.

We can retire early by 2 years.

Personal Goals

Two wins and a big fail this month. For those of you that know me, you won’t be surprised that my fail was …


I had a HUGE fail on the exercise front. Not only did I not start the 7 minute workout once a week, I didn’t go for a walk for three whole weeks, AND I fell back into old eating habits. Luckily, I reached a point where I started feeling bad, so I simply started again. It really was as easy as that. I went for my walk. I stopped eating crap. This seems to be one case where hedonic adaptation has worked in my favour. I’ve adapted to feeling well, and it didn’t seem to take too many weeks of being off the wagon before I was prompted to do something about it. I’m sticking with my original goal, which means for October I need to jump straight to doing the workout twice a week.

Grow Fresh Herbs

My herbs LIVE! I nearly had a heart attack when I came out one day to find them looking like this…

Thirsty herbs vs. watered herbs
The difference in these photographs is only 2 days.

Turns out, they needed water. I’m slowly beginning to learn how much the pot should weigh when they are happily watered, although they’ve drooped another couple of times. At the moment with the heat I’m watering them every couple of days. I also used them in a recipe, but when it came time to harvest, I didn’t want to cut them! It seems counterintuitive that I’m so worried about keeping them alive, then I take sharp pointy objects to their beautiful new shoots…

Maintain Friendships

I called one of my school friends for her birthday in September, and another friend I haven’t spoken to for a while. There are no birthdays in October, so I will just have to pick up the phone and connect.

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 spends money. YNAB offers a 34 day free trial period. If you try YNAB and 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!

Only 3 months left for 2017 – how are your goals coming along?

17 thoughts on “September 2017 Spending and New Habits

  1. Pia says:

    Look at those herbs go!! I also love that chart thing you have going on with tableau – but it seems it’s a paid product unless I’m mistaken? That’s pretty awesome you got on the roof and did it yourself. I’m terrified of heights – there would be no roof climbing for me! But I’d probably be ringing up one of my friends who is handy and putting on my best “please help me” voice, haha. So well done to you!

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      I know, Pia! I’m so surprised at what I can do when I actually pay just a bit of attention to the poor things.

      Tableau is mostly a paid product, but they have a free version that has way more functionality than I’ll ever need. Check it out – Tableau Public.

      When we found the trunks were too heavy for us, we considered calling some friends to come help. I’m glad we didn’t though, because the professionals came with ropes and climbing equipment and it was all done quickly. Also, they had the chipper so all of the cut pieces were taken away.

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

    Congratulations on consistently hitting your daily spending target! You guys are doing really, really well. That together spending thing put a smile on my face. I’m happy whenever we achieve our financial goals, but I’m always happier when we achieve them by working well together.

    We’ve been spending a bit more on alcohol these days, too. We really picked up interest in wine (tasting) and have bought a few bottles from wineries + a case from VinoMofo. The only difference is we don’t drink them right away.

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      Thanks J. I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to get our priorities right. I find the whole “what are your values” question to be quite nebulous. It was difficult to pin down what our values are, but when we were out together, experiencing this new restaurant, we both had such a great time that it cemented it for us. Yes – this is what we want to spend our money on.

      Your alcohol spending is aligning with your values – it’s not just wine, it’s an activity and education. Ours is just… alcohol. That’s why I want to work on it. I used to buy from Naked Wines. When we reach our goals, that’s something I’m going to go back to, because I loved the whole experience. I just couldn’t justify $40 a month while we were striving for FI.

  3. Sophei @ Basic Finance Care says:

    When we do some budgeting plan, some unwanted expenses come to our way. It’s very important to track the spending and budget when more than one person spends money. I never tried YNAB for tracking. But I will try it next month.

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      I’ve been tracking for nearly 2 years now, and there are still expenses I haven’t thought about. They have a category of “Stuff I Forgot To Budget For” to help with this. YNAB really does help with the two of us. Try it for free for a month to see if it works for you.

  4. thefirestartercouk says:

    Thanks for the mention and link through, that made me chuckle 🙂

    Looks like you are giving the old DIY a good bash, nice one!

    The tree thing may have been dangerous but living in safety bubble all the time sure gets boring fast! Obviously there is a middle ground there though haha.

    I wouldn’t get too wound up about the food overspend. Unless you are eating McDonalds daily which I presume you aren’t then a bit of junk food every so often surely won’t hurt… just get on the exercise instead like you mentioned, that will get the endorphins flowing and lift you up and then you can indulge a bit without feeling so bad (that’s what I do anyway!)

    I think you’re food spend seems about similar to ours but it’s hard to compare as it’s in aussie $$… I think you might even be beating us soundly in fact!
    Overall though it looks like we spend roughly the same, except I spend money on the kid rather than the furry kind of friends 🙂

    One question, I presume “Savings” is saving for future spending like a holiday or something and so that won’t get included in the savings rate figure? And the Investments would (I see you haven’t actually calculated one, do you do that privately or just find it not useful?


    • Mrs. ETT says:

      My chainsaw adventure looked even worse in the light of Mrs. Frugalwoods latest post. I’m pretty sure that “on a roof with bare feet” doesn’t meet her stipulation of “Do not even THINK about using a chainsaw without the appropriate training and safety gear”!

      We’re not eating takeaway, but we are eating too much junk food, especially for the amount of exercise we don’t do. We need to just not put it in the trolley. If it’s not in the house, then I don’t eat it with no brain/willpower involved. Once it’s in the pantry and I know it’s there… I’ve been better this last week in resisting. As you said, starting up my exercise again will definitely help too.

      I don’t calculate our savings rate, because I get depressed when I compare to others. I’m not driven by competition (I’d be crap at sports – oh here, let me help you get that ball in that net!) For me, it acts as demotivation so I’d rather not do it. But you’re right. I wouldn’t count our Savings (which is actually mostly for a holiday to the UK next year! It’s also for a future car replacement, and random home repairs), and I would count our Investments. If it were all going to investment, it wouldn’t be too bad. We’ve decided that we’d rather take it slower and continue to do things than push for FIRE in 10 years.

      • thefirestartercouk says:

        Sounds like you’re on a similar path to myself… Nothing wrong with the tortoise way of getting there hey 🙂

        Eep… bare foot and chainsaw doesn’t sound too good on second thoughts!

  5. Strong Money Australia says:

    Wow great job on the tree!
    I admire your detailed tracking, and your herb growing!
    We’re growing a few things at the moment, my partner absolutely loves it. A very productive and healthy hobby indeed 🙂
    Staying under budget nicely overall, keep up the good work.

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      Thanks SMA – I still go out every morning with trepidation, wondering if I’ve somehow managed to kill the poor things overnight. Are you guys growing herbs or vegetables, (or flowers)?

      TBH, I was surprised again that we were under budget. I know there’s a couple of spendy months towards the end of the year, so it’s really important we keep October low as well to prepare for them.

      • Strong Money Australia says:

        Greens, chillis and small fruit trees mainly. Flowers too though. It’s an easy present to get Mrs SMA!
        All in pots, in a courtyard of a townhouse. We may move soon to have a backyard 🙂

        For sure, end of the year can blow out easily with gifts, celebrations etc. Good idea to brace for it lol

  6. weenie says:

    Hi Mrs ETT

    Congrats on saving enough to retire early by 2 years! That must be a great feeling! And well done on keeping to the spending budget. It is hard to get out of the bad habit of buying junk food – I know for a fact that I used to waste a lot of money on junk food but it did take effort and willpower (and time) to change my ways. Maybe just making small improvements is the way to go, instead of going cold turkey?

    Oooh, my toes just curled up in horror at the thought of you wielding a chainsaw in barefeet!!! Please say you won’t be doing that again!

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      Thanks Weenie – it was a pretty good realisation, but now it’s straight on to aiming for 3 years. We should get a bit of a boost as well, once I reevaluate our spending for 2017. I just work on the assumption that we won’t drop a dollar of spending in our post-retired life. It’s a safety net to ensure we’ll have enough.

      Great suggestion on cold turkey – I asked Mr. ETT to stop spending money on junk food, and was met with a most unimpressed husband. I will take your advice and change my request to “just put one thing back”, and see how we go!

      I had no shoes on because I get a much better grip on the roof without them. When I’ve been up before, it’s slippery when I wear shoes so I thought the risk of falling in this case was much higher than chopping my toes off with a chainsaw. But writing that sentence shows me that the consequences of the latter are probably much more significant than the former 😱. Definitely a bad idea that I won’t repeat.

  7. Miss Balance says:

    “For the first time, our together spending outweighs either of our individual spending. That, my friends, is an example of spending matching our values.” <– I love this!! That’s what it is all about to me. Lining up your spending with your values and enjoying what you have.

    Well done on keeping your herbs alive. Mine are well and truly dead and buried now….it didn’t take me long at all :/

    Good on your for in-sourcing so much work this month! Just remember to do it safely 😉

    I can’t buy junk food or else I will eat it all. If it isn’t in the house then I don’t seem to have the same temptation. Perhaps you could slowly swap junk for healthier options. Lots of cut up fruit/veggies with dips, or cheese and crackers, fresh popcorn only takes a few minutes. That way your favourite things become a real treat rather than an expectation and you will enjoy them more (as will your wallet and your waistline)

    • Mrs. ETT says:

      Oh no! Shh, don’t tell Mr. B. Poor herbs, and poor you. I know what it feels like.

      I thought “popcorn is a great idea!”… until I remembered that Mr. ETT doesn’t like popcorn, and it’s he that is having trouble giving it all up. I’m like you – not in the house, not in my mind. Well, a little in my mind. I stare in the pantry and when nothing materialises I eventually go off and find something that distracts me and I forget about the craving.

      We’re going to try your’s and Weenie’s suggestion. Instead of buying chocolate and chips and ice-cream and custard, we’ll drop one item off the list (to start. I still prefer cold turkey). We do like cheese and bikkies and hummus, maybe that would be an OK substitute for him. We can only try!

      • Miss Balance says:

        haha yes, don’t tell Mr B. It is currently hidden behind the curtains ‘on the windowsill’ but I should sneak it to the bin…

        Oh darn – Mr B. doesn’t like popcorn either. I quite like it. Let us know how you go trying to put 1 thing back.

Activate Communications!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.