January 2018 Spending and New Habits

In 2017, we spent $64,000 on everyday expenses. In 2018 we have the goal to be able to live off one wage, or $60,000. To generate that using passive income and the 4% rule, we’ll still need $1,500,000 invested! Every dollar less we spend is another dollar we don’t have to save up for in retirement.

ETT 2018 Spending Goal - $60,000

Not a good start to the year. Our Net Worth dropped and the number of days to retirement increased. Let’s hope we can turn it around!

Graph of decreasing Net Worth over 4 weeks in January.
That’s a fast downward trajectory.

Daily Spending Rate

Armed with our new goal, we immediately had a massive spending month. Even including our holiday, in 2017 we only spent $193 a day. This is going to take some work to recover from…

Graph of Cumulative 2018 Daily Spending Rate.
That red dot really needs to come crashing down.

Our Budget

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

Top-level YNAB Categories - Budgeted and Spent.

In my 2018 Spending Goals post, I identified three areas of spending I thought we could cut to reach our goal:

Food $718.39

We came in under-budget for 3 of the 4 categories, yay! Why the discrepancy in amount between the screenshot above and my title? Regarding alcohol, Mr. ETT wanted to purchase some beer at Aldi. We looked at the budget while standing in the queue (thanks, YNAB) and realised it would go over. He decided that he still wanted the beer enough that he would cover the remainder from his personal spending. This is how budgeting should work—making informed decisions based on values before making the purchase. He repaid the extra $ after the end of the month.

On the first of each month, I look ahead and quarantine eating out money for planned social activities by adding fake budget entries. This means we know exactly how much is left for coffee, or any spontaneous purchases. Once we attend the lunch or dinner, I update the line item to reflect the actual amount spent, along with the date we spent it.

Clothes $34.85

We have a budget of $350 this year for underwear and essentials (all other clothes come from our individual spending). Mr. ETT bought a bucket of earplugs for motorbike riding; we have $315.15 left for the rest of the year.

Transport

I originally stated we could drop spending by $1,100 as we won’t be paying 5 yearly NRMA membership. This is a false economy, though. Really, we are still ‘spending’ 20% of it this year, regardless of whether it actually left our account. We’ll have to find the savings elsewhere.

Gifts and Giving

Still drawing from our list of charities for 2017. This month we donated to the RSPCA. While there, I also signed their petition to “improve layer hen welfare, and end the battery cage”. I always buy free-range eggs, but not free-range chickens. Because I buy half-price meat, I take whatever is marked down. This is something I need to compromise on—I value spending less money, but I also value animal welfare. I’ve got some thinking to do…

RSPCA Hens Out of Cages

General

I thought I might start reporting on our spending in terms of the number of days early retirement it costs us. Some of these items are essentials—there’s no way to avoid them, so counting the cost in days is pointless. However, I’m hoping to embed the concept that the way we choose to spend our money now has a direct correlation to how long we have to work in the future. Calculations are based on 2017’s Daily Spend Rate of $193.

NAS (Network Attached Storage) = $1,676 (9 working days early retirement)

This is one of the big spending items that has been on our list for a long time. Mr. ETT saw a great deal, and decided it was time to purchase. I’ll let him tell you what it’s for:

“We purchased a QNAP NS-451A NAS bundled with 4 x 6TB Seagate IronWolf hard drives. I like the QNAP operating system and use it at work. I set it up in a RAID 10 configuration, so although that halves the 24TB of usable storage, it gives the redundancy of 2 drives being able to fail within the NAS without any loss of data. The model has a card reader so a camera memory card can be directly inserted into the NAS to download photographs, and it has a USB 3 port on the front so it can be connected to a PC or Mac to function as a DAS (Direct Attached Storage) should our router die and the network go down. At the back is a couple of USB ports so a backup of the NAS can be taken to an external USB drive (you can’t have enough backups).

This means we can centralise data from all our devices and know that it is backed up. We don’t need to worry about what happens if an individual computer dies. It is easier to refresh operating systems on existing computers, or rebuild them without worrying about lost data. It’s also cool to be able to use features like its media centre capabilities: run slideshows on the TV in the lounge, or play music from any network connected device in the house.

The model had good reviews and seemed to be the best fit for what I intended it to be able to do.”

Network Attached Storage Unit
This thing weighs far more than you think it would.

Dentist = $1,029 (5 working days early retirement)

Mr. ETT went to the dentist for the first time in 11 years. So far it has cost $1,029. He had another appointment in the first week of February, and apparently has a lot more work that needs doing. Cheeky bugger tried turning our newfound frugality against me when he logically reasoned that over 11 years the cost so far could be amortised to only $93 per year! Can’t really argue with that one…

Pest Man $490 (3 working days early retirement)

We got a pest man. The ants have been going crazy over the past few years. We finally got sick enough of being bitten when putting clothes on the line that we called someone. I haven’t done it before because: I worried about the effect on our dogs or cats; we like having spiders around; and I was scared we might have termites.

We have friends who spent thousands of dollars remediating termites, so I was hiding my head in the sand. Two pieces of good news – we don’t have termites, and the cost was only $490. I’ve put a  yearly reminder in for spraying. It should be a lot cheaper without a termite inspection.

Personal Goals

It’s February, and I don’t have any. I know I’ve been overthinking it. I’ve read a million posts on figuring out my why, answering questions and doing exercises to help guide me. Then I haven’t devoted the time needed to do the really in-depth thinking required, so I feel guilty and… I’m focusing so much on the process and doing it “properly”, that I don’t have an outcome!

Adding to that, work will ramp up significantly until project go-live mid year. Even if it doesn’t end up taking any more of my time (I’m sure it will), it will definitely take up more and more brainpower. I feel it will get to the point where it takes everything I have just to keep my head above water.

This is fine, I’m prepared, and in a way I’m looking forward to it. The project will be over 2 years old by then—I can’t wait to see it come to fruition. I’m frightened, though. Frightened to commit to anything knowing this is in my future. I do not want to overextend myself to unhealthy levels. I don’t want to reach burnout.

Gorgeous sunset over the Hawkesbury River.

Stay Sane

That’s a bit trite, but what I mean is to make sure I sustain some sort of work/life balance, and don’t let myself become consumed. Reporting on this once a month will keep it to the front of my mind. Hopefully the reports are all simply ”doing good”!

There is one goal I was pursuing last year, that I started well on, then dropped off. My eternal nemesis…

Exercise!

All the time I did spend doing it in 2017 must have made some sort of impact, because I find myself feeling like I need to start again. I don’t want to spend the time, but my body is telling me that I felt better when I was exercising, and my brain is actually listening. Time to start back up, with a walk before work once a week.

No Drinking

Not so much a goal, but at the end of 2017, I decided I wouldn’t drink any alcohol in 2018. A few people have asked me about why I made that decision; it’s a little difficult to explain without coming across as a bit ‘holier than thou’—that’s not the case, truly!

I’d already reduced my drinking in 2017, as previously I’d developed a habit of having a glass of wine each night after work. It wasn’t excessive, but it was a habit—a habit that cost money and added empty kilojoules. I recently came across this article which points out how dangerous moderate daily drinking can be for people in our age group. I’ve also done Dry July for the last 2 years.

We all know Australia has a culture of drinking, but I didn’t really understand it until I decided to do Dry July. Then, I suddenly tuned in. There’s barely a TV program/episode/movie that I watch that doesn’t have someone drinking alcohol in it. Perhaps I watch the wrong shows, but it’s just so normal.

Every time we socialise, whether at our house, someone else’s, or at a restaurant, drinking happens. The final trigger for me was when we went on a picnic for a 2 year old’s birthday party, and there was alcohol. Why? Why do we need alcohol at a party for a toddler? So, I decided I would walk the talk, and abstain. Although we don’t have kids, I’d rather show an alternative—that it’s OK not to drink. It’s kind of a cop-out, because it’s much easier to say “I’m not drinking in 2018” than it is to explain my newfound awareness (and sound like I’m being Judgy McJudgeface).

So far, most people have just shrugged and accepted when I’ve said it. NBD, if you will. Also, I haven’t missed it at all.

Affiliate plug!
YNAB January 2018 Promo

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!

14 thoughts on “January 2018 Spending and New Habits

    • Thanks David, and welcome! This represents a shift in mindset for me. I just have to make sure it doesn’t feel accusatory because sometimes these aren’t choices we make to spend money. Doing our own dentistry to retire a few days early isn’t actually an option! However, for the cost of the NAS, both of us could have retired approximately 2 weeks early. Mr. ETT asked me what value I could put on our photographs, and he has a good point. They represent an entire lifetime, and are irreplaceable.

  1. impressed by your almost daily spending trackings! i ve got no doubt you will succeed in fire.

    i ve been contemplating back up solutions myself and decided to turn to cloud: google photo will give unlimited storage for photos, drive and onedrive will give you 30gb free in total and i have done this in case a fire or something happens at home

    i join you on the non drinking! had only 2 beers since jan 9th and proud!

    • Welcome Grogounet! Thank you for your confidence – sometimes I get so lost in the little things (like the daily spending rate) that I lose sight of the final goal. You have a great point about a fire happening – the NAS could easily be lost in this situation. We might have to pick some favourites and store them in the cloud.

      Well done on the drinking. 2 beers in a month really is a feat; sounds like you would have saved some money along the way as well. I’m sorry I’ve never realised you had a blog before – I’ve just added it to my RSS reader. Hope your finger has recovered somewhat. My most recent injury was from a mandolin. I’ll have that scar for life.

  2. It’s super powerful as you know – every less dollar you spend is actually 25 dollars you don’t have to save for retirement. So instead of thinking in terms of ‘hey we saved $10 per week here’ or $520 per year, it’s really like $13,000! That’s how much closer early retirement becomes, but you already know that I think 🙂

    We turned veg and eventually vegan after finding out a lot about farming practices (even free-range) and where our food comes from – frankly it’s pretty disgraceful. It just started to bother me too much to continue eating the same way. Even milk and eggs we ended up stopping with because the male chicks are minced or gassed alive and male calves are separated form the mother and killed after a short time due to not being needed (both are considered a waste product of the industry). The mother repeatedly gives birth so she keeps producing milk for us and the cycle continues. Sorry for going on about it but this stuff upsets me. The charity I support says the best way to contribute to solve the issues is to eat less of the products/find something else to eat.

    Wow great job on the drinking! It’s an interesting goal that I haven’t thought about before. Sounds like you’re finding it pretty easy so far – do you feel any better for dropping the daily habit?

    • I “know” it, but I don’t know it. Also, don’t forget our age and time to retirement. Those calculations don’t work for a 15 year timeframe. The first 10 years or so are purely about how much we can save, which is what we are working on.

      I’m impressed you have the courage of your convictions. I’m also curious – were you veg/vegan while you were both still working, or has it evolved since you retired? I’m slowly building up to more veg meals (this year it’s about 50% vegetarian/50% meat), but don’t want to put in the hard work to become fully vegetarian (even Okja couldn’t push me there, although it came close). Funny, it sounds the same as us becoming FI. We’re working on it, but not particularly hard.

      I don’t feel any different for dropping the daily glass of wine after work, but I have noticed the difference waking up after a night out. I was never a big drinker when we went out (usually the designated driver), but I wake feeling better after a late night, compared to a late night with some alcohol.

      • I’m not sure how the calculations don’t work? Lower expenses is directly 20-25 times less you need in investments to sustain you. There’s no future projection needed or specific timeframes involved. If that money fell from the sky today, you’d need that extra amount (20-25X) to cover each dollar of spending, therefore $1 less spending today = $20-$25 closer today.

        As for the diet – we were quite substantial meat eaters up until about a year before retirement. It wasn’t done for money, but I was absolutely blown away at the difference in our grocery bill. Our old food spending would be maybe $170, or $140 when we optimised (2 adults, 1 dog), but on the veg/vegan diet it’s now around $80-90, often it’s less. We really just tried one meal at a time and replaced things with alternatives slowly. We end up eating the same flavoursome dishes but with beans and tofu instead of meat. I was pretty sceptical at first because it’s different, but it was surprisingly easy.

        As always, love your honesty!

        • I get it – it’s because it was framed in the negative that I didn’t. So if I spend $1 today, then I have to save $25 to be able to buy that $1 thing in retirement. If I don’t spend $1 today, I don’t have to save $25 to not buy that thing in retirement. Or, that dollar I’ve now saved will contribute $0.04 to a $1 purchase in the future. You got to admit, that’s confusing!

          We both love beans, and Mr. ETT is now grudgingly accepting that meals with tofu can actually be tasty! I’m probably buying it from the wrong place, but tofu is more expensive than I expected! I need to go to an Asian food store, not Woolies.

  3. Now that is one fancy do-dad! I hope you use it to its full potential to ensure you are getting your money’s worth.
    It’s good to hear that there is a bit of a shift in extra groceries/alcohol coming out of personal spending accounts, well done.
    Why are you stressing so much about not having personal goals? I can see;
    • Stay sane
    • Exercise
    • No drinking
    • Stick to budget
    Those are all very worthy personal goals and they don’t have to be any more fancy than that. I’m sure if something else important pops up it will make it on your list.

    • Thanks Miss B. Considering them in your comment, they are reasonable goals, aren’t they? I think it’s because they are the same old, same old and didn’t come from deep reflection that I wasn’t considering them “proper” goals. But if I manage to stick to these, I’ll be healthier and financially happier. Woot!

      Thanks for showing them to me in a different light.

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

    I love the idea of reporting your spending in number of retirement days! It’s a great way to boost your mindfulness in spending. Maybe I should come up with our version of this. 🙂

    Also, I like how Mr. ETT thinks – $93 a year! Can you please high-five him for me? Hehe!

    • Do it – the more people that do it and talk about it, the more natural it will become. As for the virtual high-five, great timing – Mr. ETT really needed to hear it, so thanks!

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