Author Topic: Reader case study - help me trim the fat  (Read 9706 times)

simplertimes

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Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« on: December 07, 2015, 08:55:54 AM »
Edited to say:  Thank you very much for all of the insight and replies, and the mostly kind nature of your language (I expected harsher criticism, so thank you for being gentle!).

Based on this discussion, I have put together the following goals and associated plans for achieving them in 2016:

Cut food budget down to 900/month
Annual savings:  $5,844
Strategy will be cooking from scratch, choosing cheaper alternatives (i.e. oats instead of "puffins"), restricting restaurants to $80/month (one family meal and one date as a couple).  Based on this online guide I think it is possible:  http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/CostofFoodMar2015.pdf

Cut clothing budget down to $750/year
Annual savings:  $1850
Strategy will be to shop at mom-to-mom consignment sales for the kids, and check out Salvation Army for me/husband.  Us grown ups are set with most of what we need and will likely be able to spend little or nothing on ourselves this coming year.

Cut gardening budget down to $100/year
Annual savings:  $1,000
Spending was high in 2015 due to the purchase of fruit trees, berry bushes, asparagus and rhubarb plants, along with starting new garden beds and renting a community garden plot.  This year the only cost will be mulch/straw/soil, as we have everything else we need including seeds.

Cut Amazon.com and Misellaneous budgets in half
Annual savings:  $2458
No big purchases earmarked for 2016 (unlike the bikes/swing set/computer upgrade in 2015) will take care of a lot of that.  Also need to seriously consider purchases before making them, to determine if they are really and truly needed and if so, explore alternative buying/borrowing options first.

I also intend to be more frugal about family outings, packing cheaper food when we go camping, skipping the snack station at the water park, etc.  With our new bikes husband and I have been able to enjoy dates without going to restaurants or movie theaters which has been helpful.

We will also carefully consider whether to invest our savings into Roth IRAs immediately or after we purchase our home in 2017.  We are definitely intending to buy (after much, much research and discussion on whether to rent, buy, or rent for longer and buy later).

Thanks again everyone, I hope to report back here once I begin to see savings, and wouldn't it be lovely if my "case study" in December 2016 showed that I met the above goals? :)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Life situation:  We are a "Married Filing Jointly" single income family in the Midwest with a mother, father, and three children ages 1-7.  We are a one car family, husband commutes to work via free bus while wife drives 25 miles a day bringing kids to school/running errands etc.  We have no debt and are renting a house with hopes to become homeowners in 2017.

Deductions include FSA, Pension and Life Insurance.  We have no other income sources or capital gains, etc.

Expenses below are actual totals for the year.  We began the year with basically no savings, as we paid off our student loans and became debt free!  Groceries and restaurants I am working on right now with strong intentions to reduce each!  Gardening investments were for perennial foods such as fruit trees, berry bushes, asparagus and rhubarb plants (we are long term renters with intentions to buy this home from our agreeable landlord).  Gardening in 2016 will be wayyyy less $$.

I "think" I did the adjusted gross income and income after taxes correctly...

Where else would you recommend working on to reduce spending?  My guess would be miscellaneous, Amazon.com (random things like a white noise machine for the kids' room), and clothing.  Otherwise how are we doing?

Gross Salary $90,000
Deductions$7,989
Adjusted Gross Income$82,011
Taxes$7,489
Income After Taxes$74,522
Total Expenses$62,780
Total Savings $11,742

EXPENSES
ItemAnnual $Monthly $% of income
Rent $19,500 $1,62526.2%
Veterinarian $491 $41 0.7%
Comcast $725 $60 1.0%
DTE Energy $1,632 $136 2.2%
Fuel $1,500 $125 2.0%
Life/Rent/Car Insurance $1,287 $107 1.7%
Cell (work pays part) $156 $13 0.2%
Water Bill $900 $75 1.2%
Gym Membership $1,008 $84 1.4%
Groceries $13,920 $1,160 18.7%
Restaurants $2,724 $227 3.7%
Pets & Supplies $320 $27 0.4%
Clothing $2,600 $217 3.5%
Medical beyond FSA $300 $25 0.4%
Amazon Subscribe & Save $302 $25 0.4%
School Related Expenses $365 $30 0.5%
Diapers/Wipes $660 $55 0.9%
Hygiene Products $690 $58 0.9%
Houshold (i.e. furniture) $1,033 $86 1.4%
Gardening $1,100 $92 1.5%
Entertainment $100 $8 0.1%
Donations $300 $25 0.4%
Family Outings $700 $58 0.9%
Babysitter $950 $79 1.3%
Pharmacy Stores $1,051 $88 1.4%
Amazon.com $2,354 $196 3.2%
Miscellaneous $2,562 $214 3.4%
Auto Maint/Repair $1,075 $90 1.4%
Gifts $850 $71 1.1%
Vacations $1,625 $135 2.2%
TOTAL EXPENSES $62,780 $5,232 84.2%
« Last Edit: December 07, 2015, 11:51:34 AM by simplertimes »

ooeei

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2015, 09:04:01 AM »
The three that jumped out at me were:

Groceries  $13,920  $1,160  18.7%

Amazon.com  $2,354  $196  3.2%

Miscellaneous  $2,562  $214  3.4%

If you cut each of those in half even you're saving an additional $9000+ a year.

I can understand $1100 in groceries if your three kids are teenagers, but how much does a 1-7 year old actually eat?  My younger cousins in that age range eat very little compared to an adult.  Amazon.com purchases should fit into another category, they sell many types of products.  Miscellaneous should also not be a category, at least not $200/month of it.

ooeei

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2015, 09:04:48 AM »
The three that jumped out at me were:

Groceries  $13,920  $1,160  18.7%

Amazon.com  $2,354  $196  3.2%

Miscellaneous  $2,562  $214  3.4%

If you cut each of those in half you almost double your savings rate.

I can understand $1100 in groceries if your three kids are teenagers, but how much does a 1-7 year old actually eat?  My younger cousins in that age range eat very little compared to an adult.  Amazon.com purchases should fit into another category, they sell many types of products.  Miscellaneous should also not be a category, at least not $200/month of it.

simplertimes

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2015, 09:07:25 AM »
I agree completely about the groceries, we experienced lifestyle inflation with our pay increase which led to high end convenience food purchases that were unnecessary.

Amazon.com is normally part of "miscellaneous" in my budgeting program the way I set it up, I pulled it out to demonstrate to myself how much "stuff" we are buying that isn't even truly tracked or categorized, on top of "miscellaneous" purchases from elsewhere!  Definitely need to further analyze these categories for savings opportunities.

ooeei

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2015, 09:17:02 AM »
I also just noticed the clothing budget.  $2500 a year is quite a bit to spend on clothes.   

boarder42

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2015, 09:20:39 AM »
217 a month on clothes.  are you buying gold clothing?

simplertimes

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2015, 09:22:49 AM »
Ok so looking at my notes regarding our Amazon.com purchases, we purchased things such as: 

a desk (probably should have categorized as household but we added that category later in the year)
kid bikes
swing set
books (use library when available, otherwise we buy them)
baby monitor
new bike for husband and me (had 20 year old junk bikes before)
computer upgrade parts
excerise equipment
halloween costumes
kids birthday party decorations/supplies/favors
car seat


I suppose we could work on finding used versions of much of this.  I noticed a pattern in our spending in which we tell ourselves, "well we only need to buy these bicycles once and then we can use them for the next umpteen years," but then the next month it's something else like that and we tell ourselves, "well we only need to get the kids' swingset once and they'll be set for a long time..."

Many large purchases that we tell ourselves are a "one time thing" but add up as yet another "one time thing" is purchased.

As for clothing, I needed quite a bit of new clothing after losing my pregnancy weight.  That combined with winter gear (coats/hat/mittens/boots) has added up a lot this year.  I often find myself wearing my clothes to death (holes in all socks and undies!), and then needing a ton of clothing all at once.  Definitely an area we should work on though.  Most clothing comes from Old Navy or Kohl's.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2015, 09:25:11 AM by simplertimes »

boarder42

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2015, 09:25:56 AM »
they have places called garage sales, craigslist and thrift stores. 

albireo13

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2015, 09:27:11 AM »
The AMAZON, Misc, clothes, and food budget seems high.
We had 5 children to raise and I think we kept our food budget below $1000/mo.
Also, that seems excessive for clothing.

simplertimes

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2015, 09:29:27 AM »
they have places called garage sales, craigslist and thrift stores.

I understand and agree.  I went through a phase of shopping at those places regularly, but it's strange because it feels almost MORE consumerist because I found myself having to constantly check out those places to get a little of this and a little of that.  One hour shopping online versus many trips to various second-hand stores looking for kids sweaters in the right size, etc.  This sounds very "complainypants" I know, I just hate shopping.  I will work on this!

simplertimes

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2015, 09:31:56 AM »
Also regarding clothing, I looked at our 2014 numbers and we spent about $113/month on clothing for the family.

What would you consider a good number to shoot for?

nereo

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2015, 09:32:40 AM »
simplertimes - is there a particular reason for the secrecy in your post (you seem to have intentionally hidden whether you are the wife or husband, and have keep your location incredibly vague.. not even listing a particular state or whether you are urban/suburban/rural).  I understand wanting some online anonymity, but sometimes that can lead to better discussions - particularly with regards to location.

As is - I agree that Groceries, Amazon and Miscellaneous are categories you should give a long hard look at. 
Also, a $1k gym membership should always be suspect.  Ditto with $1k for gardening.  $136/mo on energy is a lot more than what we spend in Quebec - you probably could cut that in half.

Finally - anytime someone posts numbers as a percentage of their income it raises a red flag.  The mainstream media encourages us to think that we should "spend between 20-30% of our total budget on our homes" but this can be a dangerous approach.  In reality your spending should be in line with your values.  If you can find a place that meets your needs but costs less do it, even if you're spending only 10% of your total budget.  Conversely, we're spending >40% of our budget on our home now but we don't need a car, a bus-pass or a gym membership, and we currently have a low income.

ooeei

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2015, 09:34:24 AM »
Ok so looking at my notes regarding our Amazon.com purchases, we purchased things such as: 

a desk (probably should have categorized as household but we added that category later in the year)
kid bikes
swing set
books (use library when available, otherwise we buy them)
baby monitor
new bike for husband and me (had 20 year old junk bikes before)
computer upgrade parts
excerise equipment
halloween costumes
kids birthday party decorations/supplies/favors
car seat


I suppose we could work on finding used versions of much of this.  I noticed a pattern in our spending in which we tell ourselves, "well we only need to buy these bicycles once and then we can use them for the next umpteen years," but then the next month it's something else like that and we tell ourselves, "well we only need to get the kids' swingset once and they'll be set for a long time..."

Many large purchases that we tell ourselves are a "one time thing" but add up as yet another "big thing" is purchased.

As for clothing, I needed quite a bit of new clothing after losing my pregnancy weight.  That combined with winter gear (coats/hat/mittens/boots) has added up a lot this year.  I often find myself wearing my clothes to death (holes in all socks and undies!), and then needing a ton of clothing all at once.  Definitely an area we should work on though.  Most clothing comes from Old Navy or Kohl's.

I guess for stuff like that it does make sense to have a "miscellaneous" fund.  Based on my parents' experience, furniture when kids are around is not a long term purchase.  Kids' bikes, playsets, and computer upgrades are also not really one time purchases as they become obsolete a couple years later.  You could always make a miscellaneous budget and only buy stuff when the accumulated budget will cover it.  Alternatively, you could just recognize that not everything will fit into a budget, and think carefully about each of those purchases.  Try thinking back on some of the past purchases in that category and see if they are worth it now 2-3 years down the line.  When considering a new purchase, try to put yourself 2-3 years in the future and decide if you'll still be glad you got it. 

Neustache

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2015, 09:35:41 AM »
Wow - so many places for trimming - I love these kind of case studies, because even if you implement only a few suggestions you'll make great progress!



Here's what jumped out to me:

The Good:

Cell, insurance, utilities don't seem crazy,


The not-so-good:

Rent - unless you are in Chicago or picking fancy neighborhoods - seems high.  But since you want to buy the house, I guess you can't decrease this much as you won't want to move.

Clothing:  Craigslist, e-bay, etc.  This seems crazy-high to me.  You probably don't need any more clothes for yourself, and the kids only need enough to stay warm and dry.  Ask for hand me downs for the kids, people love giving them and I love receiving them.

Amazon - whoa nelly!  That's an insane amount to spend each month. 

Food:  We spend $500 a month on this and we eat excellent food.   Granted, my husband loves to cook and I love to bake, so we make an excellent team, but yours should be cut down here a ton.  My kids are young but they eat a lot.

Restaurants:  We allow $100 a month for this, and are getting to the point where we rarely spend more than $20 a month (fast food dollar menu mainly - we share a large fry and get cheap sandwiches and no sodas, only water - Little Ceasars for pizza with their $5 hot and ready). 

Misc - what the heck is that for?  You need to figure out what you are spending your money on!


I'm a stay at home mom, too, and part of my job is to decrease our expenses as much as possible so my husband doesn't have to work until he's 65.  If my husband is going to be working, and I have the luxury of staying at home (I know, it's work, but I've had office jobs and I much prefer this to that) then I need to maximize his time/energy into getting more bang for our buck.

Why do you drive 25 miles a day?  That seems like a ton.  Have people over to your house, stop shopping, and let your kid ride the bus - surely your elementary school isn't that far away, is it?


simplertimes

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2015, 09:40:01 AM »
I am the wife :)  We live in a city, but not a major one like Chicago or New York.  Cost of living here is considered higher than most other places in our Midwestern state though.  Gym membership is necessary because we have no family in the area and use the childcare there to get some reprieve on a regular basis.  It also has amenities for kids like the swimming pool, gymnastics etc.  Energy bill includes electric and gas, but we will work on using less heat/air conditioning (easier now that our infant is a toddler and less prone to overheating).

Kids go to charter school about 6 miles away (not budging on this one unfortunately, though I do wish it were closer).

nereo

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #15 on: December 07, 2015, 09:48:58 AM »
I am the wife :)  We live in a city, but not a major one like Chicago or New York.  Cost of living here is considered higher than most other places in our Midwestern state though.  Gym membership is necessary because we have no family in the area and use the childcare there to get some reprieve on a regular basis.  It also has amenities for kids like the swimming pool, gymnastics etc.  Energy bill includes electric and gas, but we will work on using less heat/air conditioning (easier now that our infant is a toddler and less prone to overheating).

Kids go to charter school about 6 miles away (not budging on this one unfortunately, though I do wish it were closer).
Ok, that's all helpful.  I'm not trying to internet-stalk you, but urban/rural can be important, and knowing the state is useful sometimes for tax purposes.

Here's what I don't understand from your numbers:
Quote
Gross Salary   $90,000
Deductions   $7,989
Adjusted Gross Income   $82,011
Taxes   $7,489
Income After Taxes   $74,522
Total Expenses   $62,780
Total Savings   $11,742

The standard deduction for married filing jointly is $12,600.  So why is your deduction only $7,989?  Also - are you contributing anything to your tax-advantaged accounts?  If so, your AIG would be much, much lower.  Without reducing your spending by one ¢ you should be able to increase total savings by almost $3k. 
Does your husband have a 401(k) and HSA available?  Are you contributing to a tIRA?

Neustache

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2015, 09:51:28 AM »
Ok so looking at my notes regarding our Amazon.com purchases, we purchased things such as: 

a desk (probably should have categorized as household but we added that category later in the year)
kid bikes  Why wasn't this a present and fall under gifts?
swing set  One big Christmas present - and that's all they get that year (seriously)
books (use library when available, otherwise we buy them)  Present
baby monitor
new bike for husband and me (had 20 year old junk bikes before)  Should have been a present (and the only present you get yourself that year!
computer upgrade parts  Should have been a present - and not in the same year he got a bike
excerise equipment  Why do you go the gym plus buy exercise equipment?  And this should be a present for a birthday or Christmas
halloween costumes buy it for birthday or Christmas, have them wear it for Halloween
kids birthday party decorations/supplies/favors
car seat


You bought all of this stuff, AND you spent $800 in gifts.  I put into italics things that could/should have been gifts.   Spread this stuff out, and stop buying stuff you don't need.  You don't get computer upgrades and a bike in a year.  Kids sure as hell don't get bikes AND a swingset the same year. 

simplertimes

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #17 on: December 07, 2015, 09:54:47 AM »
Thank you all for your help with this!  If you ever want to feel like an overindulgent asshole, please watch the movie The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete like we did last night.

I have had a lot of excuses for my past behavior, from buying new clothes due to changing sizes, to using convenience foods in lieu of extended family support when we had a colicky infant at home, to calling my perennial garden an "investment" to justify the expense.

I really do want to change!  I want to make whole foods from scratch to save the family money and serve as a good role model for my children and teach them how to cook since apparently I never really learned growing up.  I want to shop at mom-to-mom consignment sales like I used to before our pay increase, and will continue to stretch my clothing as far as it will go (really, I do not typically buy many clothes for myself!).

I keep looking at our miscellaneous purchases and can't seem to find a good pattern (husband went paintballing, new pillows for the beds, family photo book, boxes for organizing, hair cuts at great clips, birdseed, art supplies for kids).  I guess we will just continue to monitor our miscellaneous purchase and evaluate if we really and truly NEED it.

For deductions I listed FSA ($2550), Pension ($5400) and Life Insurance ($39).  The standard tax deductions I assumed were already factored into the actual taxes we paid which was $7489 in 2014.  I don't know if he has an HSA as an option but we do not currently have an IRA (it is one of our goals though).

Something tells me 2016 is going to be a good year in terms of financial savings!  Yay!

nereo

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #18 on: December 07, 2015, 10:07:25 AM »

For deductions I listed FSA ($2550), Pension ($5400) and Life Insurance ($39).  The standard tax deductions I assumed were already factored into the actual taxes we paid which was $7489 in 2014.  I don't know if he has an HSA as an option but we do not currently have an IRA (it is one of our goals though).

Ok, I think I understand better now.  You have $90k gross, take the standard deduction, pension, FSA and life insurance.  I got offtrack when you listed your AGI of $82k - my bad. 
I would open up tIRAs for you and your husband immediately.  You can contribute up to $11k for 2015 until April 15th, 2016.  Every dollar you put in now will lower your taxes by 15¢.  With a few cost-saving measures you can max out your 2015 and your 2016 IRA contributions and possibly qualify for the savers credit (if you can reduce your AIG to under $61k you may qualify for 10% of your contribution).  You'd need to double-check that as your income is larger than ours has been, but that's what a quick googling of saver's credit rates shows me.

simplertimes

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #19 on: December 07, 2015, 10:09:56 AM »

For deductions I listed FSA ($2550), Pension ($5400) and Life Insurance ($39).  The standard tax deductions I assumed were already factored into the actual taxes we paid which was $7489 in 2014.  I don't know if he has an HSA as an option but we do not currently have an IRA (it is one of our goals though).

Ok, I think I understand better now.  You have $90k gross, take the standard deduction, pension, FSA and life insurance.  I got offtrack when you listed your AGI of $82k - my bad. 
I would open up tIRAs for you and your husband immediately.  You can contribute up to $11k for 2015 until April 15th, 2016.  Every dollar you put in now will lower your taxes by 15¢.  With a few cost-saving measures you can max out your 2015 and your 2016 IRA contributions and possibly qualify for the savers credit (if you can reduce your AIG to under $61k you may qualify for 10% of your contribution).  You'd need to double-check that as your income is larger than ours has been, but that's what a quick googling of saver's credit rates shows me.

This is a wonderful idea but could we start the tIRAs in April 2017 instead, so we can continue saving as much as possible for a down payment on a home?  Would we lose much $$ waiting another 16 months?

Neustache

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #20 on: December 07, 2015, 10:11:00 AM »
I'd say the common theme is that you just buy it without thinking about it, and you don't stretch your purchases out like you ought to do. 

I like your positivity - however, I'd focus on one area at a time.  Don't go too crazy or else you will burn out.  Maybe one area a month and then see if you can sustain it and tackle one more area?

nereo

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #21 on: December 07, 2015, 10:30:55 AM »

For deductions I listed FSA ($2550), Pension ($5400) and Life Insurance ($39).  The standard tax deductions I assumed were already factored into the actual taxes we paid which was $7489 in 2014.  I don't know if he has an HSA as an option but we do not currently have an IRA (it is one of our goals though).

Ok, I think I understand better now.  You have $90k gross, take the standard deduction, pension, FSA and life insurance.  I got offtrack when you listed your AGI of $82k - my bad. 
I would open up tIRAs for you and your husband immediately.  You can contribute up to $11k for 2015 until April 15th, 2016.  Every dollar you put in now will lower your taxes by 15¢.  With a few cost-saving measures you can max out your 2015 and your 2016 IRA contributions and possibly qualify for the savers credit (if you can reduce your AIG to under $61k you may qualify for 10% of your contribution).  You'd need to double-check that as your income is larger than ours has been, but that's what a quick googling of saver's credit rates shows me.

This is a wonderful idea but could we start the tIRAs in April 2017 instead, so we can continue saving as much as possible for a down payment on a home?  Would we lose much $$ waiting another 16 months?

Sure. It's all about your personal choices.  Contributing to tIRAs now will lower your tax burden, allowing you to save more money. Unless you change your withholdings you will have a much larger tax refund in April.  But yes, it means you'll save less for a down payment. Which is a nice segway into whether buying a home in 2017 (vs 2018 or 2020) is the best strategy for you.  It's impossible to know without a lot more information, but very often purchasing a home is not a very good investment, while saving money in your IRAs is typically one of the best ways of earning Financial Independence (FI).  Have you run a "rent-vs-buy" simulation to determine which is better for you (follow the link)?

There's also the "use-it-or-loose-it" nature of the IRA accounts; if you don't fill up those buckets this year you loose them forever. 

You can probably tell that I'm firmly in the camp of "max out your IRAs before even thinking of purchasing a home" - but it's your choice.  I am concerned about a single-income family pouring all of their savings into a down payment... a lot can go wrong there: job loss, major home repair, a drop in home prices, medical emergency, etc.  Savings beyond your down payment are key to mitigating these risks.  While this might sound harsh, but my personal opinion is that if you can't at least make contributions to your IRA you probably aren't financially ready to own your own home. Ideally you should have both IRA and taxable savings before making that jump.

Finally, it's not an all or nothing proposition.  You can devote 50% of your savings towards IRAs and 50% towards a down payment.  If you cut spending or increase income you get to your goals faster.  From the advice up-thread you could easily save an additional $3k-6k/year by being more tax efficient and cutting some expenses, all with minimal impact on your quality of life. 

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #22 on: December 07, 2015, 10:46:11 AM »
The gardening budget seems quite high!  What are you growing?  Esp since you rent; if you're planting anything other than food, it's a waste.

Neustache

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #23 on: December 07, 2015, 10:55:51 AM »
Just a reminder that if you contribute to the t. IRA you get to deduct that from your taxes so you might owe less in taxes. 

We had a 'payoff the mortgage' mentality until we realized we could decrease our tax burden by saving money.  This year our 11K t. IRA contribution will save us $1650 in taxes. 

I'm concerned, too, that the house you are in is going to be very, very pricey if the rent is $1650 a month.  Really think about this before you take the plunge.

Easye418

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #24 on: December 07, 2015, 10:57:11 AM »
217 a month on clothes.  are you buying gold clothing?

LOL.  Such a tease.

I probably spend $500 on clothes a year including business attire.  However, I haven't purchased a good pair of loafers in many moons.

little_brown_dog

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #25 on: December 07, 2015, 10:58:52 AM »
Some thoughts on the grocery budget – in addition to the basics like meal planning and using inexpensive ingredients, watch out for the common trap where you buy a lot of “kid” food to appease picky minis. You may want to buy special baby/toddler items for the youngest child for convenience sake, but older kids can eat the meals you plan for the adults. The concept of kid food is actually very unique to American culture and the practice is very expensive since parents essentially have to feed the family 2 dinners each night. In most cultures kids just eat what the adults eat. If you are constantly stocking up on mac n cheese and chicken nuggets, try the old school method of just making the kiddos eat whatever mom and dad are eating. That’s how I was raised – if I refused the food I was given I just went to bed without dinner (only happened once or twice!).

nereo

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #26 on: December 07, 2015, 11:27:02 AM »
Some thoughts on the grocery budget – in addition to the basics like meal planning and using inexpensive ingredients, watch out for the common trap where you buy a lot of “kid” food to appease picky minis. You may want to buy special baby/toddler items for the youngest child for convenience sake, but older kids can eat the meals you plan for the adults. The concept of kid food is actually very unique to American culture and the practice is very expensive since parents essentially have to feed the family 2 dinners each night. In most cultures kids just eat what the adults eat. If you are constantly stocking up on mac n cheese and chicken nuggets, try the old school method of just making the kiddos eat whatever mom and dad are eating. That’s how I was raised – if I refused the food I was given I just went to bed without dinner (only happened once or twice!).

"kid food"?  I wasn't even aware that this was a thing, and I grew up in the US.  I ate whatever my parents fed me, as does my 6 year old niece and my cousins.  Chicken nuggets were only something you ate at fast-food places while on road trips.  Sigh... it's not surprising our children can have such poor dietary health despite living in the golden-age of cheap, diverse and widely available food.

Neustache

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #27 on: December 07, 2015, 11:39:02 AM »
Not to get wildly off topic, but I actually think our food diversity is part of the problem, in particular with kids who have food aversions. 

If we didn't try to throw a hundred different foods at them in a short time period, they'd probably acclimate easier to consistent, same food.  But we are entirely lucky to have access to a wide diversity of fruit, vegetables, meat, grains that mom and dad continually throw different tastes and textures at kids and expect them just to keep up.

It can take up to 10 tastings/experiences of one food made one way for a kid to get used to it.  For kids with food aversions or texture issues  (yes, a real thing) it can take more. 

If adults would decrease the sheer diversity of food and be content with eating the same things over and over, kids would have an easier time adapting to 'adult' foods because the opportunity to taste and try would be presented sooner.  THEN you gradually introduce new foods.  I guarantee you that most kids 30 years ago were not being introduced to American, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, etc. etc. etc.  Not to mention the variety of fruits and vegetables we expect kids to eat. 

Off my soap box.   


mozar

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #28 on: December 07, 2015, 11:53:21 AM »
Quote
husband went paintballing, new pillows for the beds, family photo book, boxes for organizing, hair cuts at great clips, birdseed, art supplies for kids

1. How much is paintballing? How often does he go?
2. Why do you need new pillows? I've had mine for years.
3. Instead of boxes for organizing how about getting rid of the stuff?
4. Cut your family's hair yourself.
5. Why are you feeding birds?
6. Art supplies can really add up. I just had one box of crayons and some paper growing up.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #29 on: December 07, 2015, 11:53:53 AM »
Not to get wildly off topic, but I actually think our food diversity is part of the problem, in particular with kids who have food aversions. 

If we didn't try to throw a hundred different foods at them in a short time period, they'd probably acclimate easier to consistent, same food.  But we are entirely lucky to have access to a wide diversity of fruit, vegetables, meat, grains that mom and dad continually throw different tastes and textures at kids and expect them just to keep up.

It can take up to 10 tastings/experiences of one food made one way for a kid to get used to it.  For kids with food aversions or texture issues  (yes, a real thing) it can take more. 

If adults would decrease the sheer diversity of food and be content with eating the same things over and over, kids would have an easier time adapting to 'adult' foods because the opportunity to taste and try would be presented sooner.  THEN you gradually introduce new foods.  I guarantee you that most kids 30 years ago were not being introduced to American, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, etc. etc. etc.  Not to mention the variety of fruits and vegetables we expect kids to eat. 

Off my soap box.

I liked this soap box. Not one I had thought about, but makes a lot of sense! So you're saying my DH and I shouldn't feel bad about switching between taco salad and curry for 90% of our meals? =P

simplertimes

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #30 on: December 07, 2015, 11:56:15 AM »
I edited my original post with my overall thoughts in response to the comments here, so see above if interested.  Thanks again everyone!

I agree about the food diversity causing pickier eating, and while I do not serve different foods to grown ups vs. children (even toddler eats what we eat), my expenses were coming from high-cost convenience food like frozen gnocci with sauce from Whole Foods, NutThins crackers, individual Wallaby Organic Yogurts, etc.

It is invigorating to think of all the savings potential here and the positive modeling I can do for my children by enacting the changes!

ooeei

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #31 on: December 07, 2015, 11:57:30 AM »
Relating to gardening expenses and fertilizer, you might want to look into making a worm bin.  It won't give you a whole lot of fertilizer, but it will be fun and educational for the kids, and you can feed them with scraps from your new whole food cooking!  Cheap, green, fun, and educational.

nereo

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #32 on: December 07, 2015, 12:04:01 PM »
Not to get wildly off topic, but I actually think our food diversity is part of the problem, in particular with kids who have food aversions. 
...
I've thought about this too.  Certainly throwing lots of strange foods at children can facilitate 'picky-eater' syndrome, but I'm also pretty certain that the attitudes of the parents matter too.  If you divide food into "kids food" and "adult's food" they take that message to heart and start demanding chicken nuggets or frozen pizzas every meal. As you said it's certainly worth noting that this is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Then again my niece's favorite 'finger food' is blue-cheese stuffed figs wrapped in bacon, so that certainly makes me biased.

My point baout cheap, diverse food was more that you can find a wide-range of raw ingredients during all times of the year - something our grandparents couldn't do.  So in that sense you can keep a consistency with meals without reverting to the pre-packaged food-like-substances.

Mmm_Donuts

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #33 on: December 07, 2015, 12:27:29 PM »
Re: kids food, I just came across this article the other day, about how there's no such thing as a naturally picky eater. Kids are allowed and trained to prefer processed foods, unless the parents purposefully feed them vegetables and other whole foods as early as possible. I'm assuming most "kids foods" are processed, and heavily marketed.

http://www.macleans.ca/society/a-naturally-picky-eater-theres-no-such-thing/

Neustache

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #34 on: December 07, 2015, 12:33:34 PM »
Not to get wildly off topic, but I actually think our food diversity is part of the problem, in particular with kids who have food aversions. 
...
I've thought about this too.  Certainly throwing lots of strange foods at children can facilitate 'picky-eater' syndrome, but I'm also pretty certain that the attitudes of the parents matter too.  If you divide food into "kids food" and "adult's food" they take that message to heart and start demanding chicken nuggets or frozen pizzas every meal. As you said it's certainly worth noting that this is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Then again my niece's favorite 'finger food' is blue-cheese stuffed figs wrapped in bacon, so that certainly makes me biased.

My point baout cheap, diverse food was more that you can find a wide-range of raw ingredients during all times of the year - something our grandparents couldn't do.  So in that sense you can keep a consistency with meals without reverting to the pre-packaged food-like-substances.


@Bracken Joy - I wouldn't feel bad about that!  If I could get tacos with guacamole and alternate with chicken curry I totally would.  Just remember that there's like 3-6 different textures/tastes in tacos and depending on your curry there's a ton of different spices to acclimate to - hopefully your kid will do well!

@nereo - yes, I agree!  There are definitely ways you can keep foods consistent for kids BECAUSE of our diversity.  We can get apples year round and if that's the go-to snack for a kiddo then a parent can get it all year long if they want, although it won't be on sale!

Okay, back on topic. 

charis

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #35 on: December 07, 2015, 12:39:04 PM »
"kid food"?  I wasn't even aware that this was a thing, and I grew up in the US.  I ate whatever my parents fed me, as does my 6 year old niece and my cousins.  Chicken nuggets were only something you ate at fast-food places while on road trips.  Sigh... it's not surprising our children can have such poor dietary health despite living in the golden-age of cheap, diverse and widely available food.

In my house, we all eat the same meal, but sometimes the adults can like chicken nuggets too.

Neustache

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #36 on: December 07, 2015, 12:41:48 PM »
OP -

Looks like really good, reachable goals.  Please keep this updated, or if you want to you can start a journal.

Also, you can't deduct Roth IRA's for tax purposes, so just FYI there won't be any tax savings with a  Roth.  You'll want a traditional IRA if you want the tax savings. 

boarder42

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #37 on: December 07, 2015, 12:44:34 PM »
good start to your goals.  food can still come way way way down.  but tis a reasonable start.  buy food in bulk when on sale and freeze it.

i'm just 2 people but including alcohol (which we drink way too much of) our grocery bill is around 500... at least 150 of which is probably booze monthly.

justajane

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #38 on: December 07, 2015, 12:50:30 PM »
I wouldn't invest much in perennials and fruit trees and such, since you are in a rental. Instead, I would divert that money to savings or a down payment fund.

2ndTimer

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #39 on: December 07, 2015, 01:14:08 PM »
If you live in a small midwestern city, look at CraigsList for free manure for your garden.  Go there fill a few garbage bags and bring them home in the trunk of your car.  The Hub and I do this about every other year.  Yes, you have leave the trunk open to air for a while afterwards but I have never been arrested for that.

simplertimes

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #40 on: December 07, 2015, 01:20:11 PM »
Re: IRAs, good point and we will have to decide on Roth vs. Traditional or a combination.  I just might start a journal, it would be a nice way to keep myself focused and track my progress!

The perennial gardening is 1 part passion/hobby and 1 part optimism that we will buy this house we are actually living in.  Otherwise I will transplant as much as I can, but for now my perennial purchases are complete!

Also I do take advantage of the city's free mulch and compost program, so hopefully that will cover me this summer and I won't need extra.  We also compost here at home, and I get manure from a local equestrian farm :)  I love gardening!

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #41 on: December 07, 2015, 02:00:47 PM »
Kids can't demand food you don't keep in the house. Anything single-serve is wasteful. When my two-year-old has yogurt as a snack, it's from a quart plastic container and it's store-brand. She is getting pretty good with a spoon, though every time she has yogurt does add a towel to the laundry.

I see other kids' parents with all these single-serve suck-on (maybe there's a more appealing term) flexible plastic bottles of yogurt or applesauce or whatever and all I can think about is all the food wasted coating the hidden corners of those things.

justajane

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #42 on: December 07, 2015, 02:09:36 PM »
I have to confess to buying those Go-gurt things, in large part because the packaging is less than even tubs of yogurt and it's good in lunches and for portion control. But we buy them in bulk at Costco. I won't buy regular single serve yogurt b/c of the packaging.

Neustache

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #43 on: December 07, 2015, 02:21:10 PM »
We buy the go-gurt things too - otherwise we eat too much yogurt and it's gone in a couple of days.  It's the only prepackaged thing that is consistently in my daughter's lunches. 

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #44 on: December 07, 2015, 02:31:27 PM »
I could see how they would be useful for school lunches.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #45 on: December 07, 2015, 04:29:15 PM »
We buy the go-gurt things too - otherwise we eat too much yogurt and it's gone in a couple of days.  It's the only prepackaged thing that is consistently in my daughter's lunches.

What's wrong with buying a carton of yogurt and an 8-pack of those cheap little plastic dishes and portioning out the yogurt? Then it's much cheaper than the tubes (and healthier--less sugar since you control the jam content) and you still have portion control.

justajane

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #46 on: December 07, 2015, 04:44:05 PM »
We buy the go-gurt things too - otherwise we eat too much yogurt and it's gone in a couple of days.  It's the only prepackaged thing that is consistently in my daughter's lunches.

What's wrong with buying a carton of yogurt and an 8-pack of those cheap little plastic dishes and portioning out the yogurt? Then it's much cheaper than the tubes (and healthier--less sugar since you control the jam content) and you still have portion control.

Ounce for ounce, it's actually cheaper to buy the tubes at Costco than it would be for the 32 oz. tubs at the grocery store. Costco sells a huge ass tub of plain Greek yogurt for dirt cheap, but I've tried that and it usually goes bad before we can finish it.

But you're right about the sugar and the quality of yogurt would be better if I did it the way you suggested.

I admit laziness and a lack of desire to wash three more tupperwares 4-5 times a week.  I already wash the ones for the sandwich or hot thermos and the water bottles. Plus there's the chance that my two kids in school will lose the little sized tupperwares which would cancel out the small savings from doing it this way. 

Neustache

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #47 on: December 07, 2015, 04:51:02 PM »
Because I'm lazy.  That's why.

MDM

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #48 on: December 07, 2015, 05:38:04 PM »
Based on this discussion, I have put together the following goals and associated plans for achieving them in 2016:

simplertimes, nice case study writeup and good plans for 2016!

Looking at your tax number...do you not pay Social Security tax but do have state income tax ~5.5%?  That was one way I could see to make the numbers work.  Assuming that is true, and treating the pension as if it is a 457 plan, and everything else is constant except as noted below...
 - with current income / spending, you have ~35 years to FI
 - reducing spending by $1K/mo (close to your 2016 plan) brings you down to ~24 years to FI
 - along with the $1K/mo spending cut, contributing the full $18K to a 401k and $11K to traditional IRAs brings you to ~21-22 years to FI (and cuts your total taxes to ~$1300, including a $1K rebate from the IRS).

Numbers above are from the case study spreadsheet - you could download the template and check the results.

meandmyfamily

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Re: Reader case study - help me trim the fat
« Reply #49 on: December 09, 2015, 06:33:36 PM »
We have 4 kids.  We don't spend that much on clothing but we spend a bunch on classes.  We also range between 800-900 in groceries (around 12-13% of our income).  Also with 3 kids you probably don't pay too much in taxes so that will affect your IRA choice.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2015, 06:38:35 PM by meandmyfamily »