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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Case Studies => Topic started by: Jadambomb on June 20, 2018, 12:21:41 PM

Title: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 20, 2018, 12:21:41 PM
Some things to keep in mind:
1. Both my wife and I work full time and I have two kids under age five.  I live in MA and the childcare costs are crazy here.  My wife also insists that our kids go to a paid-preschool at age 4 (this year) instead of having them at home with the Au Pair, for social interaction reasons.  Besides that, an Au Pair is by far the cheapest care we could find for two kids. 

2. I use monthly averages for my budgets, and some of them are allowances rather than spending per se.  (like Car replacement allowance fund, and Home maintenance fund)

3. Health Care Costs come out of our HSA and therefore are not included on this.  We typically have more than enough in our HSA to cover. 

It comes out to about $11,000 a month which is INSANE, but IS roughly what we've averaged the last few years.  I know we can cut a few things.  Let me have it. 

All budgets are MONTHLY

Auto Related - Roughly $740
1. Car Insurance (Two cars, both paid off. Three drivers. 1. 2008 Lexus RX 350  2. 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid) - $148
2. Car Replacement Allowance Fund - $200
3. Car Wash/Tolls/Parking - $20
4. Excise Tax and Registration - $18
5. Gas - $200
6. Maintenance and Repairs (This might include one large repair bill of $1000 per year or so.  Something always happens) - $150

Bills/Utilities - Roughly $480
1. Electric - $210 (includes heating (heat pumps) and a/c)
2. Firewood - $50 (roughly two cords of wood)
3. Heating Oil (for hot water and backup for heat pumps) - $140
4. Mobile Phone - $99 (Unlimited data because my work doesn't have WiFi)
5. Sewer - $35
6. TV/Internet Service (no cable. Internet service for $40 and $8 for Hulu) - $48

Business Related Expenses - $35
1. Assistant Bonus (I work in an office with an assistant and like to give her a bonus at the end of the year) - $35

Entertainment - Roughly $175
1. Guests/Entertaining (This includes backyard bbqs, birthday parties for the kids, dinners if guests come over.  Keep in mind that one party for kids might cost $400 or so with food and booze) - $75
2. Netflix - $11
3. Music/Spotify - $10
4. Special Occasions (Dinner for my wife's birthday, Valentines Day, my birthday, Anniversaries.  One dinner might be $200) - $75

Fees - $99 annually
1. Amazon Prime - $9

Food & Dining - Roughly $1,550
1. Coffee Shops (We make coffee at home everyday.  We might buy a coffee once a week.) - $25
2. Groceries (Three adults including the Au Pair, Two boys under five) - $1,150
3. Liquor - $60 (I'm trying to cut back)
4. Restaurants (We order out once a week for three people, and might go out to a restaurant once a month) - $275
5. Work Lunch (I almost always bring lunch to work) - $20

Gifting - $50
1. Gifts (kids birthdays, eachothers birthdays, friend's kid's birthdays) - $50

Health - $35
1. Pharmacy (Medicine, Sunblock etc.) - $35

Home - Roughly $4,400
1. Furniture/Appliances allowance/replacement budget (This would mean $480 per year) - $40
2. Home Improvement allowance budget (My wife wants to continually upgrade our house.  This would mean one $12,000 project per year) - $1,000
3. Home Maintenance Allowance Budget (Oil Boiler Maintenance, A/C Servicing, Roof replacement every 20 years, House Painting every 10 years or so) - $325
4. Home Supplies (TP, Papertowels, batteries, cleaning supplies) - $150
5. Lawn & Garden (One fall cleanup, a few bags of organic fertilizer.  I do everything else myself) - $50
6. Mortgage (R/E Taxes and Insurance = $850, Mortgage payment = $2,000) = $2,850
7. Pest control Service (We live near a lot of woods) - $29
8. Snow Plowing (Huge Driveway) - $40

Kids - Roughly $2,550 (This should drop down drastically after our youngest kid goes to Kindergarten and we no longer need an Au Pair or Pre-K)
1. Au Pair and Pre-K (roughly $1800 for AU Pair and $575 for Pre-K) - $2,375
2. Kids Activities (Soccer, Dancing, Taking them to Children's Museums, the Zoo etc) $75
3. Kids Supplies - (Diapers/Wipes/Clothing/Toys) - $100

Personal Care - $110
1. Beauty/Grooming (Birchbox, Razor Heads, Shampoo, Soap, Lotions etc.) - $25
2. Dry Cleaning - $15
3. Hair Cuts (For my wife, me, two kids) - $50
4. Mani/Pedi (One every two or three months) - $20

Pets (One cat with Hyperthyroidsim) - $60
1. Pet Food & Medicine - $45
2. Veterinarian (Once per year) - $25

Shopping - $115
1. Clothing (For me and my wife) - $115

Taxes - $7
1. Tax prep fee(Turbotax) - $7

Travel - $425
1. Travel/Vacation (Flights, hotels, gas, food, etc.  This would be $5,100 per year) - $425

Miscellaneous/Everything Else - $100
1. Misc. - $100

That's it!  Looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts.





Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 20, 2018, 12:44:53 PM
Do you have any specific goals you want to hit? What is your current savings rate? Assets versus liabilities? That would give us a better view of your financial picture.

I mean, house and kids are almost $7000 of your $11000, so those are obviously the issues. One will go down soon, and the other won't.

Besides that, I don't really see anything insane. No car notes. No credit card balances to pay off. Since I'm guessing the childcare stuff is non negotiable, at least for your wife, then I'd look at that $12,000 yearly house sinking fund. It's not ridiculous if you own an older home (roof, windows, siding, etc., I know it adds up), but are you actually spending this money or setting it aside like in a sinking fund?

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: reeshau on June 20, 2018, 12:49:36 PM
You certainly have a lot of nice-to-haves.  But why do you want to cut them?  Meaning, you have not stated your goal in doing so.  Otherwise, you are just "sacrificing," with no emotional payback for it.

Kudos to you for including saving / replacement accounts in your budget.  I think a lot of people would just lump it into an emergency fund, or call it savings.

In addition to goals, you also don't state your savings / net worth.  You have given a cash flow statement, but no balance sheet.  I think a lot of input would come if you have the above scenario, and state you have no retirement or college savings.  That might make the emergency foe you.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Yankuba on June 20, 2018, 12:52:45 PM
I think you should be able to make headway on the groceries. I am a family of four and we are at least $500 less than you. Buy on sale, use coupons, don't have meat with every meal, try out Trader Joe's or Costco, etc.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 20, 2018, 01:00:38 PM
We'd love to FIRE by around age 45 or so.  That's really our only goal.  We are 38 now.  Assets vs liabilities I think we are doing decently well. 

Assets:
1. Our house which probably worth about $900,000
2. Investments - $967,000

Liabilites:
Mortgage - $371,000  and that's it. 

Our "Take Home Pay" as calculated using MMM's method is about $14,500 per month and our "spending" as calculated by MMM is still right around $11,000 per month, so our savings rate is about 24.2% which I think is decent.  But it still seems ridiculous to me that we spend $11,000 per month.  But you're right, the kids and house are the two main things there. 

That $12,000 "Home Improvement Budget" doesn't even include the roof stuff, windows, etc.  The $12,000 per year is more like "make house nicer budget" like re-doing the bathroom, or for example my wife wants a nice big patio next summer which was quoted to us around $15,000.  So it's more like one $12,000 home improvement project per year.  Hopefully those things taper off over time as well, but I know she wants a lot of things done over the next few years. 

The roof, siding, windows, painting etc budget is theoretically being accounted for in the "Home Maintenance Allowance Budget" at about $325 a month.  So far, we haven't needed to do anything major like that but I know we will need to replace our roof and windows and repaint our house sometime in the next few years.  That number might actually need to increase now that I think about it...

Thanks for your feedback.  Let me know if you think of anything else!

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: marcela on June 20, 2018, 01:03:41 PM
Could you hold off on the house remodeling until the kids are in school and use what you had been spending on pre-k/ au pair to fund that stuff?
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 20, 2018, 01:07:44 PM
Not a bad idea actually.  That would only be another 3 years and then we could kind of shift that one budget into the other.  Definitely a good suggestion (provided my wife is cool with that.)  I'll talk to her about that.  Good one.  Thank you!
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: marcela on June 20, 2018, 01:15:21 PM
It's killing me to say this with a $11k monthly budget, but it seems you are severely underbudgeting for your pets. $720/year for a cat with hypertyroidism seems low. Do you never board the cat or pay for pet sitting when you go on vacation? Do you have a plan in place if kitty needs a dental or needs to go to the emergency vet?
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: kei te pai on June 20, 2018, 01:24:43 PM
How interested in early retirement is your wife? Could you show her how that home improvement money could be life improvement money instead?
FIRE may remove some of that "I work so hard, we earn a lot, I deserve all the nice things" thinking.
If you are moving toward a bigger goal, postponing cosmetic changes should not be too painful.
Have you a shared vision of what life after work looks like?
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 20, 2018, 01:26:05 PM
We never board the cat.  We don't go away that much.  Maybe once or twice a year for a week max.  Our Au Pair or friends feeds and gives medicine when we are away.  The medicine comes out to be about $25 a month or so.  No plan in place for dental or emergency but we do have a lot in savings so we can always take from that.  So far, (knock on wood) it hasn't happened.  But I definitely see where you are coming from.  I could perhaps increase those pet budgets to account for those emergencies but then I'm going the wrong way!  Lol.  Something to think about though. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 20, 2018, 01:33:57 PM
Yeah my wife is definitely not QUITE as into FIRE as I am.  Not because she doesn't love the idea.  But more because she really feels like it's almost a fantasy which we won't achieve for a long time.  I mean as of right now, we are about 1/3 of the way there.  Spending $11,000 we'd need almost $3M in investments, and we have almost $1M.  So it seems so far away. When she talks about these huge house improvements, I'll say things like "Well do you want a nicer kitchen, or would you rather retire two years earlier?" And she'll kind of just say "I want both."  I try to convince her it's one or the other.  I should probably show her something more concrete.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: kei te pai on June 20, 2018, 02:03:48 PM
I would encourage you to read some of the insightful posts on the forum about getting your spouse on board with FIRE.
I can't post the link from this device, but it is worth hunting out.
Honestly, no budget revision will make as much difference to your progress as having your wife fully involved.
And surely the monthly budget you will need in retirement will not be $11,000?
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: marcela on June 20, 2018, 02:09:18 PM
I would encourage you to read some of the insightful posts on the forum about getting your spouse on board with FIRE.
I can't post the link from this device, but it is worth hunting out.
Honestly, no budget revision will make as much difference to your progress as having your wife fully involved.
And surely the monthly budget you will need in retirement will not be $11,000?
Just by having the house paid off and the kid's expenses gone, the monthly budget goes down around $4.5k. I imagine groceries will also be much decreased.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 20, 2018, 02:10:03 PM
Good point regarding getting my wife on board.  I will definitely look those posts up. 

And you are right, after FIRE my calculation is we would need more like $8000 per month because we wouldn't have to pay for Child Care and a few other work related expenses would drop. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: PharmaStache on June 20, 2018, 02:10:39 PM
You spend $400 on a party for kids that has booze?  That's the only thing that jumped out at me.  Do you have college savings set aside?  Housing & kid expenses should decrease in retirement (house paid off, kids not needing care...unless you start putting them in activities and private schools that are even more expensive!).
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 20, 2018, 02:33:35 PM
Yeah so I might have a party for my kid, but also provide some food and booze for the adults.  I bought a couple cases of good beer and two handles of liquor for a pretty big party for when my kid turned one.  I invited all my friends and their kids and also provided the food.  So all in all it might have been around $400 for everything. 

We have two 529s setup for each of them and contribute $100 per month to each for their college savings. They also have an UTMA each, worth about $15,000.

You're right about expenses dropping down after retirement, but if we really want to FIRE around age 45 (which we definitely are NOT on track for right now), I'll still have a mortgage, and still be buying lots of food for my two growing boys living at home.  No plans to send them to private school so that's a plus. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Bracken_Joy on June 20, 2018, 03:03:06 PM
I mean... how much do you want face punches? Because there IS a ton you could cut down, significantly. But do you really want to? Are you trying to see what's possible? What's your savings goal for being FI? You said you wanted to be FI in 7 years, right? Generally, for calculating your FI number, you do NOT count home equity as part of your stash, since it isn't bringing in returns. (Unless you plan to move and rent when you FIRE, but then you need to adjust your projected spending).

Correct me if I'm wrong someone, but at $8/month projected in retirement, that's $96,000/yr, which is a $2.4M stash, right? So you have 7 years to get another $1.4M. Maybe play with this calculator some: http://www.cfiresim.com/ (http://www.cfiresim.com/)
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: NoraLenderbee on June 20, 2018, 03:15:09 PM
You have $17K per year for nonessential home improvements and vacations. You're also at a stage in life where kids are costing a lot. I understand your wife wants a nicer house, etc., but she and you have to talk about why you have to have everything *now*. Put off home improvements for a few years. Keep vacations modest--your kids are young enough to have fun playing at the beach. And honestly, private pre-K AND an au pair? Kids get socialized being around *people*; they don't have to be around other *children* every day.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: ysette9 on June 20, 2018, 03:17:16 PM
We have money dates in which we have ended up having an on-going conversation about what our hopes and dreams are for the future. What we would like to do, where we would like to be, who we want to do those things with. Taking through those dreams has gotten us on the same page of what is really important to us. From there making decisions about what to do with our money was a natural extension of the values and goals we had identified. So I would recommend starting there.

I would recommend asking your wife to dream out loud about what she would like to be doing. If you could build your life in any manner possible, what would it look like? What brings you joy? Use that as a starting point to eventually get to the idea of FIRE (or not, if she doesn’t value that). Figure out what makes her tick and speak to those values.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: diapasoun on June 20, 2018, 03:25:58 PM
People have already addressed the biggest problems you have in terms of long-term budget size, which are mostly the house (the home improvements budget!) and making sure your wife is really on board. The au pair cost eventually going away will also help, of course.

The other thing that I see is just a sort of general proliferance of luxuries. Most of your individual line items aren't ridiculous. They're generous, but not ridiculous. However, you have a lot of them. You take vacations, you have your kids in activities, you update your house a lot, you throw what I'm assuming are some very nice parties and you spend cash on clothes and grooming and liquor. None of these things are bad -- they're all really fun! -- but as you have experienced, it adds up.

If I were you, I'd look at all these categories and ask yourself if your spending fits with your values and priorities. Really sit down with and ask yourself tough questions, and then change your behavior accordingly. (If you're interested in this, pick up Your Money or Your Life from the library; there's some excellent stuff in there regarding values-based spending.)

I'll pick some individual nits here, because sometimes it's nice to have things that you can optimize in the short term (unlike housing) and which will likely involve less spousal discussion than the home improvements. Overall, I think you can probably lessen spending in most of your categories by just being generally conscious of your spending, but these ones stand out to me:

1. Gas. $200 a month, especially when you own a hybrid, is a lot. When I was car-commuting almost two hours a day, I spent about $100/month for gas. I have a 2009 sedan with decent-but-not-awesome mileage and pay California gas prices. How are you spending this much on gas? What could you do to cut that down?

2. Do you get the $99 in savings off Amazon Prime? If not, cancel it. Sub-note -- Prime, Netflix, and Hulu is quite the combo of subscriptions. Do you really use all of them? Get rid of what you don't use much; if you really really miss it, you can always re-subscribe.

3. Do you really need unlimited data? You say you have it because your work doesn't have wifi; how much are you using the internet on your phone at work? Note that if you're bored at work all the time and wanting to be on the internet, you may have even more reason to push for FIRE (and a new job).

4. Your food spending is fairly heavy - your grocery spending is nearly $300/week. Bulk buying is your friend, as are beans and whole foods. ;) For its cost, a carrot is way more satiating than e.g. Goldfish.

5. Your entertainment spending is high. $400 for a kids' party? That one is mind boggling to me. When I was 5, pretty much all I wanted for my birthday was cake and time to run around screaming with my friends. (Come to think of it -- that hasn't changed much almost three decades later.) How much of this spending is to please the kids and yourselves, and how much is to keep up with the Joneses? (Same q: regarding entertaining guests at home.) Is the opinion of the Joneses really worth that much?

6. Travel: $5100 a year is a lot! Why not try camping? A staycation? A visit to a city that's within driving range? AirBnB instead of a hotel? There's tons of ways to lower these costs and have a really wonderful time travelling together as a family.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: fuzzy math on June 20, 2018, 04:57:06 PM
Your housing budget is fairly out of control. Even if you wanted to retire at 45 you'd likely be looking at needing to move just to escape some of the costs. You definitely have a different vision of life than your wife and it would be the most helpful thing if you did sit down together and find out what her priorities are. You can have lots of things, just not everything all the time. If you were looking to relocate, renovating your home is likely not a wise financial option. Its definitely outlandish now as it is. Sometimes people choose to make constant changes because life is tough, and changes are something that helps break up the monotony of day after day after day at work.

Your food budget is crazy. Is your AU pair shopping and cooking for you? There are 2 different types of shoppers. One goes to the store weekly or a couple times a week and buys staples for the week based off what's on sale and a reasonable rotation of the same items. The other says "I want chicken basil pasta with asiago cheese and some French green beans". Then they go to the store, and buy exactly the items required for that meal to the tune of $40. Repeat the next day. Your budget says that is what you're doing (or roughly the equivalent). You should be able to halve that with some dedicated lifestyle changes - no whole foods etc. there was a blogger in your area (now has moved) called frugal woods and she always spoke of the cheapness of Market Basket (or some other similarly named store). Shop there.

There is no reasonable amount of use that would require you to use $200 of toilet paper, paper towels, razors and shampoo. You really need to evaluate what you are doing here. $17 of toilet paper or paper towels lasts us 3 months with 5 in our home. Birch box seems to be one of those trendy poor value subscriptions. $6 in delivery razors should last a month.

When you host a party at your home, expect your friends to bring over a 6 pack of beer. Buy some cheap meat and cook it. We cooked for 13 ppl the other week (including booze) for $60. Friends brough additional booze, chips and a cake. People who refuse to contribute are mooches and shouldn't be invited to your home. If you are hosting 100 people in your home, you should cut back. Let the Joneses have you over.

Child care costs do suck. When your oldest is in pre-K is it possible to have an additional child watched by the AU pair to help share costs?

You've done really well listing all of your expenses. At least you see where your $$ is going currently. That's part of the battle. The next big thing is going to be focusing on cutting back without any discernible decrease in life enjoyment.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: red_pill on June 20, 2018, 08:14:55 PM
@Jadambomb - were we separated at birth? Are our wives clones of each other? I am in almost exactly the same boat as you - to within a few dollars overall. I feel the exact same way - We arenít financial disasters in that we have good income and a half decent savings rate (by normal sucker standards anyway) but I canít beleive how much cash we blow even though no one area is out of control.   For us, itís the death of a thousand cuts.  But sometimes I feel like a schmo for cutting things even though ďwe can afford itĒ.  But, my mind is set and I will not be deterred.

What Iíve found so far is my best way due to reluctant wife (same as yours. Seriously they could be sisters by the sounds of it) is to focus on steady progress.  Iterative change that gets slowly accustomed to. I also focus mainly on my own individual spending that I control and arenít family decisions.  That seems to have worn off a bit in my wife.

Also, through hours of conversation we finally have our ďwhyĒ.  For years I would hit the roadblock of her saying our pensions are good and when we retire our expenses will go down.  How could I counteract that?  I pitched the idea of a mini retirement. 3 months exploring New Zealand next year and then in three years we do a full year...somewhere.   Ohhhh she bit hard on it!  We are still building our frugality muscles, but itís getting easier.

If I may (and Iím no expert but maybe just from a fresh set of eyes), offer a few specific suggestions.

1.  Your electricity is high.  Even if you pay $0.15 kWh your at 46 kWh per day. Mine used to be the same. No joke Iíve gotten mine down to under 10 kWh per day.  Itís doable. Turn off the heat dry on your dish washer.  Install a clothesline this weekend. Kill your vampire drain.  Iíve cut my bill in over half by doing these things.  Sure itís ďonlyĒ $50 a month savings - seemingly insignificant in a budget of $11,000 but Iím convinced those small changes add up. Not only dollar wise but also habit wise and by changing the way I look at my spending.

2.  Why is your au pair so much?  Our au pair (told you - clones) is live in from Germany and we pay her $150 a week during the school year and $250 during no school weeks.  My wife also insisted on the pre-K programming.  I didnít buy it - itís not as if my kid would have been an antisocial sociopath because she didnít go to a pre-K program.  I lost that argument.  Avenge me by winning it now that itís your turn.

3.  Dude, $400 for a kids party for a one year old isnít a kids party. Itís an adult party and itís crazy unless you are celebrating something awesome. .  You're the guy who buys everyone a round at the bar.  Cool guy to know, expensive guy to be. 

4. You got Hulu, Spotify, Netflix, prime, etc. Death of a thousand cuts.  Thatís a lot of entertainment.   You got rid of cable and I bet you donít miss it (we are the same - got rid of it way before found MMM).  You wonít miss half this other shit either.  Watching tv is lame. Cut it.

5.  Pest control?  What the hell kind of woods do you live by that there are legions of pests invading your home?   Iíd say unless you are actively fighting some sort of infestation thatís probably a waste of money.  Kinda like an alarm company - false sense of security.  Go buy some rat traps or whatever and DIY.

6. Youíve listed restaurants, special occasions, coffee shops, and guests/entertaining as separate categories. That might make them easier to justify but when you add them up itís almost $500 a month.

7. The big house projects is the big one.  I fight the same battles. We sure do have a sweet patio, and great landscaping, etc etc. But looking back Iíd rather the cash.

8.  We are fighting high grocery bills too.  For the last month weíve been making a weekly menu and shopping off a list.  No coupons or anything (yet) and already itís reduced by about 15%. I recommend this. Itís worked so far for us but still have a long way to go.

Just a few things that jump out at me.   Before anyone calls me out on my hypocrisy, I must say youíve motivated me to dig in and hit phase 2 of our plans. 


Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 07:25:43 AM
People have already addressed the biggest problems you have in terms of long-term budget size, which are mostly the house (the home improvements budget!) and making sure your wife is really on board. The au pair cost eventually going away will also help, of course.

The other thing that I see is just a sort of general proliferance of luxuries. Most of your individual line items aren't ridiculous. They're generous, but not ridiculous. However, you have a lot of them. You take vacations, you have your kids in activities, you update your house a lot, you throw what I'm assuming are some very nice parties and you spend cash on clothes and grooming and liquor. None of these things are bad -- they're all really fun! -- but as you have experienced, it adds up.

If I were you, I'd look at all these categories and ask yourself if your spending fits with your values and priorities. Really sit down with and ask yourself tough questions, and then change your behavior accordingly. (If you're interested in this, pick up Your Money or Your Life from the library; there's some excellent stuff in there regarding values-based spending.)

I'll pick some individual nits here, because sometimes it's nice to have things that you can optimize in the short term (unlike housing) and which will likely involve less spousal discussion than the home improvements. Overall, I think you can probably lessen spending in most of your categories by just being generally conscious of your spending, but these ones stand out to me:

1. Gas. $200 a month, especially when you own a hybrid, is a lot. When I was car-commuting almost two hours a day, I spent about $100/month for gas. I have a 2009 sedan with decent-but-not-awesome mileage and pay California gas prices. How are you spending this much on gas? What could you do to cut that down?

2. Do you get the $99 in savings off Amazon Prime? If not, cancel it. Sub-note -- Prime, Netflix, and Hulu is quite the combo of subscriptions. Do you really use all of them? Get rid of what you don't use much; if you really really miss it, you can always re-subscribe.

3. Do you really need unlimited data? You say you have it because your work doesn't have wifi; how much are you using the internet on your phone at work? Note that if you're bored at work all the time and wanting to be on the internet, you may have even more reason to push for FIRE (and a new job).

4. Your food spending is fairly heavy - your grocery spending is nearly $300/week. Bulk buying is your friend, as are beans and whole foods. ;) For its cost, a carrot is way more satiating than e.g. Goldfish.

5. Your entertainment spending is high. $400 for a kids' party? That one is mind boggling to me. When I was 5, pretty much all I wanted for my birthday was cake and time to run around screaming with my friends. (Come to think of it -- that hasn't changed much almost three decades later.) How much of this spending is to please the kids and yourselves, and how much is to keep up with the Joneses? (Same q: regarding entertaining guests at home.) Is the opinion of the Joneses really worth that much?

6. Travel: $5100 a year is a lot! Why not try camping? A staycation? A visit to a city that's within driving range? AirBnB instead of a hotel? There's tons of ways to lower these costs and have a really wonderful time travelling together as a family.

All good points.

1. $200 for gas does seem high.  Especially because I drive the Hybrid to work everyday and I work nine miles away. My wife works from home 90% of the time.  The one main thing here is that my Au Pair drives a ton. Almost every night she takes the car and goes out with friends.  Sometimes she goes to places that are fifty or sixty miles away.  I just recently told her if she's going to be doing anything more than twenty miles, she should put some gas in the car.

2. We do save $99 from Prime in a year but you're right, to have Hulu, Netflix and Prime is probably overkill.  We do use all of them but I'm sure we could cut one out.

3. I might be able to look at not having unlimited data.  My work blocks almost everything so I do use my phone a lot at work.  I probably should cut down on that and maybe I can cut out unlimited data.

4. I totally agree here about the food budget.  I literally have no idea how we spend this much but we usually shop once a week and it's around $275 or so.  I have two kids who love those fruit/vegetable "pouches" and can eat several of them a day.  And because it's fruits and vegetables we usually let them because they generally are picky and won't eat whole fruits or vegetables.  Those packets cost $1.09 or $1.19 each and I'll usually buy around 40 a week so that's almost $50 a week right there. My wife doesn't really look at prices.  She buys organic a lot and buys lots of berries which are expensive per calorie.  We should definitely start doing Costco or something along with generally being better about watching prices.

5. Yeah you're right about this one too.  $400 does seem high.  In truth, that was more of an adult party veiled as a kids party but I'm sure I could have done that cheaper.

6. Also good point about travel.  Just keep in mind that if we take two trips per year with flights, and spend $350 per plane ticket on four people, that's $1400 for airfare per trip.  Or $2800 per year.  Then, I include ALL of our food, gas, lodging, rental cars in that budget too so it can add up quickly.  But definitely good point about camping and doing cheaper stuff.  I actually love camping so no skin off my back there. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 07:29:34 AM
I mean... how much do you want face punches? Because there IS a ton you could cut down, significantly. But do you really want to? Are you trying to see what's possible? What's your savings goal for being FI? You said you wanted to be FI in 7 years, right? Generally, for calculating your FI number, you do NOT count home equity as part of your stash, since it isn't bringing in returns. (Unless you plan to move and rent when you FIRE, but then you need to adjust your projected spending).

Correct me if I'm wrong someone, but at $8/month projected in retirement, that's $96,000/yr, which is a $2.4M stash, right? So you have 7 years to get another $1.4M. Maybe play with this calculator some: http://www.cfiresim.com/ (http://www.cfiresim.com/)

Face Punches welcome. 

I did not count the equity in my home as part of my stash.  We have $966,000 in investments right now including 401ks, IRAs, brokerage accounts, etc. 

Yes you're right about the $8,000 per month equaling $96,000 which is a 2.4M stash, but I'm using 30X my annual spending as my FIRE goal, because if you plan on FIRE with higher incomes and spending, you really need to start taking taxes into account. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: red_pill on June 21, 2018, 07:31:49 AM
Re the au pair driving - you already pay her for her wages (a lot compared to the going rate here) and food and acccomodations, so why is unlimited car rights included?  We charge ours 20 cents per km and that is pretty standard practice for people with au pairs around here. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 07:44:53 AM
@Jadambomb - were we separated at birth? Are our wives clones of each other? I am in almost exactly the same boat as you - to within a few dollars overall. I feel the exact same way - We arenít financial disasters in that we have good income and a half decent savings rate (by normal sucker standards anyway) but I canít beleive how much cash we blow even though no one area is out of control.   For us, itís the death of a thousand cuts.  But sometimes I feel like a schmo for cutting things even though ďwe can afford itĒ.  But, my mind is set and I will not be deterred.

What Iíve found so far is my best way due to reluctant wife (same as yours. Seriously they could be sisters by the sounds of it) is to focus on steady progress.  Iterative change that gets slowly accustomed to. I also focus mainly on my own individual spending that I control and arenít family decisions.  That seems to have worn off a bit in my wife.

Also, through hours of conversation we finally have our ďwhyĒ.  For years I would hit the roadblock of her saying our pensions are good and when we retire our expenses will go down.  How could I counteract that?  I pitched the idea of a mini retirement. 3 months exploring New Zealand next year and then in three years we do a full year...somewhere.   Ohhhh she bit hard on it!  We are still building our frugality muscles, but itís getting easier.

If I may (and Iím no expert but maybe just from a fresh set of eyes), offer a few specific suggestions.

1.  Your electricity is high.  Even if you pay $0.15 kWh your at 46 kWh per day. Mine used to be the same. No joke Iíve gotten mine down to under 10 kWh per day.  Itís doable. Turn off the heat dry on your dish washer.  Install a clothesline this weekend. Kill your vampire drain.  Iíve cut my bill in over half by doing these things.  Sure itís ďonlyĒ $50 a month savings - seemingly insignificant in a budget of $11,000 but Iím convinced those small changes add up. Not only dollar wise but also habit wise and by changing the way I look at my spending.

2.  Why is your au pair so much?  Our au pair (told you - clones) is live in from Germany and we pay her $150 a week during the school year and $250 during no school weeks.  My wife also insisted on the pre-K programming.  I didnít buy it - itís not as if my kid would have been an antisocial sociopath because she didnít go to a pre-K program.  I lost that argument.  Avenge me by winning it now that itís your turn.

3.  Dude, $400 for a kids party for a one year old isnít a kids party. Itís an adult party and itís crazy unless you are celebrating something awesome. .  You're the guy who buys everyone a round at the bar.  Cool guy to know, expensive guy to be. 

4. You got Hulu, Spotify, Netflix, prime, etc. Death of a thousand cuts.  Thatís a lot of entertainment.   You got rid of cable and I bet you donít miss it (we are the same - got rid of it way before found MMM).  You wonít miss half this other shit either.  Watching tv is lame. Cut it.

5.  Pest control?  What the hell kind of woods do you live by that there are legions of pests invading your home?   Iíd say unless you are actively fighting some sort of infestation thatís probably a waste of money.  Kinda like an alarm company - false sense of security.  Go buy some rat traps or whatever and DIY.

6. Youíve listed restaurants, special occasions, coffee shops, and guests/entertaining as separate categories. That might make them easier to justify but when you add them up itís almost $500 a month.

7. The big house projects is the big one.  I fight the same battles. We sure do have a sweet patio, and great landscaping, etc etc. But looking back Iíd rather the cash.

8.  We are fighting high grocery bills too.  For the last month weíve been making a weekly menu and shopping off a list.  No coupons or anything (yet) and already itís reduced by about 15%. I recommend this. Itís worked so far for us but still have a long way to go.

Just a few things that jump out at me.   Before anyone calls me out on my hypocrisy, I must say youíve motivated me to dig in and hit phase 2 of our plans.

At least I know there is more than one of me!  Thanks for the companionship in this situation.  Good to know I'm not the only one!

1. Electric - I will turn the heat dry off on my DW today.  Good suggestion.  I'll see if I can make some progress with my wife on the clothesline but since she generally does the laundry, she kind of calls the shots there.  Maybe I can take over the laundry duties and show her a clothesline isn't all that bad.  But I think the main load here is coming from the heat pumps.  New England winters are brutal. 

2. Our Au Pair's stipend is $200 a week.  BUT the agency charges about $9,000 a year.  So I'm factoring in the agency cost into that number too. We also gave her $500 as a bonus because she is so good with the kids.  That's also factored in.  I couldn't agree more about the Pre-k thing.  I lost, and that's about $6,800 for the year.

3. You're totally right about the kids party.  It really was more of an adult party veiled as a kids party.  But I definitely could have spent less on that.  Point taken.

4. You're right about having Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and Spotify.  We do use them all but I'm sure we could cut one, at least.  It seems like overkill.

5. Definitely a good point about the pest control too.  I'm surprised you're the only one to call me out for this one.  Probably because it's a pretty low number comparatively.  BUT, I keep telling my wife we should cancel it and just see how it goes.  If we get a massive influx of pests and infestation, we can always have them come back.

6. Also a good point about the all the entertainment stuff.  You're right that adding them all up to $500 a month is ridiculous!  Maybe I can point my wife to this number instead of the individual line items and it will be a good face punch for her. I'm sure we could find someplace to cut back here.

7. Yeah this one is the real killer.  I've been talking to her about this a lot and perhaps making some headway.  The other thing to keep in mind here is that this one obviously won't last forever.  Like after we do the patio, kitchen, and bathroom, I think she'll be satisfied for a long time.  But still those three projects are probably close to $50K, which would be fifty months at $1,000 a month.

8. Agree here too.  Just to recap what I said to an above poster "I totally agree here about the food budget.  I literally have no idea how we spend this much but we usually shop once a week and it's around $275 or so.  I have two kids who love those fruit/vegetable "pouches" and can eat several of them a day.  And because it's fruits and vegetables we usually let them because they generally are picky and won't eat whole fruits or vegetables.  Those packets cost $1.09 or $1.19 each and I'll usually buy around 40 a week so that's almost $50 a week right there. My wife doesn't really look at prices.  She buys organic a lot and buys lots of berries which are expensive per calorie.  We should definitely start doing Costco or something along with generally being better about watching prices."

Anyway, all very good points!  Thank you!  Much appreciated.  Maybe we can motivate each other somehow and compare budgets a year from now to see how we are doing... :)



Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 07:48:47 AM
Re the au pair driving - you already pay her for her wages (a lot compared to the going rate here) and food and acccomodations, so why is unlimited car rights included?  We charge ours 20 cents per km and that is pretty standard practice for people with au pairs around here.

Interesting about that being standard practice.  I'm going to try to do something like that too.  I'm sure that would help the gas budget a lot.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: CareCPA on June 21, 2018, 08:00:55 AM
...
8. Agree here too.  Just to recap what I said to an above poster "I totally agree here about the food budget.  I literally have no idea how we spend this much but we usually shop once a week and it's around $275 or so.  I have two kids who love those fruit/vegetable "pouches" and can eat several of them a day.  And because it's fruits and vegetables we usually let them because they generally are picky and won't eat whole fruits or vegetables.  Those packets cost $1.09 or $1.19 each and I'll usually buy around 40 a week so that's almost $50 a week right there. My wife doesn't really look at prices.  She buys organic a lot and buys lots of berries which are expensive per calorie.  We should definitely start doing Costco or something along with generally being better about watching prices."
...
Are you talking about the food puree they eat out of a pouch?
They make reusable ones. Here's one example I found from a quick search: https://www.amazon.com/Squooshi-Reusable-Pouch-Large-Pouches/dp/B00HPD4V1Y. There are probably cheaper ones if you look.
These and a blender would be way cheaper. You can probably cut $40 a week just here.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 08:11:04 AM
...
8. Agree here too.  Just to recap what I said to an above poster "I totally agree here about the food budget.  I literally have no idea how we spend this much but we usually shop once a week and it's around $275 or so.  I have two kids who love those fruit/vegetable "pouches" and can eat several of them a day.  And because it's fruits and vegetables we usually let them because they generally are picky and won't eat whole fruits or vegetables.  Those packets cost $1.09 or $1.19 each and I'll usually buy around 40 a week so that's almost $50 a week right there. My wife doesn't really look at prices.  She buys organic a lot and buys lots of berries which are expensive per calorie.  We should definitely start doing Costco or something along with generally being better about watching prices."
...
Are you talking about the food puree they eat out of a pouch?
They make reusable ones. Here's one example I found from a quick search: https://www.amazon.com/Squooshi-Reusable-Pouch-Large-Pouches/dp/B00HPD4V1Y. There are probably cheaper ones if you look.
These and a blender would be way cheaper. You can probably cut $40 a week just here.

That's exactly what I'm talking about!  Good find.  Let me look into these but it looks promising.  Thank you!
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: neo von retorch on June 21, 2018, 08:31:59 AM
This was mentioned before, but I'll reiterate.

Your stash at retirement is 25x expenses (excluding the P&I of your mortgage)...
... then add your remaining mortgage.

So if the $4500/month in retirement figure quoted earlier was correct, then lets say you retire with $300k left on the morgage? You need 300 x 4500 + 300k = $1.65M.

If we use your $8k/month, but reduce that by $2k to account for the P&I payment, then you're at $2.1M...
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Bracken_Joy on June 21, 2018, 08:37:39 AM
This was mentioned before, but I'll reiterate.

Your stash at retirement is 25x expenses (excluding the P&I of your mortgage)...
... then add your remaining mortgage.

So if the $4500/month in retirement figure quoted earlier was correct, then lets say you retire with $300k left on the morgage? You need 300 x 4500 + 300k = $1.65M.

If we use your $8k/month, but reduce that by $2k to account for the P&I payment, then you're at $2.1M...

He also pointed out, that $8k does NOT include tax burden, so that's worth noting.

OP, have you played with the Case Study spreadsheet? There are some very useful tools in there. https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/ (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/) Spreadsheet is linked in that first post.

So OP, what's your math like? How much do you have to be saving every month, and therefore spending every month, to hit your goal in 7 years?
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 21, 2018, 09:10:26 AM
@Jadambomb, maybe I missed it, but how do you have so much equity in your house? Huge down payment? Huge appreciation? Something else?

I just figured that you would be able to pay off the mortgage before you FIRE, but I'm not sure how you've been able to make so much traction on the house in such a relatively short time.

Without childcare and without a mortgage, and if you could ever stop the $12,000 "make a nicer house" fund, crap your annual expenses wouldn't be high at all! I'd guess health care would be the main concern/cost, and then figuring out if you're going to put away for kids' college.

But I don't think FIRE for you = needing $3M, or even $2M.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 09:12:56 AM
This was mentioned before, but I'll reiterate.

Your stash at retirement is 25x expenses (excluding the P&I of your mortgage)...
... then add your remaining mortgage.

So if the $4500/month in retirement figure quoted earlier was correct, then lets say you retire with $300k left on the morgage? You need 300 x 4500 + 300k = $1.65M.

If we use your $8k/month, but reduce that by $2k to account for the P&I payment, then you're at $2.1M...

He also pointed out, that $8k does NOT include tax burden, so that's worth noting.

OP, have you played with the Case Study spreadsheet? There are some very useful tools in there. https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/ (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/) Spreadsheet is linked in that first post.

So OP, what's your math like? How much do you have to be saving every month, and therefore spending every month, to hit your goal in 7 years?

It looks like we'd have to save about $4,000 more a month or so to get there.  Or spending of roughly $7,000 per month.  Now actually we won't be THAT far off in three years when our youngest goes to kindergarten.  But we'd have to start that today to get there. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Bracken_Joy on June 21, 2018, 09:25:34 AM
This was mentioned before, but I'll reiterate.

Your stash at retirement is 25x expenses (excluding the P&I of your mortgage)...
... then add your remaining mortgage.

So if the $4500/month in retirement figure quoted earlier was correct, then lets say you retire with $300k left on the morgage? You need 300 x 4500 + 300k = $1.65M.

If we use your $8k/month, but reduce that by $2k to account for the P&I payment, then you're at $2.1M...

He also pointed out, that $8k does NOT include tax burden, so that's worth noting.

OP, have you played with the Case Study spreadsheet? There are some very useful tools in there. https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/ (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/) Spreadsheet is linked in that first post.

So OP, what's your math like? How much do you have to be saving every month, and therefore spending every month, to hit your goal in 7 years?

It looks like we'd have to save about $4,000 more a month or so to get there.  Or spending of roughly $7,000 per month.  Now actually we won't be THAT far off in three years when our youngest goes to kindergarten.  But we'd have to start that today to get there.

Be sure not to forget expected market gains =) (Related: what's you asset allocation like? That'll influence what to expect for returns). Once you have that spending number, then you have a pretty solid number to know how much to cut! That helps you get into the specific goal/specific numbers mindset, rather than just, "this seems high". You have a big shovel and good assets, if you play it right, 7 years *should* be completely doable.

Frankly though? From what you're saying, I'm not sure the au pair actually is your cheapest option over other care. Feeding her, housing her, wear and tear on your cars, gas, then the more obvious numbers... that'll add up! You've added another adult to your household you're completely bankrolling.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Hirondelle on June 21, 2018, 09:26:50 AM
Wow. $11000/month is a lot! FIRE in 7 years would require you to increase your savings rate by quite a bit. Not counting your house equity you have a little under 1M of stash. To get to FIRE in 7 years on your current income you'd need to get to a 50% savings rate which would mean your expenses have to reduce to approximately $7250 - which you then have to maintain during FIRE. Here's some suggestions to reduce spending:

All budgets are MONTHLY

Auto Related - Roughly $740
1. Car Insurance (Two cars, both paid off. Three drivers. 1. 2008 Lexus RX 350  2. 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid) - $148
2. Car Replacement Allowance Fund - $200
3. Car Wash/Tolls/Parking - $20
4. Excise Tax and Registration - $18
5. Gas - $200
6. Maintenance and Repairs (This might include one large repair bill of $1000 per year or so.  Something always happens) - $150
Now I know nothing about cars, but do you really need 2 of them? You say your wife works from home 90% of the time. You only work 9 miles away. I've lived in MA before, so I know there's a fairly decent public transportation system - is there an option to get to work by public transit? Ebike would also be a good option. Also, let the aupair drive less. That's really too much gas that she's not paying for.

Bills/Utilities - Roughly $480
1. Electric - $210 (includes heating (heat pumps) and a/c)
2. Firewood - $50 (roughly two cords of wood)
3. Heating Oil (for hot water and backup for heat pumps) - $140
4. Mobile Phone - $99 (Unlimited data because my work doesn't have WiFi)
5. Sewer - $35
6. TV/Internet Service (no cable. Internet service for $40 and $8 for Hulu) - $48
Try to cut down on the data, you can probably get a way cheaper package that still has a lot of data. See how much you're using in a month and check out prices on that amount. Also limit your data activities to low MB-activities. So no videos etc, but texting or reading websites is fine as it doesn't use much data.

Entertainment - Roughly $175
1. Guests/Entertaining (This includes backyard bbqs, birthday parties for the kids, dinners if guests come over.  Keep in mind that one party for kids might cost $400 or so with food and booze) - $75
2. Netflix - $11
3. Music/Spotify - $10
4. Special Occasions (Dinner for my wife's birthday, Valentines Day, my birthday, Anniversaries.  One dinner might be $200) - $75
You're pretty good at splitting out expenses so individual categories don't seem that high! Both 1 and 4 are expenses covering birthdays and parties. Also these dinners are apparently NOT included in your food/dining category. BTW; You don't need annual $200 dinners. Keep those for the milestone birthdays and anniversaries. Get a cheaper dinner out or a super-fancy home cooked dinner for the others. Also, there's been enough said about the kid bday party. No more of that. Also, Spotify with commercials really isn't that bad. Youtube with an adblocker is a good alternative too.

Food & Dining - Roughly $1,550
1. Coffee Shops (We make coffee at home everyday.  We might buy a coffee once a week.) - $25
2. Groceries (Three adults including the Au Pair, Two boys under five) - $1,150
3. Liquor - $60 (I'm trying to cut back)
4. Restaurants (We order out once a week for three people, and might go out to a restaurant once a month) - $275
5. Work Lunch (I almost always bring lunch to work) - $20
Once a week coffee, once a week takeout, twice a month worklunch and once a month dining adds up! Cut in half, should be easy. Groceries are INSANE. Check out the Less $200/month grocery spend for family of 4 thread for inspiration. (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/have-a-sub-$200month-grocery-budget/)

Gifting - $50
1. Gifts (kids birthdays, each others birthdays, friend's kid's birthdays) - $50
Really? Another line item for your bdays? Didn't you already spend 150/month on the dinners and parties related to those??

Home - Roughly $4,400
1. Furniture/Appliances allowance/replacement budget (This would mean $480 per year) - $40
2. Home Improvement allowance budget (My wife wants to continually upgrade our house.  This would mean one $12,000 project per year) - $1,000
3. Home Maintenance Allowance Budget (Oil Boiler Maintenance, A/C Servicing, Roof replacement every 20 years, House Painting every 10 years or so) - $325
4. Home Supplies (TP, Papertowels, batteries, cleaning supplies) - $150
5. Lawn & Garden (One fall cleanup, a few bags of organic fertilizer.  I do everything else myself) - $50
6. Mortgage (R/E Taxes and Insurance = $850, Mortgage payment = $2,000) = $2,850
7. Pest control Service (We live near a lot of woods) - $29
8. Snow Plowing (Huge Driveway) - $40
Try to slow down the home improvement. You expect your wife to be happy after a new kitchen, bathroom and patio, but after that she'll be tired of the living room, the bedroom or whatever other rooms you have in your house. I like the suggestion of doing this after the kids are in (free!) public school. Half the fund and do biannual rather than annual improvements. Home supplies are also insane. How on earth are you using that much toilet paper and paper towels??

Kids - Roughly $2,550 (This should drop down drastically after our youngest kid goes to Kindergarten and we no longer need an Au Pair or Pre-K)
1. Au Pair and Pre-K (roughly $1800 for AU Pair and $575 for Pre-K) - $2,375
2. Kids Activities (Soccer, Dancing, Taking them to Children's Museums, the Zoo etc) $75
3. Kids Supplies - (Diapers/Wipes/Clothing/Toys) - $100
Your kids are <5, why do they need so many activities? I mean.. they're apparently still in diapers so must be really young? In my hometown kids weren't even allowed to start "real" sports before the age of 6. You can play soccer in the parc and dance with your kids in the living room. If you don't have time, ask the au pair to play active games with them. Kids can play outside without it being an official activity, it's good for them.

Personal Care - $110
1. Beauty/Grooming (Birchbox, Razor Heads, Shampoo, Soap, Lotions etc.) - $25
2. Dry Cleaning - $15
3. Hair Cuts (For my wife, me, two kids) - $50
4. Mani/Pedi (One every two or three months) - $20
Try out cutting your own hair. Mani/Pedi is unnecessary but for $20/month don't fight over it if your wife insists. Shampoo and soap don't have to cost $25/month.

Shopping - $115
1. Clothing (For me and my wife) - $115
That's a lot considering it doesn't include the cost of your kids' clothes. Shop less, declutter and try thrift shopping.

Travel - $425
1. Travel/Vacation (Flights, hotels, gas, food, etc.  This would be $5,100 per year) - $425
Where are you flying 2x yearly? Any way you can cut this down to 1 flight and 1 roadtrip? Check out travel hacking to reduce flying and hotel costs.

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: robartsd on June 21, 2018, 09:30:48 AM
We'd love to FIRE by around age 45 or so.  That's really our only goal.  We are 38 now.  Assets vs liabilities I think we are doing decently well. 

Assets:
1. Our house which probably worth about $900,000
2. Investments - $967,000

Liabilites:
Mortgage - $371,000  and that's it. 

You could easily FIRE on your current assets if you're willing to relocate to a lower cost of living. $900k - $371k mortgage - $45k selling costs = $484k. Buy a house for about $250k and add the rest to your investments providing about $4k monthly budget using the 4% rule. You have to decide what's important enough to keep working for - if it's not cut it.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 09:40:18 AM
This was mentioned before, but I'll reiterate.

Your stash at retirement is 25x expenses (excluding the P&I of your mortgage)...
... then add your remaining mortgage.

So if the $4500/month in retirement figure quoted earlier was correct, then lets say you retire with $300k left on the morgage? You need 300 x 4500 + 300k = $1.65M.

If we use your $8k/month, but reduce that by $2k to account for the P&I payment, then you're at $2.1M...

He also pointed out, that $8k does NOT include tax burden, so that's worth noting.

OP, have you played with the Case Study spreadsheet? There are some very useful tools in there. https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/ (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/) Spreadsheet is linked in that first post.

So OP, what's your math like? How much do you have to be saving every month, and therefore spending every month, to hit your goal in 7 years?

It looks like we'd have to save about $4,000 more a month or so to get there.  Or spending of roughly $7,000 per month.  Now actually we won't be THAT far off in three years when our youngest goes to kindergarten.  But we'd have to start that today to get there.

Be sure not to forget expected market gains =) (Related: what's you asset allocation like? That'll influence what to expect for returns). Once you have that spending number, then you have a pretty solid number to know how much to cut! That helps you get into the specific goal/specific numbers mindset, rather than just, "this seems high". You have a big shovel and good assets, if you play it right, 7 years *should* be completely doable.

Frankly though? From what you're saying, I'm not sure the au pair actually is your cheapest option over other care. Feeding her, housing her, wear and tear on your cars, gas, then the more obvious numbers... that'll add up! You've added another adult to your household you're completely bankrolling.

We are about 80% equities, 15% bonds, 5% Gold for asset allocation. 

I'm sure the Au Pair is more than we think but the absolute cheapest childcare option in my area is $7 an hour per kid.  And that's a place I'd REALLY rather not send them too.  That's about $2,750 per month instead of the $1,800 per month including the agency fee.  I doubt we are spending more than $950 a month on her food, gas, car depreciation and insurance, and increased utility costs, BUT it's probably closer than I might think.  But if you compare it to an actual decent child care place, that's probably closer to $3,200 minimum which makes the Au Pair seem even more economical.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: ysette9 on June 21, 2018, 09:48:48 AM
We have very similar overall spending as your household and also have two small kids. Our kiddos are in a home daycare and we spend about $3k a month on that. Our overall housing cost with property taxes and insurance is around $5k, so like you, between those two that is a lot of spending, though temporary in nature. We also have a death by a thousand paper cuts and need to do better. However, we bring in about double what you do, so our savings rate is still healthy though we are ridiculously spendy. My hope and belief is that we will spend less once we have more time and aren’t trading $ for convenience. With two littles and two careers it can be tough to balance.

Good luck with your situation. It is a process of little improvements over time that build on themselves. Cut one thing and go a month or two to see if you really miss it or not. We never had cable but we cut Pandora and Netflix that way and are totally fine now. The library is a great resource for mind-numbing screen entertainment if we even find the time, which we usually don’t. Costco is probably next on our chopping block as well as amazon prime. You just need to do the evaluation to make sure you are getting enough value out of these services to warrant the cost.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: MrsDinero on June 21, 2018, 09:50:25 AM
...
8. Agree here too.  Just to recap what I said to an above poster "I totally agree here about the food budget.  I literally have no idea how we spend this much but we usually shop once a week and it's around $275 or so.  I have two kids who love those fruit/vegetable "pouches" and can eat several of them a day.  And because it's fruits and vegetables we usually let them because they generally are picky and won't eat whole fruits or vegetables.  Those packets cost $1.09 or $1.19 each and I'll usually buy around 40 a week so that's almost $50 a week right there. My wife doesn't really look at prices.  She buys organic a lot and buys lots of berries which are expensive per calorie.  We should definitely start doing Costco or something along with generally being better about watching prices."
...
Are you talking about the food puree they eat out of a pouch?
They make reusable ones. Here's one example I found from a quick search: https://www.amazon.com/Squooshi-Reusable-Pouch-Large-Pouches/dp/B00HPD4V1Y. There are probably cheaper ones if you look.
These and a blender would be way cheaper. You can probably cut $40 a week just here.

That's exactly what I'm talking about!  Good find.  Let me look into these but it looks promising.  Thank you!


We used to give our kids those fruit/veg pouches for the exact same reason you stated, because they wouldn't eat the whole fruit/veg.  I was even buying them by the case from Amazon (much cheaper than the store), then it dawned on me how we got into this circle.   

The kids wouldn't eat whole fruit/veg because WE stopped giving it to them.  The pouches were easier, less messy, and less argumentative.  Once we realized we created the problem, we decided to just go cold turkey with them and stopped buying them.  It took a couple of weeks and several tantrums but the kids started eating the fruits/veg whole.  8 months later we have zero problems.   We will still keep 2 in the diaper bag, but the kids know they are now only occasional snacks.  In fact the kids haven't had one, even as a snack, in several weeks.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 09:52:58 AM
@Jadambomb, maybe I missed it, but how do you have so much equity in your house? Huge down payment? Huge appreciation? Something else?

I just figured that you would be able to pay off the mortgage before you FIRE, but I'm not sure how you've been able to make so much traction on the house in such a relatively short time.

Without childcare and without a mortgage, and if you could ever stop the $12,000 "make a nicer house" fund, crap your annual expenses wouldn't be high at all! I'd guess health care would be the main concern/cost, and then figuring out if you're going to put away for kids' college.

But I don't think FIRE for you = needing $3M, or even $2M.

We had a pretty big downpayment but nothing huge.  We put down 27.5% or $159,000 and we bought our house for $576,000 in 2012.  Our area has definitely had a lot of price appreciation since then as well.  And we've also put about $60,000 in for home improvements (See?  $12,000 a year x five years...  :))  Then we also made two additional payments to the principal of $2,750 each, or $5,500 total. 

You're right though.  Once the kids are in school and our childcare expenses drop significantly it will look and feel a lot different.  The childcare stuff won't go away completely for a while because we will still need after school care.  But it will be more like $5,000 for both kids instead of $30,000. That day just seems so far away, but it really is about three years or so.   

Also I don't think we will have our mortgage paid off near FIRE, especially if we actually FIRE around 45 or 50.  As of now, it's looking like it will be paid off in around 2040, but we hope to make some headway on that.  But I still think we will have it for a good while after FIRE. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: neo von retorch on June 21, 2018, 09:56:45 AM
Also I don't think we will have our mortgage paid off near FIRE, especially if we actually FIRE around 45 or 50.  As of now, it's looking like it will be paid off in around 2040, but we hope to make some headway on that.  But I still think we will have it for a good while after FIRE.

Still, think about this for a second. If you need $2000 per month forever because of a mortgage, you need $600k invested. But if your mortgage when you retire is $300k... umm... why do you need $600k invested when you could just pay off your $300k mortgage instantly?
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Bracken_Joy on June 21, 2018, 09:57:13 AM
This was mentioned before, but I'll reiterate.

Your stash at retirement is 25x expenses (excluding the P&I of your mortgage)...
... then add your remaining mortgage.

So if the $4500/month in retirement figure quoted earlier was correct, then lets say you retire with $300k left on the morgage? You need 300 x 4500 + 300k = $1.65M.

If we use your $8k/month, but reduce that by $2k to account for the P&I payment, then you're at $2.1M...

He also pointed out, that $8k does NOT include tax burden, so that's worth noting.

OP, have you played with the Case Study spreadsheet? There are some very useful tools in there. https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/ (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/) Spreadsheet is linked in that first post.

So OP, what's your math like? How much do you have to be saving every month, and therefore spending every month, to hit your goal in 7 years?

It looks like we'd have to save about $4,000 more a month or so to get there.  Or spending of roughly $7,000 per month.  Now actually we won't be THAT far off in three years when our youngest goes to kindergarten.  But we'd have to start that today to get there.

Be sure not to forget expected market gains =) (Related: what's you asset allocation like? That'll influence what to expect for returns). Once you have that spending number, then you have a pretty solid number to know how much to cut! That helps you get into the specific goal/specific numbers mindset, rather than just, "this seems high". You have a big shovel and good assets, if you play it right, 7 years *should* be completely doable.

Frankly though? From what you're saying, I'm not sure the au pair actually is your cheapest option over other care. Feeding her, housing her, wear and tear on your cars, gas, then the more obvious numbers... that'll add up! You've added another adult to your household you're completely bankrolling.

We are about 80% equities, 15% bonds, 5% Gold for asset allocation. 

I'm sure the Au Pair is more than we think but the absolute cheapest childcare option in my area is $7 an hour per kid.  And that's a place I'd REALLY rather not send them too.  That's about $2,750 per month instead of the $1,800 per month including the agency fee.  I doubt we are spending more than $950 a month on her food, gas, car depreciation and insurance, and increased utility costs, BUT it's probably closer than I might think.  But if you compare it to an actual decent child care place, that's probably closer to $3,200 minimum which makes the Au Pair seem even more economical.

Fair, you definitely would know childcare prices/options in your area better than I do! It's just one of those things that's it's good to know the real cost of something. Particularly where you should modify. Like her driving, it isn't just gas, it's wear on your vehicles. You say a big repair comes up every year, right? (For one, going for a less luxury brand than lexus would help cut cost of repairs, but that's something to keep in mind at replacement time). She's putting a lot of miles and wear and tear on the cars for personal use. Compare her mileage to the IRS rate. 54.5 cents per mile for business use. At 60 miles each way every week, that's an extra $65.40/week. $261.60 per month. Obviously having her drive for kids activities and such is expected, and don't nickel and dime her to death, but 60 miles away to see friends on a regular basis is bonkers IMO.

The other thing I would caution is assuming once your wife gets the renovations she has in mind right now, that the costs for those will stop. That has never been the case in any family that does the "reno game". First it's the renos. Then it's the landscaping. Then the furniture is out of date. Then they want a swimming pool or an addition. Then the kitchen wasn't done all that great in the first place, and we need to replace the counters, but while we're at it shouldn't we just do the whole thing anyway? On and on. Spending becomes a HABIT. There's a reason the hedonic treadmill is something that keeps moving. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/22/what-is-hedonic-adaptation-and-how-can-it-turn-you-into-a-sukka/ (https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/22/what-is-hedonic-adaptation-and-how-can-it-turn-you-into-a-sukka/) and https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/09/18/is-it-convenient-would-i-enjoy-it-wrong-question/ (https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/09/18/is-it-convenient-would-i-enjoy-it-wrong-question/)
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: rdaneel0 on June 21, 2018, 10:14:39 AM
Ask and ye shall receive.

Holy shit! I canít imagine how much money you make to even be able to spend so much, so I can definitely help :)

Firewood- $50óówhy are you spending any money on firewood in MA? and you say you live near woods, so much woods that you need pest control, but then you buy wood! and $600 a year at that! come on! there must be a way to get this for free, get creative and feel accomplished. bonus: your wife will swoon if you chop wood, i promise. Iíd change this to $0.


Entertainment: I can almost guarantee you your numbers arenít right on this. You say $175 total, but I find it hard to believe that youíre able to entertain on that budget when you spend over a thousand on standard groceries for your family. Iíd re-check this number. I bet youíre spending way more on special occasions as well.


Coffee Shops- $25 óóthereís no reason, with awesome travel mugs and super fancy home coffee machines, to ever spend on coffee out- I donít see a difference between a quick coffee out and buying bottled water. Change to $0

Groceries - $1,150 óó this is insane. even at a very doable $100 a month per person this would only be $500, I think $400 is more realistic since the kids are so little. You need to meal plan and cook and stop buying pre-made crap. I bet your waste is out of control in this department too, you must be throwing away a ton of food.

Restaurants - $275 óó Iím surprised itís this low with ordering out once a week and going out to a restaurant, I guess this doesnít include your special occasion restaurants? Still, how can you justify any restaurants when youíre already spending over a grand a month on groceries? Bump this down to $75.

Work Lunch- $20 óó Bring lunch always, not almost always. This should be $0.

NOTE: Do you realize that through all your different food categories (special occasion, lunch, coffee, groceries, restaurants, entertaining) your family is spending $1,620 a month on just consumables? And this WILL go up once those kids are older.

Home Improvement allowance- $1,000 óó you must know this is pretty extravagant. why so much? why does the house have to be constantly upgraded? iíd understand if it was a one off project but this is just lighting money on fire. would your wife be open to learning about hedonic adaptation? wouldnít she love to feel totally happy with her home? it must be awful to always feel like things need to be better. this is an internal job, IMO, but this should absolutely be $0.

I donít understand why you have home supplies and furniture/appliances separate, you are spending an absurd amount of money on unnecessary home crap. Iím almost afraid to ask how big your home isÖ

Furniture/Appliance/Home

Home Supplies ó $150 - Costco or BJs is your friend here, you can easily knock this down to $50 or so.

Home Maintenance ó $325 (this should include furniture and appliance allowance, so that category goes away, thereís a difference between replacing because something is unfixable and replacing because something else is new) Iíd knock this to $150 and build up a home savings account.


Your mortgage is really high, but Iím not sure how much youíre willing to change/want to save. Itís hard to say without a goal stated. I wouldnít pay that much for a mortgage though, and I live in NY. Especially since youíre dumping so much other money into the house, itís a total money sink for you.

Personal care- Iím surprised youíre as low as you are on this, Iíve never seen a mani pedi for that cheap (plus thereís tip) and I wonder if this is really reflective of your personal care items? 4 haircuts for $50? is that with a tip? Birchbox is a terrible deal too, they basically package free samples and then make people pay a subscription fee. If you just reach out to cosmetics companies they will send you free samples for literally anything. Even Sephora will give you free samples if you ask. Mani Pedi can be in-sourced too and I would stop buying anything that needs dry cleaning. Iíd bump down your personal care to $65.

Clothing ó $115 - you say this is just for you and your wife, so what about the kids? I donít see why they canít be included in this. you presumably donít need new stuff every single month, right? Eliminate kidís clothing spending and bump down Kid Supplies to $75 while youíre at it.

Travel- $425 ó I assume you arenít travel hacking at all? This could easily be bumped down to $300

Miscellaneous- Nahhhhh, no miscellaneous. $0.

Just this shaves a little over $2,600 off your monthly costs, but the house is the other culprit. The house costs are absurd (mortgage plus associated costs to keep it going). That said, you seem to make a massive income and still have a relatively high net worth. I just shudder to think at when youíll ever be able to retire.

The issue isnít that you canít afford what youíre doing right now, because you can due to a high income, but if you need this much to live on FOREVER youíre going to need one hell of a nest egg. I suspect your costs will increase over time, not decrease, and that your savings will gradually narrow as your kids become pricier and voice their own demands. In your case it goes beyond money. Some people come here massively in debt or low income or whatever, but your issue is just sheer consumption. You asked for feedback, and my feedback is that your super high income is masking your insane levels of consuming and consuming. To be totally honest (and throw a face punch) I canít imagine how much of your physical time is spent just shopping and buying and hiring people to do stuff for you. Do you have any free hobbies or rewarding past times that are based on creating and making rather than buying?

If youíre ok with all this and you feel your spending reflects your values and that you have a true sense of happiness and satisfaction in your life, I guess thereís no reason to change. I predict you will not retire as early as you think despite what retirement calculators say, because I think youíre so tied up in the hedonic adaptation trap that your costs will climb and climb, but youíre big enough earners that you wonít end up in real trouble like most people (who are drowning in debt, being foreclosed on , etc.).

I think you and your wife should talk about what you want your lives to look like, whatís fulfilling longterm versus easy short term, and when enough is enough. That kind of thing, of course you both have to be on the same page. Best of luck!
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Hirondelle on June 21, 2018, 10:19:47 AM
One more thing I just thought of...  I don't see any charity? So you're earning $14.5k/month and spending $11k of it and Not. A. Single. Dollar. is spent to help others. You're spending all these crazy amounts of money on kids activities, fancy anniversary parties, regular groceries and house improvement, but you're not spending a single dollar on improving the lives of people who are less fortunate?

I'd suggest you redirect some of the savings on your fancy kids activities to provide food/shelter for kids who need it harder than your own.


ETA: Sorry if this comment comes off as rough/judgemental, but I was genuinely shocked when I realized.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: KBecks on June 21, 2018, 10:20:26 AM
The thing that jumps out at me is $12,000/year for home improvements and remodeling.  Can you slow down your home improvements?  Is your home safe and functional?  You are just throwing money at this and you should both meditate on the money vs. the value for money you are getting.  I bet your house is already nice.

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: gaja on June 21, 2018, 10:56:20 AM
I don't know how pre-K works; how many hours a day/week are the kids there?
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 12:07:42 PM
Ask and ye shall receive.

Holy shit! I canít imagine how much money you make to even be able to spend so much, so I can definitely help :)

Firewood- $50óówhy are you spending any money on firewood in MA? and you say you live near woods, so much woods that you need pest control, but then you buy wood! and $600 a year at that! come on! there must be a way to get this for free, get creative and feel accomplished. bonus: your wife will swoon if you chop wood, i promise. Iíd change this to $0.


Entertainment: I can almost guarantee you your numbers arenít right on this. You say $175 total, but I find it hard to believe that youíre able to entertain on that budget when you spend over a thousand on standard groceries for your family. Iíd re-check this number. I bet youíre spending way more on special occasions as well.


Coffee Shops- $25 óóthereís no reason, with awesome travel mugs and super fancy home coffee machines, to ever spend on coffee out- I donít see a difference between a quick coffee out and buying bottled water. Change to $0

Groceries - $1,150 óó this is insane. even at a very doable $100 a month per person this would only be $500, I think $400 is more realistic since the kids are so little. You need to meal plan and cook and stop buying pre-made crap. I bet your waste is out of control in this department too, you must be throwing away a ton of food.

Restaurants - $275 óó Iím surprised itís this low with ordering out once a week and going out to a restaurant, I guess this doesnít include your special occasion restaurants? Still, how can you justify any restaurants when youíre already spending over a grand a month on groceries? Bump this down to $75.

Work Lunch- $20 óó Bring lunch always, not almost always. This should be $0.

NOTE: Do you realize that through all your different food categories (special occasion, lunch, coffee, groceries, restaurants, entertaining) your family is spending $1,620 a month on just consumables? And this WILL go up once those kids are older.

Home Improvement allowance- $1,000 óó you must know this is pretty extravagant. why so much? why does the house have to be constantly upgraded? iíd understand if it was a one off project but this is just lighting money on fire. would your wife be open to learning about hedonic adaptation? wouldnít she love to feel totally happy with her home? it must be awful to always feel like things need to be better. this is an internal job, IMO, but this should absolutely be $0.

I donít understand why you have home supplies and furniture/appliances separate, you are spending an absurd amount of money on unnecessary home crap. Iím almost afraid to ask how big your home isÖ

Furniture/Appliance/Home

Home Supplies ó $150 - Costco or BJs is your friend here, you can easily knock this down to $50 or so.

Home Maintenance ó $325 (this should include furniture and appliance allowance, so that category goes away, thereís a difference between replacing because something is unfixable and replacing because something else is new) Iíd knock this to $150 and build up a home savings account.


Your mortgage is really high, but Iím not sure how much youíre willing to change/want to save. Itís hard to say without a goal stated. I wouldnít pay that much for a mortgage though, and I live in NY. Especially since youíre dumping so much other money into the house, itís a total money sink for you.

Personal care- Iím surprised youíre as low as you are on this, Iíve never seen a mani pedi for that cheap (plus thereís tip) and I wonder if this is really reflective of your personal care items? 4 haircuts for $50? is that with a tip? Birchbox is a terrible deal too, they basically package free samples and then make people pay a subscription fee. If you just reach out to cosmetics companies they will send you free samples for literally anything. Even Sephora will give you free samples if you ask. Mani Pedi can be in-sourced too and I would stop buying anything that needs dry cleaning. Iíd bump down your personal care to $65.

Clothing ó $115 - you say this is just for you and your wife, so what about the kids? I donít see why they canít be included in this. you presumably donít need new stuff every single month, right? Eliminate kidís clothing spending and bump down Kid Supplies to $75 while youíre at it.

Travel- $425 ó I assume you arenít travel hacking at all? This could easily be bumped down to $300

Miscellaneous- Nahhhhh, no miscellaneous. $0.

Just this shaves a little over $2,600 off your monthly costs, but the house is the other culprit. The house costs are absurd (mortgage plus associated costs to keep it going). That said, you seem to make a massive income and still have a relatively high net worth. I just shudder to think at when youíll ever be able to retire.

The issue isnít that you canít afford what youíre doing right now, because you can due to a high income, but if you need this much to live on FOREVER youíre going to need one hell of a nest egg. I suspect your costs will increase over time, not decrease, and that your savings will gradually narrow as your kids become pricier and voice their own demands. In your case it goes beyond money. Some people come here massively in debt or low income or whatever, but your issue is just sheer consumption. You asked for feedback, and my feedback is that your super high income is masking your insane levels of consuming and consuming. To be totally honest (and throw a face punch) I canít imagine how much of your physical time is spent just shopping and buying and hiring people to do stuff for you. Do you have any free hobbies or rewarding past times that are based on creating and making rather than buying?

If youíre ok with all this and you feel your spending reflects your values and that you have a true sense of happiness and satisfaction in your life, I guess thereís no reason to change. I predict you will not retire as early as you think despite what retirement calculators say, because I think youíre so tied up in the hedonic adaptation trap that your costs will climb and climb, but youíre big enough earners that you wonít end up in real trouble like most people (who are drowning in debt, being foreclosed on , etc.).

I think you and your wife should talk about what you want your lives to look like, whatís fulfilling longterm versus easy short term, and when enough is enough. That kind of thing, of course you both have to be on the same page. Best of luck!

I definitely like some of the suggestions you made.  I'm going to try to implement a lot of them.

Mani/Pedi - She gets one of those every three months or so.  That's why the monthly budget is so low. 

Totally agree about the Birchbox. 

Hair - I get my haircut every six weeks, my wife every other month, my two kids, also every two months or so. 

Entertainment - Actually that's correct.  We probably have two backyard bbqs a year.  And have a few dinners at our place a year. 

I definitely agree about travel and groceries.  No doubt we can save on those two.

It is interesting because I know it seems like we live a massively luxurious lifestyle, and there's no question we have areas to improve like groceries, Home Improvement budget for sure, but we really don't live a crazy lifestyle.  We have a Lexus but it is 10 years old and and we bought it used.  We drive a 6 year old Kia Hybrid also bought used. And regarding hiring other people to do stuff for us, the only thing we have people do that I can think of is large home improvement projects (I'm definitely not the handiest guy, but do try to do small things myself.  I even installed programmable thermostats which I was really proud of even though it actually wasn't hard at all.). And I have someone help me with fall cleanup every other year. Besides that, I cut my own lawn, do spring cleanup and take care of the landscaping.  My wife cleans the house herself and we don't have a maid or cleaning person. I guess you could say we hire people to cut our hair.  And obviously the Au Pair for childcare.  And we had an electrician fix some things in our house.  But really we don't outsource most of the daily housekeeping work.  We do almost everything ourselves.  As for shopping, we literally never "go shopping".  My wife buys some clothes sometimes (included in the $115 per month), we buy some random stuff on Amazon sometimes, and I buy beer/liquor.  I never buy clothes.  I'll typically ask for underwear and undershirts for my birthday or Christmas.  And maybe I'll also get a new work shirt or two for those holidays. 

I'm hoping you're wrong about future expenses rising.  I mean I see a reduction of spending of about $2,000 a month in three years, from daycare savings alone.  Then, also our gas budget, groceries, utilities, insurance, car repairs should go down as well as soon as the Au Pair leaves. 

Right now, my projections say we will be able to retire at 53 and that assumes we will never collect Social Security.  Hopefully with a few raises, a decent number of spending cuts due to these recommendations, and collecting Social Security, we won't be too far off that number.  Ideally I'd love 45, but as of now that's a pipe dream.

Again, appreciate all the suggestions.  Good stuff.

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 12:10:26 PM
I don't know how pre-K works; how many hours a day/week are the kids there?

You can choose different schedules but ours is five days a week.  8:30 - 1. It's also basically the cheapest one in town for that schedule.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Bracken_Joy on June 21, 2018, 12:11:24 PM
Rather than change your goal posts, I would encourage you to change your spending and see if you can meet that stretch goal =) A great way to start is the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month. I think you need to work on identifying what is really WORTH it to you. Are you measurably happier flying to vacations, vs taking a road trip? With how you eat? Etc. The Uber Frugal Challenge is a good way to learn to talk to your wife about it, discuss your goals, and determine what expenses you value. All the dollars you spend should be high value spending. http://www.frugalwoods.com/2018/06/19/the-uber-frugal-month-group-challenge-is-back-join-us-starting-july-1/ (http://www.frugalwoods.com/2018/06/19/the-uber-frugal-month-group-challenge-is-back-join-us-starting-july-1/)
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 21, 2018, 12:19:12 PM
The thing that jumps out at me is $12,000/year for home improvements and remodeling.  Can you slow down your home improvements?  Is your home safe and functional?  You are just throwing money at this and you should both meditate on the money vs. the value for money you are getting.  I bet your house is already nice.

You're totally correct.  No argument from me here.  I love our house as is.  It's pretty damn nice.  I mean would I "like" a nicer bathroom, kitchen? Yes, but if it were just up to me, I'd save the money.  This budget is mostly for my wife.  We both are kind of in agreement on the patio but that's literally the last thing I'd do. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: peace on June 21, 2018, 12:31:15 PM
This is tiny in the bigger picture of your budget, but do you buy your cat's medication monthly (30 pills at a time)? If you do you could look into buying a full bottle of 100. Yesterday I paid $23 for 100 pills for my hyperthyroid cat. If I'd bought 30 pills it would have been $18.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: 2Birds1Stone on June 21, 2018, 12:39:16 PM
Here you go, plugging in your numbers into a basic model, it looks like FI would be 17 years from now for you, or at 55.

http://networthify.com/calculator/earlyretirement?income=174000&initialBalance=970000&expenses=132000&annualPct=5&withdrawalRate=4

You could cut this down by a decade if you can figure out a way to trim back your spending by 30-40%, and downsize that house in the process.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: diapasoun on June 21, 2018, 12:50:15 PM
B_J's point about high value spending is a great one.

[quote author=Jadambomb link=topic=93126.msg2046019#msg2046019 =It is interesting because I know it seems like we live a massively luxurious lifestyle, and there's no question we have areas to improve like groceries, Home Improvement budget for sure, but we really don't live a crazy lifestyle.[/quote]

Please excuse me as I take out my soapbox for the mentally transformative aspects of frugality.

*places soapbox upon floor*

This is why the hedonic treadmill is such a kicker. When you've been living that lifestyle for a long time, it just feels normal, not luxurious. And if the people around you are spendy -- if they have gardeners and housekeepers and weekly manicures -- then you definitely don't feel luxurious. You may even feel a little bit deprived. That's absolutely normal human psychology. We adapt to our surroundings, which is a distinct advantage for the most part. However, all those feelings don't mean you're not living a massively luxurious lifestyle; it just means that it doesn't feel that way. In some ways that super sucks, because it can mean that you take less joy, pride, and gratefulness in all the luxuries you're surrounded with.

To someone like me, your lifestyle looks incredibly luxurious. You have a house that you do a lot of renos on. You have a personal paid caretaker for your children. You do vacations twice a year that require air travel. You don't worry about stretching your food budget. You throw what seem like they must be some great parties, and you spend heavily on anniversaries and birthdays. Dang bro!

Similarly, to the grad-school version of me, my own current lifestyle looks incredibly luxurious, even though it doesn't feel luxurious to me now. I have a cat and I give her the best possible care. I visit my far-flung family twice a year. I buy books. I eat out way more frequently and at nicer places. I throw big barbecues and supply most of the materials. I give way more gifts than I used to, and I donate to charity much more heavily, too. Dang girl!

None of these things, for you or for me, are necessities; they are very pleasant luxuries. There's nothing wrong with luxury, but I think we get a lot more out of luxury when we know it for what it is. I know I sure started appreciating everything I had a lot more when I started to imagine it from my grad school point of view. I also started cutting down, because I started to see that my old, much higher spending on books wasn't making me happy (it was low-value spending, to use B_J's terminology), and that my old, much higher restaurant spending wasn't making me happier, either.

I'm not trying to make you feel ashamed of the luxuries in your life, but I do think that seeing them as luxuries will take you a long way, both in terms of meeting your goals and in enjoying yourself.

*puts soapbox away*
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: rdaneel0 on June 21, 2018, 12:51:41 PM
Glad it was helpful! Lavish is definitely in the eye of the beholder. I'm coming at this from a much lower income background, so to me your lifestyle does seem really extravagant and you have a lot of spending categories I don't have (i.e. to you two used cars, even a hybrid and a lexus seems modest, but I don't have a car, and when I did it was a shared $3k clunker and driving was limited by a low gas budget). That said, I don't doubt that you're modest spenders compared to many high earning people around you.

It just depends on what you want to do and how you want to live and what your time is worth. I think the fact that you spend $11k a month, and still feel like you don't have a particularly extravagant lifestyle is quite telling. Objectively, your spending is extravagant. Your spending is $132k a year, and if that were your entire salary your earnings would be in the top 5% of the USA, in other words your spending alone is higher than 95% of incomes in the country. An au pair (I know that's going away, but will that money be saved or spent elsewhere?), private pre-k, remodeling, vacations, two cars, a pricy house, paid activities, luxe groceries and shopping, nearly $300 a month just for restaurants, pest control, snow plowing, new furniture, etc. is luxury living to most people, but you've adapted to it so now it's just standard.

I didn't mean to be all doom and gloom about your FIRE prospects, and I seriously admire your earning ability, but from where I sit it looks as though very little of your budget is optimized other than not having cable and driving used cars. Your enormous income is allowing you to do all this and still save money, giving you a feeling of reasonable frugality, but if the general approach you have doesn't change I think your life will get more expensive because of the precedent you're setting. Your kids will eat more and have more opinions on what they eat, their activity options will get way more expensive (will they do traveling sports, go to specialty summer camps, have one-on-one lessons or tutoring?), will they get name brand clothing for school?, will they have the newest gadgets?, will they be gifted cars when they're old enough?

I acknowledge that we're in very different boats life-wise, but I really appreciate how open you are to comparing notes and taking all the face punches with ease! :)


Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: JLee on June 21, 2018, 12:55:13 PM
This was mentioned before, but I'll reiterate.

Your stash at retirement is 25x expenses (excluding the P&I of your mortgage)...
... then add your remaining mortgage.

So if the $4500/month in retirement figure quoted earlier was correct, then lets say you retire with $300k left on the morgage? You need 300 x 4500 + 300k = $1.65M.

If we use your $8k/month, but reduce that by $2k to account for the P&I payment, then you're at $2.1M...

He also pointed out, that $8k does NOT include tax burden, so that's worth noting.

OP, have you played with the Case Study spreadsheet? There are some very useful tools in there. https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/ (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/case-studies/how-to-write-a-'case-study'-topic/) Spreadsheet is linked in that first post.

So OP, what's your math like? How much do you have to be saving every month, and therefore spending every month, to hit your goal in 7 years?

It looks like we'd have to save about $4,000 more a month or so to get there.  Or spending of roughly $7,000 per month.  Now actually we won't be THAT far off in three years when our youngest goes to kindergarten.  But we'd have to start that today to get there.

Be sure not to forget expected market gains =) (Related: what's you asset allocation like? That'll influence what to expect for returns). Once you have that spending number, then you have a pretty solid number to know how much to cut! That helps you get into the specific goal/specific numbers mindset, rather than just, "this seems high". You have a big shovel and good assets, if you play it right, 7 years *should* be completely doable.

Frankly though? From what you're saying, I'm not sure the au pair actually is your cheapest option over other care. Feeding her, housing her, wear and tear on your cars, gas, then the more obvious numbers... that'll add up! You've added another adult to your household you're completely bankrolling.

We are about 80% equities, 15% bonds, 5% Gold for asset allocation. 

I'm sure the Au Pair is more than we think but the absolute cheapest childcare option in my area is $7 an hour per kid.  And that's a place I'd REALLY rather not send them too.  That's about $2,750 per month instead of the $1,800 per month including the agency fee.  I doubt we are spending more than $950 a month on her food, gas, car depreciation and insurance, and increased utility costs, BUT it's probably closer than I might think.  But if you compare it to an actual decent child care place, that's probably closer to $3,200 minimum which makes the Au Pair seem even more economical.

Fair, you definitely would know childcare prices/options in your area better than I do! It's just one of those things that's it's good to know the real cost of something. Particularly where you should modify. Like her driving, it isn't just gas, it's wear on your vehicles. You say a big repair comes up every year, right? (For one, going for a less luxury brand than lexus would help cut cost of repairs, but that's something to keep in mind at replacement time). She's putting a lot of miles and wear and tear on the cars for personal use. Compare her mileage to the IRS rate. 54.5 cents per mile for business use. At 60 miles each way every week, that's an extra $65.40/week. $261.60 per month. Obviously having her drive for kids activities and such is expected, and don't nickel and dime her to death, but 60 miles away to see friends on a regular basis is bonkers IMO.

The other thing I would caution is assuming once your wife gets the renovations she has in mind right now, that the costs for those will stop. That has never been the case in any family that does the "reno game". First it's the renos. Then it's the landscaping. Then the furniture is out of date. Then they want a swimming pool or an addition. Then the kitchen wasn't done all that great in the first place, and we need to replace the counters, but while we're at it shouldn't we just do the whole thing anyway? On and on. Spending becomes a HABIT. There's a reason the hedonic treadmill is something that keeps moving. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/22/what-is-hedonic-adaptation-and-how-can-it-turn-you-into-a-sukka/ (https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/22/what-is-hedonic-adaptation-and-how-can-it-turn-you-into-a-sukka/) and https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/09/18/is-it-convenient-would-i-enjoy-it-wrong-question/ (https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/09/18/is-it-convenient-would-i-enjoy-it-wrong-question/)

Not really.  Lexus = Toyota.

I don't like the "pull perks from au pair" plan at all.  They're making $200/week. That's not much -- imagine your employer taking a perk away from you that's valued at 30% of your salary.  That's a great way to ruin a relationship.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: marcela on June 21, 2018, 01:01:17 PM
I'm with rdaneel and diapasoun, My parents raised us on an annual income that was less than 3 months of your spending. You live an extremely luxurious life, but I imagine those around you and in your social group are in similar situations and so it feels like this is just standard. Just like the way I grew up was just standard because everyone around me also was in that same income bracket.
Consider that your kids will grow up and see this level of spending as the standard and it might make things hard for them when they head out on their own to reconcile their upbringing with the lower incomes they will have starting out. You don't mention continuing to support them in your retirement so I don't think you are planning on providing them that financial support to maintain the lifestyle they grew up in.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: gaja on June 21, 2018, 01:53:40 PM
I don't know how pre-K works; how many hours a day/week are the kids there?

You can choose different schedules but ours is five days a week.  8:30 - 1. It's also basically the cheapest one in town for that schedule.

I'm sure the Au Pair is more than we think but the absolute cheapest childcare option in my area is $7 an hour per kid.  And that's a place I'd REALLY rather not send them too.  That's about $2,750 per month instead of the $1,800 per month including the agency fee.  I doubt we are spending more than $950 a month on her food, gas, car depreciation and insurance, and increased utility costs, BUT it's probably closer than I might think.  But if you compare it to an actual decent child care place, that's probably closer to $3,200 minimum which makes the Au Pair seem even more economical.

How does your math work? It sounds like you are paying for two different people/organizations to look after your kids at the same time of the day? Or do you work shifts, so you need the aupair to look after the kids evenings and weekends? It doesn't sound like that, since she spends her evening visiting friends?

You already pay for childcare 0830-1300. If you add some other child care from 1300 to 1700, that is four hours a day. I get that to be around $1200/month? Less if you are able to optimize mornings and afternoons. Not all employers are that flexible, but when our kids were small, DH and I would work alternate schedules; one of us went to work early in the morning, while the other got the kids to kindergarten around 0900. The one who started early, left to pick up the kids at 1500. Since your wife is able to work from home, maybe her work is flexible enough to find some sort of similar solution?

I get the comfort factor of having an extra adult to help out in the house. But I struggle to see the math and logic working out.   
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: rweba on June 21, 2018, 02:24:15 PM
I don't want to distract from the excellent points being made here (and bravo to Jadambomb for beings such a good sport!), but I  feel convicted by some of the points made about hedonic adaptation.

Recently I had convinced myself that my spending is "not that bad" and that I don't have many luxuries in my life.

But now I see that I have become ensnared in the old hedonic adaptation treadmill despite having read all about it and feeling smugly superior in my self-restraint. Grad school me spent half of what I do now and was just as happy (even after adjusting for the cost of living in two very different cities). Younger me would see my current lifestyle as unimaginably luxurious.

It's not just about avoiding new unnecessary luxuries (which I am pretty good at) but also reexamining the luxuries you've come to regard as "normal" and "affordable" (even if you can "technically" easily afford them and all your friends have them) and to be able to truly see them as the luxuries that they are. You can still keep them, but just recognize that they are luxuries. I need to work on this second part.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: formerlydivorcedmom on June 21, 2018, 02:38:45 PM
It's terrific that you are here, and that you recognize that your spending is high.

I spend a lot of money, too - about $7k/month.  We have 2 adults, a 12-year-old the size of an adult, and two normal-sized elementary-school kids.   (Your grocery budget is ridiculous....We were at 800-900/mo when we were spendiest, and that included household stuff and dog food.)

I highly recommend you read Your Money or Your Life.  This was invaluable to me when I was starting to question our spending but unsure where to even start cutting.  It helps you look in a different way at your spending to decide if it's right for you.  (In may case, the "misc crap at Walmart" category went down to near 0 almost overnight.)

After that, it's a matter of prioritization.  I have about $20k in renovations I want to do to my house.  They've been on the list for 3 years....and they will be on the list for a few more years, because we have other priorities for discretionary funds.  We've compromised by allocating $1k/year and focusing on smaller projects- repainted the downstairs, new vanity in the half bath, new floor in the kids' bathroom (boys....enough said). 

I LOVE vacations.  Because my husband has been in school and not working, we've been taking a big vacation ($5k) every other year, and a small vacation (<$1k) in the other years.  (This works for us because our family lives close by.)

You can't have ALL of the things exactly when you want them and still retire really early.  You can have ALL of the things exactly when you want them and retire a few years after that.  And that's okay....

It really will come down to your priorities and your wife's.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: red_pill on June 21, 2018, 07:06:07 PM
.
Consider that your kids will grow up and see this level of spending as the standard and it might make things hard for them when they head out on their own to reconcile their upbringing with the lower incomes they will have starting out. You don't mention continuing to support them in your retirement so I don't think you are planning on providing them that financial support to maintain the lifestyle they grew up in.

@marcela - this is profound. I had never considered this before. Youíve made my head spin with this!   Great post!
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Bracken_Joy on June 21, 2018, 10:06:47 PM
I don't like the "pull perks from au pair" plan at all.  They're making $200/week. That's not much -- imagine your employer taking a perk away from you that's valued at 30% of your salary.  That's a great way to ruin a relationship.

To be clear, I wasn't saying 'pull all perks from the au pair'. I want OP to look critically at his line items, and challenge his assumptions that some things are the cheapest/best/only ways to do things. I just find it interesting that an au pair is the "most affordable option really", when it only ever seems to be very high spenders around here who have them. If the numbers penciled out so well, wouldn't more people use them instead of daycare? Not just $125k/yr budget types?

I want him to run numbers and if his assumption that an au pair was the cheapest option is wrong, look into changing care at the next available opportunity (school year/contract up/whatever). Or, negotiate differently with the next au pair that comes in, since my understanding is they usually change yearly? I certainly don't advocate leaving anyone high and dry.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: red_pill on June 21, 2018, 10:18:35 PM
$9,000 per year for the au pair agency is crazy high. We pay $1,000 per placement. Maybe the visa requirements are different there, but finding an au pair is something lots of people do completely on their own. Have you ever looked into that? There are websites devoted to it, Facebook groups for it, and thereís always lots of au pairs already in country who are looking for a different family.   Boy, if you can use a cheaper agency or do it yourself thatís $9K in your pocket!  Thatíd be huge!

As for JLee comment about pulling perks, I think that that much driving goes beyond a perk and into excessive territory. (The $500 bonus is a perk).  Itís also important to realize that au pairs are not traditional employees - they are there as a live in cultural experience and are essentially a member of the family. The relationship is far beyond employer-employee.  But that doesnít mean itís carte Blanche. If youíd expect your teenager to pay for gas for that much driving, then itís not off side to expect the au pair to. We have found that a good relationship with an au pair is based on clear expectations and boundaries. Throughout the year those boundaries need to be nudged into the right fit.. Mind you, if the expectation was never made clear than itís not really her fault.  Iíd suggest depending on how long sheís been with you that you should rein that in.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: JLee on June 22, 2018, 07:18:34 AM
$9,000 per year for the au pair agency is crazy high. We pay $1,000 per placement. Maybe the visa requirements are different there, but finding an au pair is something lots of people do completely on their own. Have you ever looked into that? There are websites devoted to it, Facebook groups for it, and thereís always lots of au pairs already in country who are looking for a different family.   Boy, if you can use a cheaper agency or do it yourself thatís $9K in your pocket!  Thatíd be huge!

As for JLee comment about pulling perks, I think that that much driving goes beyond a perk and into excessive territory. (The $500 bonus is a perk).  Itís also important to realize that au pairs are not traditional employees - they are there as a live in cultural experience and are essentially a member of the family. The relationship is far beyond employer-employee.  But that doesnít mean itís carte Blanche. If youíd expect your teenager to pay for gas for that much driving, then itís not off side to expect the au pair to. We have found that a good relationship with an au pair is based on clear expectations and boundaries. Throughout the year those boundaries need to be nudged into the right fit.. Mind you, if the expectation was never made clear than itís not really her fault.  Iíd suggest depending on how long sheís been with you that you should rein that in.

Paying for gas is much different than paying current IRS deprecation/expense rates on a 10yo+ car.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: cats on June 22, 2018, 08:42:56 AM
I don't like the "pull perks from au pair" plan at all.  They're making $200/week. That's not much -- imagine your employer taking a perk away from you that's valued at 30% of your salary.  That's a great way to ruin a relationship.

To be clear, I wasn't saying 'pull all perks from the au pair'. I want OP to look critically at his line items, and challenge his assumptions that some things are the cheapest/best/only ways to do things. I just find it interesting that an au pair is the "most affordable option really", when it only ever seems to be very high spenders around here who have them. If the numbers penciled out so well, wouldn't more people use them instead of daycare? Not just $125k/yr budget types?

I want him to run numbers and if his assumption that an au pair was the cheapest option is wrong, look into changing care at the next available opportunity (school year/contract up/whatever). Or, negotiate differently with the next au pair that comes in, since my understanding is they usually change yearly? I certainly don't advocate leaving anyone high and dry.

We've also vaguely considered the au pair option and the big expense (and the reason not everyone uses them in my area, I would guess), is the extra housing you are paying for.  Whatever number of bedrooms is the comfortable minimum for your actual family, now you have to add one.  So instead of 2 bedrooms, you need 3, instead of 3 bedrooms, you need 4, etc.  In my (crazy, HCOL) area, the difference between a 2 and 3 bedroom is easily several hundred thousand dollars, so you are adding another thousand dollars or so to the monthly mortgage budget, plus the extra utilities for heating/cooling the space, the extra maintenance costs, extra furniture, etc.  The au pair alone is quite affordable if you have 2 or more kids, but since you can't stick your au pair in a tent in the backyard or in the same room as you or your kids...it's not so cheap.  There's also a limit on how many hours the au pair can work per day/week so I think it's quite common for people who have them to also pay for some additional regular childcare.

Now, if you live in an area where large houses are the norm and it's either really hard to find a smaller house or massively more expensive per square foot, then maybe the au pair isn't costing you much extra in house after all, as you'd probably be stuck with more house than you strictly need anyway.

As far as the overall budget goes...it sounds to me like the key first step is getting the wife onboard with FIRE or at least the value of a higher savings rate.  I would echo the suggestion of reading Your Money or Your Life, maybe together.  I see quite a bit of stuff in your budget that my husband and I just DON'T spend money on (going out to eat for our anniversary or V-day, spending $400 on kids birthday parties, multiple flying vacations each year), but I think we would have a really hard time trimming out those expenses if we weren't both on board with living a more frugal lifestyle and if we didn't both view things like going out as more of an expense/hassle than as a treat, or if we didn't both enjoy doing local camping vacations.  So the big thing you can do is work on recruiting your wife to a savings/FIRE mindset. 

In the meantime, I would also suggest looking at your budget and seeking out the areas where YOU are the one driving the spending, or where you could easily take over the spending (and associated work) from your wife. For example, you could offer to take over more of the grocery shopping and meal planning. My husband took over most of the meal planning for our family last year and it was SUCH a weight off my shoulders--he was just able to break it down in a way that I hadn't and it makes the whole process much easier.  I still do parts of the cooking but it's overall much more manageable and I am a much happier and less stressed person for it.  I would say also that it is time to get your kids off those pouches, but that if you are leaving most of the feeding/meal planning to your wife, you can't expect her to get the kids off pouches because that's just creating work for her.  So you need to take the lead on finding some other easy/healthy but cheaper foods that your kids will eat.  Mine eats a lot of frozen peas, cucumber slices, steamed broccoli, hard boiled eggs, pretty much any whole fruit, oatmeal, etc.  I am a freak who thinks pouches come straight from the devil so we don't do those, the end.  Do some research on clean 15/dirty dozen and decide whether you really need to buy "mostly" organic or if you can cut back.  Figure out some easy and cheap vegetarian meals you can make in the slow cooker or pressure cooker.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Neustache on June 22, 2018, 09:08:32 AM
May not be relevant,

But I worry that a spouse who insists on private preschool, and a family who is used to the best childcare, will suddenly decide the probably amazing public schools are not good enough for the kids.  I could be wrong, but I'd make sure in your planning that your wife isn't thinking those costs would automatically roll over to private K-12 school. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: SimpleCycle on June 22, 2018, 11:05:59 AM
Hey, we have a lifestyle similar to yours, and two children that are probably similar in age.  We're also the same age, and our take home is slightly lower than yours.  One thing that has really helped me is to realize that small cuts add up when you have larger things that are harder to do something about.  Let me share some of our progress based on some numbers I have tracked in our spreadsheet.

Groceries - before MMM we were averaging $2000 a month on groceries, restaurants, alcohol, and household supplies.  (The breakdown was roughly $600 groceries, $700 restaurants, and $700 of untracked Target and Amazon spending)
First, it was very helpful to me to "pool" the expenses to see that actually, this was a HUGE chunk of spending.  In your case study, I see $1550 food and dining, $75 of special occasions, $75 of entertaining, and $150 of household supplies, bringing this category to $1850 total.  That's a lot!
We were able to cut this category in half just by being mindful and aligning our purchases with what brought us the most enjoyment.
Things we did:
-Moved a lot of meals away from home to meals at home or packed lunches
-Piloted a "date night at home" concept where we do something special after bedtime, eliminating the need for babysitting and an expensive restaurant.  It's been a huge success!
-Done some replacements, like reusable handiwipes to cut back on paper towels, and keeping a stack of baby washclothes by the sink for kid cleanups.
-Started tracking the Amazon and Target purchases, and there was a ton of dead weight in there.  I've pared way back in this area by switching to Target subscriptions for household items to keep us out of the stores.
-Periodically reevaluating where we can save more.

Clothing - I don't have a "pre" number tracked, but we have cut back here!  I started using the Smart Closet app to better plan my purchases and be able to "shop my closet" for things to complete an outfit.  For kids' clothes, we have been shopping almost exclusively secondhand, at Once Upon a Child, Swap.com, and threadup.com.  Really great stuff to be had!

Personal care seems high to me.  Are you and the kids going to "salons" instead of say, a barbershop?  My wife and I both get haircuts every 3-6 months, which keeps costs down.  I also have cut my own hair in the past, but you need a certain spirit of adventurousness.

I actually think your childcare expenses look pretty reasonable.  Even with the paid preschool (and I know that unless you're in Boston, you don't have access to universal public pre-k) you pay much less than we do for two kids with full time care.  I disagree with those saying to take perks from the Au Pair - I think keeping her happy is a #1 priority.  FWIW, we pay $3300 for a young toddler and a preschooler in full time daycare.

Since we've started making a concerted effort at our budget, we have cut our spending by an average of $2k a month.  It has come mainly from the food/restaurants/household supplies/household goods categories, with a strong supporting role for paid babysitting since we're doing date nights at home.  We also learned how to travel hack, which has saved us thousands.

Good luck to you - I am excited to follow your story.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: slappy on June 22, 2018, 11:47:35 AM
Can your wife compromise on the pre-k? Like 2 or 3 days a week instead of 5? 5 days a week is practically full time daycare on top of the au pair. I'm in Southern NH, but I pay approx $2k per year for 3 day pre-k.  Additionally,  does your au pair take the kids to any activities/events, like library story time, play groups, etc? Maybe your wife would settle for 3 days pre-k and then two days of some other somewhat structured play group/story time type of thing?
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Allie on June 22, 2018, 11:52:44 AM
You have some great suggestions from the other posters about how to cut the big stuff out of your budget.  I skipped ahead because you mentioned $50 in fruit pouches.  I have a bunch of the zipper bottom refillable ones.

https://www.amazon.com/Squooshi-Reusable-Pouch-Large-Pouches/dp/B00HPD4V1Y

Just buy some in season fruit and veg (my daughter loves a banana, frozen strawberry, yogurt, and veg - spinach or carrots usually - smoothie) and dump it in the pouch.  Or applesauce if you're on the go and it can't be refridgerated.  Or you could freeze them solid and they should withstand a short trip out and stay cold, just don't overfill and freeze or the end will burst.  They're great if you have kids who can't use cups well.  Otherwise, just make a smoothie with veggies and put it in a cup. 

See, I just saved you $30 per month!

Your budget is getting hammered from both ends.  The big life decisions (kids, nice house, etc) are set up to be very expensive and with all of the work you do to support those you are spending on lots of little, unnecessary things, like fruit pouches.  Just start examining everything and chipping away at it and eventually you will have some space in your budget that can be directed to future you.

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: RockinLife on June 22, 2018, 12:15:37 PM
So, I haven't scolled through everyone's comments - but ditch
the disposable pouches.  We got some refillable ones and just use apple sauce, yogurt, etc.  You can even run them through the dishwasher!

Sent from my XT1049 using Tapatalk

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: RockinLife on June 22, 2018, 12:16:40 PM
You have some great suggestions from the other posters about how to cut the big stuff out of your budget.  I skipped ahead because you mentioned $50 in fruit pouches.  I have a bunch of the zipper bottom refillable ones.

https://www.amazon.com/Squooshi-Reusable-Pouch-Large-Pouches/dp/B00HPD4V1Y

Just buy some in season fruit and veg (my daughter loves a banana, frozen strawberry, yogurt, and veg - spinach or carrots usually - smoothie) and dump it in the pouch.  Or applesauce if you're on the go and it can't be refridgerated.  Or you could freeze them solid and they should withstand a short trip out and stay cold, just don't overfill and freeze or the end will burst.  They're great if you have kids who can't use cups well.  Otherwise, just make a smoothie with veggies and put it in a cup. 

See, I just saved you $30 per month!

Your budget is getting hammered from both ends.  The big life decisions (kids, nice house, etc) are set up to be very expensive and with all of the work you do to support those you are spending on lots of little, unnecessary things, like fruit pouches.  Just start examining everything and chipping away at it and eventually you will have some space in your budget that can be directed to future you.
Ha! 

Sent from my XT1049 using Tapatalk

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Allie on June 22, 2018, 12:28:06 PM
You have some great suggestions from the other posters about how to cut the big stuff out of your budget.  I skipped ahead because you mentioned $50 in fruit pouches.  I have a bunch of the zipper bottom refillable ones.

https://www.amazon.com/Squooshi-Reusable-Pouch-Large-Pouches/dp/B00HPD4V1Y

Just buy some in season fruit and veg (my daughter loves a banana, frozen strawberry, yogurt, and veg - spinach or carrots usually - smoothie) and dump it in the pouch.  Or applesauce if you're on the go and it can't be refridgerated.  Or you could freeze them solid and they should withstand a short trip out and stay cold, just don't overfill and freeze or the end will burst.  They're great if you have kids who can't use cups well.  Otherwise, just make a smoothie with veggies and put it in a cup. 

See, I just saved you $30 per month!

Your budget is getting hammered from both ends.  The big life decisions (kids, nice house, etc) are set up to be very expensive and with all of the work you do to support those you are spending on lots of little, unnecessary things, like fruit pouches.  Just start examining everything and chipping away at it and eventually you will have some space in your budget that can be directed to future you.
Ha! 

Sent from my XT1049 using Tapatalk

I know right?  Single use pouches? 

I'd love for the op to look around his house and see how many other little things are just ridiculous.  A huge amount of plastic waste and money for half a cup of fruit and veggie purťe.  I still spend way too much money, but a while ago I joined up here and I looked around and was amazed by how much I was spending on what was, essentially, trash.  New clothes the kids would outgrown in a couple months.  Food I would just throw away and it's packaging.  Household stuff that would be ditched in a few weeks or months.  Things that replaced other things I already had.  I was about to buy a coffee grinder and realized I was buying a fourth kitchen appliance that chops things with blades and a motor.  Wtf?

Ok, I'm getting preachy.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: neo von retorch on June 22, 2018, 12:35:23 PM
Ok, I'm getting preachy.

Ha, yes I'm debating a little "get off my lawn" rant. Grew up in a household of 6... once my dad built a new kitchen by hand and remodeled a bit, we had 3 bedrooms. All the boys shared a bedroom. We had one bathroom. We managed to eat food without pouches. I don't think they existed then, but I could just be oblivious. We managed to get nutrition and education without extreme convenience foods or private attention. By the time we were 8, we were helping go out to get firewood, load it in a wagon and put it in the basement. We also helped weed the huge garden and feed the beef steer. We did not own iPads.

I realize that modern conveniences and improvements to the standard of living are good things. But every once in a while, I'm reminded of how much we've "adapted" to things that literally did not exist 20-30 years ago, but now we can't imagine not having them. Anyway, this is reasonably off topic, but I'm reminded of Michael Pollan's advice on healthy eating... would your great grand-mother recognize this as food? Similarly, would they have "needed" such-and-such to live a happy life? (Hint: it didn't exist, so no!)
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: TVRodriguez on June 22, 2018, 12:38:14 PM
Hi there.  Another big spender here (compared to many in this forum, but small spender compared to my colleagues).  I won't say how much we spend monthly, though.  You are braver than I.

Some ideas for incremental change instead of cold turkey on various things:

1.  Use credit card points to buy gift cards to use for special dinners out and other entertainment expenses.  Since you already pay the au pair to provide child care, this can make those date nights feel 'free' without cutting them entirely.

2.  If your kids are really picky with food, work your way slowly from the fruit pouches to whole fruit.  For example:  Start with the make-your-own pouches.  Start making applesauce at home (super easy) to use in said pouches.  Move on to offering applesauce to kids at home in bowls.  Make the applesauce more and more chunky.  Start serving chopped apples in bowls.  Move to home-sliced apple sticks, then apple slices, then *ta-da* whole apples.  This can be done over a month and without too much difficulty or upset from anyone.  Add in clementines, which most kids love.  And grapes, etc.  Now your kids are eating real fruit!  (If your kids aren't that picky, go right for grapes, which are essentially bags of sugar anyway.)  If your kids are used to getting snack bag sized treats of, say, veggie straws, move to getting the big bag and portioning them out into ziplocs.  Then cut back slowly on the veggie straws b/c they're really not great (ahem, speaking to myself here).

3.  Cut any expenses that are purely your own to control rather than imposing limits on others in your household first.  Do you buy a lot of books on Amazon?  Start visiting the library for your own reading.  Take the kids with--they'll love it (most kids love the library), and maybe your spouse will join one day, too.  Offer to take over the laundry and start line-drying.  Manage the thermostat yourself.  Start doing your own pest control and minor home repairs (consult youtube).  Buy your own clothes at Goodwill (then add in the kids' clothes).  Small savings percentage-wise, but your spouse might appreciate your extra efforts with the kids and the house and limiting your personal spending and you will have a bit of a mind-shift.  You will also sound like less of a scold than if you try to tell her to do these things herself while doing nothing yourself.

4.  Definitely don't start limiting your current au pair's benefits, but if you switch up the au pair (if the contract ends) then consider being less generous with the car for the next one (60 mile trips three times a week is a lot).  And use all the hours of au pair time you are allotted.  My friends who have au pairs or who were au pairs have said that "light housekeeping" was expected, which included doing the kids' laundry and keeping the kitchen clean.  Especially for families where both parents work and the kids are school-age and the au pair's time will not be exhausted during the day just on childcare.  Other friends use the time for night time babysitting for their date nights.

5.  Talk to your spouse now about whether she would be open to moving to a smaller house once the kids are in school and you no longer "need" the extra bedroom for the au pair (a debatable point, as I've been told by friends that it's easier to keep the au pair than arrange for aftercare and pickups when both parents have work hours that end after 6pm).  It's worth testing those waters.  You might mention that you could cash in on your equity at that point by moving to a smaller (cheaper) house and pad your investments to make your FI date come sooner.  Smaller house usually equals smaller RE taxes and HOI as well as a smaller mortgage.  Maybe you could find a smaller house that is "done" and needs less renovating??

6.  Ask your kids if they enjoy the activities that they are in.  If they are, fine, maybe keep them.  If they are not, consider dropping one or several.  I made the mistake of thinking that my kids should try every activity offered at their montessori.  One year I spent over $4,000 on my older two because they were in (oh, I'm embarrassed to list them all but here goes): French, Mandarin, basketball, soccer, karate, piano lessons, swimming, and dance (for the younger) and Spanish (for the older).  For the record, neither of them learned swimming that summer--we had to do that separately again later.  Neither of them remembers any of the French or Mandarin (except some of the French alphabet and how to say hello and thank you in Mandarin--which they probably learned from Ni Hao Kai Lan).

7.  Give your spouse monthly reports on household spending without judgment.  "We spent $11,000 this past month."  Next month (after you do some of your own cutting, "We spent $10,500 this month--down $500 from last month!"  Start to get her used to thinking of how much money goes out each month.  It's easy to ignore the total and only think of the one "extra" item we bought for ourselves, and she might be doing that and thinking "but I don't spend anything, it's not in my control."  Maybe she'll ask for the breakdown, maybe not.  Giving her the monthly report is a way to bring reality to her without making a big deal of it or laying blame. 

I will say that I relate in one way:  my spouse (though quite thrifty) has very little interest in FIRE.  That's all me.  So it's hard to convince him to limit his spending to achieve a goal that is not his.  But when I make the effort to control my own spending without telling him he should spend less at Home Depot, he seems to follow suit.  When I make the effort to say "you know, let's eat in tonight instead of ordering out--how about I make XYZ"--he is more likely to say yes than if I say "what should we do for dinner tonight?"  Or if I frame it in terms of health: "You know, I find I eat better and I eat less when we eat at home--let's not get chinese this weekend--will you make your delicious homemade egg-fried rice?"
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: I'm a red panda on June 22, 2018, 12:39:36 PM
Not to harp on the pouches...
If you aren't going to go disposable pouch- do you have an Aldi?  Their organic pouches are 79 cents. That's more than 25% discount from your $1.09 pouches.

(I do like them for "crap- I've run out of things to feed her!" emergencies, so we use about 3 a week.  This is after I run through all the various foods in the fridge. I don't use the reusable, because we feed the stuff you'd put in them out of a bowl, we don't eat on the go yet. So I like the long term storage, no thought aspect of them.)
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: letired on June 22, 2018, 01:15:24 PM
I'm hoping you're wrong about future expenses rising.  I mean I see a reduction of spending of about $2,000 a month in three years, from daycare savings alone.  Then, also our gas budget, groceries, utilities, insurance, car repairs should go down as well as soon as the Au Pair leaves. 

The reason they're talking about future expenses rising instead of going down is that you're not making any plans to get off the treadmill, you're just hoping that things will change instead of making plans for them to change. Sure, you're not going to have daycare and the au pair, but what about dance lessons, sports, music lessons and instruments, school trips, after school care, transportation to and from all these activities, plus on-the-go meals for nights when you aren't getting home till after 8pm? And what about when they kids themselves are old enough to start learning to drive? That's more insurance, and possibly more cars + maintenance. None of that is accounted for or projected.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: formerlydivorcedmom on June 22, 2018, 02:05:25 PM
I'm hoping you're wrong about future expenses rising.  I mean I see a reduction of spending of about $2,000 a month in three years, from daycare savings alone.  Then, also our gas budget, groceries, utilities, insurance, car repairs should go down as well as soon as the Au Pair leaves. 

The reason they're talking about future expenses rising instead of going down is that you're not making any plans to get off the treadmill, you're just hoping that things will change instead of making plans for them to change. Sure, you're not going to have daycare and the au pair, but what about dance lessons, sports, music lessons and instruments, school trips, after school care, transportation to and from all these activities, plus on-the-go meals for nights when you aren't getting home till after 8pm? And what about when they kids themselves are old enough to start learning to drive? That's more insurance, and possibly more cars + maintenance. None of that is accounted for or projected.

Yes, I had big plans for the savings I'd get when my oldest stopped going to day care.  She's 12 now...and I spend about the old daycare amount on private lessons for her French horn (required because she's in band at school and has a school-owned instrument) and club volleyball (because she begged and I'm a sucker).  We spend at least $500/mo on direct costs just for her activities, which is insane. School supplies/fees are another $30-50/month.  Then there's gas for the tournaments.  There used to be a lot of pricey convenience foods, but now I do a lot of meal planning and advance cooking to get around the fact that we aren't home long on a lot of evenings or weekends.

The youngest has one more year of day care, and I foresee the current day care amount getting sucked up with fees for math club trips and robotics summer camps, etc.

We chose to cut back in other areas of our budget and indulge the kids with certain activities.  The key was that we did cut back.  For example, I have spent $0 on clothes so far this year, which I did not think I could do.  We're still working on cutting.

However, I refuse to start thinking about oldest kid driving.  If I bury my head in the sand long enough, it won't happen, right?
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: red_pill on June 23, 2018, 08:28:50 PM
@Jadambomb - any progress this week?
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: MonÄypÄnny on June 24, 2018, 02:36:43 AM
I have had to explain to my husband that we don't actually have that much money as he thought when he wanted to rebuild our previous house.
- we still need to save for two college funds
- we don't have enough money saved for retirement
- we need an emergency fund should we loose an income.
- we need a fund to replace cars, electronics, heating system etc etc when it breaks down.
- when I would live in the US, I would have a medical emergency fund too.

He understood and was a bit shocked, he went in to saving mode.

The banks were really happy we had nice savings, equity and funds when we needed a mortgage. They deducted almost all our savings from the price of the house and would only lend us the rest.
So I now have a monthly mortgage that is lower than the rent for a nice room for a student and we still have to pump money into the rebuild this fixer upper needs. The idea is that this is our last mortgage but I would have placed that money in good products next time. Lending money with our equity would cost approximately  Ä900 in fees (mandatory financial advisor fee, taxation of the house and notary), partly tax deductible but stil, we rather not.

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Imma on June 24, 2018, 06:27:20 AM
Just another two "small" things that no one has pointed out yet:


4. Home Supplies (TP, Papertowels, batteries, cleaning supplies) - $150
5. Lawn & Garden (One fall cleanup, a few bags of organic fertilizer.  I do everything else myself) - $50

$2400/year worth of spending there just on TP and lawn care. I know in the grand scheme of things this is just a tiny thing, but your problem is that you just spend too much on so many tiny things.

Say you use a family sized pack of TP every month ($15) a large pack of paper towels ($5) a roll of thrash bags ($5) a bottle of fancy cleaning liquid a week (4 x $3) and a pack of batteries every month ($4).  That seems to me like a very generous amount of supplies for a family of 5, and that's still about 1/3 of your budget. I don't even personally use half of that stuff - I've never really understood why people would use paper towels, for example.

$50/month on lawn care seems a bit excessive too. Say a bag of organic fertilizer is $35. How many of them do you need?

These are just a few examples. None of your expenses seem that unreasonable on first sight, but if you look closer there's plenty of room to cut back.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: KBecks on June 24, 2018, 07:25:07 AM
Regarding your patio, know that a lot of people don't spend a lot of time on their patio.  There was a study of Life at Home in the 21st Century that showed that kitchens and bathrooms were the big bang for the buck in remodeling.  Outdoor kitchens and fancy backyards just don't get used from a standpoint of where people spend time in their homes.  So maybe you don't have to go fancy with your patio.  Or maybe you can significantly delay or downscale your plans for that.

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: KBecks on June 24, 2018, 07:29:07 AM
Also, our kid costs are going up. I stay home with my kids and work part time, but I feel like my job pays for the extras, which are pricey --- my youngest started trumpet with a private teacher, he started hockey, equipment and lessons and league fees, plus gas and food, etc, my oldest has therapy, and I see more expenses coming up if my kids excel -- if my youngest becomes skilled at trumpet or hockey, the costs to be in a select team or band are a lot more. 

Then we just have the family outings, which we love, 5 people out for mini golf and dinner for a family date night, museum memberships, etc.  It is a lot of luxury spending.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: hippywithaheartofsteel on June 24, 2018, 09:58:09 AM
you spend 11,000 dollars a month and your assistant bonus is around 420 dollars? Not a recommendation to cut, but seems a little disproportionate.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: lhamo on June 24, 2018, 10:21:10 AM
Re: travel expenses, unless you have family you need to visit that require fights (my husband's family is in China so I get this), you don't really need two flying vacations per year, especially with little kids.  If you cut one of the flying vacations out and do smaller staycations once a year for a few years you will have the money to pay for the patio.  Or maybe you just do the patio and then don't take any remote vacations for the next couple of years -- enjoy the patio you spent all that money on instead!

I agree with those who are baffled by the spending on household supplies.  For my family of four I buy 1 large pack of TP and a roll or two of paper towels per month.  Other stuff is much more intermittent -- like I bought a four-pack of toilet bowl cleaner last year and we are still using those up.  We only use one large garbage bag a week (our city has a big compost and recycling program, so we don't throw much stuff out), so the box of 100 I bought last year is still going strong.  I buy detergent on sale for $2-3 bottle (often stacking coupons and discounts), and a bottle lasts 2-3 months typically (we use about half the recommended amount, clothes get clean).  Anyway, you get the idea.  Figure out how to reduce the amount of stuff you are using for household cleaning/maintenance and get a system for buying stuff on sale, etc. 
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Bracken_Joy on June 24, 2018, 10:23:33 AM
Re: household goods. I'm assuming OP is including diapers in household supplies? I don't remember if he stated ages of the children, but it sounds likely one or both are still in diapers.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Earlybirdretirement on June 24, 2018, 10:35:14 AM
I've only skimmed all the replies, so I hope this brings a different idea.
I also live with crazy expensive childcare, one way we've brought it down is to do nanny-share.  It brings it down about a 1/3 as you'll pay the au pair more (win for her) and brings some of the social interaction that your wife wants.
Also, I assume au pair means that she lives with you?  I could be wrong on this, but if that's the case it means you would probably be comfortable renting it out after she moves out for extra income.  Or if your wife likes to manage small projects, maybe you have enough space to add a tiny house and earn income from that as well.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: cats on June 24, 2018, 05:37:59 PM
So, looking through your expenses some more, some other ideas on where to cut:

Cars: can you get a better insurance rate?  What kind of coverage do you have? With the replacement fund, how often are you planning to replace a car?  Looks like maybe every 4-5 years?  Are you actually having a car die on you that often or are you guilty of upgrading?  You mention you work quite close to home--is it possible for you to plan on eventually going down to one car or at least using one car much less? 

Bills/Utilities: I would question whether you really NEED Hulu.  Yes, it's only $8/month but with two young kids and two jobs, how much time to you really have to veg out?  My husband and I really only watch TV/movies on Friday and Saturday evening, during the week it is just a recipe for staying up too late and sleeping poorly.  So we make do with whatever is free on the internet and our library streaming service (which has all sorts of quirky/obscure movies).

Entertainment: Scale back on the parties.  I find that throwing parties is actually not that much fun for the host--you are too busy organizing to actually hang out with your guests.  I prefer to have 1-2 families over for a casual brunch, less effort and expense, more time actually connecting with other people.  And, you do not need to go out to dinner for special occasions.  Cook something fancy or splurge on a dessert from your favorite bakery to enjoy at home, after the kids are in bed.

Amazon Prime: You should not be buying enough stuff on Amazon for this to be worthwhile.

Food & Dining: Limit liquor/alcohol to the weekends, less convenience food, and learn to shop sales or cook with ingredients that are consistently on the cheaper end of the spectrum.  Things like berries, steak, fancy salad mixes, deli meats should all be occasional foods, not staples.  Eat more of things like carrots, cabbage, bananas, oranges, lentils, oatmeal, cheaper cuts of meat, etc.  Why are you going out to a restaurant with young kids?  This sounds like hell.  Keep a few frozen pizzas in the fridge instead.

Gifts: You and your wife need to agree to stop gifting each other stuff.  For kids birthdays, many of the parties we go to explicitly say "no gift".  If there is uncertainty, I will admit to re-gifting something that has been gifted to our kid (just make sure the recipient didn't give it to you in the first place!). 
 
Home: I think everyone else has covered this one--you need to get your wife on board with a reduced rate of upgrades.  Long term, consider whether it might make sense to downgrade once you no longer have an au pair.

Kids: The activities and supplies numbers aren't insane but could probably be trimmed a bit given the current ages.  Do some research on what sort of stuff is available for free or low-cost in your area.  Our local library has a great program where you can get free or discount passes to the zoo, children's museums, etc.  That plus things like library storytime, a few local parks, and playdates with other kids keeps our toddler quite busy.

Personal Care: Dry cleaning, mani/pedi, and birchbox all stand out as things that could be cut....but that are probably going to have to be your wife's decision

Travel: figure out travel hacking or trade some of those flying vacations to local camping trips.

When talking to your wife, if they idea of FIRE seems unachievable to too distant, how about starting with pitching it as simply wanting more options or financial security for your family.  What if, when your kid starts school, it turns out the public school system is not for them and you want the option of home-schooling for a year or two (or you just want to have more time available to advocate for them within the school system).  What if the next recession hits and one of you gets laid off?  What if one of you develops health problems and can't work as much?  None of these may be highly likely, but it's worth talking to your wife about how you would deal with them financially and how you would adjust spending to adapt to each of these scenarios.  Right now it sounds like you probably really need both of your incomes to maintain your current lifestyle.  This is a recipe for vulnerability.  Personally, it's a point of pride for me that although I earn less than my husband, we don't actually NEED his income to support our current lifestyle.  Talk to your wife about whether it might be feasible for you two to get down to only needing one paycheck and picture how much stress it could potentially remove from your lives.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Imma on June 25, 2018, 02:22:44 AM
Re: household goods. I'm assuming OP is including diapers in household supplies? I don't remember if he stated ages of the children, but it sounds likely one or both are still in diapers.

No, the diapers/kid supplies have their own seperate budget category.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: flower_girl on June 25, 2018, 06:13:31 AM
A few things which stuck out for me.

No income protection or life insurance?

Have you crunched the numbers on whether it would be viable/cheaper/desirable for one of you to stay home as the stay at home parent or even share this, both work part time, both do parenting duties?  You'd eliminate considerable childcare expenses (that $9000 Nanny agency fee seems insane to me, plus wages plus maybe less travel etc?). Just an idea to look at.

As several others have mentioned I think it would be wise to work out with your wife exactly what your goals and financial goals are and then prioritize them.   

A house worth $900,000 plus must be pretty nice already so maybe the renovations could take a back seat for a while.

The $35 bonus seems quite low to me and maybe should be increased?

I agree you could slash and burn  on the consumables but I get the impression you're kind of drifting without any real long term purpose or plan (maybe because your wife and you aren't really clear enough about where you are heading and what you want) but if you had more focus and clarity about where you were going it would help a lot to control this.

Good luck.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: freya on June 25, 2018, 07:31:19 AM
The OP's situation sounds exactly like my sister's.  Her spending was very similar to this when her kids were young, down to the frequent house remodels and the parties/entertainment spending.  They were always talking about how frugal they were, and they started out that way but gradually fell into the same lifestyle described here.  Somehow, every time I did anything with them, money would flow like water, not just from them but also from me.

Now the kids are in high school & college, and as others here have observed, the spending has increased massively.  Overseas trips, summer camps, private colleges, Macbooks/iPads/iPhones and cars for everyone.  This past January was the great Hamilton event ($600/ticket/person plus extravagant dinner).  Now they're about to head off on their two-week Cape Cod vacation, while my sister talks constantly about how she's barely able to meet the upcoming tuition bills.  Meanwhile, the kid who is graduating from college next year and talking about medical school has a very thin CV, since all the entertainment & fun hasn't left much room for real work experience.

So I agree with the many posters who said this budget isn't due to any one thing in particular, like the au pair:  it's a mindset problem.  If you want to retire early or at least achieve financial security, the mindset is what has to change, and both you and your wife need to be on board.  Although, one thing did jump out at me that hasn't already been mentioned:  heating costs.  I'd suggest that your next home upgrade should be a gas heater, wood stove, and efficiency improvements like insulation & windows.  Or, if you're not in love with your current house, at least consider moving to a smaller, more efficient home that's walking or easy biking distance to a downtown area.  That's the best way to get cost savings and convenience in one package.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Zamboni on June 25, 2018, 07:39:52 AM
OP, I want to compliment you on having such a detailed budget in your initial post. Clearly you have a good handle on where you are spending. Well done!

If I were you, I would just pick one-two items per month to optimize. Focus on your own spending first. For example, if you nag about the grocery shopping, but you are not the one doing it and there is no evidence that you are cutting back on things you prioritize for yourself, then you don't come off well complaining about food costs.

Also, kudos for budgeting for the bonus for the admin assistant in your office. Definitely keep that!

Quote
like after we do the patio, kitchen, and bathroom, I think she'll be satisfied for a long time. 

Ummm, I hate to burst your bubble here, but that could very well be incorrect.

Interior fashion changes on a fairly short time cycle (~7 years, maybe?) What looks great this year will be thought of as "horribly dated" by people in the real estate industry a decade from now. And it's worse at the high end than at the low end of the spend spectrum. Even if you try to go neutral, the desired look changes. Big beige stone-look square tiles used to be all the rage in high end bathrooms . . . now everyone wants big rectangular gray tiles and beige is out, out, out. Sometimes things stick a little longer  . . . . the stainless steel appliances have lasted longer than I thought they would, for example, but overall the churning of style means that your wife won't stay happy if she is prone to caring about how the house looks.

I've watched many neighbors and my ex-MIL completely rip out and redo extremely nice, high end kitchens and bathrooms due to changing design trends. Even things that they picked themselves with great delight and at great expense, by 7-10 years later they are itching to rip out and do over!

Maybe you are right and she won't do this, but definitely don't take it for granted. Good luck!
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Jadambomb on June 25, 2018, 02:30:21 PM
So many great suggestions.  Since I can't really reply to all of them, some of the things that jumped out at me are:

1. Get my wife on board with FIRE if it's a serious desire.  We talked about it and she's definitely a bit more into it now.  We both realize we are going to have to make sacrifices to get there.
2. Home Improvement costs are a bit crazy.  We talked about this and are definitely reevaluating our future projects.
3. Grocery budget is insane.  We are going to quit those fruit packets cold turkey.  Our kids will adapt and be fine.  And hopefully eat more whole fruits and veggies.  This should save us around $200 a month. We are also going to start doing Costco and generally try to shop smarter.  Not only where we shop but how we shop and what we eat.  We can definitely cut this down a ton. 
4. Pest Control.  We are going to cancel this service and see how it goes.  If we get a massive infestation, we can always call them back.
5. Birchbox - Cancelled. 
6. Guests/Entertainment - No more $400 parties (although the last one was three years ago anyway.) But we hope to cut this budget and stay within the limits.
7. Restaurants - Although we go out slightly less than once a month now, this can easily be cut to every two or three months.  We can even fold this budget into our special occasion budget and cut one out completely.
8. Home Supplies - Definitely seems way too high.  Hopefully Costco will help with this as well.  We can easily cut this budget down to $50 or so. 
9. Daycare - We've priced out nanny shares but the Au Pair is still cheaper even with the agency fee, because we'd need all day care for one, and half day care for the other one.  I know it seems insane, but for other families in this area where both parents work full-time, and who have two or more kids, we pay by far the least for daycare for our kids using the au pair.  Although this doesn't count the pre-k which throws it off.  The weird thing is, the pre-k we use, prices three, four, and five day care all the same to discourage people not putting their kids in full time because they think it has better outcomes.  And the five day option at this one is cheaper than most other pre-k three day options.  This whole budget hurts but we are definitely going to get a huge boost here in three years when the youngest one is in Kindergarten.


Other concerns people had:
1. Our expenses will rise due to kids activities.  I actually am slightly concerned about this and we definitely won't be enrolling them in a lot of those paid activities.  I just looked and my town's school charges $350 a year per sport.  Other activities that charge by the hour or something will definitely be limited.
2. We might send our kids to private school.  Absolutely not.  Neither of us wants that at all.  Our schools are great.
3. Travel.  In actuality we usually fly once a year to my family's place in Kentucky for Thanksgiving.  Besides that we hardly ever travel at all so I'm sure that budget can be cut significantly.
4. My assistant's bonus is too low.  My assistant is shared by three people. I am the least senior person she has, so therefor typically does around two or three hours of work for me, per week.  The other two people really use the rest of her hours so we split her bonus by number of hours per week she dedicates to each of us.  She makes a good salary besides these bonuses, and receives her own bonus from the company, but we all feel we like to compensate her a bit above and beyond.  Her total "over and above" bonus is close to 20X what I personally contribute.  As she does more work for me, her bonus will definitely increase accordingly.
5. Life insurance - we both have this, and it's automatically deducted from our paychecks so I don't really count it here.  We've also priced them out and we are among the lowest cost per dollar per year.

All of these suggestions have been great and I've definitely taken seriously the ones that I think hit the mark and make sense.  I appreciate it.  I've needed some face punches and reality checks to bring it a bit back into line.  It seems like these changes can easily save us hundreds per month or perhaps thousands if we really cut hard.  If we can trim $1,000 per month starting ASAP, that would bring us up to a 31% savings rate instead of our current 24.2%.  Then, once childcare costs drop off in three years, we should be up around 45% savings rate.  And this is all without bonuses.  Typically we make decent bonuses as well which brings our rate up, but I don't include those because they aren't guaranteed.

Again, thank you all.  I'll keep checking back if anyone else has any other ideas.

Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: diapasoun on June 25, 2018, 02:47:18 PM
Jadambomb, good job taking all our poking graciously, and thank you for updating us! Please let us know how things develop.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: Gremlin on June 25, 2018, 05:52:14 PM
Jadambomb, just one thing to caution - you've (appropriately) highlighted a whole heap of areas that are ripe for change.  Just make sure whatever changes you make are sustainable.  Mrs Gremlin and I made some dramatic changes several years back that felt (at the time) really restrictive and led to relapse as we felt we were "unfairly penalising ourselves".  We then tried again and incrementally addressed each area over the course of a year.  This worked much better and our expenses are now MUCH lower than when we felt like we were "unfairly penalising ourselves".  Despite that, our quality of life has actually improved.

It's kind of like a diet.  If it's too restrictive too quickly, it's hard to maintain.  But if it becomes habit, you can learn to adapt much more easily and make it completely sustainable.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: koopafish on June 27, 2018, 08:32:36 PM
1. Phone bill- we recently switched to Lunar. Our joint couple bill is now $50ish. That might be much more doable. Lunar is sort of "pay as you go"- 25 cents for unlimited 24 use of each app. So if your wife works from home, she's mostly on wifi. Her bill would not be much. And you can game the system where you choose only one or two apps to use in your free time each day.

2. It seems like "Entertainment" as whole is adding up for you (dining out, date nights, parties, alcohol, tv subscription). One thing that has worked for me is to think to myself, "Ok, I don't have enough time in my life as it is. Of the many, many fun activities that I would love to so right now, which are free or low cost?" That way, you are not depriving yourself of your luxury. You are CHOOSING to do something you really enjoy. The fact that it saves money is merely a bonus. Its a good pyschological trick
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: RelaxedGal on June 28, 2018, 12:39:06 PM
Thank you for posting this.  I've considered doing a case study but didn't want to put my numbers, which are similar to yours, out there.

For anyone curious about "what kind of house does that buy you?" I bet it's something like this,
5 beds 3 baths 2,820 sqft $998,000 (https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/229-Lincoln-St-Lexington-MA-02421/56492148_zpid/).  Excellent school district, one of the smaller/cheaper houses in town, big enough that the au pair has some space and each kid gets his own room.  No public transit to speak of.

As for the home reno's... If you find a way to slow that, let me know.  Even our financial advisor gives my husband The Look and asks if we really need to do MORE work on the house.  We've been in the house 15 years and so far we've done the kitchen, added a bathroom, new roof, solar panels, new deck, sealed the basement.  The last one was the only essential one, but they've all been REALLY NICE.  Now he wants to replace the windows but we had a window guy out who said "Really, you don't need to replace the windows.  You say they stick, you just need to clean the slides.  They're not that old."

If you want a referral on a window guy or a financial advisor to try to rein you in, let me know :-)

You could also try to make it to one of the Boston meetups.  I've never been because I'm out in the 'burbs but it sounds like you're closer in.  Shift your frame of reference from high spending neighbors and coworkers to truly MMM people.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: caracol on June 29, 2018, 05:44:42 PM
Sorry for being a bit late to post this, but I think you could probably reduce your grocery bills by 10%-25% with a little more monitoring, but you have to get all adults in the household on board...which is a different ball game. Go slow. The other thing, if you haven't already done this, is get a second fridge and freezer for the costco stuff. You can find one used or relatively cheap, and they are pretty energy efficient. It'll be a great place to store those sale items, or giant costco frozen fruit bags.

Just pick one thing a month to tackle. Don't take it on all at once. Good luck!
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: rdaneel0 on June 29, 2018, 08:11:43 PM
@Jadambomb It's great to see you're going to make some changes, congrats! If you ever need any help with food related things (meal planning, how to price out items, cooking, shopping, even grocery list/receipt feedback) let me know! It's basically a sport for me, haha.
Title: Re: Help Me Figure Out Where to Cut Back on My Crazy $11,000 Monthly Spending Budget
Post by: LadyMaWhiskers on June 29, 2018, 09:10:03 PM
Your au pair can make fruit-pouch like purťe from fruit. There are silicon pouches you can reuse. Those things are murder on a food budget. 1.29 for 40 calories. Anything packaged single-serve is a waste of money. Itís hard with working parents, but with an au pair, it should be doable to get that food budget way doan.