Author Topic: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses  (Read 2768 times)

shingy

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Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« on: November 10, 2018, 02:07:22 PM »
Hi everyone,

While I'm new to this site, I've been unknowingly practicing the tenants of FIRE for most of my working life. So, I've had a decent head start, but there is plenty more to learn and I'm happy to have this blog and forum as an amazing resource.

While reading through the forum, I noticed many people state that their annual expenses are around $25k and in many cases that is for a couple or even a family! Before seeing that, I felt like I was doing pretty well, but I'm currently spending about $44k per year as a single guy. I know some of the variance relates to location, but I live in a relatively affordable city (Atlanta, GA). So, I was hoping you all could take a look at my spending and provide some suggestions on where I can cut further. You can find my expense breakdown here:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1RTqZnEqlSc2tBBRxqIV7b2L6uE3LyDG-sFbPeCwgMuQ/edit?usp=sharing

Thanks in advance for your help!

-Jason

seemsright

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2018, 04:26:11 PM »
This is not who can spend the least amount per year.  Sure you may want to spend less but just a quick look at your link I really do not see where you can cut without changing your life style. Ie...get a roommate or some other kind of craziness. Sure you can but Why? This is not who can be the cheapest person on the planet.

Only you can look at your expenses and know where to cut. But after a quick look at your link I really do not see any face punches. The only thing I see that I would change (it involves moving which has costs) would be your HOA fees..other than that you are living pretty simple based on that link.

Last year our family of 3 lived on about $47k...this year is not looking like we will be that low and that is okay.


debtfreejess

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2018, 05:09:11 PM »
I have to agree with seemsright - nothing stood out to me except HOA and groceries, which is a little high for a single person. Something to note is that the $25k/year figure you sometimes see (including by MMM himself) is usually for folks with a paid off home or a particularly unique living arrangement. Taking that into account, you're a lot closer than you think. Good job!

[Edit: On a second look, your car insurance seems a little high if its covering just you and one vehicle - do you have a newer car?]
« Last Edit: November 10, 2018, 05:11:38 PM by debtfreejess »

singpolyma

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2018, 06:04:57 PM »
Just what occurs on a first reading:

$135 for Internet (+ "cable"... what is this, the 90s?) seems *very* high.  I pay less than $40 USD / month equivalent where I am for Internet.

$400 / month for groceries? And there's only one of you?  Shop the flyers and discount stores and cut this in half at least!  For reference, myself + my wife + one toddler eat for less than $200 USD / month equivalent.

Restaurants are not food.  If you want to eat out a tonne every month and burn $100, that's your choice, but call a spade a spade and put it under Entertainment.  My wife and I can do date night at our favourite restaurants for less than $25 USD equivalent... so just one person could eat there *8 times a month* on your $100.  Something to consider.

Are disability or life insurance required by your employer?  If not, why have them?  Especially life insurance, which is you making a bet that you will die and the Insurance company making a bet that you will live.  Seems like the opposite of how I'd like to bet on my own life ;)

$13 / month on vitamins?  Is this some kind of specialty vitamin prescribed by a doctor?  Otherwise just eat real food and stop it.

Alcohol is more entertainment again, unless you drink for uncommon reasons ;)

WTF is "cash withdrawal"?

Cleaning service... is your condo really so big that you can't clean it yourself?  If so, get a smaller one.

OTOH, car repairs seems insanely low.  Are you not saving for larger repairs / car replacement?

Credit card fees: no.

And of course: you can always cut car related expenses by driving less.

marty998

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2018, 08:22:46 PM »
In addition to singpolyma has said:

TiVo is a utility? I thought it was a TV box? That can go...

You can wash your car yourself too.

Amazing you spend $12,000 a year on Insurance. I can't fathom, but hey, you guys over there seem happy to put up with that state of affairs.

smalllife

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2018, 07:34:11 AM »
I see quite a few line items that exist or are inflated because of what you are "supposed" to do.  Now, some of these things may be that you truly derive pleasure from them, but try without to see if you miss them. 


Copying the link here so it's easier to follow:

Category   Sub Category   Yearly   Monthly
Condo   Mortgage           $9,712   $809
           Property taxes   $2,465   $205
   Homeowner's ins.   $357           $30
           HOA dues           $4,813   $401
   Repairs & Maint.     $300    $25
   Cable & Internet   $1,620   $135 *$80 *Do you need cable?  What are you actually watching?  Is there an alternative? Sports are starting to be broken out, and this seems really high, even for the fastest internet. The replacement includes fast internet and one or two streaming services.
          Electric           $945    $79
          Water             $392    $33

Entertainment               $400    $33     *On top of restaurants and alcohol?  Try keeping a log of how you feel after all three, and pick one that truly makes you happy, and try to severely limit the others.  On the other hand, you are single.  Perhaps be a bit more creative when socializing?  Meetup groups, etc.
Food   
Groceries & Household   $4,800   $400    *Try breaking out groceries and household, just to see if there are areas to optimize.  Personally, we opted for pricier but more local food options, but we also break out household to have a true food spending line item.
         Restaurant           $1,200   $100   
Insurance   
              Health           $7,271   $606
         Vision                  $181     $15       *Do you wear glasses and contacts?  Most medical plans include a free vision check up.  Worth looking into.
         Disability          $1,533   $128
         Life                 $1,278   $107    *Why do you as a single person need life insurance?
         Car                 $1,159   $97       *What's your deductible?  Have you shopped around?
         Umbrella        $180     $15    *Why umbrella on top of both house and car?
Medical   
              Medical          $500     $42     *Is this for meds?  Chronic condition?
         Vitamins             $150    $13    *Eat real food, echoed below - medical requirement aside (but I would have lumped that with Medical if that were the case)
         Massage          $192      $16    *Medical needs aside, I have found yoga (free, doyogawithme.com) and meditation/stress reduction to be more effective than massage.  Confirmed by masseuse during a free work massage who asked if I got them regularly.
Misc   
               Misc                  $900     $75         *Misc and cash are black holes.  Track or have examples.  Leaving the Cash category because stuff happens, but be aware of leaks.
          Alcohol          $300     $25     *Bars or at home?  Have a drink before going out (if taking public transportation) to cut it down.  Easy cut, with health benefits.  Don't need to go 100% if you don't want, but easy to cut in half.
          Cash              $240           $20    *See above, black hole.
          Gifts                   $200    $17
   Cloud backup         $60       $5
   Travel                   $600     $50
   Clothes                $150     $13
   Cleaning service        $636    $53    *Um, you are an adult.  Clean your house.
   VPN                      $40       $3
Transportation   
   Car repairs/maint   $125    $10
   Car tag                 $57       $5
   Car wash              $110     $9     *If you must have a super clean car, do it yourself.  The cost for a few materials will be saved many times over.
   Gas                           $490    $41
   Ride sharing           $30       $3
   MARTA                   $15       $1
Utilities   
        Cell phone             $684    $57   *$30    *You can get unlimited talk/text and 2G data for under $30.  Check out PagePlus or any of the other pre-paid - every network has them.
   TiVo                            $120   $10      *This is the age of the internet. Not needed.
Financial   
        Credit Card Fees   $95       $8       *Free money.  Stop it.
   Safe Deposit Box   $45       $4
   Totals:                  $44,345   $3,695 $3,282  ->  $39,390


Now, these nips and tucks are designed to have minimal impact on your life - you could go down further fairly easily, but grab the low hanging fruit first.  I will say that most don't include any payroll deductions in their spending, which accounts for a fair portion of your costs.  The house also seems like an albatross with the $400/mo HOA fee: I say that as someone with an internalized aversion to HOAs, but in Atlanta that may be the cost of walk/bikability. 

And voila, saved $5,000 a year. 

For reference, we are a two person household who spends $30k a year including travel and a ridiculous number of elderly animals.   The main difference between our budgets is the HOA and the insurance.  Everything else just doesn't exist or is a bit lower.


2Birds1Stone

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2018, 09:47:58 AM »
Two person household in HCOL Long Island, NY here. Spending ~$38k/yr all in.

Your insurance is VERY VERY high. Pardon if I missed it, but are you self employed?
Groceries are very high for a single person. We spend ~$240/month for two people, and eat quite a bit of meat.
Aside from that, if your condo is more than 1 bedroom, could you get a roommate/rent a room on AirB&B? $1750/month for housing in a MCOL area seems high for a single person. We rent a 1 Bedroom APT in HCOL area for $1,100/month which includes utilities and Wifi.

Plenty of fat to trim! What is your income?

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2018, 10:24:15 AM »
Thanks everyone for their comments and advice. seemsright & debtfreejess - thanks for the kind words. Still think there is some fat to trim, though :)

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2018, 11:02:29 AM »
Just what occurs on a first reading:

$135 for Internet (+ "cable"... what is this, the 90s?) seems *very* high.  I pay less than $40 USD / month equivalent where I am for Internet.

$400 / month for groceries? And there's only one of you?  Shop the flyers and discount stores and cut this in half at least!  For reference, myself + my wife + one toddler eat for less than $200 USD / month equivalent.

Restaurants are not food.  If you want to eat out a tonne every month and burn $100, that's your choice, but call a spade a spade and put it under Entertainment.  My wife and I can do date night at our favourite restaurants for less than $25 USD equivalent... so just one person could eat there *8 times a month* on your $100.  Something to consider.

Are disability or life insurance required by your employer?  If not, why have them?  Especially life insurance, which is you making a bet that you will die and the Insurance company making a bet that you will live.  Seems like the opposite of how I'd like to bet on my own life ;)

$13 / month on vitamins?  Is this some kind of specialty vitamin prescribed by a doctor?  Otherwise just eat real food and stop it.

Alcohol is more entertainment again, unless you drink for uncommon reasons ;)

WTF is "cash withdrawal"?

Cleaning service... is your condo really so big that you can't clean it yourself?  If so, get a smaller one.

OTOH, car repairs seems insanely low.  Are you not saving for larger repairs / car replacement?

Credit card fees: no.

And of course: you can always cut car related expenses by driving less.

Thanks for the feedback, singpolyma, it's much appreciated! Here are my thoughts and some additional context on the items you pointed out:

Internet would be about $60 with taxes by itself, so the cable portion is about $75. It's definitely high, but I watch a good bit of TV (I know, not a great habit) and have priced out streaming options and those would still be about $50 and would scatter all of the various shows to different platforms/interfaces, whereas now all my shows appear on the DVR, so for $25/m I didn't think the hassle was worth it. I'll continue to keep an eye on this though as the options get cheaper and better.

Groceries - the $400 includes household goods (such as paper towels, toothpaste, advil, etc). I need to figure out how much of the total that is and better represent that. But, I definitely agree that the grocery portion is high given I'm single. This seems like one of the best targets for reducing my expenses - just need to figure out how. Any good resources that might help me?

Restaurants - I agree that a portion of this should be considered entertainment, but not all as you do still consume food. $100/m does seem a bit high, but it does include food when I travel and cooking isn't an option. I generally only eat out once per week, and cook at least 3 times (I eat alot of leftovers) so I think I'm doing ok here overall.

Disability & life insurance - nope, not required. Disability is important as I'm single and self employed, so if I am ever disabled, I don't have a spouse's second income and my parents aren't in a position to help me. This was reinforced by seeing my Dad's disability income be much less then his actual income. While he has recovered and working again, they are still recovering financially from that. Life is definitely not needed at the moment (no spouse or kids), but a few years ago I was having some fatigue issues and before I went through all of the testing to diagnose, I opted to lock in a policy in case I was diagnosed with something serious. Turns out I have sleep apnea and that was something that would have made me ineligible for a policy, so I'm glad I did that even if I don't currently need it. I also plan to get rid of it as soon as I am FI.

Vitamins - some of my fatigue issues were related to vitamin deficiencies. Not sure if I'll be able to replace all with food, but definitely agree that that should be the goal.

Alcohol - agreed, definitely entertainment :)

Cash withdrawal - this is basically my cash version of "Misc". I don't use much cash and I don't have a good way of tracking what it is actually spent on unlike my credit card.

Cleaning service - nope, not big, just hate doing this with a passion and it takes me like 5 hours to do a full clean, where they are in and out in 1. Given that I can charge ~$75/hour for my freelance work, I feel like I can justify this given it takes me 4 hours longer to do. Also, I only have it done every 6 weeks and do keep the place clean in between, so this is for a "deep clean".

Car repairs - this just includes very minimal maintenance (oil changes, tire rotation, air filter, etc). The car is only 5 years old and I only drive about 3,500 miles/year. So, while I do expect those costs to go up, right now, that my actual cost to maintain.

Credit card fees - agreed! It made sense at the time I got it (Delta AMEX). But, I'm not traveling much with Delta anymore and I'm in the process of converting to a non-fee card.

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2018, 11:11:03 AM »
In addition to singpolyma has said:

TiVo is a utility? I thought it was a TV box? That can go...

You can wash your car yourself too.

Amazing you spend $12,000 a year on Insurance. I can't fathom, but hey, you guys over there seem happy to put up with that state of affairs.

Thanks for the feedback, marty998, it's much appreciated! Here are my thoughts and some additional context on the items you pointed out:

Tivo - lol, definitely not a utility, but wasn't sure exactly where to put it. If I got rid of tivo, I'd have to rent a DVR from the cable company and it would cost the same amount, so that's a wash. I do have the option to pay Tivo $99 for "lifetime" service, so as long as I keep it for at least 10 months, it would be worth it. I will probably end up doing that.

Car wash - I live in a condo with a parking garage and no access to water, so I'd have to wash it off site. Also, like the condo cleaning, I hate doing it and for the amount of time it would take to do it myself, it would be less expensive (when considering my freelance hourly rate) then having someone else do it.

Insurance - yea, I know - it's insane! The biggest piece of that is health and since I'm self employed, I unfortunately don't get an subsidy. At least I can deduct the cost on my taxes, so I at least save about ~15% on that.

smalllife

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2018, 11:14:07 AM »

Car wash - I live in a condo with a parking garage and no access to water, so I'd have to wash it off site. Also, like the condo cleaning, I hate doing it and for the amount of time it would take to do it myself, it would be less expensive (when considering my freelance hourly rate) then having someone else do it.

Do you really need to wash your car though?  Mine is 10 years old and I have never washed it .... still works fine, no rust or issues.

Thanks for clarifying re: self employed and health insurance!

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2018, 11:34:47 AM »
I see quite a few line items that exist or are inflated because of what you are "supposed" to do.  Now, some of these things may be that you truly derive pleasure from them, but try without to see if you miss them. 


Copying the link here so it's easier to follow:

Category   Sub Category   Yearly   Monthly
Condo   Mortgage           $9,712   $809
           Property taxes   $2,465   $205
   Homeowner's ins.   $357           $30
           HOA dues           $4,813   $401
   Repairs & Maint.     $300    $25
   Cable & Internet   $1,620   $135 *$80 *Do you need cable?  What are you actually watching?  Is there an alternative? Sports are starting to be broken out, and this seems really high, even for the fastest internet. The replacement includes fast internet and one or two streaming services.
          Electric           $945    $79
          Water             $392    $33

Entertainment               $400    $33     *On top of restaurants and alcohol?  Try keeping a log of how you feel after all three, and pick one that truly makes you happy, and try to severely limit the others.  On the other hand, you are single.  Perhaps be a bit more creative when socializing?  Meetup groups, etc.
Food   
Groceries & Household   $4,800   $400    *Try breaking out groceries and household, just to see if there are areas to optimize.  Personally, we opted for pricier but more local food options, but we also break out household to have a true food spending line item.
         Restaurant           $1,200   $100   
Insurance   
              Health           $7,271   $606
         Vision                  $181     $15       *Do you wear glasses and contacts?  Most medical plans include a free vision check up.  Worth looking into.
         Disability          $1,533   $128
         Life                 $1,278   $107    *Why do you as a single person need life insurance?
         Car                 $1,159   $97       *What's your deductible?  Have you shopped around?
         Umbrella        $180     $15    *Why umbrella on top of both house and car?
Medical   
              Medical          $500     $42     *Is this for meds?  Chronic condition?
         Vitamins             $150    $13    *Eat real food, echoed below - medical requirement aside (but I would have lumped that with Medical if that were the case)
         Massage          $192      $16    *Medical needs aside, I have found yoga (free, doyogawithme.com) and meditation/stress reduction to be more effective than massage.  Confirmed by masseuse during a free work massage who asked if I got them regularly.
Misc   
               Misc                  $900     $75         *Misc and cash are black holes.  Track or have examples.  Leaving the Cash category because stuff happens, but be aware of leaks.
          Alcohol          $300     $25     *Bars or at home?  Have a drink before going out (if taking public transportation) to cut it down.  Easy cut, with health benefits.  Don't need to go 100% if you don't want, but easy to cut in half.
          Cash              $240           $20    *See above, black hole.
          Gifts                   $200    $17
   Cloud backup         $60       $5
   Travel                   $600     $50
   Clothes                $150     $13
   Cleaning service        $636    $53    *Um, you are an adult.  Clean your house.
   VPN                      $40       $3
Transportation   
   Car repairs/maint   $125    $10
   Car tag                 $57       $5
   Car wash              $110     $9     *If you must have a super clean car, do it yourself.  The cost for a few materials will be saved many times over.
   Gas                           $490    $41
   Ride sharing           $30       $3
   MARTA                   $15       $1
Utilities   
        Cell phone             $684    $57   *$30    *You can get unlimited talk/text and 2G data for under $30.  Check out PagePlus or any of the other pre-paid - every network has them.
   TiVo                            $120   $10      *This is the age of the internet. Not needed.
Financial   
        Credit Card Fees   $95       $8       *Free money.  Stop it.
   Safe Deposit Box   $45       $4
   Totals:                  $44,345   $3,695 $3,282  ->  $39,390


Now, these nips and tucks are designed to have minimal impact on your life - you could go down further fairly easily, but grab the low hanging fruit first.  I will say that most don't include any payroll deductions in their spending, which accounts for a fair portion of your costs.  The house also seems like an albatross with the $400/mo HOA fee: I say that as someone with an internalized aversion to HOAs, but in Atlanta that may be the cost of walk/bikability. 

And voila, saved $5,000 a year. 

For reference, we are a two person household who spends $30k a year including travel and a ridiculous number of elderly animals.   The main difference between our budgets is the HOA and the insurance.  Everything else just doesn't exist or is a bit lower.

Thanks for the feedback, smalllife, it's much appreciated! Here are my thoughts and some additional context on the items you pointed out that I haven't responded to yet:

Entertainment - yes, that is in addition to the others. It includes things like concerts, plays, movies, video games, etc.

Groceries & Household - agreed, will do that to get a clearer picture of actual grocery spend.

Vision - yes, I do and my medical insurance doesn't cover anything. I compared the cost for VSP to my out of pocket and VSP is slightly less expensive (about $100/year less).

Life - I don't, but see my previous reply for the rationale.

Car - deductible is only $500 - thought it was higher. It's been a few years since I shopped around. Also, I drive very little at this point (3,500 miles/year). So, definitely seems like there is an opportunity to reduce that. I will shop it around - thanks!

Umbrella - I have rental property

Medical - no chronic condition; this is my out of pocket costs, copays, medicine, etc.

Massage - I love yoga and need to do more, but I find that it can only go so far in terms of targetting specific areas of pain/discomfort. So, getting 2 massages a year definitely helps me feel better. And, they also feel great.

Alcohol - this is only when out - I have liquor at home, but never consume it. This is purely social. Not sure how much I can really reduce as I don't drink much as it is. It basically equates to about 3-4 drinks a month.

Cell - I assume the $30/m you quote is service only. If so, I'm currently paying $30/m for service and $27/m for my phone. Once that is paid off (Feb), I'll keep the phone another year or so before replacing it.

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2018, 11:45:14 AM »
Two person household in HCOL Long Island, NY here. Spending ~$38k/yr all in.

Your insurance is VERY VERY high. Pardon if I missed it, but are you self employed?
Groceries are very high for a single person. We spend ~$240/month for two people, and eat quite a bit of meat.
Aside from that, if your condo is more than 1 bedroom, could you get a roommate/rent a room on AirB&B? $1750/month for housing in a MCOL area seems high for a single person. We rent a 1 Bedroom APT in HCOL area for $1,100/month which includes utilities and Wifi.

Plenty of fat to trim! What is your income?

Thanks for the feedback, 2Birds1Stone, it's much appreciated! Here are my thoughts and some additional context on the items you pointed out that I haven't responded to yet:

Insurance - yes, I am self employed. I've looked for other options, but for a comparable policy, it would only reduce my premium by about $50/m, but increase my deductible from $1,500 to $6,000. So, the trade off is just not worth it.

Groceries - definitely agree that is too high. Thought it was largely due to the amount of meat I consume, but that doesn't seem to be an issue in your case. Any suggestions or references to ways I can cut this?

Condo - it's a 1 BR, so that's not an option, unfortunately. Prices to rent a comparable place in my area is over $2k/m. So, given that, plus I am paying down principal and get a tax break on the mortgage interest (well, at least when I bought, but not sure I'll be able to itemize going forward), wouldn't make sense. I'd have to move from an urban area to a suburban one to see any real benefit.

Income - about $60k/year. Right now I'm breaking even after taxes, so not progressing towards FIRE, unfortunately. But, there is some big potential upside in the work I'm involved in (commercial real estate development), so I'm banking on being able to make up for my current lack of savings by closing a couple deals within the next few years.

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2018, 11:48:55 AM »

Car wash - I live in a condo with a parking garage and no access to water, so I'd have to wash it off site. Also, like the condo cleaning, I hate doing it and for the amount of time it would take to do it myself, it would be less expensive (when considering my freelance hourly rate) then having someone else do it.

Do you really need to wash your car though?  Mine is 10 years old and I have never washed it .... still works fine, no rust or issues.

Thanks for clarifying re: self employed and health insurance!

I could probably get away with washing it a bit less. The budget covers 2 professional wash/wax and 2 drive through washes. I could certainly get away with one less wash/wax, especially since I'm parked in a garage for almost 100% of the time. But, spring time around here the car gets covered in pollen (and I'm allergic), so the drive through washes are definitely worthwhile that time of year.

Thanks again for your thoughts!

smalllife

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #14 on: November 11, 2018, 01:00:35 PM »
Cell - I assume the $30/m you quote is service only. If so, I'm currently paying $30/m for service and $27/m for my phone. Once that is paid off (Feb), I'll keep the phone another year or so before replacing it.

This is a great example.  Why are you replacing a phone before it breaks?

Currently you do a decently frugal job of keeping up with the Joneses.  To truly get your expenses down however, you are going to have to opt out of some things.

Things like this:

Tivo - lol, definitely not a utility, but wasn't sure exactly where to put it. If I got rid of tivo, I'd have to rent a DVR from the cable company and it would cost the same amount, so that's a wash

You still aren't answering WHY you want the Tivo in the first place.  Why a DVR type thing when most cable companies (ignoring the fact you don't need that at all) have most recent episodes online?

Internet would be about $60 with taxes by itself, so the cable portion is about $75. It's definitely high, but I watch a good bit of TV (I know, not a great habit) and have priced out streaming options and those would still be about $50 and would scatter all of the various shows to different platforms/interfaces, whereas now all my shows appear on the DVR, so for $25/m I didn't think the hassle was worth it.
Two things: 
1.  Libraries generally carry the seasons of all major shows.  Do you need to watch it as it comes out? 
2.  That 25/month hassle would save you $300/year.  You would then need $7,500 less saved to reach FI by saving that $25/month.  It's the little things that kill your budget and goals.
And a third thing, just because - the most convenient option is most often not the cheapest.  The most frugal, money busting option is going to be the one you either don't do (a la TiVo and car washes) or do yourself (a la cleaning the house once every two months).

Excuses sound valid when you are afraid of making changes or of feeling deprived.  You won't.  And if you do, just start renting the Tivo again. 



Gremlin

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #15 on: November 11, 2018, 04:45:26 PM »
Your justifications show your priorities.

*  You want to upgrade your phone in 2020 more than you want to FIRE.
*  You want your TiVo more than you want to FIRE.
*  You want a super-premium cable plan more than you want to FIRE.
*  You want a sparkling clean, pollen free car more than you want to FIRE.
*  You want massages more than you want to FIRE.
*  You want the convenience of a cleaner more than you want to FIRE.

If you've got enough fat in the rest of your budget you can keep all of these priorities and still achieve FIRE.  If not, then these are your priorities and you have every right to choose them.  But by choosing them, you're then making a choice not to FIRE.

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2018, 09:56:52 AM »
smalllife & Gremlin - I was initially annoyed by your posts. They're harsh, but after thinking about it, I can't argue with the facts. I certainly won't cut everything, but there is definitely room for me to adjust my priorities and make some meaningful cuts. Thanks for your time in reviewing and commenting.

SimpleCycle

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2018, 10:20:13 AM »
The other details in a case study would be helpful here.  How old are you?  What is your mortgage balance?  How much progress have you made toward FIRE so far?  Do you forsee getting married and having a family or will you FIRE as a single person?

I agree with what has been said so far, but context makes a lot of difference.

singpolyma

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2018, 10:49:19 AM »
smalllife & Gremlin - I was initially annoyed by your posts. They're harsh, but after thinking about it, I can't argue with the facts. I certainly won't cut everything, but there is definitely room for me to adjust my priorities and make some meaningful cuts. Thanks for your time in reviewing and commenting.

Wouldn't be MMM if we weren't harsh ;)

Gremlin

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2018, 03:43:02 PM »
smalllife & Gremlin - I was initially annoyed by your posts. They're harsh, but after thinking about it, I can't argue with the facts. I certainly won't cut everything, but there is definitely room for me to adjust my priorities and make some meaningful cuts. Thanks for your time in reviewing and commenting.
I certainly wasn't intending my post to be harsh.  Most of us, when we start this journey, find that our spending looks like a leaky sieve.  This community isn't about creating a bunch of ascetic monks who glorify self-depravation.  It's about building a culture where your spending becomes mindful and aligns to YOUR priorities. 

The media conditions us to do exactly the opposite.  They condition us into short-circuiting our thinking about long term priorities in favour of satisfying short-term wants.  It's a trap that's easy to fall into and hard to climb out of.  And it's a killer for wannabe FIRE-ees.

If you want FIRE, be honest with yourself about what your priorities are.  I had a number of anti-mustachian spending priorities that I maintained on my journey (and still do) because I REALLY valued them and I genuinely ranked them ahead of FIRE.  Some others that I cut out and told myself I'd take up again when I reached FIRE (interestingly I've found my priorities have changed and I don't want any of them any more).  And finally, I had a bunch of other things that I was blowing my money on because I'd never really thought about how much it was costing me and whether I truly valued it.  It's amazing how much I could carve out when I was honest about what I valued versus what things cost.

smalllife

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #20 on: November 12, 2018, 03:52:57 PM »
smalllife & Gremlin - I was initially annoyed by your posts. They're harsh, but after thinking about it, I can't argue with the facts. I certainly won't cut everything, but there is definitely room for me to adjust my priorities and make some meaningful cuts. Thanks for your time in reviewing and commenting.

Sometimes it takes a jolt to get through years of advertising and marketing brain washing.  Sorry if it felt a bit harsh on the receiving end, but I am glad to hear it triggered a review of priorities. Good luck!

calimom

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2018, 07:47:10 PM »
smalllife & Gremlin - I was initially annoyed by your posts. They're harsh, but after thinking about it, I can't argue with the facts. I certainly won't cut everything, but there is definitely room for me to adjust my priorities and make some meaningful cuts. Thanks for your time in reviewing and commenting.

Good on you for posting and listening. Just doing that is helpful. I've been visiting these forums for about 3 years. Thinking I had my expenses pretty well dialed down, advice here helped me review insurance policies, tweak retirement and taxable accounts, cancel cable and an old landline and (gasp) do away with bi-weekly housecleaning. As well, I added a new income stream and overall add between $1200 to $1500 more in savings than I did in 2015. I'm a single parent with not a huge income but realized I could make changes and not affect my family's quality of life. I still have my sacred cows of pre-MMM Volvo wagon, Le Crueset cookware and a Vitamix.I regularly feed extra kids and friends so my grocery bill is higher than it should be. Oh well! I'll never be perfect but I'm a lot better.

Best of luck to you as you develop new frugality muscles. After you hard-line some expenditures, I highly recommend some sort of side hustle, the proceeds of which should go directly into savings. We're pulling for you!

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #22 on: November 23, 2018, 08:47:05 AM »
The other details in a case study would be helpful here.  How old are you?  What is your mortgage balance?  How much progress have you made toward FIRE so far?  Do you forsee getting married and having a family or will you FIRE as a single person?

I agree with what has been said so far, but context makes a lot of difference.

Hi SimpleCycle - thanks for your post. To answer your questions:
  • I am 35
  • Mortgage balance is $162k with 28 years remaining
  • Not sure how exactly to calculate it, but I currently have saved/invested about 35% (not including home equity) of what I'd need based on my current spending
  • I'd like to get married and have kids, but hard to account for what might eventually happen, so I'm just looking at FIRE while single.

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #23 on: November 23, 2018, 08:48:02 AM »
smalllife & Gremlin - I was initially annoyed by your posts. They're harsh, but after thinking about it, I can't argue with the facts. I certainly won't cut everything, but there is definitely room for me to adjust my priorities and make some meaningful cuts. Thanks for your time in reviewing and commenting.

Wouldn't be MMM if we weren't harsh ;)

lol, so I'm find out :)

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #24 on: November 23, 2018, 08:51:50 AM »
smalllife & Gremlin - I was initially annoyed by your posts. They're harsh, but after thinking about it, I can't argue with the facts. I certainly won't cut everything, but there is definitely room for me to adjust my priorities and make some meaningful cuts. Thanks for your time in reviewing and commenting.
I certainly wasn't intending my post to be harsh.  Most of us, when we start this journey, find that our spending looks like a leaky sieve.  This community isn't about creating a bunch of ascetic monks who glorify self-depravation.  It's about building a culture where your spending becomes mindful and aligns to YOUR priorities. 

The media conditions us to do exactly the opposite.  They condition us into short-circuiting our thinking about long term priorities in favour of satisfying short-term wants.  It's a trap that's easy to fall into and hard to climb out of.  And it's a killer for wannabe FIRE-ees.

If you want FIRE, be honest with yourself about what your priorities are.  I had a number of anti-mustachian spending priorities that I maintained on my journey (and still do) because I REALLY valued them and I genuinely ranked them ahead of FIRE.  Some others that I cut out and told myself I'd take up again when I reached FIRE (interestingly I've found my priorities have changed and I don't want any of them any more).  And finally, I had a bunch of other things that I was blowing my money on because I'd never really thought about how much it was costing me and whether I truly valued it.  It's amazing how much I could carve out when I was honest about what I valued versus what things cost.

Thanks Gremlin. You're absolutely right. I think I had the reaction I did because I felt like my expenses were already pretty pared back to just the things that I valued/prioritized (especially compared to my friends and family), and generally still feel that way. There are definitely some things that I could still cut, but I think most of my reduction opportunities are going to be with finding lower cost options and/or renegotiating.

shingy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #25 on: November 23, 2018, 08:53:26 AM »
smalllife & Gremlin - I was initially annoyed by your posts. They're harsh, but after thinking about it, I can't argue with the facts. I certainly won't cut everything, but there is definitely room for me to adjust my priorities and make some meaningful cuts. Thanks for your time in reviewing and commenting.

Good on you for posting and listening. Just doing that is helpful. I've been visiting these forums for about 3 years. Thinking I had my expenses pretty well dialed down, advice here helped me review insurance policies, tweak retirement and taxable accounts, cancel cable and an old landline and (gasp) do away with bi-weekly housecleaning. As well, I added a new income stream and overall add between $1200 to $1500 more in savings than I did in 2015. I'm a single parent with not a huge income but realized I could make changes and not affect my family's quality of life. I still have my sacred cows of pre-MMM Volvo wagon, Le Crueset cookware and a Vitamix.I regularly feed extra kids and friends so my grocery bill is higher than it should be. Oh well! I'll never be perfect but I'm a lot better.

Best of luck to you as you develop new frugality muscles. After you hard-line some expenditures, I highly recommend some sort of side hustle, the proceeds of which should go directly into savings. We're pulling for you!

Thanks for the words of encouragement, calimom!

Gremlin

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help me reduce my expenses
« Reply #26 on: November 25, 2018, 06:19:52 PM »
smalllife & Gremlin - I was initially annoyed by your posts. They're harsh, but after thinking about it, I can't argue with the facts. I certainly won't cut everything, but there is definitely room for me to adjust my priorities and make some meaningful cuts. Thanks for your time in reviewing and commenting.
I certainly wasn't intending my post to be harsh.  Most of us, when we start this journey, find that our spending looks like a leaky sieve.  This community isn't about creating a bunch of ascetic monks who glorify self-depravation.  It's about building a culture where your spending becomes mindful and aligns to YOUR priorities. 

The media conditions us to do exactly the opposite.  They condition us into short-circuiting our thinking about long term priorities in favour of satisfying short-term wants.  It's a trap that's easy to fall into and hard to climb out of.  And it's a killer for wannabe FIRE-ees.

If you want FIRE, be honest with yourself about what your priorities are.  I had a number of anti-mustachian spending priorities that I maintained on my journey (and still do) because I REALLY valued them and I genuinely ranked them ahead of FIRE.  Some others that I cut out and told myself I'd take up again when I reached FIRE (interestingly I've found my priorities have changed and I don't want any of them any more).  And finally, I had a bunch of other things that I was blowing my money on because I'd never really thought about how much it was costing me and whether I truly valued it.  It's amazing how much I could carve out when I was honest about what I valued versus what things cost.

Thanks Gremlin. You're absolutely right. I think I had the reaction I did because I felt like my expenses were already pretty pared back to just the things that I valued/prioritized (especially compared to my friends and family), and generally still feel that way. There are definitely some things that I could still cut, but I think most of my reduction opportunities are going to be with finding lower cost options and/or renegotiating.

Good stuff shingy.  Keep posting and keep us updated.  We're here to help.  And it helps us all to keep accountable.