Author Topic: Spending is crazy!  (Read 6574 times)

Harper

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Spending is crazy!
« on: July 17, 2017, 11:58:36 AM »
So I spent hours yesterday backtracking all of our spending (that I could get at) since Feb.  I thought we (2 adults, 1 teen) were doing ok (we're saving a good bit ~25-30%).  We don't buy super expensive food (no organic, single serve, etc).  We don't indulge in luxuries (nails, mani, hair).  But clearly, we like to eat.  I don't like that there's a ton of cash that I don't know what it's going to.  I asked husband to use cc whenever he could and not cash so it's trackable.  We have never carried a cc balance so that's not a worry.  He even said he would text me when he spent cash.  I also need to breakdown what the Walmart spend is (household, personal hygiene, crap). 

I'd like to tackle the food bucket (groceries, restaurants, take out) first.  Husband also suggested we check out Aldi so he is on board with cutting this.

Other than the mortgage, we have no debt.  We have retirement and investments but we could be saving more.

Any other thoughts?  Thank you!

TLDR: Longtime lurker thought she was in good shape until she really tracked her expenses.

This is a monthly average over Feb-Jun.

Mortgage   1695.8
Phone/internet   71.652
Cable   115.4
Electricity   107.895
Water   72
School tuition/After Care/lunch   377.06 hopefully can get rid of after care this year saving $300/mo
Cash   1100 will start tracking this
Medical bills   93.314
Car maintenance   37.5
House maintenance   2250 (new HVAC in April)
Gifts   27.5
Misc   297.5
Grocery   626.036 will be more careful; try Aldi and BJs
Restaurant   264.13 this needs to be cut unless traveling
Gas   458.684
Takeout   134.258 cut
Walmart   147.998 need to track better
Home Depot   193.942 need to track better
Gym   38.196 will cancel mine for $10/mo savings
Entertainment   24.304
Hair   30.16 Supercuts for husband (8w) and son (12w)
Clothing   99.936
Pool   26.586
His Misc   73.138
Her Misc   143.532
Walgreens   29.048 I logged in online to see the purchases and it's just crap - stop going there
Travel   210.21 2 weekend hotel for travel sport; anticipate 2 more this year



« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 05:20:50 PM by arden »

tarheeldan

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2017, 12:21:57 PM »
Whoah! Good on you for putting in the work. I think you are on the right track:

$1,316 = ?? ($1,100 cash + Her/His Misc 73+143)         and

$1,024 = food (626 grocery, 264 restaurant, 134 takeout)

are two big fat targets to figure out and slash.


Lepetitange3

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2017, 01:09:25 PM »
Please tell me cable is internet and you didn't bring spending that included actually for real cable tv.

1316+297 (another misc-how many misc categories do you have??)

Pool and gym??

Clothing?

Walgreens, Walmart, and Home Depot?

And then you say you don't indulge and specifically say you don't do hair then there a line item for hair?

It seems like the vast majority of your spending is unneeded...where's it all going?  Do you and hubby know what was bought with it?

And finally, I feed a family of 6 for HUNDREDS less than your grocery line item.

You've seen the light, now there's tons of room to improve here!

DarkandStormy

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2017, 01:19:48 PM »
To start, I don't know your particulars (age, assets, goals, etc.) so I'll just leave this here - http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-simple-math-behind-early-retirement/  If you're starting out, with a 25-30% savings rate you're looking at ~30 working career.

I'll just call out some examples where I personally see some room for improvement or have questions.

Mortgage - is this PITI?  If not, you'll need to budget for property taxes / insurance.

Quote
Phone/internet   71.652
Cable   115.4
Is phone a landline? If so, drop.  Otherwise, that's pretty good on the phone/internet for two per month.  I'd drop cable though and either buy an HD antenna for local channels and/or Netflix/Hulu.  This alone will give you ~$1,200/year to invest.
Quote
Electricity   107.895
Water   120.5
Does your state have a rebate program on "smart" thermostats?  That could be an easy way to monitor your thermostat and a/c/heat usage.  $120+ per month seems high.  We (two of us) use less than that per quarter.
Quote
Car maintenance   37.5
What kind of car maintenance?  That's $450/year.  I'm not a car expert, but don't most vehicles require basic servicing every 6 months?  That usually costs about $40, I thought?  I know some big mileage numbers require tire rotation, bigger items, etc. but still.  For oil changes, you could look at signing up for Mystery Shop (you basically rate your trip there and get reimbursed ~$20-$30).
Quote
Misc   297.5
  $3,570/year on "miscellaneous" items that aren't broken down below in his/her misc.??
Quote
Grocery   626.036
Restaurant   264.13
Takeout   134.258
Over $1K per month on food (and that's ignoring if any of "Walmart" is food products).  $12.3K (ish) per year on food.  Buy bulk at a Costco or Sam's Club.  Eat out very little if you can - meal planning is very helpful as is making larger batches if cooking at home (put the excess in the fridge for the next day).
Quote
Walmart   147.998
Home Depot   193.942
You're spending over $4k per year at these two stores.  Is there anything, like food, you're getting at Walmart that could be cheaper at Costco/Sams? This isn't factoring in Walgreens below, which I'm guessing is more prescriptions.
Quote
Gym   38.196
Is this a contract or something you can cancel?  Can you run/bike in your neighborhood area for some cardio?  Some free weights can be bought for ~$100 and then you could save nearly $460/year on gym memberships.

Travel - are you comfortable spending $2,500+/year on travel?  That's your current rate.  Could travel hack some of this?

Quote
Gas   458.684
Is this automobile gas, natural gas (home), or both?  If it's just automobiles, holy ****.  Even if $300/month is gasoline for your vehicles, that's $3,600 of fuel.  At ~$2.25 per gallon average, that's 1,600 gallons annually.  At a modest 25 mpg (which is actually quite terrible, but it's an average) that's 40,000 miles per year.  That's insane.  It's obviously worse if the whole $459/month is auto fuel.  How are you driving this much?

I don't know if any one category sticks out, but lots of room for improvement across many categories, which will be huge if you can tackle several of them.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 02:02:54 PM by DarkandStormy »
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Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2017, 01:44:26 PM »
Please tell me cable is internet and you didn't bring spending that included actually for real cable tv.
It's real cable.

1316+297 (another misc-how many misc categories do you have??)
Yes, there's multiple misc.  As opposed to Walmart, I know what these are.

Pool and gym??
We each belong to a $10/month gym.  This also includes the yearly upgrade fee.
We have a pool.  I know it's not mustachian but we love it.  Outside of electricity which is costly, we won't spend anymore for chemicals, etc than this.


Clothing?
We have a growing teen.  We won't spend $100/month on this.  Some months are 0.

Walgreens, Walmart, and Home Depot?
Yes, we need to track this better.

And then you say you don't indulge and specifically say you don't do hair then there a line item for hair?
I get a haircut once a year.  This is for my husband and son at supercuts.  I guess I was referring to women that get their hair done every 6 weeks.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 02:09:23 PM by arden »

Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2017, 02:05:26 PM »
Thank you to the posters.  I've read a lot of these and never realized how much it smarts.  :)  I do appreciate it.  Honestly.

For the record, we saved in the 60-70% range for 12 years.  With a house and a kid, it's really just changed.  I know that it sounds like excuses but we are really doing ok.  I just want us to do better AND know where our money is going.


Mortgage - is this PITI?  If not, you'll need to budget for property taxes / insurance.
This is everything

Quote
Phone/internet   71.652
Cable   115.4
Is phone a landline? If so, drop.  Otherwise, that's pretty good on the phone/internet for two per month.  I'd drop cable though and either buy an HD antenna for local channels and/or Netflix/Hulu.  This alone will give you ~$1,200/year to invest.

We have a landline.  Both of our cell phones are from work.  If I were to lose my job, I would lose my phone.  This has happened in the past.
Quote
Electricity   107.895
Water   120.5

I realize I did some bad excel and didn't have 0 in some of the months.  Water is $72.  It's also water/sewer.  Not sure if that's everywhere.

Does your state have a rebate program on "smart" thermostats?  That could be an easy way to monitor your thermostat and a/c/heat usage.  $120+ per month seems high.  We (two of us) use less than that per quarter.
Quote
Car maintenance   37.5
What kind of car maintenance?  That's $450/year.  I'm not a car expert, but don't most vehicles require basic servicing every 6 months?  That usually costs about $40, I thought?  I know some big mileage numbers require tire rotation, bigger items, etc. but still.  For oil changes, you could look at signing up for Mystery Shop (you basically rate your trip there and get reimbursed ~$20-$30).
This was a specific fix.

Quote
Misc   297.5
  $3,570/year on "miscellaneous" items that aren't broken down below in his/her misc.??

I know what this is and won't be recurring.

Quote
Grocery   626.036
Restaurant   264.13
Takeout   134.258
Over $1K per month on food (and that's ignoring if any of "Walmart" is food products).  $12.3K (ish) per year on food.  Buy bulk at a Costco or Sam's Club.  Eat out very little if you can - meal planning is very helpful as is making larger batches if cooking at home (put the excess in the fridge for the next day).
Agree!

Quote
Walmart   147.998
Home Depot   193.942
You're spending over $4k per year at these two stores.  Is there anything, like food, you're getting at Walmart that could be cheaper at Costco/Sams? This isn't factoring in Walgreens below, which I'm guessing is more prescriptions.
I agree! Walgreens is crap.  I need to just stop going there.  It's near work so I'm just running in to grab stupid stuff that I should have bought somewhere cheaper (tampons) or not at all (snacks).

Quote
Gym   38.196
Is this a contract or something you can cancel?  Can you run/bike in your neighborhood area for some cardio?  Some free weights can be bought for ~$100 and then you could save nearly $460/year on gym memberships.
This is 2 $10/month for my husband and me.  It includes the yearly "upgrade" fee.  I'm thinking of canceling mine.  Husband uses his every workday.

Travel - are you comfortable spending $2,500+/year on travel?  That's your current rate.  Could travel hack some of this?
This is one month of travel.

[quote[Gas   458.684[/quote]
Is this automobile gas, natural gas (home), or both?  If it's just automobiles, holy ****.  Even if $300/month is gasoline for your vehicles, that's $3,600 of fuel.  At ~$2.25 per gallon average, that's 1,600 gallons annually.  At a modest 25 mpg (which is actually quite terrible, but it's an average) that's 40,000 miles per year.  That's insane.  It's obviously worse if the whole $459/month is auto fuel.  How are you driving this much?

Yep, this is automobile gas.  We both drive 30-40 minutes in opposite directions for work.  We travel for sports on the weekend.  Yes, facepunch worthy but is a priority for us.

ETA:  Sorry I don't know how to quote this and make it readable.  My apologies....
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 02:08:25 PM by arden »

DarkandStormy

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2017, 02:10:02 PM »
^Thanks for filling in more background.  It sounds like you identified food as an area of opportunity to lower cost.  Don't know if Costco/Sams (or similar bulk store) is in your area, but they're big savers in the long run.  Aldi's can be pretty cheap, comparably, on a lot of items than the bigger chain stores or Trader Joe's.  Good luck!
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Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2017, 02:12:16 PM »
Quote
^Thanks for filling in more background.  It sounds like you identified food as an area of opportunity to lower cost.  Don't know if Costco/Sams (or similar bulk store) is in your area, but they're big savers in the long run.  Aldi's can be pretty cheap, comparably, on a lot of items than the bigger chain stores or Trader Joe's.  Good luck!


Thank you!!

Lepetitange3

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2017, 04:46:24 PM »
Before we take this further?  Any debt beside the mortgage? And how are your present investment/retirement accounts looking? 

You can always do better on spending (and you DEF can) but before applying face punches , there is how much of a situation you're in over all to consider ;)

Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2017, 04:59:52 PM »
Quote
Before we take this further?  Any debt beside the mortgage? And how are your present investment/retirement accounts looking? 

Only the mortgage.  No student loans.  No credit card debt.  Never pay CC interest.  Any projects for house are paid for in full.

Cars are old.  1994 Sentra (commuter car with 50K inherited from my mom); 2002 Max with 165K; 2007 Rav with 150K
We will replace with used cars and pay cash when they die.

Investment/retirement all look good.

Unique User

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2017, 08:16:47 AM »
It sounds like you know you have a problem and that is the biggest hurdle.  There are tons of ideas on lowering your food costs - eat everything in the house, batch cook, etc.  I don't need to go into those, you can easily search the forum.  But, I'd recommend a month spending fast.  We did one when we noticed things were getting out of control because we had more disposable income.  It was a great reset to start thinking about every purchase.  Now that we've set our FIRE date four years out, I think we'll be even more vigilant of all purchases (except travel).  Good luck!!

Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2017, 12:22:02 PM »
So...did the expenses for July.  We are down $150 total for food (restaurants, take out, groceries) and that is with feeding 7 extra people for the weekend over July 4th.  Restaurants went significantly down but groceries did go up.  Given this was only about 2 weeks or so, I'm pretty proud of ourselves.

We had our insurances (house, car, umbrella) this month but even with that our total expenses were down this month. 

We were on vacation this week and just did a mini beach trip and the rest staycation at home.

Laura33

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2017, 01:28:56 PM »
One thing that might help for tracking purposes is to separate out routine expenses from the "occasional-but-less-predictable" ones.  E.g., your "home maintenance" category is massively skewed from the AC replacement, and it sounds like the "misc" category was a single big thing as well, as was the car maintenance; you will also presumably need another car at some time given the number of miles you drive, and a new roof, and all that stuff.

Yes, you need to account for those things in your overall budget, including your FIRE budget -- they happen, need to plan for them.  But I find it confusing to lump those into my regular annual spending, because then you can't do an apples-to-apples comparison across several months or years.  So for example, if you looked at our total spending last year, it looks like we crashed and burned, because we spent waaaay more than the year before.  But the reality was that we built a garage and paid for it out of cash that we had already saved for the purpose.  So looking at the total doesn't tell me whether my baseline spending went down or up.  And just like I don't want to think I had a horrible year because of a big, planned project, I also don't want to think I had an awesome year just because I happened to run into that one year out of ten in which nothing big went wrong. 

So for me, it helps to keep a "sinking" fund that covers those various things -- it's sort of like the accounting distinction between O&M vs. capital.  My budget for car maintenance includes things like normal oil changes, but not the cost of the car DH will need in 5 years or so; my home repairs budget includes all the various Home Depot runs, but not the new roof we will probably need in another 10 years.  Those less-frequent costs are accounted for in my budget as one combined monthly transfer to the sinking fund (e.g., "$500 to T. Rowe Price Prime Reserve").  Then when the those things happen, we take the money out of that account, and categorize that withdrawal as "special" in Quicken (DH's term).  That way, it's easy to include or exclude those costs in the reports, depending on what we're trying to figure out.  It doesn't change the overall numbers, but I feel like it gives me a better baseline to compare "normal" spending across multiple years to track progress (or lifestyle creep).
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With This Herring

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2017, 04:20:52 PM »
If you want to cut down on that Walgreens tampon spending permanently, buy a menstrual cup.  It's one little silicone cup that can live in your purse until you need it.  You can even insert it when your period is close to starting, so you won't be without.  It is the best thing for women.
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Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2017, 05:59:44 PM »
Quote
One thing that might help for tracking purposes is to separate out routine expenses from the "occasional-but-less-predictable" ones.

Thank you, I like this idea.

Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2017, 06:44:45 AM »
@Laura33 - I'm going to institute the "special" category for things like unexpected repairs (house, car and medical).

How do you deal with yearly payments (for me: insurance) as it blows your monthly budget out of the water.  It is planned though.

Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #16 on: August 04, 2017, 06:45:37 AM »
Thanks for the info re: menstrual cup. 

schriscoe

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #17 on: August 04, 2017, 07:08:03 AM »
Quick overall comment - stop using a credit card.  Your spending habits change when you have to pay cash.  You won't spend as much because it HURTS.  Plastic is like playing with monopoly money.

Laura33

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2017, 07:36:34 AM »
@Laura33 - I'm going to institute the "special" category for things like unexpected repairs (house, car and medical).

How do you deal with yearly payments (for me: insurance) as it blows your monthly budget out of the water.  It is planned though.

Yearly/semi-annual I account for in the monthly budget.  I generally run reports over longer periods of time, so that stuff averages out.  Where I try to distinguish is between "known and predictable" periodic expenses (that is, I know both that they will happen and that they will happen annually/semi-annually, like insurance, subscriptions that renew annually, any sort of annual dues payments, etc.) and "known but unpredictable" expenses, a/k/a "stuff that is gonna happen at some point but I can't predict when," like a major car repair or roof replacement.  Basically, if it is something that occurs at least once a year on a given date, it goes in the normal expense bucket, even if that causes a blip on an individual month. 

The other thing is that those sorts of periodic known expenses are only going to fall in a few categories, like insurance and subscriptions.  So you can always just run reports ignoring those categories, since they shouldn't change.
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Feivel2000

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2017, 01:34:50 AM »
@Laura33 - I'm going to institute the "special" category for things like unexpected repairs (house, car and medical).

How do you deal with yearly payments (for me: insurance) as it blows your monthly budget out of the water.  It is planned though.
I use an Excel spreadsheet for this purpose alone. I wrote up my thoughts here: https://medium.com/@helloludger/don-t-fool-yourself-by-not-expecting-expenses-8a71601fc421
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Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #20 on: September 24, 2017, 08:48:27 AM »
So it's been 2 months and I feel like we're not getting anywhere.  I feel like crying.  I've canceled some items, tried to be more mindful about food, doing some shopping at Aldi but outside of a $150 decrease in food last month, we are not getting anywhere in overall total $$.

I've just been tracking expenses but I think now I have to institute budgets because being "mindful" isn't working.  I hate to do YNAB because it looks labor intensive to learn and it costs $$ which feels like it will work against me.  I've tried looking at spreadsheets and I'd really like something I could use to track expenses daily that would port the amount by category to a summary sheet.  Does anyone know about that?

The whole idea of unknown unpredictable expenses that everyone has and that was mentioned by Laura in this post is really killing my budget.  Every month.

I'm wondering if I'm tracking too many categories and/or whether I should bin them as fixed, variable and special.

Any help is appreciated.  I could suggest cash to SO for at least a few months but I don't think that he'll go for it.  I don't know.

Here they are:

Mortgage
Phone/internet
Cable
Electricity
Water
Life Insurance
Car Insurance
Home Insurance
Umbrella
Car taxes/registration
Fed taxes
CT taxes

Variable

Heating oil
School
Sports
Cash
Medical
Car maintenance
House maintenance
Gifts
Misc
Grocery
Restaurant
Gas
Takeout
Walmart
Home Depot
Gym
Entertainment
Hair
Clothing
Pool
Travel
Household


NinetyFour

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2017, 09:13:31 AM »
I think tracking spending is absolutely crucial.  Down to the penny.

I just use an Excel spreadsheet, and it currently has 31 categories, which might be too many for most people, but it works for me.  I'm pretty frugal, but if I'm not careful, my spending can start to creep up (especially in groceries).

I am in the habit of entering the data ASAP for every single expenditure.  Are you and your DH doing this?  The results can be eye-opening.

Keep at it--you can do it!
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human

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #22 on: September 24, 2017, 09:33:23 AM »
What's wrong with Mint? Don't use cash anymore and link your credit card and debit accounts.

Since you spend so much  create one debit account for you and husband with two cards and one credit card for all expenses. EDIT -AND CANCEL EVYTHING ELSE

Check your transactions every other day and create categories that suit you. After a couple of months of intense monitoring you will be able to sort everything well. Much easier than YNAB, I tried it and hated it.

You can create a budget for every item you spend regularly on. You could even create new categories under shopping for each grocery store and department store or even create categories like Walmart-groceries, Walmart-garbage-misc.

Stop taking out cash and stop buying tons of food, shop once or twice a week only. Guaranteed you throw away 30% of that food right now.

GizmoTX

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2017, 10:45:04 AM »
Don't close credit cards unless they are charging fees -- this will hurt your credit score. Put cards that earn the least securely away & don't use them. If you do decide to close any, replace them first with a higher cash back card, preferably with no annual fee. Of course, pay all CCs off in full every month.

There's a browser based app called Plan To Eat that has revolutionized our food planning & shopping. It saves time because PTE stores recipes to be quickly dragged onto a calendar of meals, automatically builds a shopping list from the calendar, & is available on multiple devices so DH can shop as well. It saves money because we only buy what's on the list, & we can plan batch meals. Being accountable is half the battle with planning & eating affordable healthy meals. PTE costs about $34/year but you can (& should) try it for free. I simply added our favorite recipes as I needed them, & PTE has an amazing online recipe clipper. I even used the app to print recipes inserted in a personalized binder as wedding gifts given with an Instant Pot pressure cooker (another time & money saving essential).

lentil

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #24 on: September 24, 2017, 11:00:35 AM »
Quote
So it's been 2 months and I feel like we're not getting anywhere.  I feel like crying.  I've canceled some items, tried to be more mindful about food, doing some shopping at Aldi but outside of a $150 decrease in food last month, we are not getting anywhere in overall total $$.

First, congratulations on making some changes. It's a good start! I recommend tracking the changes you've made -- it's so easy to keep moving the goalposts, and forget to celebrate the progress we're actually making. So write them down and give yourself a pat on the back for what IS working!

This is a long process, and what works for one person doesn't always click with another -- for instance, I have to laugh at the idea of switching to cash, which would utterly ruin my tracking system, and lead me to burn through all my cash like monopoly money. Glad it works for others, it's just not a fit for me! But once you find things that work for you, hang onto them! Also, if your family members are on board, it might be worth talking about doing something like an Uber Frugal month (via the frugalwoods.com blog). Not a permanent thing, more like a 30 day "detox" from spending, which I think is a really useful tool. But not necessarily the right tool for every person, or every moment in life.

It does sound like you need to be tracking much better. There's just no way to effectively change our spending until we actually have a clear picture of it. I am a big fan of anything that tracks your spending automatically; second-best would be a system that you can turn into such a routine that you eventually just do it with minimal thought/effort. Instead of trying to figure out All The Things at once, maybe focus on getting a really good handle on tracking first, then start working on your next-biggest priority.

The single easiest way for me to save $$ is to change (renegotiate or simply cancel) automatic payments. For instance, when I started figuring out our finances, I cancelled a bunch of small, recurring subscriptions (Audible, Netflix, Amazon Prime, local newspaper, etc.). Individually, they didn't add up to much, altogether, they amounted to around $1000 of annual expenses, which is now going straight into our savings...it's a big difference.

So I would look at something like your cable bill (also amounting to over $1000/yr) and just cancel that. If it hurts to cancel -- if someone is your household absolutely loves some aspect of subscribing to cable -- then it might be worth brainstorming together about alternate ways to meet that same need. For example, my partner and I unsubscribed from all our video subscription services, but found we missed watching movies/mini-series together, especially on rainy weekends. So we first looked into free ways to do that (borrowing things from the library, free online sources), and eventually opted to add just one $10/month subscription back.

The fact that human beings tend to adapt so well is kind of our secret power here. It's really hard to cut a luxury that you've gotten used to (cable, swimming pool, eating out, etc.). It actually hurts, sometimes. But once you adapt to a new baseline, you adjust to a remarkable degree. So for us, once we cut out the endless entertainment subscriptions, we had a couple of months to try a new reality, one where we had to find our entertainment via the local library or our own creativity. When we finally decided to add that Netflix subscription back, it felt like a massive luxury...while still saving 90% over our previous entertainment spending.

My second step, after cancelling a bunch of things, was to renegotiate or find better deals for "necessary" recurring bills. New cell phone plan, called the internet company to get a lower rate, shopped for car insurance, etc.. It's more labor-intensive than just cancelling crap, but because the savings are automatic, you just do the work once and then reap monthly benefits. I'm guessing you've already done some of this, so make sure to celebrate those as you keep working on your tracking tools.

As far as shopping, being mindful doesn't work for me, on its own. It's exhausting, and frankly, better habits do not come down to willpower. I need a system, and systems/habits take a lot of work to develop. It's worth it, because once I have a system that really works, it takes no more effort (sometimes even less!) than my current disorganized approach, but the up-front effort is sometimes really frustrating. It took me about three months to get our grocery spending, meal planning, etc. sorted out. They were not fun months, and there were some costly mistakes (because some of my experiments really did not pan out!). And then it took probably another 2-3 months for it to really start to feel natural, and be robust enough to hold up even when I was having a bad week. But now, it's actually much, much simpler than what I was doing before, as well as being cheaper and less wasteful (and still not perfect, and that's okay too!).

The thing about grocery shopping is that -- like almost ALL spending -- it feels a lot more complicated than it actually is. Most frugalizing just comes down to an ability to plan ahead and anticipate our needs. Tracking helps you understand your behavior now. Then you, and your family, can decide what you'd like your (collective) behavior to be. A plan/system/budget is what you use to close the difference. You can get this dialed in, it just takes work, and trying new things, until it comes together.


Physicsteacher

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #25 on: September 24, 2017, 11:47:27 AM »
There are lots of great options for budgeting and expense tracking, and it important to figure out a system you'll actually use. I tried YNAB briefly and wasn't a fan. I prefer using Google Sheets and the free PearBudget template. My spouse and I can track expenses from anywhere using our phones. Personally, I'd probably combine some of your categories to simplify tracking. I'm guessing Home Depot could be rolled into House Maintenance, Takeout into Restaurants, and Walmart into Household or Grocery, for instance.

Tuskalusa

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #26 on: September 25, 2017, 04:08:10 AM »
When I started using ynab, I hated it. I didn't quite understand the methodology, and I found it cumbersome. I also wasn't sure of my budget line items. Over time, I started to like it better. My financial strategy evolved, and I started seeing trends. Now I love ynab.

I los hear you on the frustration on not seeing my budget drop immediately. This is why I like ynab. I track everything. Eventually something will pop out in the financial trends, and I tackle it. Then I move on. This month was dining out. Next month I think it will be insurance. Nothing is ever all that dramatic, but our spending is under better control than before we kept an eye on it.

Whatever tracing system you use, just give it time. It will eventually improve. :)

former player

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #27 on: September 25, 2017, 05:07:15 AM »
I think the truth here is that you are living a very conventional, spendy, American lifestyle.  You have what I'm guessing from your fuel bills is a sizeable detached house in the suburbs.  You have a personal swimming pool.  You have two cars.  You have long commutes to jobs in different locations.  You are bringing you kid up in the typical American way: school tuition, school after care, travel to sports at the weekend.

Despite all this you are saving 25% to 30% of your incomes.  That puts you way ahead of the average American.  The reason you are not doing better is mainly because of the way you have set up the basics of your lives: the biggish house in the suburbs with a pool, the long commutes, and the time crunch that comes with the two jobs, the long commutes, the biggish house and the spendy teen activities.

So there is a fundamental question here: do you make big changes to that lifestyle or do you stay as you are and look for incremental gains?  Do you make those changes now or wait until the teen is out of school and off your hands?

Now, as to "unpredictable" expenses, these are very rarely truly unpredictable, and when they are that's what an emergency fund is for.  You don't have any unpredictable expenses.  What you have are two kinds of "irregular" expenses.  Firstly, you have regular expenses such as insurance, school tuition, holiday travel, Christmas gifts, clothing, basic home and car maintenance.  For these, you set up a sinking fund (eg in a savings account linked to your current account) and put one twelfth of the annual amount of each of these expenses into it each month.  For the first year you will be "paying" twice, but after that you will be set.  The second type of irregular expense is things which you know are coming but are not coming on a regular schedule. This is things like house improvement, car replacement, planning for exceptional events that you know are coming up (wedding travel, family reunions, etc).  You also put money away into your sinking fund for these, estimating them as best you can as respects amount and time in the future.

What the sinking fund does for you is give you a sense of control, a way of planning your future and a way of never having to go into consumer debt.

But the main thing you need to do first is to sit down with your family, make sure that you all are agreed on what your current situation is, and from there game plan how you want your futures to look.

Good luck.
Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free (Ben Franklin)

andy85

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #28 on: September 25, 2017, 07:01:45 AM »
I have attached my spreadsheet for tracking my spending...maybe this will give you a new idea or something.

My method: Typically, i buy almost everything with credit cards for points. (unless something is getting auto payed from my checking acct). The moment i spend money, i log it in some generic and free spending tracking app on my phone. This just helps me keep track of spending better and gives me an up-to-date number for my checking account balance. Then, the next day, i will make sure my spending app on my phone matches the transactions on the given credit card website. I will then immediately pay this credit card bill (almost treating my credit card like a debit card). I will literally make 4 payments per week on a credit card...paying as i spend. As i pay the bill i also log all transactions in my spending spreadsheet. (i also have a very similar checking account spreadsheet that must match my phone app, or something is out of balance). It sounds like a lot, but it takes all of like 5 minutes a day. You see your spending every single day and become intimately involved with the money leaving your bank account. May not cure your excess spending, but may help you nail down your problem areas...idk.

also, i would immediately nail down your nick-knack categories...walgreens, home depot, walmart, his/her misc, and cash. that all seems like impulse buying. A coffee here, a snack there, some misc hardware, a new shirt...that shit adds up. I dont think restaurant and takeout should be separated. Grocery seems a tad high. IMO, the gym membership is the least of your worries...i am personally fine with spending money on health/fitness...but to each their own.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2017, 07:06:11 AM by andy85 »

MrsWolfeRN

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #29 on: September 25, 2017, 08:21:47 AM »
So it's been 2 months and I feel like we're not getting anywhere.  I feel like crying.  I've canceled some items, tried to be more mindful about food, doing some shopping at Aldi but outside of a $150 decrease in food last month, we are not getting anywhere in overall total $$.

I've just been tracking expenses but I think now I have to institute budgets because being "mindful" isn't working.  I hate to do YNAB because it looks labor intensive to learn and it costs $$ which feels like it will work against me.  I've tried looking at spreadsheets and I'd really like something I could use to track expenses daily that would port the amount by category to a summary sheet.  Does anyone know about that?

The whole idea of unknown unpredictable expenses that everyone has and that was mentioned by Laura in this post is really killing my budget.  Every month.

I'm wondering if I'm tracking too many categories and/or whether I should bin them as fixed, variable and special.

Any help is appreciated.  I could suggest cash to SO for at least a few months but I don't think that he'll go for it.  I don't know.

Here they are:

Mortgage
Phone/internet
Cable
Electricity
Water
Life Insurance
Car Insurance
Home Insurance
Umbrella
Car taxes/registration
Fed taxes
CT taxes

Variable

Heating oil
School
Sports
Cash
Medical
Car maintenance
House maintenance
Gifts
Misc
Grocery
Restaurant
Gas
Takeout
Walmart
Home Depot
Gym
Entertainment
Hair
Clothing
Pool
Travel
Household

How about an uber frugal month? Sign up with  Frugalwoods or just follow one of the threads on here!!!

 I also like this article on how a couple reduced a few expenses each month:
http://fi180.com/2017/01/24/180-in-depth-part-2/

I have never tried YNAB. I find Mint convenient, and it is free. My husband and I have separate accounts on there.

Have you gotten rid of the cable yet? Your gym probably has cable, so if hubby balks you can tell him to go there and exercise while he watches his favorite shows.

If your kid is a teen then he definitely doesn't need after care. He could probably also pack a lunch for less than what he is paying at school.

There are many websites about cheaper ways to maintain your pool. A little time researching this can be worthwhile.  Some of the brand name stuff is just expensive baking soda.


Laura33

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #30 on: September 25, 2017, 08:40:24 AM »
So it's been 2 months and I feel like we're not getting anywhere.  I feel like crying.  I've canceled some items, tried to be more mindful about food, doing some shopping at Aldi but outside of a $150 decrease in food last month, we are not getting anywhere in overall total $$.

. . . .

The whole idea of unknown unpredictable expenses that everyone has and that was mentioned by Laura in this post is really killing my budget.  Every month.

So first:  this is completely normal.  I would estimate it will take a full year to get a handle on all of those "surprise" expenses to figure out what you can plan for and get them in the budget.  Think about it:  my kid plays basketball and baseball; so I will need to wait until September before the basketball fee hits and February before the baseball fee hits; and then there is new gear they will probably need, etc.  Or I forget about the home alarm, because the bill comes quarterly.  Or oops, school dance, yearbook, after-school clubs.  Or, crap, I remembered Netflix and Amazon Prime but forgot NYTimes.  Etc. ad infinitum.  That's the point of tracking:  not because it gives you clarity on Day 1, or Day 30, or even day 90; but so after a year or so, you can remember all of those other things that no human being can possibly remember when you first set up the budget.  All you can do in-between is track the expenses, and when they come up, add them to an appropriate category, or create a new category, whichever makes sense for you.  This is a very good lesson in and of itself, because it tells you your original budget was not realistic because it didn't include all of your expenses!  So don't think of it as "failing" -- think of it as gathering necessary data to validate your assumptions, and then alter your assumptions when the data show your assumptions were incorrect/incomplete.

Second:  changing habits takes time.  Even when you think of yourself as frugal.  Because now you have new habits, new expectations, AND more people in the house who also have expectations.  I started the grocery challenge at the beginning of the year, expecting that I'd cut my food bill in half easy (I was poor for many years, I'm a good cook and cook from scratch a lot, so I just rolled my eyes and said, ok, I need to take the time to plan menus and it'll be a cinch).  It has been a massive crash and burn, with each month having a different excuse for failure.  Talk about a hit to the ego!  But my failure has been eye-opening, because it helped me identify triggers and issues that I was completely unaware of -- like shopping with the kids, food splurges as "treats," my kids'/DH's expectation to go out to eat or get takeout whenever they wanted, food waste, etc.  So now that I am learning a better sense of my strengths and weaknesses, and of my family's priorities, I am re-evaluating my original plans and expectations.  Honestly, that is leading me to a spendier approach than I originally wanted, and that hits the savings rate and all that.  But since I'm not the only one involved here, I have had to readjust what I want to make sure my DH is happy, too (my kids, OTOH, can suck it up :-)).

This might be where you end up, too.  The point of doing this exercise is not to achieve some pre-determined target; it is to pay attention to your spending to make sure you are spending the minimum necessary to support the life that you as a family want and can afford.  Yes, cable is a total waste; but if your DH is fixated on it and says we can afford it and all, then it's not worth it to save $100 at the expense of your relationship.  Of course, you should still try, and see how that goes -- never hurts to start with the cheapest option, and then add stuff back in if you really, really miss it.  :-)  But you also shouldn't see those various events as failures that take your farther away from your FIRE goal -- in fact, those failures are telling you really important things about the kind of life you and your DH want to live post-FIRE.  So it is great that you are finding those things out now, when you have plenty of time to plan.
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With This Herring

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #31 on: September 25, 2017, 09:11:07 AM »
I've just been tracking expenses but I think now I have to institute budgets because being "mindful" isn't working.  I hate to do YNAB because it looks labor intensive to learn and it costs $$ which feels like it will work against me.  I've tried looking at spreadsheets and I'd really like something I could use to track expenses daily that would port the amount by category to a summary sheet.  Does anyone know about that?

Any new program will have a learning curve.  GnuCash has a learning curve, but it is free.  It will do the categories and run reports by day/week/month in summary sheets or do charts or do averages.  It is a great tool.  You can even use it to do YNAB/envelope-style budgeting.

Additionally, you can import CSV files from your credit card and bank online accounts.  You can get all of 2016 (or even start with 2015) into GnuCash and get a decent idea of when those irregular expenses are going to crop up. 

Older thread mentioning GnuCash benefits, with detailed posts from Spork and me.

The whole idea of unknown unpredictable expenses that everyone has and that was mentioned by Laura in this post is really killing my budget.  Every month.

I'm wondering if I'm tracking too many categories and/or whether I should bin them as fixed, variable and special.

Any help is appreciated.  I could suggest cash to SO for at least a few months but I don't think that he'll go for it.  I don't know.

Here they are:

Mortgage
Phone/internet
Cable - You know everyone is going to tell you to cancel cable and save yourself money.
Electricity
*snip*
Sports
Cash - This should be broken into the actual expenses.
Medical
*snip*
Restaurant - This and takeout may be better as one category.  It's all "food we didn't make for ourselves."
Gas
Takeout
Walmart - Stores should not be categories.  Break out receipts into
Home Depot          actual expenses.
Gym
*snip*
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4alpacas

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #32 on: September 25, 2017, 09:16:33 AM »
So it's been 2 months and I feel like we're not getting anywhere.  I feel like crying.  I've canceled some items, tried to be more mindful about food, doing some shopping at Aldi but outside of a $150 decrease in food last month, we are not getting anywhere in overall total $$.

. . . .

The whole idea of unknown unpredictable expenses that everyone has and that was mentioned by Laura in this post is really killing my budget.  Every month.

So first:  this is completely normal.  I would estimate it will take a full year to get a handle on all of those "surprise" expenses to figure out what you can plan for and get them in the budget.  Think about it:  my kid plays basketball and baseball; so I will need to wait until September before the basketball fee hits and February before the baseball fee hits; and then there is new gear they will probably need, etc.  Or I forget about the home alarm, because the bill comes quarterly.  Or oops, school dance, yearbook, after-school clubs.  Or, crap, I remembered Netflix and Amazon Prime but forgot NYTimes.  Etc. ad infinitum.  That's the point of tracking:  not because it gives you clarity on Day 1, or Day 30, or even day 90; but so after a year or so, you can remember all of those other things that no human being can possibly remember when you first set up the budget.  All you can do in-between is track the expenses, and when they come up, add them to an appropriate category, or create a new category, whichever makes sense for you.  This is a very good lesson in and of itself, because it tells you your original budget was not realistic because it didn't include all of your expenses!  So don't think of it as "failing" -- think of it as gathering necessary data to validate your assumptions, and then alter your assumptions when the data show your assumptions were incorrect/incomplete.

Second:  changing habits takes time.  Even when you think of yourself as frugal.  Because now you have new habits, new expectations, AND more people in the house who also have expectations.  I started the grocery challenge at the beginning of the year, expecting that I'd cut my food bill in half easy (I was poor for many years, I'm a good cook and cook from scratch a lot, so I just rolled my eyes and said, ok, I need to take the time to plan menus and it'll be a cinch).  It has been a massive crash and burn, with each month having a different excuse for failure.  Talk about a hit to the ego!  But my failure has been eye-opening, because it helped me identify triggers and issues that I was completely unaware of -- like shopping with the kids, food splurges as "treats," my kids'/DH's expectation to go out to eat or get takeout whenever they wanted, food waste, etc.  So now that I am learning a better sense of my strengths and weaknesses, and of my family's priorities, I am re-evaluating my original plans and expectations.  Honestly, that is leading me to a spendier approach than I originally wanted, and that hits the savings rate and all that.  But since I'm not the only one involved here, I have had to readjust what I want to make sure my DH is happy, too (my kids, OTOH, can suck it up :-)).

This might be where you end up, too.  The point of doing this exercise is not to achieve some pre-determined target; it is to pay attention to your spending to make sure you are spending the minimum necessary to support the life that you as a family want and can afford.  Yes, cable is a total waste; but if your DH is fixated on it and says we can afford it and all, then it's not worth it to save $100 at the expense of your relationship.  Of course, you should still try, and see how that goes -- never hurts to start with the cheapest option, and then add stuff back in if you really, really miss it.  :-)  But you also shouldn't see those various events as failures that take your farther away from your FIRE goal -- in fact, those failures are telling you really important things about the kind of life you and your DH want to live post-FIRE.  So it is great that you are finding those things out now, when you have plenty of time to plan.
+1

You've made forward progress, so that's great!  The way that I made our spending cuts stick was to make spending less money the easier option (laziness for the win!).  We keep food items in the house, so we can have food quicker than if we got fast food or food delivery.  We also get our groceries delivered, which helps us to avoid impulse shopping and overbuying.  I'm also a big fan of bulk cooking (cook a huge batch of food on the weekend, then freeze half and portion the other half for meals throughout the week). 

Laura33

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #33 on: September 25, 2017, 12:04:39 PM »
On the categories: 

1.  Store names and the form of the money are not categories.  The categories are what you use the money for.  Honestly, CVS kills me, because sometimes it's medicine, sometimes it's household stuff (TP), sometimes it's food (groceries), sometimes it's pets (food/litter), sometimes it's totally miscellaneous (Christmas photo cards).  But I need to know how much went to what, so I can assess the extent to which I can reasonably cut back.  E.g., I am obviously not going to skip my prescription meds, so if my medicine category is high, well, I'd better plan that into my budget.  OTOH, if most of the CVS costs go to TP or groceries, that's a problem I can fix: they are expensive compared to the places I normally get those things, so a lot of CVS charges to those items means I didn't plan appropriately or got lazy and didn't want to bother to run to the regular grocery store.

2.  Personally, I subdivide food more like you do: groceries; eating out; lunches; and takeout.  That's to help me track what I control the most:  groceries and takeout.  A high grocery bill means I am either not planning well or spending too much time buying prosciutto at Wegman's instead of sucking it up and going to Aldi's; a high takeout bill means that I got lazy and both failed to plan menus/make time to go to the store and failed to have sufficient backstops on-hand.  So significant money in either of those categories is a signal that I can improve something.  OTOH, lunches is for DH, who eats out every day; it is a way to allocate money in the budget to something I have no control over and he has no desire to cut back.  Similarly, eating out is for when we go out on nice date nights, which again is something that we both want to preserve in the budget to some degree.  So for me, carving "food" out into different subcategories gives me more clarity on how I am doing on the things I have identified as my priorities.*

I do the same thing with other categories, too -- e.g., I have a major category for "kids," but that is subdivided into allowance, clothes, activities, and one or two other things I can't think of (daycare is gone, hallelujah).  Again, allowance and activities are givens; clothes is what I want to keep an eye on to make sure I'm not shopping for fun.  Same with house stuff -- maintenance is a separate line-item from furniture/improvements, because one is mandatory and the other is something to keep an eye on.  Whereas for pets, I just have the one category, because they are a given, and they cost what they cost (of course, I also don't buy lots of cutesy outfits and such).**

The key here is to define your categories in a way that makes them useful for you.  You want sufficient detail to give you meaningful information on your spending patterns, but not so much detail that you get overwhelmed and quit before you even get started.  And most importantly, you don't have to get this perfect on the first try.  As you track, you will start to see things and start to want more information on different areas, so then you can subdivide those; others you will find are just fine as is, or you may even be able to combine them together, because it's a lot of fixed stuff you have no control over (e.g., I track all my insurance under one heading, because it all comes out in one bill anyway).

Tl;dr:  Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  The important part is that you have started.  Now watch and see where it takes you, and drill down further as you need to/want more detailed information.

*You can also use this approach to help identify and attack the low-hanging fruit.  E.g., we really, really need to cut our dining out costs.  But the first step of that is getting the family more acclimated to eating in and doing entertainment that does not involve restaurants.  So for now, I am actively working on groceries and takeout, and I am just tracking the spend in the dining out category without attempting to change it.  And then, when I am ready to tackle the restaurants, I will already have good baseline data.

** I have cats.  They'd kill me.
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Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #34 on: September 26, 2017, 04:26:57 AM »
Thank you all for your replies.   I really appreciate it and you've given me some things to chew on.  Post to address questions/specifics to follow.  (just didn't want  you to think I'd disappeared)

Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #35 on: September 27, 2017, 03:37:54 AM »
Quote
I am in the habit of entering the data ASAP for every single expenditure.  Are you and your DH doing this?  The results can be eye-opening.

yes we need to be tracking more often.  I track cash out as it occurs but I'm still figuring out how to rectify that on my spreadsheet.  We aren't capturing all the cash so there's improvement there.  Also, I think we need to track things like groceries and restaurants more often than monthly because then it's too late.

Quote
Stop taking out cash and stop buying tons of food, shop once or twice a week only. Guaranteed you throw away 30% of that food right now.

Yes, we do have a full pantry that we need to tackle and eat but not really throwing out much at the end of the week.

Quote
There's a browser based app called Plan To Eat that has revolutionized our food planning & shopping
.

thank you I will look into this.

@lentil-- you gave me some real concrete ideas to tackle this.  Thank you.  I really liked the idea of living without a luxury for a while and seeing if we missed it and if we did add back only the most important.  As much as it is taboo here, I will pry cable from my husband's cold dead hands.  But things like travel (outside sports travel) isn't a "thing" for us.  Thanks for reminding me to celebrate the small successes.

@Tuskalusa -- thank you for sharing your experience with YNAB, definitely food for thought.

Quote
I think the truth here is that you are living a very conventional, spendy, American lifestyle.  You have what I'm guessing from your fuel bills is a sizeable detached house in the suburbs.  You have a personal swimming pool.  You have two cars.  You have long commutes to jobs in different locations.  You are bringing you kid up in the typical American way: school tuition, school after care, travel to sports at the weekend.

Wow.  My gut response here was "no we're not! -- we bought a house we could afford (not one they said we could afford), we don't credit card debt or 2 new cars in the driveway, we don't eat at lavish restaurants, etc) but as I thought more about it, I have to agree.  Yes we are doing all of this.  But I think the key is identifying what is a choice vs what we fell into because it was convenient.  We looked for a house for 10 years...we won't be moving anytime soon.  School tuition is a choice, travel sports is a choice, school after care is unfortunately a need (yes, he can stay home alone but I have no way of getting him home from school; no bus; and I've asked several parents to take him home all to the answer of no).

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So there is a fundamental question here: do you make big changes to that lifestyle or do you stay as you are and look for incremental gains?  Do you make those changes now or wait until the teen is out of school and off your hands?

This is a really great question and thanks for posing it this way.  It's something we need to think about.  It's likely the answer will be "the bulk of the spending stays until the boy goes but we can tackle low hanging fruit now as we can".

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I have attached my spreadsheet for tracking my spending
Thank you!

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i log it in some generic and free spending tracking app on my phone.
Care to share?

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also, i would immediately nail down your nick-knack categories...walgreens, home depot, walmart, his/her misc, and cash. that all seems like impulse buying.
Yes, you're totally right.  I'm tracking cash out through the bank statement and have been tracking daily where it's going I just need to get it into the spreadsheet. 

To be continued.  Really, thank you, thank you!  I really appreciate the time spent here.




andy85

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #36 on: September 27, 2017, 05:53:18 AM »
the app i use is called 'spending tracker'

It doesn't link to any accounts or anything like mint. Like i said, i just log each transaction as soon as it occurs. I basically treat it like a modern day checkbook register.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2017, 10:31:10 AM by andy85 »

Sun Hat

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #37 on: September 27, 2017, 10:17:37 AM »
I've only been tracking my spending since March, so I find myself in a similar boat in a number of ways. I thought that I was frugal, but now am shocked to see some pretty big leaks.

What I've learned so far:
1) When I notice that I'm logging more takeout / drive through entries, I know that it's time to go grocery shopping or prep some meals (when it's not easy, I don't do it). I met with a dietitian recently and she reminded me that not every meal has to be an organic, whole-grain masterpiece. Sandwiches are meals too.

2) Household /Home Depot / Home maintenance: I merge these as one category, and it's a big one for me. I have an older home where things need work and I really enjoy doing it. To keep from going overboard, I have to plan and prioritize, which means putting things off sometimes. I'm still working on this. Now some of the fun can be in trying to get it done for less.

3) If I have cash, I buy lots of little things with it (it's the opposite of what we're told about spending cash hurting more). Maybe you can try going without?

As for the gym and pool - I don't see anything wrong with spending on things that you get tangible enjoyment from when they aren't breaking the bank. Focus on reducing expenses in areas where the changes won't impact your happiness. Eating meals together at home, buying less stuff at Walgreens and Walmart, these are easier goals.

Heroes821

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #38 on: September 27, 2017, 01:58:29 PM »
Firstly, excellent progress in paying attention to your spending in the first place.

My two cents are this, I first tried to track every single little expense and sort them into categories. This resulted in a ton of built up receipts that I never entered and then stopped tracking for around 6 months.  I wanted to be able to track trending on the cost of every gallon of milk and onion I bought over the time scale of forever and the result was burn out and lack of attention.

My more recent tracking since Jan 2017, I cut down vastly on the categories I was focusing on. Groceries as a whole, discretionary spending for wife and I, anything bought for the children broken down per child. Medical expenses, Pet expenses, and all recurring bills and utilities. Gasoline and car maintenance.

Hopefully I'll add more categories over time, but I found the burnout was high when trying to track everything at once. especially when I was the only household member interested.

Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #39 on: September 28, 2017, 03:36:29 AM »
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I also like this article on how a couple reduced a few expenses each month:
http://fi180.com/2017/01/24/180-in-depth-part-2/
This was great, thank you!  Also thanks for sharing very specific "hows" to help me.  Yes, agreed on the after care with the teen (technically preteen but he eats like a teen) but I can't get him home (no bus and yes I asked a few parents and the answer was unfortunately they didn't want to commit).

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So first:  this is completely normal.
thank you for this!  And also your comments on cooking/shopping.  I know I need to spend time at it.  Instant gratification is so much better though...haha.

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Any new program will have a learning curve.  GnuCash has a learning curve, but it is free
Thanks, I will look into this.  And regarding your comments on the expenses, I went back and filled out cash, Walmart, Home depot to categories.  I'm tracking the cash separately and keeping the receipts, it just takes an extra step to figure it out.  In doing so my takeout category skyrocketed but it is what it is -- it was being hidden by "cash".

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I'm also a big fan of bulk cooking (cook a huge batch of food on the weekend, then freeze half and portion the other half for meals throughout the week).
Yes, I've been trying to do this too.  Any recipe suggestions?

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Store names and the form of the money are not categories.
Yes, it's how I capture them from my credit card.  I am no keeping the receipts to recategorize them.  It just takes an extra step but yes, important.

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Personally, I subdivide food more like you do: groceries; eating out; lunches; and takeout.
The food thing is important.  Where the spend is on these really helps me figure out the why.  Thank you for all your insight.  Much appreciated.

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the app i use is called 'spending tracker'
I downloaded this.  Thank you.

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I've only been tracking my spending since March, so I find myself in a similar boat in a number of ways. I thought that I was frugal, but now am shocked to see some pretty big leaks.
totally me, thank you for sharing!

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I found the burnout was high when trying to track everything at once
I totally agree.  I was tracking the grocery bills by category and it was just too much and I wasn't doing anything with the data.  Better to do something and add to it when you're ready.

Thanks all!  Back to it, I guess.





Laura33

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #40 on: September 28, 2017, 06:56:01 AM »
I went back and filled out cash, Walmart, Home depot to categories.  I'm tracking the cash separately and keeping the receipts, it just takes an extra step to figure it out.  In doing so my takeout category skyrocketed but it is what it is -- it was being hidden by "cash".

Well done -- that's exactly why you do it!

I also really like Heroes' suggestion to focus your efforts on a few areas at first instead of trying to do everything perfectly and getting overwhelmed (what I was getting at with the "perfect being the enemy of the good" comment).  My anecdote:  when I met DH, I had a very simple budget system.  I had about 5-6 categories, and I originally just used a ledger book and tracked by hand.  He convinced me to upgrade to Quicken, so I just adopted the same idea:  I created a single dummy account called "budget," and I tracked what came and went under that account.  Very easy -- if I spent money in any form, I wrote it down and tagged the appropriate category.

Then we got married and tried to combine our tracking.  Turns out I was doing it "wrong" (our very first fight, in fact -- I believe his direct quote was "that's . . . that's . . . STUPID!").  He's an engineer, so the only "right" way was to set up a Quicken account for each and every account we had.  So my paycheck came in; I had to enter it into the bank account and account for the individual deductions (federal/state taxes, SS/Medicare, FSA to its own account, the "fun money" as a transfer to my personal account, etc.), instead of just having the net as my starting point.  Then if I bought something on my CC, I had to enter it into the CC account, and then when I paid the card I had to enter it as a transfer from the bank account to the CC.  All the investments were also transfers to their own accounts (which I didn't care about, but had to enter to make the account balance).  Oh:  AND he broke down the mortgage to principal, interest, and escrow, and the investments then needed to be updated to account for capital gains payouts.  And then all of those accounts needed to be reconciled every month.

So we ended up doing it his way (after all, mine was stupid, right?).  And the end result was that I just gave up after 6 months or so -- it was taking too much time to enter/update too much detail about shit I totally didn't care about.  I mean, if I wanted to know how much was on a CC or in an investment account, I had the statements; I didn't need to basically re-create those in my own system -- I just wanted to know if I was staying in budget!

So, don't do that.  Start small -- start with something that feels achievable, and focus on what matters to you.  E.g., maybe food and kid stuff, because IME, those are the categories that you can unwittingly drop vast sums of cash on, because they "feel" like necessities and so are easy to talk yourself into spending more than you should.
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Heroes821

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #41 on: September 28, 2017, 09:03:51 AM »
E.g., maybe food and kid stuff, because IME, those are the categories that you can unwittingly drop vast sums of cash on, because they "feel" like necessities and so are easy to talk yourself into spending more than you should.

I agree on the kid stuff.  It's easy for me to go FI is top priority, but when an optional field trip comes up or a whatever expense that relates to social interactions in elementary school pop up I remember that growing up we had a lot less and I still got the opportunity to experience and attend those functions.  Now my parents were never going to ER and cutting the fat out of spending is a big part of that, but there are important life skills there that are hard to acquire later on in life. If it adds a year or two to FIRE for me, well sometimes that's the price of having children before FI.


4alpacas

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #42 on: September 28, 2017, 09:32:42 AM »
Quote
I'm also a big fan of bulk cooking (cook a huge batch of food on the weekend, then freeze half and portion the other half for meals throughout the week).
Yes, I've been trying to do this too.  Any recipe suggestions?
I make a large batch of brown rice and quinoa that we use throughout the week.  I've heard that rice freezes well, but I haven't tried.

I'm a huge fan of Budget Bytes.  I've made most of the items on this list.  My favorite is the taco chicken bowls. I double everything in the recipe except the chicken and cheese.  It makes a huge amount of food, so I freeze A LOT.  But it's great to have on chips, over rice, in a tortilla, or plain. 

I'm also a fanatic about steamable bags of vegetables, especially the broccoli and riced cauliflower.  We eat at least 5 bags/week (two of us). 

ZiziPB

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #43 on: September 29, 2017, 01:58:47 PM »
I went back and filled out cash, Walmart, Home depot to categories.  I'm tracking the cash separately and keeping the receipts, it just takes an extra step to figure it out.  In doing so my takeout category skyrocketed but it is what it is -- it was being hidden by "cash".

Well done -- that's exactly why you do it!

I also really like Heroes' suggestion to focus your efforts on a few areas at first instead of trying to do everything perfectly and getting overwhelmed (what I was getting at with the "perfect being the enemy of the good" comment).  My anecdote:  when I met DH, I had a very simple budget system.  I had about 5-6 categories, and I originally just used a ledger book and tracked by hand.  He convinced me to upgrade to Quicken, so I just adopted the same idea:  I created a single dummy account called "budget," and I tracked what came and went under that account.  Very easy -- if I spent money in any form, I wrote it down and tagged the appropriate category.

Then we got married and tried to combine our tracking.  Turns out I was doing it "wrong" (our very first fight, in fact -- I believe his direct quote was "that's . . . that's . . . STUPID!").  He's an engineer, so the only "right" way was to set up a Quicken account for each and every account we had.  So my paycheck came in; I had to enter it into the bank account and account for the individual deductions (federal/state taxes, SS/Medicare, FSA to its own account, the "fun money" as a transfer to my personal account, etc.), instead of just having the net as my starting point.  Then if I bought something on my CC, I had to enter it into the CC account, and then when I paid the card I had to enter it as a transfer from the bank account to the CC.  All the investments were also transfers to their own accounts (which I didn't care about, but had to enter to make the account balance).  Oh:  AND he broke down the mortgage to principal, interest, and escrow, and the investments then needed to be updated to account for capital gains payouts.  And then all of those accounts needed to be reconciled every month.

So we ended up doing it his way (after all, mine was stupid, right?).  And the end result was that I just gave up after 6 months or so -- it was taking too much time to enter/update too much detail about shit I totally didn't care about.  I mean, if I wanted to know how much was on a CC or in an investment account, I had the statements; I didn't need to basically re-create those in my own system -- I just wanted to know if I was staying in budget!

So, don't do that.  Start small -- start with something that feels achievable, and focus on what matters to you.  E.g., maybe food and kid stuff, because IME, those are the categories that you can unwittingly drop vast sums of cash on, because they "feel" like necessities and so are easy to talk yourself into spending more than you should.

OMG, did you marry my ex???  To his credit, he kept up with this super detailed tracking for the 18 years we were married.  And he could tell me at any moment in time exactly how much I spent on shoes in any given year...



Hadilly

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #44 on: September 29, 2017, 02:58:25 PM »
I really like Personal Capital for tracking. Their dashboard is clear and the budget categories are good. You can always tweak them if need be.

Congratulations on beginnning this journey!

With This Herring

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #45 on: September 29, 2017, 05:30:14 PM »
I went back and filled out cash, Walmart, Home depot to categories.  I'm tracking the cash separately and keeping the receipts, it just takes an extra step to figure it out.  In doing so my takeout category skyrocketed but it is what it is -- it was being hidden by "cash".

Well done -- that's exactly why you do it!

I also really like Heroes' suggestion to focus your efforts on a few areas at first instead of trying to do everything perfectly and getting overwhelmed (what I was getting at with the "perfect being the enemy of the good" comment).  My anecdote:  when I met DH, I had a very simple budget system.  I had about 5-6 categories, and I originally just used a ledger book and tracked by hand.  He convinced me to upgrade to Quicken, so I just adopted the same idea:  I created a single dummy account called "budget," and I tracked what came and went under that account.  Very easy -- if I spent money in any form, I wrote it down and tagged the appropriate category.

Then we got married and tried to combine our tracking.  Turns out I was doing it "wrong" (our very first fight, in fact -- I believe his direct quote was "that's . . . that's . . . STUPID!").  He's an engineer, so the only "right" way was to set up a Quicken account for each and every account we had.  So my paycheck came in; I had to enter it into the bank account and account for the individual deductions (federal/state taxes, SS/Medicare, FSA to its own account, the "fun money" as a transfer to my personal account, etc.), instead of just having the net as my starting point.  Then if I bought something on my CC, I had to enter it into the CC account, and then when I paid the card I had to enter it as a transfer from the bank account to the CC.  All the investments were also transfers to their own accounts (which I didn't care about, but had to enter to make the account balance).  Oh:  AND he broke down the mortgage to principal, interest, and escrow, and the investments then needed to be updated to account for capital gains payouts.  And then all of those accounts needed to be reconciled every month.

So we ended up doing it his way (after all, mine was stupid, right?).  And the end result was that I just gave up after 6 months or so -- it was taking too much time to enter/update too much detail about shit I totally didn't care about.  I mean, if I wanted to know how much was on a CC or in an investment account, I had the statements; I didn't need to basically re-create those in my own system -- I just wanted to know if I was staying in budget!

So, don't do that.  Start small -- start with something that feels achievable, and focus on what matters to you.  E.g., maybe food and kid stuff, because IME, those are the categories that you can unwittingly drop vast sums of cash on, because they "feel" like necessities and so are easy to talk yourself into spending more than you should.

OMG, did you marry my ex???  To his credit, he kept up with this super detailed tracking for the 18 years we were married.  And he could tell me at any moment in time exactly how much I spent on shoes in any given year...

Wow!  I track with that level of detail, but I wouldn't impose the work on someone else!  If he wants that system, he should be the one doing the entry work!
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civil4life

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #46 on: October 05, 2017, 08:41:40 PM »
One random thing I thought about mentioning.  My parents have a pool.  To keep the electricity cost down they have the pump set on a timer to run a few times a day during off peak time.  They also built their own solar heating system.

Harper

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Re: Spending is crazy!
« Reply #47 on: October 06, 2017, 11:57:55 AM »
@civil4life : thanks for that idea.  We do run ours on a timer too - it starts in the middle of the night and goes to 11am when our electricity rates are lower.