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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: tag on July 08, 2017, 01:44:50 PM

Title: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 08, 2017, 01:44:50 PM
Family of 6
Husband works, Wife homeschools the 4 kids (ages 6, 5, 3, 1)
Zero debt, house paid off.
FIRE Goal: within 3 years absolute max
Our savings rate is ~35% and I want to get it to 50% asap.

All numbers are MONTHLY spending except where there is a big capital YEAR following it:

DAILY LIVING
Groceries   ~$1050
Dining Out   $100
Childcare   $500   (Dad works long hours and travels often, Wife has a sitter for 8 hrs/week @ $14/hr)
Grocery Store Unlimited Online Shopping/Curbside Pick-up $99/YEAR
Costco   $60/YEAR
Mailing/Shipping   $10
Fees/Fines/Uber/Parking   $25
Amazon Prime $49/YEAR   (sshhhhh....still paying student rate)

KIDS
Clothes   $25
Classes/Teams/Camps/Fieldtrips   ~$200
Stuff   $75   (stuff like a custom DIY lego table, homeschool curriculum, materials for projects etc)
Private School $145    (6 yo is taking two classes at a private school starting this fall)

MOM
Salon services/products   $80
Clothes   $80

DAD
Salon services/Products  $30
Shoe Polish/Dry Cleaning   $25
Clothes   $125   (top executive of a large company and spends $1200 at the Nordstrom sale once/year)

FUN
Ticketed Events   $100+ (not every month but when we go we pay for 4-6 tickets of course)
Vacation   $100
HomeExchange.com   $150/YEAR
Ancestry.com   $20 (this is a hobby for Dad)
Media   $10 (books, apps etc)
Netflix   $20
icloud storage   $11
Google Play   $11

OTHER
Home Decor/Organization   $75
Gifts/Hosting   $88
Pest Control   $35   ($400/YEAR...we live in NC)

Ok, let me have it.....








Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: sokoloff on July 08, 2017, 02:10:17 PM
Nothing seems particularly out of line except for the groceries line. That seems insanely high, even for a family of 6.

You might be able to shave $8 off the Netflix and a few other things, but the grocery line really stands out to me. We're a family of 4 in a HCoL area and I doubt we spend even $500 (though DW does most of the shopping).
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: pesos on July 08, 2017, 02:24:08 PM
These stood out to me:


DAILY LIVING
Groceries   ~$1050
Childcare   $500   (Dad works long hours and travels often, Wife has a sitter for 8 hrs/week @ $14/hr)

MOM
Salon services/products   $80
Clothes   $80

DAD
Salon services/Products  $30
Clothes   $125   (top executive of a large company and spends $1200 at the Nordstrom sale once/year)

FUN
Ticketed Events   $100+ (not every month but when we go we pay for 4-6 tickets of course)
Media   $10 (books, apps etc)
Netflix   $20
icloud storage   $11
Google Play   $11

OTHER
Home Decor/Organization   $75
Gifts/Hosting   $88

Groceries... cut down convenience food and stop buying as much meat. Is a lot of food going to waste each month?
Hate to suggest this since Mom already spends so much time with four little ones, but cut down the babysitter time, since that is a very large expense each month.

Fun and other will probably be the easiest to cut--stop buying Media, cancel Netflix and watch Amazon Prime content, transition from iCloud storage to Google Drive for free, and cancel whatever app subscriptions are on Google Play. Ticketed events, skip these and find free events in your community.

Stop buying home decor and you won't need to buy anything to organize it. Can you sell extra junk on CL/eBay?
Gifts/Hosting, can you suggest pot lucks to save $$$?

Since Mom stays at home, can she DIY her own nails and hair, and cut Dad's hair too? I'd also cut back on the clothing spending, $80-$100 each month is a LOT!

Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 08, 2017, 02:35:43 PM
We hardly buy any convenience foods except for maybe cereal and crackers. I make all of our own bread and the condiments we use the most as well. It's the meat and dairy that kills our food budget. We don't eat a ton of meat, I'll use 3/4 lb of ground beef for a dinner for all of us. But we eat fresh salmon once/week and honestly probably the highest quality available of most of our foods. I am super sensitive to food waste, leftovers are always re-used etc. I need to think on this food budget because yes, it is obviously high!

Netflix, Google Storage and Google Play etc...I have thought of cutting these, but would only be saving ~$25/mo. It doesn't feel big enough to make any serious impact. But I'll think about this one too. Thanks for highlighting it.

Home Decor - I guess I should go back and see what I've spent on. Our house is borderline minimalist in terms of decor and I always seek second hand first. My $75/mo is the average though. So if one month we replaced a table or something for $175, we may not spend anything for the next couple of months.... Again though, really need to go back and look at the purchases for this category.

Gifts/Hosting - I could reign this in. I have 10 nieces and nephews and I always send birthday presents - they aren't expensive.... my latest thing is sending them a box of cereal with postage right on the box - and $10 cash inside. But the cereal, the cash and the mailing adds up to closer to $20. But it's so fun! I also am a sucker for paying for my friends if we go out for coffee or something, also like to send people good books I read - I always wish I could just check a book out from the library and give it to them - ha! And I would do that except it seems that most of the time it's to family out of state so I go to Amazon.

Thanks for the input so far! I've got some things to work with now....
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 08, 2017, 02:38:45 PM
Ah I forgot - clothes. Hubby spends $1200/yr on suits and work stuff - it's always all on sale. But he has to dress pretty top shelf for work.

And me, yes....I need to examine my clothes situation. I typically buy sale stuff from like Gap or Old Navy but I literally only own a handful of outfits at a time and unfortunately, it's crap quality so it doesn't stand up to frequent wash and wear. I spend about $150 just 2.5 months ago and the shirts are already wearing extremely thin and I will need to replace at the end of summer. I need to figure out what to do there.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: omachi on July 08, 2017, 02:47:16 PM
Doesn't look too unreasonable most places. Here's the low hanging fruit that I see:

Food looks a little on the high side, as it's over a third of your spending, though it's probably going to get worse with growing kids. There's plenty written on the forum about bringing down food costs. As somebody with a higher per person spend on food, I get it, but this is by far your biggest single spending category. There's probably more slack to cut in this one category than in the rest of what I'll comment on.

Almost 8% of your spending is on clothing, and despite there being 4 kids, about 90% of that is on the adults. Mom doesn't need $80 of clothes each month and dad doesn't need $125. An executive can have a few nice, classic cut suits that will last a long time. If dad has a tie addiction or something, make it known that's all he wants for gift giving occasions. Mom should buy durable clothing if she's constantly handling kids.

A touch over 3.5% is on salon services and products. This is something I spend little on, but maybe it's something that keeps mom sane? Can this come down? Even if mom goes to the salon 2 out of 3 months instead of every month, you cut your spending by about 1%. That's not trivial.

About 2.5% is on home decor, which is taking up $900 per year. How? How many pillows, throw blankets, inspirational sayings painted on wood, new curtains, and the like does a home need? Are you changing furniture frequently? Pick a home decor and live with it for the next 5-10 years. Make sure your big furniture like couches and chairs will last no less than a decade.

Bottom line, cut monthly $250 from food, $150 from clothing, $40 from the salon for both of you, and $60 from home decor and you're saving an additional $6000 per year that you shouldn't really notice.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Frugal Fran in Canada on July 08, 2017, 03:12:52 PM
I get the clothing budget for hubby.  Sometimes people really do have to dress for the position they have, and hope to keep.

I agree that $80/month clothing for a stay-at-home mom is high. I work in a casual office environment, so my clothing needs aren't high, but I do need to not wear jeans daily and have clothes without stains and holes (i.e. look reasonably respectable) and my budget is nowhere near that... and I live in Canada where prices are generally a bit higher.  I see no reason to not cut that in half - you should still find yourself looking good in a lot of new clothes. And yes, start spending more per item on fewer clothes that don't fall apart after a few washes.

$80/month on salon. Sigh. Sometimes I weren't female just to save on haircuts. I'm not going to suggest that you start cutting your own hair though... and suspect only a man would suggest that! But you might be able to find a cheaper option.

Grocery bills seem ridiculous, unless you live in a remote area.  Groceries are always significantly more in isolated locations.  I happen to live in a remote area, but my larger grocery bill is offset by the fact that I dine out almost never, because there's not really any place to go.

Since you have a "dining out" budget of $1200/yr and also pay for some kind of online grocery shopping with curbside deliver, I'm guessing you live in an urban area and ought to be able to cut the grocery budget by at least 25%. And the online grocery shopping is also likely problematic. These services always cost far more than just putting in the time and tiny bit of effort to actually get yourself to a grocery store and shop, paying attention to the sales.  Utterly Un-Mustachian behaviour!  It is almost certainly costing you far mare than the $99 annual fee for this lazy-pants service.

You say that cutting the online services would save "only" $25/month. But remember, that means $300/year, which compounded at 7% equates to almost $5k over 10 yrs! And that's not even accounting for the fact that the costs of these services are likely to increase over time. 

FFinC
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Sibley on July 08, 2017, 03:15:48 PM
Better quality clothing will last longer. Thrift stores, consignment, etc might be very helpful, and also keep an eye out for work clothes for dad. You never know what you'll find.

If you get lucky, you'll have a high end consignment store that will beat the Nordstrom sale prices.

Food - yeah, this is high. You say you buy the highest quality foods. I challenge you to try slightly lower quality. I'm not saying to get junk, but there's a lot of things you can get the generic on and it's perfectly good, and a lot cheaper. You shop at Costco, where else? If you're shopping at Whole Paycheck, you need to stop that.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: AnnaGrowsAMustache on July 08, 2017, 03:41:53 PM
Food would be very high for our lifestyle, but with your family structure. Very high. Does it include a lot of wine, perchance? That tends to be where we blowout the grocery budget!

What's the home decor? Are you continually buying things or replacing things or what? This seems very unnecessary but I'm not really sure what you're spending on....

Clothing seems high to me also. Second the buy better quality advice. Consider the high end thrift shops, we call them consignment stores here, where you can get good quality labeled clothing for much cheaper because it's been worn a few times.

Things like Netflix I'm sure you could do without, but whittle down the big expenses first so you don't feel like you're suddenly poor! Same with the grocery pick up fee. Dining out could also be cut. Maybe try $100 every 6 weeks or something, and then 8 weeks.

I understand your spending on the gifts. It's fun to do. I would personally limit it to the kids, and make the adults pay for their own coffee and books! Weigh up how much joy it brings you to do, and the recipient to receive. I think the kids will probably outweigh the adults.

If I were you, I'd make the aim in this first round of cuts to get the big expenses down a bit. That would be the grocery bill and the grocery pick up. Get used to that change and then do another round of cuts in a few months time.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Rosy on July 08, 2017, 05:01:12 PM
What struck me is this:

1. Pest control - $400 a year - $35 a month. There are dedicated DIY pest control stores and most likely Costco has something similar - approx $50 ann.
SAVINGS $ 350

2. I'd keep the Netflix, since I don't see cable.

3. Where is the cell phone and Internet bill? Looks like no gas and car either? However, there is parking?

4. Clothing - $80 a month
Girlfriend you need to learn how to shop:), but most of all find a girlfriend or a grandma, whomever:) can give you a crash course on quality clothing.
The stores you mentioned are cheap sh$t as you've already discovered. Since you like minimalism - that should be the easiest exercise of all. Create a capsule wardrobe for yourself - there are threads here or google it. Definitely saves you time and money in the long run.
I like outlets, clearance sales and discount stores and the occasional thrift shop, flea market or consignment store.
Depending on the prices in your area - I'd say cut that clothing budget in half - it will be a challenge.
SAVINGS - $40 a month

5. Groceries - waaayyy out of line:) and you will find this the easiest fix ever. It is a learning curve, but you can literally save hundreds a month, so figure it out, little by little.
Check out some websites like budget byte, look at the recipe-cooking threads in this forum, there are always discussions on how to cut the food budgets:) You are not alone in this - do a search and have a look.
SAVINGS $450 a month - you can do this!

6. Ticketed events - reduce by half.
SAVINGS $50 plus

7. Home decor-storage - $75 - for now, put that on hold altogether while you rev up the savings.
Try to do without, repair it, DIY, swap, thrift, check out FB groups in your area that have free giveaways...
SAVINGS $75

8. Gifts - hosting - $88  - cut by half, get creative.
SAVINGS $44


Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 08, 2017, 05:04:43 PM
Thank you all!!!

I don't know that I can cut the $99/year for curbside pick up with groceries. Well, I don't think I am willing to :) I have my 4 young kids with me all the time since we homeschool and all of us in a grocery store on a regular basis is not good for my sanity. And I am also unwilling to do that on weekends or in the evenings by myself when I prefer to be having downtime.

Yes, I shop at Whole Paycheck and Costco. You got me! Ugh.

I think the consensus is groceries, clothes and home decor - whatever that is, need to investigate last purchases.

This is so helpful!
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: doneby35 on July 08, 2017, 05:21:57 PM
Eliminating meat and dairy helps, both with your groceries bill AND your overall health which also translates to less medical bills.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Jon Bon on July 08, 2017, 06:01:25 PM
4 letters


A
L
D
I

*drops mic*
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 08, 2017, 06:52:22 PM
So right. Aldi. I'm going this week for the first time I swear. The problem is it is 20 minutes out of the way for me. But yes. Aldi.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: cchrissyy on July 08, 2017, 07:04:45 PM
oh, whole foods!
I think that explains it
you're spending more than twice what we do. and I'm not a crazy chaser of coupons and sales, it's just that I get everything at Trader Joes and don't dare pay WF prices.  do you have trader joe's around? I only shop 1 time a week, and yes, I do use my evening or other kid-free time for it so it's easy and don't pay for any curbside or delivery service.  It's healthy food and I feed 1 adult and 3 teens/tweens for seriously less than half of what you are spending for 2 adults and those little ones who can't really eat very much.  I think you can cut A LOT by abandoning whole foods!
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Fire2025 on July 08, 2017, 07:43:14 PM
$80/month on salon. Sigh. Sometimes I weren't female just to save on haircuts. I'm not going to suggest that you start cutting your own hair though... and suspect only a man would suggest that! But you might be able to find a cheaper option.

I cut and color my own hair, but I will not suggest you go that extreme, because well, I'm crazy.  But I will say you should try to find a beauty school in your area.  A cut and color should really only run about $25.00 - $35.00.

Clothes, Goodwill is my go to place and I get super snobby.  Look for the high quality brands, they're the same price as the shitty stuff at Goodwill.  And always look for the /2 off tag, woohoo!!!

Food, well Wholefoods, I just can't say anything you can't say to yourself there. 
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Lepetitange3 on July 08, 2017, 08:15:03 PM
I am also a family of 6, and one of my kids is a teenage boy who's always starving.  My groceries run$350-400 a month on high months.  So yes Aldi.  And Costco.  Also Amazon subscribe and save for household goods.  They don't charge you to deliver to your door, they give you a freaking discount for the privelege.  My other 3 are significantly younger and I take them grocery shopping.  Do I love it?  Look...I'm not insane.  But there's strategies for managing.  1) I only go shopping 2x a month, once near the first, once around the 15th.  BevUse going to grocery stores with 3 young children is no ones idea of fun.  2) I wear the youngest child.  The other children have tasks assigned to them to "help".  Takes a little longer but makes them feel important and usually compliant in store.  3) I know exactly what I'm getting and where it's located.

Or instead of paying a grocery delivery service.  Pay the sitter their $14/hr and have then do your grocery shopping in an hour.  You'd still save money. 
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: sokoloff on July 08, 2017, 08:21:23 PM
Or instead of paying a grocery delivery service.  Pay the sitter their $14/hr and have then do your grocery shopping in an hour.  You'd still save money.
$14 x 24 = $336/year.

That's more than the grocery curbside service and in fact is more than the curbside + Prime + Costco.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Lepetitange3 on July 08, 2017, 08:21:53 PM
Also disagree with ditching pest service since you said NC.  As long as your pest company fully warranties their termite treatment, it's the south so you probably want to keep that ;)

And thanks - I read the curbside as $100/mo
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: startingsmall on July 09, 2017, 11:15:33 AM
Much of this has already been said by others, but I'd be targeting:

- Groceries. Sure, Whole Foods is nice, but we get all of our groceries at Walmart. (Haven't yet convinced my husband to do Aldi, and he does all of the shopping /cooking.)

- Clothing. I work and need decent clothes for work, but I don't spend anywhere near $80/month. MAYBE $25/mo for me?? Some stuff is from Goodwill, some from Old Navy (only on clearance), etc. But if you're staying home with the kids, you don't really need to be dressed to the nines all the time. Dad's clothing budget also seems a bit absurd, but my husband has never had a suit-wearing job so I'll admit that I'm pretty ignorant in that category.

- Salon. $80/mo?! I realize that's completely normal for some people, but I intentionally stick with a low-maintenance hairstyle that can be cut at Great Clips or Supercuts or any of those places for $<20.

- Babysitter for 8 hrs/wk. I understand this is important, but is there a way to cut back to maybe a half-day instead of a full day?

- Home decor also seems like an area that's ripe for a few cuts, but I guess that depends on the situation. We spent a couple of thousand last year after moving into a new house, but now that we're in 'maintenance' mode we probably spend <$20/mo.

Just some quick thoughts.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 09, 2017, 11:48:28 AM
Salon. $80/mo?! I realize that's completely normal for some people, but I intentionally stick with a low-maintenance hairstyle that can be cut at Great Clips or Supercuts or any of those places for $<20.

- Babysitter for 8 hrs/wk. I understand this is important, but is there a way to cut back to maybe a half-day instead of a full day?

I know salon is high but it does include all hair appointments (I go twice/year), waxing and any product I buy related to my image ha ha....shampoo/conditioner, make-up etc. I can do better here but the average of $80/mo covers a lot.

Babysitter isn't really worth me cutting right now, not while the kids are so young. I homeschool so the kids are with me ALL THE TIME. Which I love but my sanity is definitely on the line. And I'm not sleeping through the night or anywhere near it right now.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 09, 2017, 11:49:43 AM
Or instead of paying a grocery delivery service.  Pay the sitter their $14/hr and have then do your grocery shopping in an hour.  You'd still save money.
$14 x 24 = $336/year.

That's more than the grocery curbside service and in fact is more than the curbside + Prime + Costco.

Yea it's not delivery. I just order online and pick up at the curb. $100/year. Wouldn't be cheaper to pay my sitter for that time. But thank you! I love how people are so willing to pick this apart. I want to leave no stone unturned!
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 09, 2017, 11:56:03 AM
oh, whole foods!
I think that explains it
you're spending more than twice what we do. and I'm not a crazy chaser of coupons and sales, it's just that I get everything at Trader Joes and don't dare pay WF prices.  do you have trader joe's around? I only shop 1 time a week, and yes, I do use my evening or other kid-free time for it so it's easy and don't pay for any curbside or delivery service.  It's healthy food and I feed 1 adult and 3 teens/tweens for seriously less than half of what you are spending for 2 adults and those little ones who can't really eat very much.  I think you can cut A LOT by abandoning whole foods!

The crazy thing is I got to Whole Foods the least out of anywhere. I pretty much only get meat, dairy and a couple other things there. Maybe I should post my food purchases for a month!


3. Where is the cell phone and Internet bill? Looks like no gas and car either? However, there is parking?

4. Clothing - $80 a month
Girlfriend you need to learn how to shop:), but most of all find a girlfriend or a grandma, whomever:) can give you a crash course on quality clothing.
The stores you mentioned are cheap sh$t as you've already discovered. Since you like minimalism - that should be the easiest exercise of all. Create a capsule wardrobe for yourself - there are threads here or google it. Definitely saves you time and money in the long run.
I like outlets, clearance sales and discount stores and the occasional thrift shop, flea market or consignment store.
Depending on the prices in your area - I'd say cut that clothing budget in half - it will be a challenge.

I didn't include phone, internet and gas/car because they are non-negotiable (just meaning we are comfortable with where they are at) and didn't want to waste yalls time....why ask if we are not willing to make changes! Internet is $50/mo and our cell phones are both covered by my husband's employer. No landline.

Clothing. Yes, I gotta figure this one out. An average of $80/mo for shitty clothes is terrible. I do wonder if there are some tracking errors in this category though - I think I have made some mistakes when recording returns. Just doing a quick calculation, I believe I am more like $50/mo but I will have to confirm that. For the last 12 months I have really only shopped sales at Old Navy. I will investigate this category - thank you!
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Lady SA on July 09, 2017, 12:20:24 PM
If Aldi ends up not being your style, Trader Joes is a pretty good alternative.

DH and I split shopping between Aldi and Trader Joes (They are actually owned by the same company). Some things we get at TJs and some we get at Aldi.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 09, 2017, 12:43:35 PM
If Aldi ends up not being your style, Trader Joes is a pretty good alternative.

I definitely intend to check out Aldi, it is a 20 minute drive out of the way though - so that makes it tough. I do go to Trader Joes a few times a month as well. I don't do the bulk of our shop at Whole Foods. I go to Harris Teeter the most actually and also go to Costco. I think everything about our food budget is just wrong ha ha. Time for change!
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: startingsmall on July 09, 2017, 01:12:00 PM
If Aldi ends up not being your style, Trader Joes is a pretty good alternative.

I definitely intend to check out Aldi, it is a 20 minute drive out of the way though - so that makes it tough. I do go to Trader Joes a few times a month as well. I don't do the bulk of our shop at Whole Foods. I go to Harris Teeter the most actually and also go to Costco. I think everything about our food budget is just wrong ha ha. Time for change!

Harris Teeter isn't that much better :)

Not sure where in NC you are, but our shopping all happens at Walmart, BiLo, or Food Lion. Sure, Harris Teeter and Ingles are nice, but not exactly budget-friendly! We stop at Ingles occasionally, if we just need one or two things, because it's close to home... but our real shopping is at the other places.
 (And I've never actually been in a Whole Foods, just basing price comments on what I've heard.)
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Aunt Petunia on July 09, 2017, 01:45:57 PM
Having read your other thread, I think a lot of these expenses will go away if you FIRE and move to Idaho. I'm not sure if they even have Whole Foods or Nordstrom there, for example, and parking will be free.  Also Dad will not need to buy suits any more, or dry clean them The childcare and curbside pickup will also go away because Dad will be able to spend more time with the kids. You probably won't need the pest service there either.

In the meantime, some public schools allow homeschool kids to go there for a few classes for free, so the private school might not be necessary.

Amazon sells a lot of salon products for cheaper than the salon price.

I'm with the others on buying better quality clothes that will last, and slashing that grocery bill.

If you are looking to possibly move in a couple of years, I would stop buying new clothes, home decor, stuff, etc. now so as not to have so much to go through at the time of the move.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Lady SA on July 09, 2017, 02:15:59 PM
So for Mr. Tag's clothes, I'm confused. I'm a dudette so maybe I'm just dumb, but even working at a very fancy establishment, wouldn't buying 3-4 nice suits (pants, coat, vest??) and having like 10 button downs and ties and 1-2 pairs of fancy shoes be just fine? Unless he's drastically changing size year over year I'm confused why he needs to keep buying brand new clothes each year. Office work isn't that hard on clothing. Is there a specific reason he needs to completely revamp his wardrobe each year??

Men's clothing styles really don't change that much, so if he focuses on classic cuts those articles of clothing should last him a while. My DH definitely doesn't wear fancy clothes to work, but he has his staples that he cycles through that should last him 7-10 years. And once they start wearing out, we start hunting at thrift stores for name brand, quality replacements and alter them if needed.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: With This Herring on July 09, 2017, 02:37:58 PM
Salon. $80/mo?! I realize that's completely normal for some people, but I intentionally stick with a low-maintenance hairstyle that can be cut at Great Clips or Supercuts or any of those places for $<20.
I know salon is high but it does include all hair appointments (I go twice/year), waxing and any product I buy related to my image ha ha....shampoo/conditioner, make-up etc. I can do better here but the average of $80/mo covers a lot.

That is still a lot!  Wow!  Have you ever tried to cheap makeup at pharmacies?  Wet 'N Wild, New York Color?  It is pretty decent!  They sell decent hair products too!  I'll bet you could cut your product use down to $10/month or less if you tried.  Buy an epilator for $40-$60, and you won't need to wax again.

Yes, please post your food purchases!  We will tear those apart, if you desire!  ;)  You say you only buy meat and dairy at whole foods, but I would think those would be some of WF's most expensive products.  (I have never been in a Whole Paycheck.)
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: fuzzy math on July 09, 2017, 03:09:28 PM
https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/CostofFoodMay2017_0.pdf
Here is there USDA chart for food costs. It appears you are somewhere in the moderate to liberal plan. I don't understand the ppl who are saying they spend $400 for a family of 4. I was only able to achieve that when I was couponing and that meant my kids were eating a lot of processed crap. Vegansim isn't also a reasonable suggestion either. My family's food costs have always been near the low cost to moderate plan and that is for 5 of us. I can also understand not wanting to shop w 4 kids. Shopping w my 3 when they were all that young was not fun. I did it on my own but grocery delivery wasn't as much of a thing then.

Since you go to Costco, check out their athletic wear. I have some great yoga capris that last forever from there that cost about $15. They have heavy Pima cotton t shirts for $10. If you're at home, homeschooling 4 kiddos you might choose to forgo makeup (or just buy a $11 set of neutrogena  powder from target twice a year), salon quality hair products and dressing nicely. Will your 1 yr old be impressed, or just barf yogurt (or smear peanut butter) on you like normal? Old navy clothing wears out in a couple months. Their t shirts sag like deflated balloons and lose their stretchiness in the wash. Quit buying them.

Here is a guy wearing the same suit every day for a year. Obviously not possible w your husband but does go to highlight that you can change the look of something with a diff tie and shirt.
https://youtu.be/VU_xjIeSUqE
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Laura33 on July 09, 2017, 03:36:21 PM
So,  am not going to challenge your DH's clothes and the babysitter.  My DH entered the arena where he needs to wear "nice" stuff, and it's amazing how much that stuff costs -- and how others actually care and notice (ugh).  And, homeschooling 4 kids.  Yeah.  Babysitter.

What I will say is that I think you have gotten used to a certain kind of life where you just take it for granted that you eat certain foods (hint:  the meats and dairy are the most expensive thing at WF!) and look a certain way and go to a salon and get various services done at a certain frequency, etc.  And that can blind you to how little of that is actually required.

For example:  the most I have ever spent in one year on clothes is $2K.  And that was after I had lost 3 dress sizes and needed a full new wardrobe, for four seasons, and for both personal/professional.  And I did it at name-brand places, like WHBM.  So how do you spend half of that, every year?  How many pieces of clothing do you own and think is normal?  Do you shop because you need it, or because maybe it's an opportunity to get out or to go out with friends?  Etc.

Same thing with hair/nails/makeup/etc.  I color my hair at home and get it cut every few months; i get a pedicure at the local spot when I want a splurge every few months for $35 (including tip) and have never used professional waxing.  I used to buy department store cosmetics, and still have one or two I am devoted to, but have realized I was buying those out of habit, and I can do just fine with a little Mary Kay and grocery store stuff.  It's not doing without -- it's just rethinking what you do as a matter of habit.

Same thing with groceries.  I don't ever shop at WF because of the prices, but I always thought Wegman's was reasonable.  But I spend $250 for a week's food at Wegman's and under $100 for a week at Aldi's.  Part of it is the food is cheaper, but part of it is also that there is just less temptation to splurge on a fresh-baked loaf of bread I didn't need or, hey, while I'm here, let's pick up some prosciutto. 

Also think about duplication -- e.g., do you really need *all* those memberships?  If you are using the grocery curb service, do you really need the Costco membership, or vice-versa?  Could you do Amazon Prime and get routine free delivery of staples (Subscribe & Save and/or the "pantry" thing) and videos, all for one?  You are right that one thing individually isn't killer, but when you add one service/recurring monthly fee on top of another, it adds up quickly.

Finally, do you use Mint or YNAB or anything?  I think you will likely find that a lot of the stuff you are buying isn't really stuff you need or value (e.g., if you don't even remember what the "home" purchases were, isn't that telling in and of itself?).  If you really want to plug spending holes, you need to pay attention to what you are spending it on in the real world, not just what you *think* you are doing in your hypothetical budget or hypothetical weekly menu. 
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 09, 2017, 04:08:59 PM
Having read your other thread, I think a lot of these expenses will go away if you FIRE and move to Idaho. I'm not sure if they even have Whole Foods or Nordstrom there, for example, and parking will be free.  Also Dad will not need to buy suits any more, or dry clean them The childcare and curbside pickup will also go away because Dad will be able to spend more time with the kids. You probably won't need the pest service there either.

Bingo!

In the meantime, some public schools allow homeschool kids to go there for a few classes for free, so the private school might not be necessary.

Not in the state we live in now but in Idaho - yes!

wouldn't buying 3-4 nice suits (pants, coat, vest??) and having like 10 button downs and ties and 1-2 pairs of fancy shoes be just fine?

That's something like 25 items!

What I will say is that I think you have gotten used to a certain kind of life where you just take it for granted that you eat certain foods (hint:  the meats and dairy are the most expensive thing at WF!) and look a certain way and go to a salon and get various services done at a certain frequency, etc.  And that can blind you to how little of that is actually required.

Finally, do you use Mint or YNAB or anything?

YNAB religiously. And I think you're right. I'm used to certain standard.

For example:  the most I have ever spent in one year on clothes is $2K.  And that was after I had lost 3 dress sizes and needed a full new wardrobe, for four seasons, and for both personal/professional.  And I did it at name-brand places, like WHBM.  So how do you spend half of that, every year?  How many pieces of clothing do you own and think is normal?  Do you shop because you need it, or because maybe it's an opportunity to get out or to go out with friends?  Etc. 

I am baffled by the clothes one. I own fewer clothes than anyone I know, I don't shop socially. I really think there was a recording error over the last 12 months and I think it has to do with mistakes when recording returns. Because I buy as needed, I wear the same thing 2-3 times a week. I will say that I have been pregnant 4 times in the past 6 years and sometimes have to buy because I am a different size and shape by the month - either going up or down. I need to do some digging on this one.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Lady SA on July 09, 2017, 04:30:54 PM
wouldn't buying 3-4 nice suits (pants, coat, vest??) and having like 10 button downs and ties and 1-2 pairs of fancy shoes be just fine?

That's something like 25 items!


Yes, but I was more commenting on him currently apparently buying these 25 items every single year during the Nordstrom's sale, instead of accumulating these just once and keeping them in decent shape for 10 years. Hopefully I made sense :)
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 10, 2017, 02:18:32 AM
wouldn't buying 3-4 nice suits (pants, coat, vest??) and having like 10 button downs and ties and 1-2 pairs of fancy shoes be just fine?

That's something like 25 items!


Yes, but I was more commenting on him currently apparently buying these 25 items every single year during the Nordstrom's sale, instead of accumulating these just once and keeping them in decent shape for 10 years. Hopefully I made sense :)

Gotcha! He probably owns 5 suits total and buys 2 new ones every year. So he is not replacing his entire work wardobe on an annual basis. There is no way this stuff would last 10 years. Seems surprising, I know...it's not like he is going hiking in his suits, right? Ties and suit jackets might but they would look outdated before they would wear out. We have tried buying less expensive professional wear for him at other stores but they look even worse after a year of regular wear, and don't look as sharp when worn right after purchased. I really think with clothes you get what you pay for. The cut and shape on a nice suit looks sharper on higher quality. The good news is this category will take a nose dive as soon as we are FIRE in the next year or so! So it's not a long term expense.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: stashgrower on July 10, 2017, 02:54:45 AM
Clothing. I think you got the face punches already. I am puzzled why a high quality suit doesn't last, but I am not a suit wearer. The $80/mo for you is high especially if low quality.

Ticketed events. Can you do more free or cheap outings?

Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Kyle Schuant on July 10, 2017, 03:29:17 AM
I don't understand the ppl who are saying they spend $400 for a family of 4. I was only able to achieve that when I was couponing and that meant my kids were eating a lot of processed crap.
In this thread (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/mustachianism-around-the-web/the-'elon-musk-challenge'-eating-for-$2-a-day/msg1615145/#msg1615145) I showed how, looking at my local supermarket, if I were single I could eat according to government health recommendations for AUD167 per calendar month. The number of servings for women and kids is a bit smaller, call it x3/4 for my wife and x1/2 each for the kids (5 and 1yo, obviously different when they're 12+), round it up a bit to allow for guests and so on, and 3 times that number seems reasonable, AUD501 a month. That's under USD400, depending on the day's exchange rate.

In fact my household spends AUD120-130pw, which is AUD541 a month. But we don't always buy the cheapest form of the food, we do have salmon and camembert and wine and so on.

Obviously prices of this and that vary from here to there. But in urban parts of the US, UK, NZ, Canada and Australia, you will indeed be able to feed a family of 4 according to the usual government health recommendations for about USD400 a month, give or take 10%. But you'll be cooking all your meals from scratch, not going out to eat, buying minced beef rather than eye fillet steak, buying basa rather than salmon, buying cage eggs rather than organic free range, UHT milk, and so on. This is aiming at nutrition rather than gourmet.

Now, whether someone caring for 4 kids and homeschooling them has the time to prepare all meals from scratch is another matter. Honestly I think hubby needs to stop fucking around with this travelling for work nonsense and spend more time at home and do his part. It'd be better to be 6 years from FIRE with a sensible job than 3 years from FIRE with an insane one. And remember, hubby: nobody wants to be the last lines of Cats in the Cradle.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Lmoot on July 10, 2017, 04:17:12 AM
 You say you live in North Carolina, so if you have yard space, it seems like you would be able to grow many different staples in just a few raised garden beds. Have you thought about growing a soup and salad garden? You can grow things like onions potato cabbage carrots, lettuce, and sweet potato is a hearty, high nutrient dense food that's fairly easy to grow. You can make many meals out of these few ingredients. It might also help the kids out, with their homeschooling, to get involved.

Also, I am curious what your energy and water expenses are for a larger family like yours. Often times you can find places to cut back there. It's not only discretionary spending that's up for editing.  You could do things like get a rain barrel for watering plants. Bathing the kids in the tub using a bucket, instead of filling up an entire bathtub. Experimenting with lowering or raising the temperature a few degrees, and seeing how far  you can push your comfort level. Doing laundry and washing dishes during the cheapest time of day… You can contact your energy company for these hours.  Purchasing power strips which control phantom uses of electricity.  Assessing and weatherstripping doors and windows.  Using heat reflective shades or blinds for the windows.  Having your ductwork inspected or cleaned for efficiency. And lots of others. Behind food and housing, energy costs can be very high for many households.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: ringer707 on July 10, 2017, 06:58:18 AM
Food definitely looks like one of your biggest issues, as has already been stated. Aldi is a great option, but even something like just shopping sales at Kroger will make a big difference. And it's so easy to coupon with Kroger now that you can load almost any coupon to your card through the Kroger app. (This is all assuming you have Kroger or a Kroger family store in your area).

The Prudent Homemaker blog has great tips on feeding large families on the cheap. And great gardening tips too, if you're into that!
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Laura33 on July 10, 2017, 07:31:39 AM
There is no way this stuff would last 10 years. Seems surprising, I know...it's not like he is going hiking in his suits, right? Ties and suit jackets might but they would look outdated before they would wear out.

Yeah, ok, I am going to call bullshit on this (but nicely).  The background:  as I mentioned, my DH has entered the world of the required "nice" suit.  He is also extremely difficult to fit, and he absolutely destroys clothes.  And I mean that literally: he is built like a hockey player, with abnormally wide shoulders and long arms, and every polo rips through the shoulders/arms within a year (and let's not even talk about the shoes).  We tried every cheaper option we could find, and he rips through them all.  By far the most cost-effective has been to pay up for custom, because they fit properly and use quality materials.  So he now gets the mostly-custom suits from Nordstrom during their big sales (the Hickey Freeman-type thing), and he has his dress shirts custom-made at a specialty shop that does only that. 

The point:  this weekend, DH bought his third suit in the past ten years.  Those things last forever, fit properly, and still look good.  And, again: this is the Destroyer of Clothes we are talking about.  He does need to replace a few shirts every year as they wear out, but his annual replacement is maybe 2 custom shirts, a couple of ties, and a pair of shoes, with a suit every 4-5 years.  Now, he doesn't have to wear a suit every day.  But even if you double that, it's a few shirts, some ties, and at most one suit a year. 

Of course, I am talking a basic, conservative suit cut.  If your DH is fashion-forward, then yeah, he's going to need to change with the style more often.  But that's a choice, not a need.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: MrsPete on July 10, 2017, 08:02:56 AM
Groceries   ~$1050
I agree that this is crazy high ... maybe one day when you have four teenagers it'll be reasonable, but not with small kids. 

My best suggestion:  Find a copy of The Frugal Gazette, a book that was popular about 15-20 years ago but not has sort of disappeared from the world's radar.  You'll find the prices she mentions rather outdated, but take a look at her Grocery Store Price Book.  It's one of the first articles in the book.  She proposes an excellent method of monitoring grocery store prices at a variety of stores.  It'll take effort to create such a book for the products you personally use /the stores available to you, but it'll be worthwhile in the end.  Once you have that data, you'll be able to go to Aldi's every couple weeks and confidently pick up a large quantity of the items your family likes, knowing you've paid the best price for them. 

A grocery price book could be an excellent ongoing homeschool project.  On that same note, I understand why you're using grocery store pick-up now with small kids; however, this is a cost that should drop off your radar as the kids are older and aren't so much effort to transport /monitor in the store. 

Also look into something other than the tip-top-besty-best food items.  Remember, these are temporary purchases, and there's often no real difference between average and best; for example, frozen salmon is typically cheaper than fresh.  Hot cereal is typically cheaper than cold cereal.  Look at each item you buy on a regular basis and look for ways to cut back. 

Childcare   $500   (Dad works long hours and travels often, Wife has a sitter for 8 hrs/week @ $14/hr)
I understand your need to have some time to yourself; however, that's a big number.  Do you have any options for trading "an afternoon off" with another mother?  How about half-day of summer camp for the kids instead?  I see that you're also spending $200/month on kids' camps, etc.  I wonder if you couldn't get the same benefit for less money.

How old are the kids?  I ask because I'm getting mixed messages here:  They're old enough to participate in camps ... yet not old enough to be easily manageable in the grocery store. 

MOM
Salon services/products   $80
Clothes   $80

DAD
Salon services/Products  $30
Shoe Polish/Dry Cleaning   $25
Clothes   $125   (top executive of a large company and spends $1200 at the Nordstrom sale once/year)
This is crazy high, even for a person who needs to be highly-presentable, especially since you say your own clothes aren't lasting.  You mentioned that your husband's suits are "outdated" quickly and your things "wear out".  I suspect your standards here are considerably higher than most people's -- unnecessarily high, even for a top exec.  A man's suit, for example, should be perfectly acceptable for at least five years, even with use -- I'm not buying the outdated suits thing at all. 

I buy all of my husband's shirts from LL Bean.  Thing is, they'll replace items that wear out; just save your receipts.  Their collars tend to wear around the edges, even though the rest of the shirt is still in perfect condition. 

Gifts/Hosting - I could reign this in. I have 10 nieces and nephews and I always send birthday presents - they aren't expensive.... my latest thing is sending them a box of cereal with postage right on the box - and $10 cash inside. But the cereal, the cash and the mailing adds up to closer to $20. But it's so fun! I also am a sucker for paying for my friends if we go out for coffee or something, also like to send people good books I read - I always wish I could just check a book out from the library and give it to them - ha! And I would do that except it seems that most of the time it's to family out of state so I go to Amazon.
Okay, this is easy to cut back.  If you want to gift all the nieces and nephews on their birthday (and I do), consider sending handmade cards with $10 inside.  A card is cheaper to send, and what you're describing now is a very expensive way to send a small amount of junk food. 

I'll echo what another poster said:  Adults can pay for their own coffee and books. 

A tangent:  Why are you paying for coffee outside the house?  That's a good example of a low-cost product that's outrageously expensive when you pay someone else to make it; it's also a temporary pleasure -- a poor value for the dollar. 

I know salon is high but it does include all hair appointments (I go twice/year), waxing and any product I buy related to my image ha ha....shampoo/conditioner, make-up etc. I can do better here but the average of $80/mo covers a lot.
I can maybe see the services, but there's no need to buy shampoo/conditioner from the salon.  At the very least, buy a moderately priced brand from Target or Walmart.  Or look into using CVS's rewards program; you can get loads of stuff -- toothpaste, asprin, etc. for free.

What I will say is that I think you have gotten used to a certain kind of life where you just take it for granted that you eat certain foods (hint:  the meats and dairy are the most expensive thing at WF!) and look a certain way and go to a salon and get various services done at a certain frequency, etc.  And that can blind you to how little of that is actually required.
Best comment on this thread!  Keep in mind, too, that your children are watching.  They're growing up thinking that it's necessary to spend big money on your appearance, that only the best foods will do, etc.  While you're able to afford it, it's highly unlikely that they'll step out of college ready to support this lifestyle ... and that can set them up for debt.  It's also unlikely that all four of them will achieve this same high income as adults ... again, setting them up for disappointment and/or debt. 
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: MrsPete on July 10, 2017, 08:06:33 AM
You say you live in North Carolina, so if you have yard space, it seems like you would be able to grow many different staples in just a few raised garden beds. Have you thought about growing a soup and salad garden? You can grow things like onions potato cabbage carrots, lettuce, and sweet potato is a hearty, high nutrient dense food that's fairly easy to grow. You can make many meals out of these few ingredients. It might also help the kids out, with their homeschooling, to get involved.
Soup should be free.  After every meal, you collect up the leftover veggies, etc. from the table and pop them into a big ziplock in the freezer.  When the ziplock's full, you add some broth and maybe tomatoes, and you have vegetable soup. 

Food definitely looks like one of your biggest issues, as has already been stated. Aldi is a great option, but even something like just shopping sales at Kroger will make a big difference. And it's so easy to coupon with Kroger now that you can load almost any coupon to your card through the Kroger app. (This is all assuming you have Kroger or a Kroger family store in your area).

The Prudent Homemaker blog has great tips on feeding large families on the cheap. And great gardening tips too, if you're into that!
We don't have Kroger in NC, but we do have a Food Lion on every corner.  In my opinion, they're the best middle-of-the-road grocery store.  WAY cheaper than Harris Teeter or Publix.  Better selection than Aldi's. 
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: DarkandStormy on July 10, 2017, 09:09:22 AM

Zero debt, house paid off.
FIRE Goal: within 3 years absolute max
Our savings rate is ~35% and I want to get it to 50% asap.

Knowing your nest egg/assets would be helpful.  I.e. you might not need a 50% savings rate if your nest egg will support your current monthly expenses.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Jrr85 on July 10, 2017, 09:24:18 AM
Ah I forgot - clothes. Hubby spends $1200/yr on suits and work stuff - it's always all on sale. But he has to dress pretty top shelf for work.

And me, yes....I need to examine my clothes situation. I typically buy sale stuff from like Gap or Old Navy but I literally only own a handful of outfits at a time and unfortunately, it's crap quality so it doesn't stand up to frequent wash and wear. I spend about $150 just 2.5 months ago and the shirts are already wearing extremely thin and I will need to replace at the end of summer. I need to figure out what to do there.

$1200 still seems high even for dressing nice, once he's got a stable of suits and a couple of nice pairs of shoes and belts.  I have worked at some pretty stuffy places, and there have always been a mix of custom and off the shelf suits, even among the high earners.  Unless he is at a place where literally everyone wears tailored suits every day or he just has a body type wear he can't reasonably get off the shelf suits altered to fit him, he should be able to do a little better than this.  At worst, he should be able to get one or two tailored suits for days meeting with particularly important people, and those suits should last him for years.  Then you're just talking about restocking dress shirts, and occasionally getting shoes resoled. 

If he's still working on building up his basics, then maybe it's a little more reasonable.

Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: omachi on July 10, 2017, 10:05:42 AM
There is no way this stuff would last 10 years. Seems surprising, I know...it's not like he is going hiking in his suits, right? Ties and suit jackets might but they would look outdated before they would wear out.

Of course, I am talking a basic, conservative suit cut.  If your DH is fashion-forward, then yeah, he's going to need to change with the style more often.  But that's a choice, not a need.

This part is important. There are certain classic suit cuts that don't go out of style, because they're not fashion cuts that change every few years. A well made suit should last a decade, even with regular wear. That said, you'd have needed to hear this a decade ago. If you're planning RE in 3 years, just ride out the clothing that he has now with minimal replacements. If one suit dies, see how long he can go on four suits or three suits before replacing one. That should reduce costs in the near term.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: With This Herring on July 10, 2017, 11:18:47 AM
My best suggestion:  Find a copy of The Frugal Tightwad Gazette, a book that was popular about 15-20 years ago but not has sort of disappeared from the world's radar.  You'll find the prices she mentions rather outdated, but take a look at her Grocery Store Price Book.  It's one of the first articles in the book.  She proposes an excellent method of monitoring grocery store prices at a variety of stores.  It'll take effort to create such a book for the products you personally use /the stores available to you, but it'll be worthwhile in the end.  Once you have that data, you'll be able to go to Aldi's every couple weeks and confidently pick up a large quantity of the items your family likes, knowing you've paid the best price for them.

+1 for the Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn.  You can get the complete one that includes all three originally published volumes for $4 (a couple cents plus the shipping cost) on Amazon. (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0375752250)  It is probably also available at your local library.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Unique User on July 10, 2017, 03:44:08 PM
You say you live in North Carolina, so if you have yard space, it seems like you would be able to grow many different staples in just a few raised garden beds. Have you thought about growing a soup and salad garden? You can grow things like onions potato cabbage carrots, lettuce, and sweet potato is a hearty, high nutrient dense food that's fairly easy to grow. You can make many meals out of these few ingredients. It might also help the kids out, with their homeschooling, to get involved.
Soup should be free.  After every meal, you collect up the leftover veggies, etc. from the table and pop them into a big ziplock in the freezer.  When the ziplock's full, you add some broth and maybe tomatoes, and you have vegetable soup. 

Food definitely looks like one of your biggest issues, as has already been stated. Aldi is a great option, but even something like just shopping sales at Kroger will make a big difference. And it's so easy to coupon with Kroger now that you can load almost any coupon to your card through the Kroger app. (This is all assuming you have Kroger or a Kroger family store in your area).

The Prudent Homemaker blog has great tips on feeding large families on the cheap. And great gardening tips too, if you're into that!
We don't have Kroger in NC, but we do have a Food Lion on every corner.  In my opinion, they're the best middle-of-the-road grocery store.  WAY cheaper than Harris Teeter or Publix.  Better selection than Aldi's.

There are Kroger's in Raleigh.  That is my main grocery store since Aldi's are not close.  If she's shopping Whole Foods and Nordstroms then she is either in Raleigh or Charlotte. 
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 11, 2017, 11:25:00 AM
Groceries   ~$1050
I agree that this is crazy high ... maybe one day when you have four teenagers it'll be reasonable, but not with small kids. 

My best suggestion:  Find a copy of The Frugal Gazette, a book that was popular about 15-20 years ago but not has sort of disappeared from the world's radar.  You'll find the prices she mentions rather outdated, but take a look at her Grocery Store Price Book.  It's one of the first articles in the book.  She proposes an excellent method of monitoring grocery store prices at a variety of stores.  It'll take effort to create such a book for the products you personally use /the stores available to you, but it'll be worthwhile in the end.  Once you have that data, you'll be able to go to Aldi's every couple weeks and confidently pick up a large quantity of the items your family likes, knowing you've paid the best price for them. 

A grocery price book could be an excellent ongoing homeschool project.  On that same note, I understand why you're using grocery store pick-up now with small kids; however, this is a cost that should drop off your radar as the kids are older and aren't so much effort to transport /monitor in the store. 

Also look into something other than the tip-top-besty-best food items.  Remember, these are temporary purchases, and there's often no real difference between average and best; for example, frozen salmon is typically cheaper than fresh.  Hot cereal is typically cheaper than cold cereal.  Look at each item you buy on a regular basis and look for ways to cut back. 

Childcare   $500   (Dad works long hours and travels often, Wife has a sitter for 8 hrs/week @ $14/hr)
I understand your need to have some time to yourself; however, that's a big number.  Do you have any options for trading "an afternoon off" with another mother?  How about half-day of summer camp for the kids instead?  I see that you're also spending $200/month on kids' camps, etc.  I wonder if you couldn't get the same benefit for less money.

How old are the kids?  I ask because I'm getting mixed messages here:  They're old enough to participate in camps ... yet not old enough to be easily manageable in the grocery store. 

MOM
Salon services/products   $80
Clothes   $80

DAD
Salon services/Products  $30
Shoe Polish/Dry Cleaning   $25
Clothes   $125   (top executive of a large company and spends $1200 at the Nordstrom sale once/year)
This is crazy high, even for a person who needs to be highly-presentable, especially since you say your own clothes aren't lasting.  You mentioned that your husband's suits are "outdated" quickly and your things "wear out".  I suspect your standards here are considerably higher than most people's -- unnecessarily high, even for a top exec.  A man's suit, for example, should be perfectly acceptable for at least five years, even with use -- I'm not buying the outdated suits thing at all. 

I buy all of my husband's shirts from LL Bean.  Thing is, they'll replace items that wear out; just save your receipts.  Their collars tend to wear around the edges, even though the rest of the shirt is still in perfect condition. 

Gifts/Hosting - I could reign this in. I have 10 nieces and nephews and I always send birthday presents - they aren't expensive.... my latest thing is sending them a box of cereal with postage right on the box - and $10 cash inside. But the cereal, the cash and the mailing adds up to closer to $20. But it's so fun! I also am a sucker for paying for my friends if we go out for coffee or something, also like to send people good books I read - I always wish I could just check a book out from the library and give it to them - ha! And I would do that except it seems that most of the time it's to family out of state so I go to Amazon.
Okay, this is easy to cut back.  If you want to gift all the nieces and nephews on their birthday (and I do), consider sending handmade cards with $10 inside.  A card is cheaper to send, and what you're describing now is a very expensive way to send a small amount of junk food. 

I'll echo what another poster said:  Adults can pay for their own coffee and books. 

A tangent:  Why are you paying for coffee outside the house?  That's a good example of a low-cost product that's outrageously expensive when you pay someone else to make it; it's also a temporary pleasure -- a poor value for the dollar. 

I know salon is high but it does include all hair appointments (I go twice/year), waxing and any product I buy related to my image ha ha....shampoo/conditioner, make-up etc. I can do better here but the average of $80/mo covers a lot.
I can maybe see the services, but there's no need to buy shampoo/conditioner from the salon.  At the very least, buy a moderately priced brand from Target or Walmart.  Or look into using CVS's rewards program; you can get loads of stuff -- toothpaste, asprin, etc. for free.

What I will say is that I think you have gotten used to a certain kind of life where you just take it for granted that you eat certain foods (hint:  the meats and dairy are the most expensive thing at WF!) and look a certain way and go to a salon and get various services done at a certain frequency, etc.  And that can blind you to how little of that is actually required.
Best comment on this thread!  Keep in mind, too, that your children are watching.  They're growing up thinking that it's necessary to spend big money on your appearance, that only the best foods will do, etc.  While you're able to afford it, it's highly unlikely that they'll step out of college ready to support this lifestyle ... and that can set them up for debt.  It's also unlikely that all four of them will achieve this same high income as adults ... again, setting them up for disappointment and/or debt.

Definitely checking out LL Bean - thank you for that specific rec. Although we are so close to FIRE that the whole husbands clothing issue might just disappear. Outside of work clothes, he owns very little. Literally two pair of shorts, two pants kind of numbers.

I don't know how many kids you have but if it is not a lot, it may be hard to relate to my childcare and grocery store pieces. My kids are fine in the grocery store, in fact they LOVE the grocery store. But the actual getting there (or anywhere) can be very tricky right now. The baby naps 3 times a day, if the 3 yo goes in a car for more than 3 minutes after 1pm he falls asleep and now matter how short that nap might be - he's then up til 930, which I can't do. Plus when everybody is awake and fine - they are often completely immersed in projects or play and I typically try to avoid disrupt things when there is a really beautiful flow happening. My husband usually picks up groceries when I order online. I could reduce childcare. But I would honestly worry about my emotional and physical well being if I did. We are in probably the hardest "zone" of our lives right now in terms of the number of kids we have and their ages. I have tried soooooooo many times to set up childcare swaps with other Moms. For a different reason every time, it just never works out. It's especially hard with 3 or 4 kids. I hope to find that when we relocate to a smaller town when we retire though.

Kids are 6, 5, 3, and baby. I try to minimize the camps and classes we do and only do stuff that is really meaningful.  - but man that shit adds up quick with 3 kids involved and will likely only increase as they get older. We do a ton of free stuff as well.

I buy coffee out about once a month. And I really, really, really enjoy it. I never even get anything to eat so it's really only around $2.50. I enjoy them taking my order, and it appearing already made without me doing a thing, I enjoy finding the best table, I enjoy having a conversation with an adult without kids, I enjoy getting showered and dressed to go. It's worth it for me! Unless I buy my friend's grande latte and pastry! :)

And I think every kid comes out of college with a lifestyle less than when they grew up. Or maybe that is just my perception. But I was in the poorhouse all through college and afterwards and not able to afford a tone of stuff I grew up with. But maybe that is what motivated me to work hard so I could enjoy luxuries like vacations etc once again.

I am re-vamping our food situation this week! I think my biggest problem is that it is so hard to have time and energy to plan - right now anyway. Thank you for all of this tips on this one, it feels so doable!

Salon services/products and clothes are also on the chopping block. I also feel improvement here should be easy thanks to everyone's suggestions. I

I'd rather buy cheaper makeup, fewer clothes and keep my babysitter - that is a no-brainer!
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Lepetitange3 on July 11, 2017, 11:41:39 AM
I feel you with all the feels!  I have 4, and while one is a teenager (which is a handful in totally different ways), the others are 8,4,newborn.  Crazy business.  I don't do babysitters but I don't judge Based on that especially with your husband traveling.  If I really need some time, my husband takes them to have a day with him.  That may work for you once you FIRE. 

The grocery situation is a pain, I know with naps and everything (here's looking at you 4 year old who now naps exclusively in the car).  Once you do get the ability to plan, you can do it.  It just takes planning out for right time of day and right stores to hit.  Also I only go for groceries twice a month which helps A LOT.  I couldn't make it work weekly.

Once you hit the sweet spot on clothes that look good, fit well, and last long, you really won't need anything new for a while.  But it's hard to get to the- I don't actually need anything so I'm not buying it point.  E.g.- my sister is getting married this fall, normally what would everyone do?  Oh I need a dress for the wedding.  But ok I don't actually "need" a dress for her wedding.  I have a ton of dresses that I love that are wedding appropriate attire.  But my mom has literally already purchased a new one for this occasion despite her having the same.  That's your MMM values right there.

For makeup/salon, I have long hair lol this makes life simple.  If I need a trim, husband can trim the ends a little and done.  Find the cheaper makeup that works for you and stick with it.  Tons of beauty blogs for that out there.  You can also consider minimizing.  I found that the only makeup I really ended up wanting to do was eyeliner after experimenting with leaving out this or that part of the routine.  With nails, I buy polish and a good quality top coat and do it at home.  Also because I have 2 girls who want theirs done too.  It took a while to get good at it, but now I am.  I do end up getting a pedi once or twice a year because someone in my extended family gives me a gift card.  I enjoy it so much more reverently than I ever did when I got them all the time on my own dime. 

You're doing great!! Add in whatever else will work for you.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: TrMama on July 11, 2017, 01:06:50 PM
I want to know how you clothe 4 growing kids for $25/mo? Do you live in a nudist colony?

Is is possible some of your $80/mo for clothes was actually spent on the kids?
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Lepetitange3 on July 11, 2017, 02:47:50 PM
Hand me downs and shopping used.  Frankly my kids are lucky to ever get new because my mom still has all the clothes from when me and my 6 siblings were children.  My 4 kids get new new outfits birthdays and xmas only.  The only exception is if something wears out and there's literally no comparable replacement available.  People will literally hand you bags if kids clothes if they find out you'll take them.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: tag on July 11, 2017, 06:26:58 PM
I feel you with all the feels!  I have 4, and while one is a teenager (which is a handful in totally different ways), the others are 8,4,newborn.  Crazy business.  I don't do babysitters but I don't judge Based on that especially with your husband traveling.  If I really need some time, my husband takes them to have a day with him.  That may work for you once you FIRE. 

Yes! Once husband retires, the babysitter category goes away! We live 3,000 miles from family and do not have the community or support that we wish we had. So I have to pay for it instead. The 8 hours/week my sitter comes....I am not off shopping or sipping coffee. I probably have only 2 completely kid-free hours of the 8. Right now our kids are a 2 person job. The sitter and I tag-team the day and basically work together....cleaning the house, cooking/meal prep, errands or playing with the kids. When we FIRE we plan to move near family....I cannot wait for that. But right now we are just totally in the thick of it...the baby is up by 6am and my oldest isn't asleep until 10pm. That is a long ass day, particularly with my husband away so much. And, we rarely turn on the TV or do screens.

I want to know how you clothe 4 growing kids for $25/mo? Do you live in a nudist colony?

Is is possible some of your $80/mo for clothes was actually spent on the kids?

I have mastered clothing my children ha ha:) Mostly I buy from local fb pages. The other day I got my 3 yo 4 pair of shorts for $3. Basically nothing new. My kids each own only two pair of shoes - crocs and rain boots. Three of my kids are girls. So pretty much all hand me downs. My baby was wearing these little pants today and I was thinking about how they had been through at least two kids before they hit my three girls.

As for my own clothes. I said this in one of my replies but it probably got lost. I really don't think I spend $80/mo. When I think back to the last 12 months....it just doesn't make sense. I did two shops for about $150 each, which would average to $25/mo. BUT, I tend to buy like $400 worth online, try on at home and then return what I don't like because I do not have any time to go to stores and stuff like that. I think that I made mistakes when recording the returns into our budget. I am pretty sure of this.

The grocery situation is a pain, I know with naps and everything (here's looking at you 4 year old who now naps exclusively in the car).  Once you do get the ability to plan, you can do it.  It just takes planning out for right time of day and right stores to hit.  Also I only go for groceries twice a month which helps A LOT.  I couldn't make it work weekly.

For makeup/salon, I have long hair lol this makes life simple.  If I need a trim, husband can trim the ends a little and done.  Find the cheaper makeup that works for you and stick with it.  Tons of beauty blogs for that out there.  You can also consider minimizing.  I found that the only makeup I really ended up wanting to do was eyeliner after experimenting with leaving out this or that part of the routine.  With nails, I buy polish and a good quality top coat and do it at home.  Also because I have 2 girls who want theirs done too.  It took a while to get good at it, but now I am.  I do end up getting a pedi once or twice a year because someone in my extended family gives me a gift card.  I enjoy it so much more reverently than I ever did when I got them all the time on my own dime. 

You're doing great!! Add in whatever else will work for you.
.

Y-E-S. I think PLANNING is my key to unlocking the food situation. I do not know how, because we really don't every waste food....but for some reason, whenever I shop to a meal plan - I spend way less. I'm gonna tackle this one!

AND, I found an Aveda training salon near me - I can't believe I never knew it was there. I scheduled a cut/color for $60 and I anticipate needing this twice/year.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Bee21 on July 12, 2017, 09:50:44 PM
With 4 kids, i think ordering groceries online is a great idea. It is way cheaper and more convenient than dragging 4 kids around.

Cutting the food budget is a long process, it took me years until I got the hang of it. I read everything i found about cutting costs, some things work for me some don't.  We spend around 150 AUD a week for a fam of 4 and we eat well. Planning meals and costing them is the key. Plus batch cooking and freezer meals are a life saver. I managed to keep dinner expenses reasonable (way under 10), but I overstocked on cheeses, lunch fixing and even fruit and veg. Analysing the food I threw away helped me a lot in reorganizing what I buy and how much. At 1000 a month I suspect that there is a lot of variety and fancy ingredients, you might want to simplify this. See how low you can go before people start complaining.





Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: lhamo on July 12, 2017, 10:44:44 PM
I hope I'm not crossing a line here/getting into TMI territory, but consider whether waxing (or other forms of hair removal) is even necessary.   Early on in our relationship, my DH asked me if I would stop shaving my legs.  He hated the stubble.  And I hated shaving.   I still sometimes feel a little self conscious about my hairy legs, but I muster my inner German/throw on my Birkenstocks and think of how much time/hassle/money I have saved over the years by going au natural....

It helps that I live in granola heaven, though -- might be harder to pull off in the South.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Bettis on July 13, 2017, 12:24:12 PM
Sorry if you already addressed this but can't you just go grocery shopping after work while your wife still has the kids at home?  That's what I do (have 2 kids myself).  My wife sends me the list by email/text and I'm able to go on the way home.  I don't know how easy it is to browse by ordering online but I feel like it'd be easier to compare prices when you're in the store itself.  Thankfully the Market Basket I go to is on the way home but even if it weren't, it's got to be more cost effective to do that rather than curbside pickup.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: caracarn on July 13, 2017, 12:42:06 PM
Sorry if you already addressed this but can't you just go grocery shopping after work while your wife still has the kids at home?  That's what I do (have 2 kids myself).  My wife sends me the list by email/text and I'm able to go on the way home.  I don't know how easy it is to browse by ordering online but I feel like it'd be easier to compare prices when you're in the store itself.  Thankfully the Market Basket I go to is on the way home but even if it weren't, it's got to be more cost effective to do that rather than curbside pickup.
+1

This is a terrific process.  Blended family of 8 (7 currently regularly around).  My wife works as well, but I tend to do the grocery shopping as she just does not enjoy shopping at all.  I have three places I frequent, Sam's Club, Giant Eagle(GE) for things we do not want in bulk and a local produce store for fruits and veggies as they are much higher quality and much cheaper than either Sam's or Giant Eagle ($0.39/lb for awesome fresh bananas versus $0.55/lb for Sam's Club meh came in on the boat a week ago).  We eat meat regularly and go through 4-5 gallons of milk a week (two of our girls love giant glasses of chocolate milk each day (Hershey's syrup in bulk at Sam's for this)) and our grocery bill for 7 is $600-800/month.  We have an Instant Pot and honestly this cut our grocery bill about $100-$200/month because it vastly decreased our bulk packaged dinner items purchases.  Sam's Club has the Scan and Go app, so you do not even need to go to the checkout, so does not matter how busy the store is.  I can usually get in and out in 15 minutes or less buying my $150 or so for the trip.  Same thing with the produce store.  Tiny little place but they have 6-8 registers open to the checkout line moves lightning fast.  I visit GE maybe one or twice a month.  My weekly visits are Sam's and produce store.  If you can find someplace like the produce place it can be a terrific saver.  Watermelons twice the size (not kidding) of the Sam's Club variety for $2.99 instead of $3.99.  Apples between $0.99-$1.29 pound all the time versus 25-50% more at Sam's or GE for worse quality.  Tomatoes rarely more than $0.99/lb.  Clamshells of grape/cherry tomatoes for $0.99 versus $3.00 at GE.  All greens for $0.99/bunch versus $2.50-$4.00. 

Asides from the savings, me doing the shopping on the way home (all of these three places are at various places within a mile or less of the interstate route I take home) keep my wife from doing a chore she hates and I enjoy.
Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: Rosy on July 13, 2017, 05:41:50 PM
Just wanted to clarify about the pest control service via DIY pest control.
I was not talking about replacing it with a can of Raid or something, but effective pest control which is sold only in specialized stores.
Florida, where I live, is the bug capital of the world so I wouldn't suggest it, unless I knew it worked.
$400 easy instant savings - totally worth it at least to us. 10 minutes - once a month, $50 total.

On the groceries, as you can see, there are at least six or more responses from people with six or more kids - if they can do it, so can you. That grocery budget is hundreds out of line - pick just one thing that you can improve and do it - voila, progress.
Rinse - wash - and repeat, until it is closer to the $600 range. Instapot is your friend:)


Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: BAM on July 13, 2017, 07:17:18 PM
The only thing I'll add for food is to consider buying in bulk or from unusual sources. We've bought a half cow before - gave us a better price than stores and really good grain fed beef. I do the same for just about everything we eat. Apples on sale - that's the fruit of the week plus we can and freeze if we can. We also glean wild food when we can. We have sources for currants (makes great jam), wild onions, choke cherries (great jam), raspberries.

One thing I noticed in your posts is a running theme of "keeping your sanity" and that you don't seem have many homeschool moms of many nearby. I thought I'd offer some suggestions for that that you might be able to use to save money and/or cut your costs. I'm a homeschooling mom of many too. When my first 4 were all little, they were ages 5, 4, 1, newbie (first two are 12 months apart, 3rd and 4th are 14 months apart). I remember how crazy it was! My husband also worked long hours although he didn't travel at that time (he did travel when our second was an infant). We didn't have money for a babysitter and I don't believe grocery delivery was available at that time so I learned to do it with sanity intact : ).
So some ideas:
1. put your kids on a schedule so their wake up times and bed times are close. 6am to 10 pm is nuts! Work on your baby sleeping until 7 and your last going to bed by 8. That will give you time at each end of the day - mornings to get going and get some stuff done, evenings to have some down time. 
2. Institute a quiet time during the baby's afternoon nap. Train your kids to play quietly on a blanket in the living room with a few toys/books. This will give you some down time or time to tackle something that is difficult with constant interruptions. It's also great if you need to take everyone to the Dr or elsewhere with you - I always took all my kids to my OB appts for each pregnancy.
3. Set a consistent grocery shopping time for right after breakfast. Little chance for kids to fall asleep. They are also less grumpy since they are newly awake and newly fed.
4. Set up your shopping strategy - put the 3 year old in the front of the cart. The baby either on you or in a car seat across the back part of the cart with groceries underneath. The older two hold on to the side (other hand in pocket if they tend to touch everything). Teach them "little ducks" - if someone is coming toward you, say little ducks which to them should mean "get behind me in a line like ducks follow their mama".

As far as homeschooling: I think I read that you are in NC so you don't have any day or time requirements as far as teaching (although it looks like there are "suggestions" for both) so that should reduce your stress too. At 6, kids don't need more than an hour or two of direct instruction and much of that can be reading aloud (I've found that while my kids eat breakfast is a great time to read aloud since their mouths are all busy), life experience (nature study, cooking/baking, field trips, etc), life skills, pursuing their interests, games/puzzles, etc. Throw in some life math and phonics and you should be set.

Hope some of that helps!

Title: Re: Critique these discretionary expenses, I'm bracing for face punches....
Post by: mamagoose on July 13, 2017, 07:36:27 PM
With a group of 4 kids, check out Jordan Page - Fun Cheap or Free on Youtube (she also has a blog). She's a mom with 5 kids under 6, has great tips on budgeting ($100/month per person, so $600/month for your family) and good practical advice on things like how much to pay babysitters.