Author Topic: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)  (Read 7602 times)

ModernIncantations

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Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« on: June 30, 2013, 08:53:43 AM »
Edit: To anyone else willing to help analyze my expenses. What I'm really looking for now after getting some good advice is: if you were me how would you get this spending down to the magical 25k-30k range that MMM seems to tout so much as a reasonable level of spending?

Hi,

I would really appreciate your advice on where my family should focus on
cost reduction. I'll give you some context so you know how harshly to judge the numbers!

We are a mid-20's, married couple living in suburban Georgia. I am employed as a software
developer for a major corporation and I make approximately 70k salary. My spouse is currently
still in college, but holds a part time job that nets about 10k per year.

We own a house at a low interest rate with a cheap mortgage. We have two cars that are
fully paid off and are each 10+ years old. I live 20 miles from my work in downtown Atlanta.
My spouse is about 8 miles from the university.

We have no debt except for our mortgage. All that said, here's the numbers.



That's 6 months of spending because the 6 months before isn't accurate. Just double these figures for annual amounts.
Right off the bat 46k spending dismays me, but I need help figuring our where we are spending too much.

Here's a breakdown of our three biggest expense categories:







Some notes on this spending: I've identified the auto as high, which is why I negotiated to work from home 4 days per
week. This will allow me to sell my car.

The mobile phone category is so high because I paid $300 to cancel my ATT contract (previously $91/mo) and then $275
to join Republic Wireless. My spouse is still on a $45/mo iphone plan.

Our "credit card" category is deceiving because we have never paid any interest. My spouse runs gas and some shopping
through that card for reward points only. Our intention is to have just $100 per person per month of "fun money".

Again, I appreciate your help. Sorry for the extra long post. Feel free to follow up with questions on the details.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 06:06:50 PM by ModernIncantations »

Zamboni

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2013, 09:33:09 AM »
It sounds like you've taken many great steps, and the screenshots are helpful.  Congrats!

The Uilities seem really extremely high.  Can you break that out further?  Do you have a leaking toilet or something?

Your grocery spending is on the high side for two people.  Convenience foods (microwave meals, soda, cereal, etc.)?  Do either of you enjoy cooking?

Spouse needs to switch to the $10/month iphone plan or Republic wireless as soon as possible.

ModernIncantations

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2013, 09:44:15 AM »
Unfortunately utilities is the lowest category there. I can tell you that my gas bill was as high as $200 in the winter, with an average cost of ~$120 in the cooler months. This is in Georgia!

Power bill ranges from ~$40 in the cooler months to $120 peak in July and August. I recently switched to all CFL lightbulbs, added some insulation to some of my duct work and to my drop down attic door, and I'm switching to low flow shower heads soon.

I love cooking and I cook about 4 times a week. We're currently trying to revamp our diets to avoid less frozen and boxed food. I do the grocery shopping at a local Aldi and try to spend < $80/week.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2013, 10:15:43 AM »
I want to see a breakdown of the next 4 categories :P  I know you're looking to cut back on the biggest categories, but these are the ones where spending can get squishy and unregulated:

$2500/year on travel for 2 adults
$3000/year on health and fitness?
$3500/year "shopping"
$5000/year on your cars

IDK what your goals are, but I've only once spent more than $1000 on a vacation, and I've had some great vacations.

Zamboni

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2013, 10:39:25 AM »
Quote
Unfortunately utilities is the lowest category there. I can tell you that my gas bill was as high as $200 in the winter, with an average cost of ~$120 in the cooler months. This is in Georgia!

Power bill ranges from ~$40 in the cooler months to $120 peak in July and August.

Wow, how big is your house?  This is for 2 people?

Your grocery bill is not terrible, but could be better, especially since you like to cook!  For inspiration, check out the book Hungry Planet:  What the World Eats.

I know I picked on things you likely consider necessities (and we can all agree food is one.)  As stan points out, though, you have a fairly decent amount of discretionary other expenses in there.

ModernIncantations

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2013, 05:13:36 PM »
I want to see a breakdown of the next 4 categories :P  I know you're looking to cut back on the biggest categories, but these are the ones where spending can get squishy and unregulated:

$2500/year on travel for 2 adults
$3000/year on health and fitness?
$3500/year "shopping"
$5000/year on your cars

IDK what your goals are, but I've only once spent more than $1000 on a vacation, and I've had some great vacations.

Our annual vacation budget (originally $1000) has clearly fallen by the wayside. So there's a big area for us to plan cheaper.
What are some cheap ways to vacation other than camping? We are already planning to substitute some of that in.

I had to see some specialists this year without health insurance, so that's where most of the cost is. I have insurance now fortunately.

ModernIncantations

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2013, 05:27:09 PM »
Quote
Unfortunately utilities is the lowest category there. I can tell you that my gas bill was as high as $200 in the winter, with an average cost of ~$120 in the cooler months. This is in Georgia!

Power bill ranges from ~$40 in the cooler months to $120 peak in July and August.

Wow, how big is your house?  This is for 2 people?

Your grocery bill is not terrible, but could be better, especially since you like to cook!  For inspiration, check out the book Hungry Planet:  What the World Eats.

I know I picked on things you likely consider necessities (and we can all agree food is one.)  As stan points out, though, you have a fairly decent amount of discretionary other expenses in there.
My house is 1400 square feet

I just looked through the Time piece on Hungry Planet. Really cool resource there. I was proud to see most 1st world countries at 2x my weekly grocery budget at 2006 prices! Looks like grain is cheap.

prodarwin

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2013, 05:34:15 PM »


IDK what your goals are, but I've only once spent more than $1000 on a vacation, and I've had some great vacations.

I'm having some trouble with this one.  My GF always wants to go to Europe.  I'm no bargain traveler, but I have a hard time believing we are getting there, doing anything, and getting back for under $2000.  And that's only one vacation :(

I'm not opposed to it, as long as we budget for it.  But I can't deal with "Hey, we both have a long weekend coming up... lets go to London."

mpbaker22

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2013, 05:47:54 PM »
Groceries aren't super expensive, but could probably be cut.  About where I am.
What are the utility costs per utility.  $300+/month seems high.  Some of these are hard to tell without the actual numbers.
Keep a record of the credit card spending.  $300/month is quite a bit for gas and "Shopping".
What insurance is covered in that chart?  That looks to be fairly reasonable.
Mortgage and rent look decently reasonable.
If shopping is included in the credit card, why is there another shopping category with $300/month.
Is Health&Fitness the medical cost you mentioned?  Otherwise, that is a tad high.
And travel seems high.

Some of these are already mentioned, but they can't really be answered without more information.

ModernIncantations

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2013, 05:50:22 PM »


IDK what your goals are, but I've only once spent more than $1000 on a vacation, and I've had some great vacations.

I'm having some trouble with this one.  My GF always wants to go to Europe.  I'm no bargain traveler, but I have a hard time believing we are getting there, doing anything, and getting back for under $2000.  And that's only one vacation :(

I'm not opposed to it, as long as we budget for it.  But I can't deal with "Hey, we both have a long weekend coming up... lets go to London."

It seems to me that if it isn't in driving distance or you can't camp there then it will be difficult to find an affordable destination. We try to bring/cook breakfast and lunch and only eat dinner on vacation.

Finding cheap lodging within driving distance is the biggest challenge for me.

ModernIncantations

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2013, 05:56:11 PM »
Groceries aren't super expensive, but could probably be cut.  About where I am.
What are the utility costs per utility.  $300+/month seems high.  Some of these are hard to tell without the actual numbers.
Keep a record of the credit card spending.  $300/month is quite a bit for gas and "Shopping".
What insurance is covered in that chart?  That looks to be fairly reasonable.
Mortgage and rent look decently reasonable.
If shopping is included in the credit card, why is there another shopping category with $300/month.
Is Health&Fitness the medical cost you mentioned?  Otherwise, that is a tad high.
And travel seems high.

Some of these are already mentioned, but they can't really be answered without more information.

I agree we need to sit down and talk about the CC and shopping categories. It looks like we're busting the general allowance budgets there -- reality is a lot harder than planning.

Here's the big utilities costs: "Power bill ranges from ~$40 in the cooler months to $120 peak in July and August. I recently switched to all CFL lightbulbs, added some insulation to some of my duct work and to my drop down attic door, and I'm switching to low flow shower heads soon."

Water and trash are about 20 bucks a month each. Do you think I should look into a home energy audit or maybe get a furnace inspection?

Food is my biggest weakness, so if I can reel that in then we can bring that down a little more. It seems like our cuts are getting a little tougher. I have a hard time saying no to friends and family to spend money on common outings (even though I usually do say no) and I have an even harder time when my spouse wants to give in (if you can call it that). No one wants to be seen as the bad guy or a scrooge.

It doesn't help that many of my friends and family are not heath minded people, so suggesting a bide ride, park visit, tennis match, etc. substitute will almost certainly not fly.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 05:58:27 PM by ModernIncantations »

mpbaker22

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2013, 06:37:47 PM »
I rent, so I can't offer much advice on the home energy audit.  What's your after tax income?  I bet you already have a good savings rate, so use that to keep you feeling good about yourself.  I feel you on the food and family expense.  All my friends always want to go out to eat, so I feel lucky if I can get away with one restaurant trip a week.  I've hosted a few brunches, and a few other friends have done similar things. That might be a way to trade off with other people if you're spending a lot eating out.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2013, 06:48:53 PM »
It looks like you're spending over $400/month for 2 people on groceries. I am at $275, and that's with us buying many things organic (and I feel kind of bad for that amount!), so groceries might be a place to look at exactly what you're spending.

The Credit Card category is a big ?

Utilities - once you broke that out to show the credit card subcategory, the utilities are a bit more reasonable. I have a 1,300 sq ft house in Houston, TX so pretty similar, and my monthly utilities run around $300 or so at their highest. BUT I also include my landline and internet in that total, so there is room for improvement. 

Might want to look into surge protectors that you can plug the "sucker" electronics into and switch off when not in use. Things like some TVs and other electronics will continue to draw low levels of power even when turned off unless you unplug completely - switching off at the SP makes a handy shortcut. We turn off our A/C when we're not home. Our house is pretty well insulated, with sunblocking curtains that remain closed and very few of those actually (only 5 total windows on the whole house!). So while it's warm when we get home at the end of the day, the A/C hasn't been cycling on and off trying to cool a house that has no one but the cat home (she doesn't care - the bedroom remains cool and cats actually don't mind temps in the 80s). We need to get a programmable thermostat that would do the work for us, but until we get around to that, this works to keep the A/C from wasting money all day.

Quote
Unfortunately utilities is the lowest category there. I can tell you that my gas bill was as high as $200 in the winter, with an average cost of ~$120 in the cooler months. This is in Georgia!

Power bill ranges from ~$40 in the cooler months to $120 peak in July and August. I recently switched to all CFL lightbulbs, added some insulation to some of my duct work and to my drop down attic door, and I'm switching to low flow shower heads soon.

Is that the natural gas for things like heating and water heater and stuff? Cause if so, that's HIGH. I have all gas - stove, water heater, furnace and I cook lots, and I just flipped through our gas for the last year, and at its highest it was $40. Average is around $18. I would definitely be wondering why your gas is so high (something to check into - maybe your gas company is just crazy expensive compared to mine?).

ModernIncantations

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2013, 06:51:01 PM »
I rent, so I can't offer much advice on the home energy audit.  What's your after tax income?  I bet you already have a good savings rate, so use that to keep you feeling good about yourself.  I feel you on the food and family expense.  All my friends always want to go out to eat, so I feel lucky if I can get away with one restaurant trip a week.  I've hosted a few brunches, and a few other friends have done similar things. That might be a way to trade off with other people if you're spending a lot eating out.

After tax income was 34k with about a 2k expected refund, so about 35k over the last 6 months. So 100 - (100*(23000/35000)) is a 35% savings rate.

Cooking for guests is a good suggestion instead of going out. It might cost us $20 to buy the food for 4-6 people, but it would cost $40 or more to go out for just the two of us!

ModernIncantations

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2013, 06:56:15 PM »
It looks like you're spending over $400/month for 2 people on groceries. I am at $275, and that's with us buying many things organic (and I feel kind of bad for that amount!), so groceries might be a place to look at exactly what you're spending.

The Credit Card category is a big ?

Utilities - once you broke that out to show the credit card subcategory, the utilities are a bit more reasonable. I have a 1,300 sq ft house in Houston, TX so pretty similar, and my monthly utilities run around $300 or so at their highest. BUT I also include my landline and internet in that total, so there is room for improvement. 

Might want to look into surge protectors that you can plug the "sucker" electronics into and switch off when not in use. Things like some TVs and other electronics will continue to draw low levels of power even when turned off unless you unplug completely - switching off at the SP makes a handy shortcut. We turn off our A/C when we're not home. Our house is pretty well insulated, with sunblocking curtains that remain closed and very few of those actually (only 5 total windows on the whole house!). So while it's warm when we get home at the end of the day, the A/C hasn't been cycling on and off trying to cool a house that has no one but the cat home (she doesn't care - the bedroom remains cool and cats actually don't mind temps in the 80s). We need to get a programmable thermostat that would do the work for us, but until we get around to that, this works to keep the A/C from wasting money all day.

Quote
Unfortunately utilities is the lowest category there. I can tell you that my gas bill was as high as $200 in the winter, with an average cost of ~$120 in the cooler months. This is in Georgia!

Power bill ranges from ~$40 in the cooler months to $120 peak in July and August. I recently switched to all CFL lightbulbs, added some insulation to some of my duct work and to my drop down attic door, and I'm switching to low flow shower heads soon.

Is that the natural gas for things like heating and water heater and stuff? Cause if so, that's HIGH. I have all gas - stove, water heater, furnace and I cook lots, and I just flipped through our gas for the last year, and at its highest it was $40. Average is around $18. I would definitely be wondering why your gas is so high (something to check into - maybe your gas company is just crazy expensive compared to mine?).

I called to ask my provider for advice or potential external causes and basically got a cold shoulder. I'll do some research here and check my furnace because the bill goes WAY down when we aren't running it. That makes it a likely suspect.

ep114

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #15 on: June 30, 2013, 07:07:55 PM »
Hhhmmm, the travel spending keeps jumping out at me.

I just don't think college students who make $10,000 a year can insist on regular vacations in Europe, especially London,  and be living within their means (unless there is some really crafty frugal traveling going on- and I don't think that's the case here.) That's kind of what this site is about- living below your means, not even just within them.

I get it- Europe is great. I used to spend a lot of time there, but it was a lot cheaper then.  What about Europe every other year? Looking into Greece or Spain? looking at house swaps?  Or getting really motivated about cutting daily expenses (shopping, eating out, etc) and putting that savings into a travel fund?

ModernIncantations

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2013, 07:21:03 PM »
I've never been to Europe. In fact we put off a long planned Europe trip this year to save money. Of course, we turned around and dropped 2k + on "normal" vacations so I guess our potential savings are heavily reduced now.

ep114

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #17 on: June 30, 2013, 07:46:26 PM »
Ah, sorry. i see now that it was another poster who said their gf always wants to go to Europe.

ModernIncantations

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #18 on: June 30, 2013, 07:49:50 PM »
Our Europe trip was about 3k/person though. I don't know if I'll ever be excited to spend that

ChicagoGirl

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #19 on: June 30, 2013, 07:57:38 PM »
That gas bill does seem high.  As a frame of reference, I just checked my natural gas bill for our heaviest usage month (Feb) and we average 4 therms/day in a 1300sqft house and we live in Chicago. If your highest gas bill is more than 4 therms/day in a Georgia winter....something is not right.  Maybe your gas company in Georgia charges more.  In Feb, we were at .0485/therm.

Good luck with your other spending categories.  Looks like doing some slight trimming would be relatively painless. 

ModernIncantations

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #20 on: June 30, 2013, 08:08:04 PM »
We used about 4.2 therms per day in Feb this year. I checked and Chicago was a full 20 degrees lower on average each day and we had the same usage. Looks like I found one thing to fix. Thanks!

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #21 on: July 01, 2013, 08:12:07 AM »

Our annual vacation budget (originally $1000) has clearly fallen by the wayside. So there's a big area for us to plan cheaper.
What are some cheap ways to vacation other than camping? We are already planning to substitute some of that in.


Most of my vacations have been drivable, funded with airplane miles (opening a United or Southwest cc gets you a free flight or two), or with free or low-cost housing at the destination. You live in Georgia -- I can think of plenty of great vacations within driving distance, particularly if you like the beach or the mountains.

If you absolutely do not want to drive to your vacation, consider getting the flight free by opening a CC or see if you have points that aren't enough for a flight but enough for a free rental car. Once at your destination, look into lodging options that have a kitchen or fridge so you can cut down on your food costs. Have you scoped out Vacation Rentals by Owner? www.vrbo.com. You can rent some really nice places for the same price you would pay for a hotel -- and IMO are more comfortable to stay in. Plan a trip with your friends and rent a huge comfortable house, split the cost among the friends. (THESE are my favorite vacations!) Or, stay with friends for most of the vacation and get a hotel room for one or two nights. Look for destinations where you don't need to rent a car.

As for Europe, I am trying to wrap my head around a $3k/person trip! I recently planned a trip to Ireland that would have been $1k/person (we decided not to go, either). We were going to rent a car w/ airline miles and I had stalked flight prices on kayak.com (it's easy to set up an airfare alert).

StarryC

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Re: Will you analyze my spending? (with Mint screenshots!)
« Reply #22 on: July 01, 2013, 10:58:14 AM »
It is great to check insulation and efficiency of appliances.  However, I find the fastest way to lower heating/cooling bills is to change the temp on the thermostat.  Are you keeping it 74 in the winter and 68 in the summer?  Going up to 75-78 in the summer and down to 60 in the winter might help a lot.

"Credit card" is a pretty easy category to fix in Mint.  Mint automatically sorts my credit card transactions into categories and treats payments as "transfer payments."  Without even doing anything next month, you should be able to pull up the last 6 months of transactions and sort them into the right categories.