Frugal 2017// Annual $ Check-Up

Alright, ladies and gentlemen, *drumroll please*'s time for the main event.  After a year of "frugal living", it's time to compare this year's annual spending to last year's. I put "frugal living" in quotation marks, because I think this term is very subjective. What is living frugally to one person might be more extravagant living to another. Also, it's not like we were clipping all the coupons and growing all our own veggies. It was more of a year of mindful spending and trying to put our dollars where we find value. Anyways, without further ado...let's look at those numbers!
Auto & Transport: During an evening conversation with Francisco, I revealed a rough estimate of our final numbers. His first question was about the impact of the car payment. No doubt having a car payment was a significant factor in driving our 2017 auto spending to be 46% lower than the previous year.  The Auto Payment category alone was 67% lower. 
Other than that, it was pretty level. Our Auto Insurance went up 3%, and Gas expenses were 2% more. Francisco does have a longer commute with his new job now, so this makes sense - you might even expect this to be a greater difference.  We had to renew our Driver's Licenses, so the BMV category was up 48%. Parking costs were down 59% - probably since we go out less in general. Finally, our Services & Parts budget category was down 24% from the previous year. Kind of surprising in that we had to pay a $500 deductible for my car accident earlier this year.
Bills & Utilities: Frankly, this is a little disappointing, but we're only down 13% in this category. We switched Internet providers from Time Warner to Cincinnati Bell once our Time Warner "promotional period" ended and our cost went up from $49.99 to $64.99. Cincinnati Bell was less than $50, but we sometimes question how reliable our Internet actually is. We may be buying a new wireless router to try and improve our at-home connection.  Overall, Internet spending was 7% lower.

Utilities were down 16% this year, but I was hoping for more dramatic savings since we've definitely been stingy with running the heat or air. Our bill averaged $116.62 last year and $97.88 this year, so there's been some improvement.  IDK, overall, we paid $200 less in 2017, so I guess that's nothing to sneeze at.  
Entertainment: I'm satisfied with this being a full 60% less this year. This is honestly a little used category for us.  We had four expenses this year: a game night at the Rook, our ferry tickets when we went to Put-in-Bay, the Festival of Lights at the zoo, and Coney Island Christmas Nights of Lights.  

Last year, we spent nearly $200 just on Movies, including Netflix, Redbox, and theaters. At the end of the year, we bought a Firestick from Target, and you can see that this year, our Movies spending has been a steady $0.00.
Fees & Charges: This is a sad category.  We had $0.00 in fees last year, but I can't say the same for this year. Our first fee of the year was an Overdraft of our checking account in June - I hadn't taken into account the fact that the rent check hadn't cleared yet and I'd set up some transfers. Our checking account pulls from the linked MasterCard account, so we were also hit with a finance charge from them for doing a "cash advance". I try to be more careful about looking at projected bills before transferring funds out now.

We have a few high-interest savings accounts that require regular account activity to avoid maintenance fees. I thought I had set-up recurring transfers to avoid this fee, but I got dinged in September. Finally, the large expense below is the Annual Membership Fee for our Chase United Credit Card. We've been slowly trying out some travel hacking in the past year [namely, just accumulating reward points since we haven't actually hacked any travel yet], and this card came with a $95 annual fee BUT we actually got a $100 credit for hitting a minimum spend, so it effectively cancelled it out [the credit is just recorded in a different category]. We need to figure out what we're doing with these points soon because we're going to be coming up on the anniversary date of when we first opened some credit card accounts that had fees waived for only the first year.   
Food & Dining: Here's a category I've been rull anxious to look at.  We kicked off January with a no restaurant spend month, and we saw a decreased trend of visiting restaurants all year. Overall, this category was down 36% this year. Alcohol was pretty close in that we only spent $74 less [-24%] this year. Groceries were down 11% this year. We've had many more meals at home, but we've tried to be better about planning and switched up some things. Like I have homemade oatmeal for breakfast nearly every workday instead of pre-packaged yogurt which costs at least $1 a pop.

But here is the outstanding win: Restaurant spending was down 60% compared to last year.  I don't even want to admit how many months of last year we spent several hundred dollars on going out to eat. This year, we averaged $165 a month. One thing I did share with Francisco though is that I MISSED GOING OUT TO EAT. Not all the time, but enough where I anticipate perhaps spending more this year.  I still want to make sure I find value in the places where we're going, and we're not just having something we could make just as easily at home.

I did like the fact that we moved away from the mindset of "it's Friday; we HAVE to go out to dinner" to "do we even WANT to go out to dinner? or is too cold outside, or too hot, or we'd rather change into comfy clothes already..."
I made a pivot table to look at this in greater detail; last year, we visited restaurants 253 times. Our top 5 are below. LOL, no surprise that Taco Bell topped the list with 22 visits for the year.  They're like 2 minutes away and make for a perfect lazy Saturday dinner. Gomez Salsa is one of our favorite take-away options, and Swad is our favorite nearby Indian place.
This year, we only visited restaurants 118 times. Yup, Taco Bell topped the list again. I expect this to go down in the future; I think I'm mostly over the Quesarito now lol.  We discovered that I don't actually hate sushi this year, so Fusian is second on the list. Besides Gomez Salsa, Dairy Queen and Insomnia Cookies are kind of randoms. Like we literally only get Dairy Queen when we're road tripping from Chicago.   
Gifts & Donations: We spent 71% less than last year.  The bulk of our gift spending definitely centered around Christmas this year whereas last year we had more spending spread across the year.  We do still have pending gift returns for 2017, but I have an estimated placeholder in for these amounts currently. As mentioned, we're just trying to make sure we're finding optimal value in what we're spending money on and not just buying "filler presents".

Ideally, I'd like to move away from gift spending more so that we're able to funnel more money towards experiences. Unfortunately, I still like opening presents on Christmas morning! I haven't figured out how to accomplish this yet, so definitely an area for growth lol.
Health & Fitness: Interestingly, we spent 71% less in this category as well.  With Francisco's dental insurance, we only have to pay $10 each for our annual cleaning. We didn't have dental insurance prior to last year, so we paid $40 for a visit to Stone Creek Family Dental. [Major upsellers and we don't plan to ever go there again].  Francisco had his expensive doctor visits [GP + Allergist] in 2016; notably, we did not go to any doctors in 2017. My insurance is way better in that I pay $15 to see a GP and $20 for a specialist, and he is paying multiple times that.

The only costs for Eyecare in 2016 were some frames I purchased online but ended up returning. I've needed new glasses for awhile considering I last purchased them when we lived in Indiana [well over 4 years ago!], but I hate the process of buying them. I always find it soooo stressful, so I plan to continue to procrastinate. Finally, our Pharmacy costs went up 52% this year. I was the only one who had Pharmacy expenses in 2016, but it was all Francisco in 2017. [Honey, if you're reading this, you spent $80.00 on Allegra and Zyrtec this year. Get your sniffles together!] Anyone have any low cost suggestions on how to get rid of allergies? He does use a Neti pot and finds that to be mostly helpful.

Also of note, this does not include the cost of our premiums since those come directly out of our paycheck so I don't account for that in our data.  I might change that in the future to better account for this expenditure, but it seems like a pain in the butt since it would all have to be manual.
Home: Our home expenses were literally $2.00 higher due to a slight increase in our Renter's Insurance. Rent is definitely the largest line item in our budget. I know there's a widely held belief that renting is "just throwing away money", but there are so many reasons why that is actually untrue. I'd love to see this line item go down, but that's unlikely. We like where we live - not enough to buy it, but enough to not want to move out lol.
Pets: Wow, ok, I was surprised to see this was 52% lower. We had to buy flea treatments in 2016, but our 2 cats remained flea-free in 2017. We had them stay with my mother-in-law when we traveled this year, and they were able to avoid any fleas there.

Even ignoring the Pet Health Treatment, we were still down 43% for the year.  Our biggest change this year is that we stopped buying cat litter and instead have been using pellets from Tractor Supply Company. Which are cheaper and better at controlling odors. Francisco suspected that he might using more pellets over cat litter, negating the cost benefit, but there seems to be something positive going on here.   
Shopping: This is a multi-faceted category. We spent 56% less this year, but let's see how that breaks down.
Cleaning Supplies// -32% - I've been making my own homemade shower spray for a while, and I intend to make other household cleaning products once we've used up our conventional supply.

Clothes/Accessories// -63% - Many idle weekends of 2016 were spent browsing clothing stores. This year, we basically did no idle shopping whatsoever. We bought a few things we needed for our trip to Iceland and just updated some items that were getting worn out, but the only frivolous shopping I really did was dropping $200 at Nordstrom at the end of the year.  [Don't worry; I intend to return at least half of that.]

Electronics & Software// +167% Primarily due to the new Sony a5100 camera I purchased this year.

Fran Misc.// +11% He primarily buys books and games from his "allowance".

Home Goods// -95% Bahaha, we bought a mattress last year + all the other normal house goods.  This year, it was primarily toilet paper, rubbing alcohol, planters, and air filters.

Personal/Health Care// -33% IDK, I kind of would've expected this gap to be bigger considering that I had cancelled all of my subscription boxes by the end of the year. I did have some large Sephora purchases though. It also looks like we weren't consistent with our labeling cuz' I see some allergy meds in here as well. [Honey, add at least another $62 to the Pharmacy total I mentioned above.] I'm probably just going to leave this instead of going back and trying to make this categorization consistent.

Photos & Albums// -100% I used to make a photo book for all of our trips, but I've stopped doing this. They were so time-consuming to put together even though I loved the final product. Plus, I'm trying to stop just accumulating stuff.

Shopping// Last year, we bought stamps and a lion mane for the cats. I guess we weren't sure where it was best to categorize this.   

Sporting Goods// Francisco actually spent a good chunk of money at the very beginning of 2016 to outfit a home gym in our fake basement.  He works out fairly regularly, and over time, I'm sure we've saved tons of money by working out at home instead of going to the gym.

Taxes: Eh, since I included it in the annual chart, I'll pull it in here as well. This is only our tax refund not the actual taxes that are taken out of our paycheck. I may start manually tracking them this year, but again, this sounds like a pain in the butt, especially since Francisco and I are paid on different schedules.

Taxes are a nightmare. We file using online software, and let's face it: we're no tax accountants. We got back a sizable refund this year in Federal Taxes, so obviously we're doing something wrong with our withholdings. I hate giving the government an interest-free loan! We'll see what our taxes look like when we file this year and see if we need to make some adjustments.
Travel: We spent 42% less on travel this year.  I was really curious to see how this was going to turn out considering both our 2016 and 2017 annual vacations were both to moderately expensive European destinations. Our UK trip was a little longer, but even if we adjust to a per diem calculation, we spent $69.00 less each day on our 2017 trip compared to our 2016 vacation. It's still an unsustainable level of spending if we were to be able to move to long-term traveling, but obviously, the longer time frame you can use to spread out flight costs, the more affordable a flight becomes on a per diem basis. 
Summary: I'm proud to say that we closed out 2017 having spent 34% less than the previous year. I don't think Francisco would be comfortable with me getting into actual dollar figures here, but suffice it to say that it is a respectable difference. Definitely more than what we bring in in a month. I'll actually be working on fleshing out our annual budget this month, so I'm not exactly sure how this series will continue into the future. I'm not sure how interested we are in living more frugally than we're currently living lol. 

This is the least amount of money that we've spent since 2012 - and in 2012, we even went to Australia! Oh, and I just confirmed that this was by far the cheapest vacation we've taken since 2009 (as far back as I have Mint records). Sure, there was a lot more international travel in this time period, but this still included a New England Road Trip [no airfare] among other trips. Definitely the lowest amount we've ever spent on clothing by hundreds of dollars and Gifts have an even wider margin than that. OK, OK, I get too easily sucked into these numbers.

We still have a long way to go on our journey to financial independence, but we're going to strive to continue to assess value in our lives and put our money towards the experiences that bring us happiness.  


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