Ok, month 2 of spending data! I’m liking reporting on our spending so far. It has helped me more clearly categorize what we have control over in the near-term vs. which costs are more fixed unless we make a larger life shift. It has also helped me come to terms with some unexpected large costs that we are using emergency savings for. And, spoiler alert, this reporting may have helped us reduce our discretionary spending a tiny bit in February!

The Year of Dental Work

You may notice if you go back and look at our January Spending report and then look at this one that bad teeth apparently run in our family, extending all the way to our furry friend! Yes, we had almost $2,000 of doggie dental expensive in January, and about $1,500 of mommy dental expenses in February. The very, very sad part is that both of us still need additional work done in 2018, so we are planning ahead for more payments and trying to cut costs where we can. Let me just say that saving money to get horrible dental work done is about the very worst thing I’ve had to save money for (though I’m still so grateful that it’s not a more serious health issue). No fun! Anyway…

High Fixed Costs

Nothing new here since January (except a small increase in child care costs that will stay). This month, considering our dental fun, about three-fourths of our spending is “fixed.” Meaning housing, child care, and urgent health care costs.  (For more background on our housing and child care costs, check out our January spending report). That means only a quarter of our February spending was discretionary. I am defining “discretionary” as things we can fairly easily adjust in the near term. However, this category includes key items such as food, bills, and utilities. It’s certainly not going to disappear, but we are working on the areas where we have some flexibility to see where our frugal but comfortable spending level lies. Here’s how the large categories break down:

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In a more normal month the breakdown would be about two-thirds fixed costs, one-third discretionary. I’m hoping for one of those more normal months soon.

Discretionary Spending

So, that leaves all the rest of it, which is the “discretionary” piece of the pie. I’m hoping that writing about our spending will help keep us accountable to limiting our cash out the door where we can. We’re still in a period of trying to determine what our frugal but comfortable spending level is, so while we do set budgets, we don’t have a very clearly defined spending reduction target yet. I’m thinking with a few more months of this reporting, maybe we’ll settle on one.

Take a look at how we did and then I’ll dig into some February details:

Category Spending Notes
Mortgage and Rent $3,526 Our rent and our mortgage, offset by rent from our tenants
Child Care $2,477 Child care costs  – full time care for two kids
Emergency Dental Work $1,424 Sadly this is just a fraction of what the total costs for this work will be
Home Supplies $72 Toiletries, paper goods, etc.
Kid Supplies $374 Last month of diapers for 2 kids! Swim lessons for 2, Toddler alarm clock
Health & Fitness $42 Pharmacy meds – cold and flu season! No more gym membership 😦
Food & Dining $1,093 Groceries ($666), Restaurants ($211), Alcohol/Bars ($157), Coffee Shops ($58)
Bills & Utilities $422 Gas, electric, internet, mobile phone – Higher winter heating costs
Gifts & Donations $183 Charitable donations and gifts for teachers and friends’ birthdays
Auto & Transport $153 Car insurance ($69), Gas ($64), Parking ($11), Bike commuting ($7)
Shopping $64 Clothing ($59), Book ($5)
Entertainment $48 Netflix, New York Times, Parking for free Science Center visit
Total $9,879 Foiled by unexpected dental costs again (and more payments to come)
Discretionary Portion $2,452 What we can control short-term (excludes fixed housing costs, child care, and emergency dental costs paid with savings)

A few notes for this month:

First, hooray! I have to celebrate a small victory here. Our January discretionary spending was $2,995, and $488 of that was for a future vacation, so that left $2,507 on true January spending. In February we beat that number but a whole $55!! Ha! That is just about 2% of our discretionary spending, so I may still have to call that within the margin of error/just by chance territory. But I’m still going to celebrate that small win.

Kid supplies was a bit higher this month since we paid in advance for swim lessons for both boys and had to buy a toddler alarm clock as a critical sleep training strategy (it seems to be working so far, which means it was worth every penny for a little more sleep). Also, it was our last month of diapers and wipes for two! These costs should go down in March since we potty trained our oldest in February – yay!!! We will continue our ongoing efforts to buy used when we can and employ other methods to save on kids’ stuff.

Our food costs were a little bit higher than last month, but that’s mainly due to buying groceries and wine on Feb. 28th that we’ll actually use in March, so hopefully it balances out next month. Thanks to Angela from Tread Lightly, Retire Early for the head’s up about a great USDA resource showing the average cost of food plans for families in the U.S. (Her post has some great tips on saving money on groceries, also). For the food at home piece, we fall between the Thrifty and the Low-Cost plan which I find pretty great given that we live in a area where groceries are supposedly up to 30% higher than the national average. However, we’re still spending on restaurants, coffee, and alcohol, so the groceries piece doesn’t really show the full picture. I still made my coffee budget this month – maybe I can lower it next month?

I cancelled my gym membership in February too, which makes me sad, but is one of the ways I’m trying to pay for dental work – blah.

Heating costs were higher this month due to chilly weather (as chilly as it gets in sunny SoCal).

Gas costs were still low (two tanks for the family for the month) since I’m now back to bike commuting to work and loving it!

In closing, here’s a pic of of a totally free activity that brought me a ton of happiness this month! Also, in reading last month’s post, I said I was saving now in order to have more free time on the beach later, so this pic seems an appropriate closing for the February spending post. Thanks for reading!



3 replies on “February Spending

  1. Falling between low cost and thrifty is excellent! That chart was seriously eye opening the first time I read it (at a point we were off the charts – in the wrong direction). Here’s to a cheaper March! And I hear you on the dental expenses. I had 9 cavities filled in a single year soon after we were married.

    Liked by 1 person

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