Monthly Spending Reduction Plan Update: November 2018

5 min read

I can’t believe it happened to me. Lifestyle inflation is real. I know that I’m spending a lot more than I used to, but I want to see if I’m really on a bad track. Certainly, my spending can be improved…but I just want to see how far off the deep end I’ve gone since my income has increased dramatically.

In order to save more, I need to spend less. To make the biggest impact, I should go after the heaviest hitters in my budget first and work my way down to my essential oil diffuser costs. Since this is the first of many monthly spending plans, I decided to give a little back story on why I’m taking the time to do this now.

For starters, this isn’t (mainly) for you. It’s for me! I find it soothing to take a minute, analyze something, come up with a plan, and write it out in a way that (I think) makes sense enough to display to the world. Writing this down makes the numbers more real to me and serves as a good reminder of where I want to go.

So let’s see. Last year, according to Mint, I spent $2,997/mo on average. I did my best to categorize things to make sure I’m tracking my true spending, because many times I would pay for things that were reimbursable…and last year was my credit card churning heyday.

If I’ve done as good of a job this year marking things as reimbursable as I did last year, if I missed anything between the years, it should even itself out enough for a ballpark estimation of my status.

This year, according to Mint, my average spending is $7,186. Keep in mind that I’ve made several repairs to my rental house, including a new roof for about $10k. Regardless, I’ve spent it, so it’s there. It’s not like I’m buying new cars and fancy clothes.

$7,186 is a lot of money to spend in a month. How much of an increase of spending is that?

($2,997 / $7,186) * 100 = 41.7% increase in monthly spending from last year

Did my income increase to compensate for this additional spending? Last year, I made $81,484. This year (so far), I’ve made $142,966.

($81,484 last year / $142,966 this year) * 100 = 57% increase in income from last year

I’m spending less of a percentage of my income than I used to…which is good?

Not so fast. What exactly increased my spending? Was it all good, wholesome home improvements (that I might get back some day)? Let’s take a look at the top spending categories from this year.

  1. Home. Ok, fine. New roof, new patio, some outlets, and a minor hallway renovation. I needed them.
  2. Taxes. Again, not much we can do here.
  3. Food & Dining. $10,746.

Good lord. I know that this category also includes bars and some liquor stores, but still. $977/mo on food and drink. That is just absurd.

Drilling down into this category, the top sub-categories are:

  1. Groceries. $4,887 or $407/mo. Whew, at least it wasn’t restaurants. This might even be a little off, because I get reimbursed for buying my mom’s groceries, and might have missed a tag or two. This is also pretty high because I get groceries delivered via Instacart, since I only have about an hour of free time per weekday, and the luxury of somebody else taking care of trudging around a grocery store getting groceries for two households on a weekend is something I really value. I’m going to let this slide for now, because number two is…
  2. Restaurants. $4,304 or $358/mo. This is just a dumb amount, especially since I’m already spending a lot on groceries. I’ve taken a bunch of vacations and ate out a lot. Airports, Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes. Vacation/tourist area bars, airport drinks, etc, etc. You know the drill. Additionally, while not on vacation, we’ve taken a liking to ordering Skip the Dishes for special occasions, or as an emergency meal when we have no food in the house (and I don’t know how that’s possible when an entirely separate human gets the groceries for us!).

I think we’ve found the first category to work on. Restaurants and bars.

There really isn’t much of a plan here, aside from the obvious:

  1. While on vacation, visit the damn supermarket!
  2. Keep indulgent, easy “emergency meals” from the grocery store on hand. 50% of the reason why we order out is to get tasty food, the other 50% is convenience. We can get both in a fancy, ready-to-cook frozen meal that’s ready in a moment’s notice.
  3. Shit, even keeping delicious frozen meats that are ready to sous-vide right from the freezer would be a lot better. Pair with some frozen mixed veggies and that’s a meal that’s easy and delicious. This is slightly more effort, while #2 will be the emergency, red-cord, no-prep, no-work meal.
  4. While on vacation, visit the damn liquor store!
  5. While on vacation, limit fancy restaurant nights to the last night. I still like going out, but the intrinsic value of it deteriorates after the first fancy meal. Having the big meal on the last night gives something to look forward to, and is a nice cherry-on-top to a nice vacation.

So, that is my plan. Next month, I’ll find a different line item to bring to the forefront of my mind, but I will be conscious of restaurant spending from here on out.

On future monthly updates, I’ll devise a way to display how I’ve been doing with all of my previous budget items I’ve wanted to keep an eye on.

Wish me luck!