Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: What We Spent on Everything Else

Deep breath... for someone as introverted as I am, this is a huge step... but I see Personal Finance (PF) bloggers do it all the time so I'm taking the plunge as well.   This includes all of our expenses other than food and beverage (although it does include the Travel F&B category that I also added to our 2016 Food and Beverage Expenses.)

I had to load the chart into several pieces so if you click on it to see it bigger, expect to only see a few chunks at a time.


Our expenses next year will be different:

Of course we hope that Greg will remain employed and that he'll get another big bonus so we can pay down our mortgage even faster than we had anticipated!  Right now we send $960 extra to the principal every month and I will continue to send this (it's automated so it's easier that way).  Our HOI policy increased (and I just realized that I didn't check to see if our property taxes did) so our escrow will be higher in 2017 and we have to make up a small deficit for the latter part of 2016 as well.

House Repairs:
That's a tough one. We need lots of expensive repairs (plumbing!) and cosmetic renovations (bathrooms and kitchen).  I think that if the end of the mortgage is in sight, I'd like to hold off on the costly stuff until the house is paid off.  Fixing the leak in our shower is going to require tearing down the bathroom and it's silly to do that unless we're renovating it, in my view, otherwise it'll need to be torn down anew when we renovate.  I would like Greg to either tear down the front porch or fix it. He wanted to tear it down this past summer and build some kind of a small front deck but then his dad took a turn for the worst so he didn't get to it. We haven't priced that at all.

Household Goods:
I want to reduce expenses in this area.  We really do not need a lot of things and I'm committed to checking thrift stores and not blindly buy something new unless I really can't find it used. I would like to get either a king size mattress for my bed or a better twin-size mattress.  I am putting a moratorium on buying scented candles until i use up the ones that I have right now, which is a lot.

Our cars all need maintenance checks since Greg and I skipped ours this year. I've actually skipped mine a long time. I get oil changes but I haven't taken it for its scheduled maintenance for a while. These days I only drive locally so I guess I take that as an excuse to not worry about it too much. But since it's been paid for, it'd been nice to be able to keep on driving it past 140K miles!  The family car just passed 60K miles so it's time for a check-up too.

I'm going to look into see if I can cancel collision on at least my SUV, possibly Greg's truck too and lowering my policy limits since I no longer drive groups of high schoolers to their events. My son isn't a big joiner or into team sports so I don't anticipate having to do that for him as I had done for my daughter.

Our son will hopefully get his driving permit next month, which means no need to have him on the insurance just yet.  However, my daughter continues to be and I only ask her to refund us $30 a month, slightly less than 1/3 of the cost of the policy.  I don't anticipate her buying the family car from us to go to college as for now she's planning on living at her dad's and that's just 5 minutes away. She can bike or get a motorized scooter.  My son will learn to drive and practice driving on the family car since it's a stick shift and I want him to know how to drive a manual transmission vehicle.  We will keep my daughter on our insurance policy. Her dad has several vehicles so I anticipate that she will be driving anyway, and he already has both our older sons on his policy, I believe.

I don't know if tolls will be any cheaper as my daughter will no longer be driving our car to go to her dad's, as infrequent as it is, however I plan on going to visit her when she's in college, just to take her to lunch and bring her back for a weekend here.

Beauty Expenses:
I've been toying with the idea of coloring my hair at home again (I stopped that several years ago) so there might be an increase in this category. I've already bought prepaid cards for Great Clips this year that should last us all of 2017 and I cut my own bangs.  I don't do mani/pedis/eyebrows/waxing or make-up and I don't anticipate that changing.

Clothing and Shoes:
We'll all need new sneakers/walking shoes this year and Greg needs new shoes for work as well. He's been wearing his hiking boots (!) because he says they're very comfy but if he needs to replace them, it'll be over $100 because he buys "the good ones".

I had bought him clothes in a smaller size when he lost a lot of weight. He's put weight back in but he plans on losing it again this year so he should be set for clothes. I gave him new flannel shirts at Christmas and he inherited lots of brand new clothes and undies from his dad.

I plan on losing weight but I have clothes in all sizes and I don't care if they're outdated so I think I'll be OK. I buy most of my clothes from thrift stores anyway. Not working outside of the home means that my usual attire and style is "frumpy housewife" i.e. shorts or capris and a T-shirt.

Our son had tons of clothes! I might need to get him new jeans if he grows a lot this year but I think he might have reached peak growth already. He only owns 2 pairs of shoes and he likes it that way.

My daughter will likely not need new clothes before she graduates high school. She seems to have an awful lot of clothes already. I just bought her a bunch of new socks, not sure how fixed she is with undies and bras, I'll have to ask.  She tends to get clothes from her dad's too.

Our premiums for medical will increase slightly in 2017, really not that much, thankfully. I lowered our Health FSA contribution from $600 in 2016 to $200 in 2017 because we have about $200 that are rolling over to 2017.  The only one of us taking prescription drugs is my son for his acne.  I do want to get trifocals in 2017, which are covered by our insurance and the co-payment will come from the Health FSA account.  Not sure what costs we will incur if/when I do decide to go to the GYN. I'm playing with the idea of finding a new provider and a woman this time. My current provider has been my GYN since Middle Son was born in 1996 but a couple of years ago he went from an independent provider to joining a large group that seems to have pushed him into suggesting more cosmetic than medical procedures and I resent that and the whole "all your records are online now and shared with everyone!". I know it's everywhere and I hate it and I stopped going to doctors when that happened.  Anyhoo, I'll be asking local woman for referrals.

Exercise Expenses:
Greg will continue to attend the gym across from his office and be charged for the membership at a corporate rate, deducted from his paycheck. He usually goes there every day at lunch time so it's money well spent. He enjoys it.

I have a recumbent bike at home and a real bike too now so my exercising expenses should be limited to replacing any exercise clothing if I lost a lot of weight and getting new walking shoes. I guess that would fall under this category and not "Clothing"?! I can't remember where I put those expenses this year.

We're all at the mercy of rate increases and what's going on in the world so it's hard to predict what will happen.  We now have mostly LED bulbs in the house but we do have some older appliances.  The worst culprit is the AC and this will be dependent on what happens with the weather this year!  My daughter won't be living here starting in August so we should be able to keep one half of the house warmer than we have so far.
As for water, I hope we'll get some rain so I can use the rain barrel to water the garden.  We continue to ask our son not to take such long showers but he has several things to do for his acne treatment that do take time.  Again, my daughter won't be living here so our expenses should decrease somewhat after August. The sewer fees are tied to the water usage.  Trash & Recycling pick/up won't change, unless they hit us with a rate increase, but we haven't gotten a notice.

Cell Phones:
This actually should go down since Greg just got a business phone and we will be cancelling his personal line hopefully next week.  With the international travel that is in my future (parents getting older), I won't switch to Ting since they don't cover international plans. So we'll stick with AT&T, I suppose.

School Supplies and School Events:
I expect this to be lower in 2017 as my daughter will have several scholarships to cover her fees.  My son is very good at reusing his and I have stocked up on a lot of things.  As far as school events, he's not in band or sports and is a freshman so there isn't any prom or anything.

Oh boy.  This will increase.  We've only had to buy kitten food for 3 months this year!  Pet medical care is expensive and we have the 2 older cats (and New Kitty too by default) on prescription food so I'd rather pay more in food and keep the cats/kittens as healthy as possible.  The medical expenses will be high again because we have to get all three kittens "fixed" at the end of January, at a cost of $700+, but I hope to get $150 back from the county in form of rebates. Then there are the regular annual appointments and hopefully everyone continues to be healthy.  Our cat litter expense will also increase since we now have more litter boxes and as the kittens continue to grow and eliminate more!  As for toys, I'll continue to get as many as I can from my favorite thrift store, although I think we're set for a while now!

Gardening and Landscaping Expenses:
I actually hope these will be lesser. I don't want to keep on spending so much on vegetable gardening for the little pay-off that we get. I do enjoy it as a hobby but I feel that I should be able to just buy a few seed packets and maybe some soil!  As for Landscaping, I'll continue to buy vinegar by the gallon to make the weedkiller for the patio, it works very well! I don't use pest control products.

We receive a letter several months ago announcing "big changes" now that Brighthouse (owned by Time Warner Cable) is part of Charter (ugh!) but haven't seen anything change yet. So we'll stay the course. I suppose they'll raise the price since they all seem to do that when they monopolize the market. Our area only has ONE cable internet provider so we're stuck with them.  If they implement caps, we'll be in trouble since we have 2 heavy online gamers and we all have streaming devices.

We don't have cable but we do have Netflix and Amazon Prime. Amazon provides us with other benefits than just the Prime videos so if we were to cancel anything, it would be Netflix.  This year I noticed that most of the shows that I tend to watch are the same old shows that I love: Frasier, That 70's Show, Third Rock from The Sun... so I started buying complete seasons of the shows I love on DVD.  Eventually, I'd like to drop Netflix, especially as they continue to put up "original" content that, for the most part, I think is crap.  Greg couldn't care less.  I'm going to check the current line-up of our over-the-air (OTA) channels to see if we can go back to watching those channels in the evening instead of Netflix or Amazon. We usually go to the movies once or twice a year but I anticipate not going at all this coming year. We prefer watching movies at home.

Books and Magazines:
Greg will buy the occasional e-book but this year he found an author that he likes who has published several "real" books that our library system carries so next time he wants to read something, I'll suggest that.  He borrows books from the Kindle Lender's Library all the time and also downloads free e-books.  This year I bought several Florida Nature-related reference books but I bought them used on Amazon, using Rewards to bring down the cost or to get them for free. I have a few more on my wishlist so I'll order them this year.  Otherwise, I borrow all my fiction books from the library.  So does our son.  Greg and I each receive one magazine each but we both have free subscriptions to them.

No concerts on my horizon this coming year so I guess this expense will go down.

This certainly should be much lower in 2017 since we won't be getting a new gaming PC anytime soon, hopefully. Having said that... the Xbox One Scorpio is supposed to come out in 2017 and Greg has already warned me that he's getting it.

Other Entertainment:
I plan on visiting quite a few new parks and museums in 2017. I want to go out more, on my own, during the week.  Greg and I have already spoken about getting a State Park Annual Pass but I have to calculate to see if it would actually be worth it. I also want to drag my son from his computer to go on field trips with me so that'll come out of that budget.

Life Insurance Policies:
Will increase slightly as we're getting older and the premiums are going up.

Well, this could be much lower if I keep to a stricter and leaner budget, or higher if I end up taking my daughter to France as a graduation present. I do want to lower the Christmas present budget and also be more mindful of how much we spend during the year.

I would like to increase this to $500. I am researching charities. I will also be contributing my time. I would like to get involved with the Friends of the Library at my local library and start driving a cancer patient to his/her chemo or radiation appointment via the American Cancer Society.  I had said I would start after the kittens were old enough to be left alone and the time has come. However, when I said that, I didn't anticipate going overseas this year.  I need to ask them how this would affect the patient they would assign me. I wouldn't want someone to be left in a lurch without a drive while I'm gone. So maybe start after I come back?

Kid Chores:  
We now have 6 cats so there are more cat chores to be performed. So I expect this will increase, actually.

Fees and Various Taxes and Office Supplies:
I expect this to be lower this year. Obviously I won't have to shell out another $150 for MS Office :)

Flood Insurance:
It's been going up every year that I've gotten it so I expect another increase this year, especially since there were so many flood insurance claims in 2016.

Travel Expenses:
This is the big unknown.  Greg will go visit his mom several times. He'd rather drive so he can visit his daughter on the way but it will all depend on his mom's health. He likes to take our son camping in the summer for a couple of weeks so I expect he'll do that again. As for me, there's that whole trip to France (not sure if it'll happen and if I'd put it under "gifts" or "travel) and I have no idea of what the budget should/will be.  My mom is also getting older (70 this year) so who knows if I might have to go because of health issues.  I don't do the credit card shuffle to get lots of travel miles so all costs will be out of pocket.  The airfare will probably be the same whether we go for a week or a month, but this time we'd be staying at a hotel the whole time, whereas we were staying with family last year.  We wouldn't rent a car, though, and that was a very big expense between the rental fee, the insurance, gas and tolls. But we'd probably get train tickets to go visit my mom. And then museums and attractions, spending money, yummy French food... So much unknown!

We're going to max out the Roth 401(k) again and hopefully also be able to contribute to our IRAs, something we still haven't done for 2016.
It's hard to say if we'll get a tax return or not.  In a perfect world, we wouldn't get a refund and not have to pay the IRS anything extra either. But with stock options maturing at different dates, it's hard (for me) to figure out in advance what our tax bill will be. And now with all the yahoos coming to power in 2017, who knows what will happen to tax rates.  If we do get a refund, it'll go to savings.
I will continue to send the amount corresponding to Greg's small 2016 raise to the "car replacement" savings account each pay period and if he gets another raise in June 2017, it will be added to that too.  Also the amount corresponding to FICA will go to that account once it stops being withheld from his paycheck.
Prepaid College Fund expenses will go up since this year's total only includes contributions that started in April.

Well, this was a long post to put together!

Our Main Goals for 2017:

  • Continue to pay off the mortgage aggressively. As several cost areas will increase, I won't bother trying to send every extra penny to the mortgage company. We'll stay the course, which is to pay off the house by the time our son graduates from high school in 2020, sooner if we're fortunate enough for Greg to get bonuses.
  • Try to reduce everyday expenses.
  • Max out retirement savings.
  • Maintain a healthy emergency fund.
  • Stay out of consumer debt.
Have you examined your 2016 spending and thought about strategies and goals for 2017?  Is there a debt that you're trying to pay off in 2017?


  1. Way to go on your mortgage, Nathalie!! That's really impressive. I continue to be amazed at the level of detail you maintain for tracking. That's also really impressive to me. With me back at school and working one less part time job--we're definitely on a tighter budget. I'm planning to not buy anything new at all, if I can help it. This should serve the dual purpose of helping us use up what we have on had (so much) and also save money. Obviously consumables will still be purchased. :)

    1. Thanks, Laura! We're really excited about it and I'm very proud of us for just sending the bonus check on to the mortgage company because in the past we just kept the bonus in our checking account and it ended up being spent on... I'm not totally sure what. I really really want us to have the house paid off so it'll be very exciting when it happens.

      Keeping track of all the expenses was work but since I reinput every receipt into an Excel spreadsheet that I call "Our Checkbook" and that I then reconcile with our banking statement and all credit card statements before I pay them off, it was just another step in my regular process. Setting up the spreadsheets properly took time and then when I went to report, I realized that I still needed to tweak them so that took even more time, but now that I've gone through the whole cycle, I think it'll be way easier next year. It's like everything, you have to commit to do it and have the discipline to stick with it. Which is funny because I haven't stuck with much else this year!

      I saw that you're starting "The Compact". Good for you! Are you going to use Craigslist, Facebook, thriftstores and the whole bit Greg won't let me use CL because he thinks everyone's a murderer on there, lol. And we're not on Facebook. So that leaves the thrift stores. I've been quite lucky with what I find there. Oh and I guess garage/yard/community sales. I haven't gone to any of those this year (well I lie, I went to my BFF's but she wasn't selling anything that I needed).

      Good luck! I hope you report on your progress from time to time, it'll be exciting!

    2. I am planning on using CL, FB, etc although honestly I am hoping primarily to SELL things there. Truly I don't need anything and I expect that whatever comes up can be fulfilled through the used market. Michael has kind of the same opinion of CL -- I think he and Greg are secret twins. ;)

      I am definitely planning to report on my progress! I think that doing so will be key for accountability and success. Right now I'm planning a monthly report.

      I like the idea of an Excel Checkbook. I do have budget spreadsheets but don't find it helpful to keep all expenses itemized there (it gets so confusing), just totals. I'll give it some thought!

    3. Oooh, good thinking about selling your stuff too! I don't have the patience for that because of all the flaky people (and I'd have to communicate with them too!). Another place to score used stuff is something like Freecycle. Once upon a time I gave away stuff on there and also was able to score a phone for my son and a few other items for me.

  2. I'm in awe how carefully you track your spending! We've always been frugal and managed to pay off our mortgage in less than six years, and we paid cash for our last two cars. We're a bit older than you are, so our primary goal right now is to max out our savings for retirement and find the best (while still safe) investments. A more mundane goal is to eat out less/get less takeout - that's one of my biggest weaknesses. I always excuse it with "I work too much" or "it's too late to cook" or "you gotta have one splurge" - but I really should just cut back on it. Not eliminate it (let's be realistic!), just reduce the frequency. It would be better for my health/weight, too.

    1. Man, Pixel,! That is so great that you paid off your house in just 6 years. You saved hundreds of thousands of dollars!

      I'm with you about always finding excuses to avoid cooking and we love food, of course, so I never twist Greg's arm to eat out! Today his reply to everything was "I'm rich, I can buy whatever I want." Yeah, only not. We really need to get more serious about the retirement savings and especially investing. Do you use someone or do you guys do it all on your own?

    2. We don't have a financial planner - my husband is a very savvy investor, so he makes all those decisions. I'm really lucky he is on the same page as I am. We both love listening to the Clark Howard podcasts; he has tons of frugal advice.

    3. Dang, I was hoping you would refer me to someone trustworthy! Can I borrow your husband?! LOL. I only ever heard of Clark Howard through The Non Consumer Advocate blog since she writes for them but I never bothered to even check what/who it was. I guess I should. It's so not one of my areas of interest and every time I try to get into it, it's like driving through a fog. I understand when I read it, I take notes, and then 15 minutes later I've forgotten everything and lost all interest. It's terrible!

  3. This was an excellent post! Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to post it! I am so impressed! I am just a novice at keeping track of expenses, compared to you! I haven't sat down to figure out my expenses for 2016. 2017 will be different, of course, because I won't have to pay daughter's tuition and rent. Those two things were my biggest expenses, the past couple of years. I don't have any debts; the house is paid off and I paid cash for the car. I will need to buy some new appliances in 2017 and maybe a new set of living room furniture and there's all kinds of home repairs waiting to be done, so that's probably where the money will go.

    1. Bless, you are such a good mom! And wow, living in one of the most expensive places in the USA, from what I hear, you managed to pay off your house on your own and you're not in debt AND you've been supporting daughter through grad school and her first few months in her job while also paying her tuition. What great accomplishments! It'll be fun for you to splurge and get new furniture and take care of home repairs this year. Well, maybe "fun" isn't the right word, but I can't think of another one right now. It's 60F in my living room and my brain is slightly frozen :)

      I had a good time tracking our expenses this way in 2016 and I'm going to continue in 2017. I hope I have the fortitude to take stock during the year and not only at the end of December, so I can make sure we're progressing in the right direction.


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