Hi, everyone! I know I’ve been really bad about blogging lately. Things have been really busy. Basically, I’ll let Neil explain.

Basically, our computer had some problems, the most distressing of which was that all the Quicken data seemingly disappeared! Luckily it was right after I finished entering all of the numbers below. But we have 15 years of financial data in Quicken, and it must’ve gotten corrupted or something because it disappeared.

I have a Quicken backup from November that has everything up until then, but just to be safe, I started a brand new Quicken file for January 1, 2018. Perfect timing. I spent a few days working on the computer and ended up doing a whole factory reset. It was a pain to get everything back to normal, but it is acting lean and mean now.

And now it’s time to present our expenses for the year! Despite our year having some surprises, our expenses really did line up almost exactly the same as in previous years. Here’s our annual expenses for 2015 and 2016.

As usual, this does not include any income or expenses from our rental property.

After excluding debt payments, our expenses for the past three years have been remarkably similar! The average month in 2015 saw us spending $2,987, 2016 had us at $2,947, and here are this year’s numbers:

Total Expenses: $44,279
Avg Per Month: $3,690

Without Debt Payments
Total Expenses: $35,344
Avg Per Month: $2,945

Savings Rate: 47.6%

Summary

  2017 2016 2015
Serious Stuff $14,568 24,396 28,847
Food $7,799 7,226 6,445
Transportation $3,270 3,433 3,339
Utilities $2,704 2,686 2,836
Fun Stuff $5,892 4,650 5,881
Pets $4,889 2,018 2,671
Miscellaneous $5,157 6,312 4,018
Total $44,279 50,721 54,037
Total Non-Debt Expense $35,344 $35,373 $35,851

From year to year, our non-debt expenses have only varied by about $500, and we are only $30 off from last year! That is mind-boggling consistency.

Our debt payments varied as we made extra payments to pay off our auto loan in 2015 and our student loans in 2016, and we made few extra mortgage payments this year. Other than that, if one expense category was down, another went up, or vice versa.  Transportation and Utilities are two areas that have stayed incredibly static! We paid much more in pet expenses this year, but less on clothing and didn’t hire any contractors to work on the house.

It’s almost like there’s a subconcious thought on our part that if one expense is up, we have to keep something else in check. We don’t actually make a budget and just try to keep all expenses to a minimum. When I do retirement projections, I take this $3,000/mo we consistently spend, and add an extra one or two thousand dollars to account for healthcare expenses and other “fun money.”

Details

Serious Stuff :

Total Monthly Average
Mortgage $8,934.96 $744.58
Home Insurance $985.00 $79.58
Property Taxes $3,835.76 $319.65
Medical $594.12 $49.51
Home Maintenance – DIY $217.89 $18.15
Total $14,567.73 $1,213.98

Our monthly mortgage payment is $697, so the $744 monthly average reflects some extra payments we made. I expect to do more in mortgage overpayments this year. Because stocks seem to be very expensive, I’ll be directing more post-tax income to the mortgage instead of stocks.
Medical expenses are up slightly. Marge finally decided to take advantage of the physical therapy covered by our plan and get her knee examined. She has been having problems for as long as I’ve known her, so I’m glad she’s finally doing this!
Very little home maintenance expense this year. I made a wooden spice rack and a lounge chair for the patio. There must be some odds and ends in there, too.

Thanksgiving crisis! Too many pies!

Food:

Total Monthly Average
Groceries $5,230.25 $435.85
Wine & Beer $235.71 $19.64
Dining Out $1,542.89 $128.57
Takeout Food $790.68 $65.89
Total Food $7,799.53 $649.96

Grocery spending was up slightly over 2016, which itself was up slightly over 2015. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been buying more extravagant food, so I’ll just chalk this up to rising prices!
Higher than expected Dining costs can be attributed to Marge’s trip to food expensive Las Vegas and treating family members to more meals out than normal.
I also started up a Mr. Money Mustache-inspired cider brewing rig which I hope to outline soon.

Baby goat wants my apples in Columbia county

Transportation:

Total Month Average
Auto Maintenance/Other $617.34 $51.44
Gas $987.25  $82.27
Car Insurance $1,202.00 $100.16
Parking $83.50 $6.96
Bus Tickets $380.00 $31.66
Total Transportation $3,270.09 $272.50

Not much has changed in our transportation modality (is that a word?). Marge has almost no commute to speak of, and I take the bus to work, or bike in the warmer months.  We still manage to spend nearly $1,000 a year in gas by taking long road trips to visit family and go camping.

One of 2017’s highlights – Seeing the unicorn tapestries at the Cloisters

Utilities:

Total Monthly Average
Cable $504.88 $42.07
Electric $537.92 $44.82
Gas $735.41 $61.28
Telephone $276.16 $23.01
Water  & Sewer $649.98 $54.16
Total $2,704.35 $225.36

Our utility expenses were flat as well this year. In truth, we spent a few hundred dollars more than usual on water because of a faulty toilet flusher, but that was offset by spending less on heating. It really helps to tun the heat down if you leave for a week!
After having another conversation with someone and finding out how incredibly high their electric bill is, I plan on writing a bit more about electricity. What are people doing out there?

Visiting Omi Art Center

Fun Stuff:

Total Monthly Average
Entertainment $911.30 $75.94
Recreation $1,000.23  $83.35
Travel $3,980.09 $331.67
Total $5,891.62 $490.96

Our travel expenses were up again this year. We took a ten day trip to Thailand in January, and managed to keep the entire trip, flights, food, hotels, and all under $1,000.  But we had lots of little trips. Marge in Las Vegas, me in the Hudson Valley, Memorial Day weekend in Cape Cod, a trip to Newport, a four day trip to Toronto for the CNE and the eclipse, camping in the Thousand Islands, plus paying for trips to Turks & Caicos in January and Norway in February. Yoy!
Our entertainment expense included the usual Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, and New York Times digital subscription, and other stuff I can’t seem to detail right now because of said computer problems.

Pets:

Total Monthly Average
Boarding  $1,351.14 $112.59
Food $740.27 $61.69
Medical $2,564.72 $213.72
Other $232.92 $19.41
Total Pet $4,889.05 $407.42

Tough year for pet medical expenses as we cared for our sick pet rabbit Cornelius and had to put him down. Maeby the greyhound had to have her teeth cleaned, and look at that boarding expense!

 

Serious Christmas gifts

Miscellaneous:

Total Monthly Average
Cash / Unknown $108.88  $9.07
Charity $617.75 $51.48
Clothing $408.79 $34.06
Gifts Given $1,500.28 $125.02
Home $1,669.60 $139.13
Personal Care $794.53  $66.21
Postage $57.13 $4.76
Total  $5,156.96 $429.75

Yes, we did manage to spend $1,500 on gifts throughout the year, despite making many gifts from scratch. We had a very merry Christmastime.
We had an incredibly low clothing expense this year. It’s our lowest on record! I can probably count the number of items I bought on two hands.
I kept up my promise to increase charitable donations every year.

 

2017 Goals

Total Non-Debt Spending of $30,000: 

  • Actual Spending: $35,344

As every year, we missed the $30,000 mark by five or six thousand. Maybe next year!

 

Savings Rate of 65%: 

  • Actual Savings Rate: 47.6%

We also fell short of this lofty goal again! Our method for calculating our savings rate is shown here.

 

Max Out 457 Plan and Roth IRAs

  • Goals: $18,000 in 457 Plan and $5,500 in each Roth IRA
  • Saved: $17,752.17 in 457 Plan and $5,500 in each Roth IRA

These retirement accounts got maxed AF.

 

Read 24 Books

  • Actually read: 17

I can usually chalk up missing my reading goal to one or two dull books that I procrastinated in reading. This year that was Eric Larson’s “In The Garden of Beasts,” about the U.S. Ambassador to Germany during the rise of fascism. Alright book, but very rote in parts. The best books I read were Brendan Koerner’s “The Skies Belong to Us,” Vicki Robin’s “Your Money or Your Life,” Candice Millard’s “Destiny of the Republic,” and Alan Partridge’s “Nomad.”

On my Hudson Valley solo vacation with Crystal Pepsi, pizza, and Alan Partridge. Does it get any better?

Years of Savings:

This magical calculation demonstrates how far we could get if we kept living every month like this year.  We take our investable assets and divide them by our average expenses. The number to shoot for is 25, because at that level of savings, you could afford to live forever on your money stash. Excluding debt payments, we have…

10 years of savings

Retirement Location Possibility!

If we take that number of years of savings above, and divide by 25, we can figure out where in the world we could afford to retire right now by dividing another country’s cost of living  price index by our own cost of living. I am using 145, halfway between (Buffalo and Hartford’s scores on Expatistan) for our own cost of living.

Our International Retirement Cost of Living Number is….

58

According to Expatistan’s index, that means we can retire in Tunis, Tunisia! Not bad. Can’t say I want to spend the rest of my life there, though.