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I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

One of the all-time great pleasures people receive from reading personal finance blogs is stalking the blogger. For some reason peeps want to know what the heck we are spending our money on. Who am I to upset the apple cart? Stalk away.

Below is a table showing my spending for 2015. I know, I know, you expected this months ago. All I can say is: Better late than never, you little stalker, you. My obsessive-compulsive way of recording stuff in my life allows me to break down my spending patterns for you. There were a few surprises when I reviewed the numbers. I will provide some explanations after the table.

In the future I plan on listing my annual spending once per year only. My columns listed here are exactly how my personal records read, minus the description. The miscellaneous column catches a lot of stuff I could break out, but since most months have only minor miscellaneous spending, I elected to keep it simple.

I do not use a budget to get these results. In a future post I will show how my budgeting works; it is different from anything I have seen on the internet.

A difference in my spending compared to most readers is that I live on a farm. Animals take electricity. In the summer steers drink a lot of water which must be pumped; in the winter water feeders require enough electricity to keep them thawed. Small farms have more expenses than a home in town or an apartment. Maintenance is higher for a farm and it is difficult separating some farm expense and personal.

There are a few advantages I have as a business owner. I drink coffee, tea, et cetera, at work, but rarely at home. In a way I have shifted this spending to the business from my personal. It is a small amount, but I want to disclose the facts so you can compare your expenses to mine.

You will notice the dearth of travel expenses. I travel more than I want to. Four or five times a year I end up on the road. Most trips are business related. Usually twice a year Mrs. Accountant and I hit the road (sometimes with the girls, sometimes not). Credit cards and other travel hacking tips make traveling free or nearly so for my family. As I write this I have over two weeks of free hotels calling to me. There is more free travel waiting with other credit cards and free travel sources. Yes, I have a series of travel hacking posts planned. As a teaser, many business trips are better than free; I actually get paid once taxes are accounted for.

Now to my luxurious spending lifestyle:

  Groceries Auto Dining Interest Utilities Medical Clothes Misc
January $484.62 $139.35 $27.26 $584.94 $416.75 $2,178.24 $17.59 $110.22
February $496.28 $80.20 $0.00 $584.29 $479.95 $73.00 $20.44 $150.29
March $1,099.70 $86.69 $0.00 $580.66 $500.77 $4.00 $0.00 $334.81
April $411.06 $76.49 $0.00 $577.02 $404.96 $97.53 $0.00 $235.51
May $285.85 $185.43 $0.00 $573.37 $317.39 $101.53 $0.00 $547.87
June $581.08 $590.60 $78.86 $563.84 $243.89 $101.53 $0.00 $2,701.93
July $329.70 $40.07 $50.00 $555.22 $236.15 $101.53 $0.00 $299.98
August $432.87 $686.55 $45.50 $546.43 $245.34 $99.53 $16.79 $124.58
September $543.04 $206.30 $31.71 $553.12 $253.00 $177.23 $65.69 $338.25
October $402.15 $90.75 $32.72 $613.17 $235.69 $1,073.00 $6.00 $1,010.00
November $438.49 $86.11 $0.00 $595.13 $241.54 $404.00 $11.64 $587.58
December $461.37 $564.09 $0.00 $591.53 $322.91 $10.00 $50.71 $331.07
Total $5,966.21 $2,832.63 $266.05 $6,918.72 $3,898.34 $4,421.12 $188.86 $6,772.09

As you can see we lived a very full life over the last year. The Accountant family lives a quiet rural life with massive benefits and still managed to blow $31,264.02. Wow! I think somewhere along the line I decided to live like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates. My family is so lucky we can actually spend over $30,000 per year and still stuff wheelbarrows of cash into investments! We are living in the Gilded Age. (Look it up; you will know what I mean.)

The table above requires some explanation. I will start at the left and move right. Groceries tend to hover around $450 a month for a family of four. March went off the chart because we bought a whole pig from the butcher shop. Our groceries do not include most meat. We raise our own chickens and steers which somehow find a way into the freezer. My household eats well. I tend to buy higher quality, more expensive food. Groceries are the one area we splurge on a lot.

I am ashamed to show you my auto expense. In my defense, I bike to work a lot in the summer (30 miles round trip). Mrs. Accountant and a teenage driver (now two teenage drivers for 2016) add to the expense. June and December includes insurance on two vehicles; the August bump in auto spending is tires.

We rarely dine out. I brown bag my office lunch.

Before you call me a hypocrite on interest, hear me out. The only debt I have is on my farm/home. The interest rate on the mortgage is 2.125% (it is adjustable). In 2016 I paid a significant portion off, but at 2.125% I can’t pull the trigger and retire the mortgage. For god’s sake, people, my index funds pay more than that in dividends. Should the rate go up, I will have no problem placing a bullet right square into the skull of the mortgage. A $300,000 plus mortgage in 2015 is now under $150,000; the interest rate ticked up to 2.375%. Regardless, I will retire the mortgage in three years even if rates go negative. It may not be the best financial move, but I like the idea of no debt at all. Property taxes are pro-rated into the mortgage interest, running $2,300 in change.

Utilities include: cell phone for three family members (we had Verizon back then; we recently switched to Google Fi), home internet service, and electricity. In the countryside we have no city services. Electric runs the water well pump, geothermal (heating, cooling, and hot water), and the farm. Winter utility bills increase due to cold weather requiring heating of the barn utility room, water feeders and the geothermal heat pump for the house. Sewage is handled by a mound system and uses a modest amount of electricity. The mound system requires pumping at a cost of around $100 every three years.

Medical is generally low for the Accountant household. Don’t ask about our insurance; it is complicated. The bump in January and October spending came from out of pocket medical bills (uninsured and deductible expenses).

We do not buy many clothes. The girls sometimes buy their own clothing. I have another post in the planning stage where I show how to get free or really cheap new clothes. You will like it. I get winter jackets for under $10 and all the t-shirts I can wear for free.

The miscellaneous column catches everything else. The spike in June reflects the annual home/farm insurance; farm insurance is expensive. I did not separate out the farm from the home. The farm is really a business expense; I deduct a portion for taxes, but don’t record the separation of the expense in my daily log. The October spike is the family gym membership. The remaining miscellaneous expense is made up of repair parts for appliances, chalking around the home, and an allowance for my youngest daughter. We usually go to Bay Beach in Green Bay a few times over the summer and spend around $15 each trip; we pack a lunch.

There you have it. The truth is out. The Accountant family is living life large. There are times I am embarrassed by the amount of frivolous spending we undertake, most of it my fault. Many items of spending need to be trimmed. Interest surprised me, so did groceries. Before I ran the annual report I thought I would be under $30,000. Oops!

My income is well into the six figures, most of which went into index funds. The family savings rate is less than 1 point from 85%. It feels good knowing if a major depression comes along I can still spend like a wildman forever without running out.

Fervent Finance

Monday 11th of July 2016

I spent about the same in 2015 while living in Manhattan. $31k for a family of four (and a farm) is quite the feat. I try to get a little better year after year at cutting the expenses.

Keith Schroeder

Monday 11th of July 2016

What I hear about the cost of living in Manhattan, you are doing awesome, Fervent Finance. The farm does mess it up a bit for me. I love your idea of doing a bit better each year. Very similar to my budgeting style which I have a post planned.