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Our family has a personal finance goal this year … to increase the amount of money we save each month.
We are already living within our means – where our expenses are at or just below our income. But we know we can do a ton better.
In order to save more … we are trying to figure out where all our money is currently being spent. So we decided to start tracking where we spend our money.
No … we are not tracking what we spend using any kind of budget. Instead, we are grouping our expenses into a few categories like housing, transportation, utilities, etc.
Keeping track of every single dollar we spend may sound time consuming and difficult. It isn’t all that hard to be honest.
Since we rarely use cash, all of our financial transactions are electronic. I would estimate close to 99% of our expenses are paid using a credit card or a savings/checking account.
The good news is that all of these transactions can be tracked through our Personal Capital account.
Note: This post contains affiliate links.
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Our long range goal is to become financially independent. In order to do this, we need to grow our net worth.
It sounds simple … keep our expenses low, increase our income, and invest the difference.
Tracking our monthly spending is just a part of that – keep our expenses low.
So how did we do last month?
Where Did We Spend Our Money in January (2017)?
As mentioned earlier, we like to look at where our money is being spent. Which is why we broke our transactions out into several high level categories.
Our ultimate goal is to push our savings category higher and keep everything else as low as possible. These actions month after month will help us to drive our net worth higher and higher.
Here is a high level breakdown of where we spent our money in January. We also keep a more detailed breakdown of these categories … but won’t discuss today.
These are the high level categories of spending … listed in percentage order.
Food – 26.9%
While maybe a little bit high, this is not a surprise that food was our highest expense in January.
Most of our family completed and successfully finished our second round of the Whole30 last month. For those that have never heard of it … the Whole30 is a lifestyle that keeps processed foods, sugar, grains, and a lot of other bad stuff out of your diet.
You are allowed to eat fruits, vegetables, meats, healthy fats, and nuts/seeds. I would highly recommend this program to anyone looking to take back control of their health. You may even loose a little weight along the way.
Our family is very passionate about investing in our health. If that means spending more on healthy foods, then that is an investment we are willing to make.
So, we ended up spending about $260+ more in January compared to December.
Note – We plan to continue following the Whole30 program (even though we have finished) throughout the spring. So our food budget will remain high for the next several months.
One last point about investing in your health … take a look at our medical spending last month below. We spent $0 on medical.
There is a trade off for sure when it comes to eating healthy and taking care of your body … lower medical expenses!
Housing – 24.4%
This is exactly where I would expect our monthly housing expenses to fall 10 out of 12 months of the year.
There are two months (December and February) where we will have extra housing expenses. We pay our property taxes one of those months (December) and home owners insurance the other (February).
So in the other months … we basically pay our mortgage and any additional home maintenance expenses.
Last month we didn’t have any maintenance expenses, so it was 100% mortgage.
Utilities – 13.7%
A bit of a surprise here.
The winter months usually bring on additional utility expenses to heat our house. While most of the time our electric bill and gas bills cancel each other out … they don’t as much in December and January.
We typically use more electricity for the holidays in December … which also spills over into January.
Overall, we spent about $50 more on our Utility expenses in January compared to December.
We are also including other utility like items here. Cable, internet, and home phone make up a decent percentage of costs.
The good news is that we have been able to save over $1,000 annually by ditching our cable.
Finally, we have included our cell phones in this group. We have 3 cell phones in our house – my wife and I … along with our oldest son.
No change in expenses for – cell phone, internet, cable, or phone from last month.
Savings – 11.7%
Not even close to what we are going for with our savings.
We want to save over 20% of our income … and hopefully over 25% when we can.
But as each of our other categories goes up (ie. food, utilities, etc.) … our savings typically go down.
In 2017, we need to focus on paying our-self first before anything else. At that point, we can use whatever is leftover to pay the rest of the bills.
That is much easier said than done for sure.
Why are we trying to save so much of our income? Because we want to grow our net worth and the best way to do that is to put our money to work earning more income.
We believe the best way to do that is through dividend stocks.
As we move into February and beyond, I expect to save more as our Christmas bills are paid off and utility costs decrease.
Transportation – 10.9%
Our transportation expenses basically remained the same compared to December. Last month, this expense category was 10.8% of our spending.
Our car payment is included in this category, along with gas for our 2 vehicles. Since we just bought another new car and are getting rid of our older one … we will soon see even more expenses in the transportation category.
February will be our first car payment on the second vehicle … so this expense will definitely rise after last month.
Most days I wish that we only had one car, but that is not possible at this point.
However, the good news is that we are paying 0% financing on the new car … so we are not wasting money on interest.
Other – 8.9%
Our miscellaneous category or “other” dropped a bunch from last month.
This category includes spending for general items like gifts, vacations, sports and school expenses, and anything else that doesn’t fit into one of our main groups.
Eventually we would like to break some of these categories out … but for now we are grouping them together.
Most of our Christmas spending was paid off, which accounts for most of the drop off in expenses.
We do have several upcoming school and sports related expenses coming up for our kids this spring … so I would expect this category to rise up a bit.
Overall, this is the hardest category to report our spending on.
Business – 3.6%
One of my goals for 2017 is to start paying these expenses out of our business account. But, since we are only brining in about $10 a month from our websites … that is not possible at this point.
All of the expenses in the category are considered “business related” and help keep our multiple websites up and running and functioning.
Hopefully with some hard work, we can start bringing in more income from these online ventures and use that money to cover these expenses.
Medical – 0.0%
Not much to say here really.
In my opinion … if continue to keep our food bill higher … then our medical bills will be much lower.
Note – our second child is due to get braces later this spring … so this category will jump up a bit in coming months.
Investing the Savings
Now that we know where our money was spent last month, it is important to discuss what we plan to do with our savings.
We are not comfortable taking the easy road of letting our money sit idle in a savings account.
Instead of being lazy with our savings, we are investing in dividend growth stocks.
We are building this income stream one month at a time by investing our savings.
With all this savings being used to invest in stocks, we expect to pass $3,000 in annual dividends by 2018!
I have never been a fan of strict budgets. Spend $X on food or transportation each month just doesn’t work for our taste.
With a family of 5 living off of one income … there are way too many variables that come up.
However, just because we don’t follow a hard and strict budget doesn’t mean we are throwing our money away.
Instead of sticking to strict a budget, we prefer to take care of our most important expense first – that would be our savings. And at least 20% (this month was only 11%) of our income (on average) needs to be saved.
At the end of each month, we break our spending out into the categories you see above and look for ways to improve and save more.
This is a great exercise that will help us build and grow our net worth so one day we can become financially independent.
Do you track your monthly spending? How was your January spending?