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Here it is- my monthly recap of my spending, saving, doing, and blogging.
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Table of Contents
- What we did in May
- What we spent in May
- Top 10 expenses
- Blog highlights- April (40 months)
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What we did in May
May is a wonderful month! The days get longer, the weather gets nicer, and everyone seems to be out and about, soaking up the changing seasons.
Of course it was also a busy month! My youngest daughter just started soccer and my oldest daughter had numerous extra-curricular activities. (Thankfully, our middle child is not a big fan of organized activities or I’m not sure how I would have made it through the month.)
The biggest highlight of the month involved running. My oldest daughter and I ran a trail half-marathon together (it was her first half). “Running it together” may be a bit of a misnomer, she beat me by a full 10 minutes. But we both had a good time and it was a beautiful day for a run.
Community garden update
Mrs. Gov has been working extremely hard on the garden. I feel a little bit ashamed to say that I have not been out at the garden very much to help. However, I have been helping in other ways. Mostly by staying around the house and making sure that the kids don’t fight too much with each other while she is at the garden.
All of the plants and seeds are now in the ground and starting to grow. The garlic we planted last fall looks amazing.
We felt like we were doing pretty good until we got a box of vegetables from our farm-share and realized that this farm was able to give us full heads of lettuce and bok choy already. (Of course they also probably have a greenhouse and full time staff.)
And I’m hoping to get out to the garden a bit more in June since no one will have after school activities (because they won’t have school…)
What we spent in May
We had a slightly above average spending month. Of course, that’s the third month in a row that I’ve lead this section with that statement. So perhaps our spending numbers and financial independence targets are shifting upwards.
The nice thing about continually tracking our expenses is that we are aware of how much we spend in different categories and can see how it changes with time. And if we were concerned about how much we were spending each month, we could easily figure out where to target spending reductions.
Top 10 expenses
For the first time in forever we spent more on groceries than any other spending category (more on that below).
Other categories that are bigger than an average month include healthcare, vacation, and charity.
In April I paid to have a DEXA scan and my VO2 max measured and this ended up in our healthcare bucket. Both of these tests were surprisingly cheap and super informative. For roughly the same price as the cholesterol panel my doctor orders each time I get a physical, I learned a lot about my body composition and overall cardiovascular health. (VO2 max is one of the strongest indicators of all cause mortality; someone with a low VO2 max is 3.4x more likely to die than someone with a high VO2 max. For reference, smokers are only 40% more likely to die than nonsmokers.)
I learned that while my VO2 max was good (but not quite a full 2 standard deviations above average), my body composition was not great and that my body was hiding a large amount of visceral fat around my organs.
Honestly, I feel like getting a DEXA could be the best $100-$200 you spend on your health in your entire lifetime.
We also spent a bit more on vacation this month as we made another payment on the house we’re renting with Mrs. Gov’s family over the summer. I think it has been 5 years since we last got together with her brothers so it will be good to see everyone again.
Our charity spending was the highest it has ever been. However, not all of the money was given with no benefit. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is coming to our town and giving a public talk. So part of the charity spending was given as a suggested donation for two tickets to his talk so that the teenager and I could see him in person.
If you’re a regular reader, you may have just peed your pants a little bit after seeing that number. Back before the pandemic upended everything, we were consistently spending under $500 a month for our family of 5.
And even now, most of our months are clocking in at around $600; a 20% increase in food spending which I attribute mostly to inflation and the fact that our kids seem to get a bit taller and eat a bit more each week.
This month was higher for several reasons. One of which was that we were stocking up on food for the summer when the kids will be wondering around the house bored and hungry nearly all of the time. I’m still deeply scarred by the past two summers of trying to work at home during the pandemic with bored, lonely kids in the house. Luckily, this year my wife and I will both be in the office quite a bit more this summer, and the kids have many more structured and social opportunities. Even with these changes, my wife and I are keenly aware of how often bored kids bully parents for snacks so we are trying to stock up.
Another reason our grocery shopping was a little bit off was that my daughter had Frisbee practice at fields far away from our house. My wife used that time to hit various grocery stores and look for deals. While she got great deals on the food, this stocking up made the grocery budget higher than a normal month. Much of that food is still in our pantry and will mean we will need to buy less groceries going forward. (Unless the kids have a giant binge while we are at work this summer…)
Despite the relative increase in food spending, $830 on food results in a food spending budget of $1.78 per person per meal. For reference, I always like to compare our grocery spending to the the USDA Thrifty Food plan– a budget that the government updates each month and represents the what a healthy, budget-conscious diet costs. As of April, 2022, the USDA Thrifty Food plan for our family is $1,148.20.
So even on a month where we blow the doors off our grocery budget, we’re still spending less than 75% of the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan budget.
Kids ($209.29) vs. Pets ($159.45)
I’m always kind of amazed at how many times our pet spending is higher than our kid spending. Having a dog that eats 6 cups of food a day will do that to you. The $159 spent on pets bought dog food, cat food, and kitty litter. I would definitely consider this money well spent.
In the kid category we had a new pair of cleats for the oldest kid and various activity fees for all three kids.
Gas & Auto $141.48
It’s clear that gas prices are at all time highs now. Unfortunately, we’ve been forced to drive more than ever because of the school bus driver shortage in the country.
While it’s nice that we have a car, have financial resources to be able to buy gas, and have jobs that are flexible enough to do some school pickups, it still sucks.
I understand it’s supply and demand. Who wants to make $18/hour driving a bus full of rowdy kids when you can make $18 or more doing practically any other job in this city. (And the other jobs have better hours).
But what I don’t understand is why nobody in government seems to care that kids can’t get to school or get home from school. This is ridiculous.
Progress towards financial independence
We went backward this past month. We are further from financial independence than we were at the start of the year. That’s okay.
Our net worth declined by 4.8% in April and an additional 0.5% in May. I have been trying to avoid following the markets too closely, but I’m guessing that they have dipped quite a bit more than that. I think the losses have been somewhat mediated by two things:
- We continue to save and invest a very high percentage of our income, so investment losses are partially offset by new investments.
- We include a very conservative estimate of our home equity in our net worth calculations. While we can’t live off of our home equity, it is non-trivial part of our total net worth.
At some point, the market will turn around. When that happens, all of the money we have invested during this downturn will grow quickly. And at that point, we will be very close to basic financial independence.
Blog highlights- April (40 months)
Another month, another month I don’t feel that excited about any blog accomplishments.
This month I managed to publish or update 5 posts this past month. I also had guest appearance on the Security Clearance Jobs podcast where I talked about the updates to the TSP website.