Here’s our “money well spent” spending recap for April 2020. I write these posts to reflect on my life right now and give you insights into our lives and our spending. For a larger explanation of why I write these posts, check out March 2019’s post.
Obviously, the pandemic continued to affect our lives in April. While Mrs. Gov and I still have our jobs, our routines and priorities are completely different. Groceries were difficult to obtain and more expensive than just a few months ago. We also decided to support local restaurants by ordering food once a week.
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In my last post, I wrote that my only goal during the pandemic is to “make sure everyone in our family is doing the best they can be doing during this time.” I believe that even more so now (as I write April’s post at the end of May…)
The pandemic isn’t normal times. We’re not spending money like normal times. We are spending more money and I’m okay with that. Spending more money has helped us soften the impact on our kids (and on ourselves too).
Reading personal finance blogs, I sometimes feel that the writers care more about being frugal than enjoying what frugality can bring. Living frugally means that we can save less and spend more in a crisis (like now). What follows is an honest breakdown of our April expenses. Please don’t bring pitchforks and tell me I’m a bad frugal blogger for actually spending money.
Money well spent- major expenditures in April 2020
Each month, I hold myself accountable by sharing our utility bills. I think saving our planet is just as important as saving money. Good news/bad news. Good news is that we barely drove in April. The bad news is that we used a ton more electricity (25 kWh/day instead of 20 last month). It’s not really surprising we’re using more electricity since we’re home all of the time. And it seems like everyone has about 5 devices to charge. All in all, I feel like we’re doing pretty good with only using 25% more electricity than a normal month.
In February, we only spent $430 on food. We did horribly in April, spending a little over $900, or more than double an average month. I have been freaking out about this. But then, it’s very close to the the USDA “thrifty” food budget plan of $882 per month for our family. (The USDA thrifty plan is used to determine the food stamp allowance for our size and age of family). So I guess even though my heart races when I see our food spending for the past month, we’re still eating frugally.
And really, what was there to spend money on besides food in April? There were still grocery shortages and panic buying. There was a lot of uncertainty about what would be at the grocery store and would it be the last time I could buy X ingredient. In hindsight (as I write this on May 27th…) our Nation’s food supply is still okay. And we have nothing to worry about. But April was a stressful food month- and if by spending more we were able to sleep better at night it was money well spent.
I hate restaurants. Really. I hate going somewhere and eating overpriced food that doesn’t taste good. (Don’t believe me? Go to a restaurant and order a gluten free, vegetarian meal. Was that boring salad really worth $12?) In general, we never eat at restaurants, ever. We spent ~ $500 on restaurants for our family of 5 all years in 2019.
So why all of the restaurant spending in April? As I wrote last month,
I’m old enough to remember the sentiment after September 11th. It was our patriotic duty to go and spend money. It was important to go to the mall and spend money to show the terrorists that they didn’t win.
Our local economies are really hurting. Is my $200 of restaurant (take-out) spending going to save anyone’s job? Hell no. But if we all spent $200 extra on restaurants last month, more people would have kept their jobs. Our economies are imploding. People are losing jobs, and as a result governments are losing tax revenue. This article does a great job of explaining how state and local governments were the last things to recover from the Great Recession and how that impeded economic growth.
I’ve written about how we haven’t been the best about donating to real charities. But in many ways, keeping people employed is the best kind of charity. They keep their job, I get a meal, the government gets tax revenue, and all three of us get to live to fight another day. The pandemic is hurting everyone. The way I see it, I can either pay the money now by buying restaurant food, or “pay” the money later in slow economic growth, and increased taxes to pay someone’s unemployment benefits.
Are kids expensive? Besides daycare– I think having kids is in many ways, cheaper than advertised (especially when you have more than 1 kid). So I’m sharing our spending in the “kid” category this year.
In March, when the pandemic started, we spent a lot of money buying activities to brighten the kids days and make things go a little bit smoother. This spending decreased in April. $70 is a pretty nominal amount (about $20 per kid per month).
GovTween continued her frugal hobby of building stuff out of wood scraps to pass the time.
Elsewhere in the family, BabyGov learned how to ride a 2-wheeler without training wheels this month. So it was a big month, family-wise.
Gas & Auto
We spent $0. Hard to beat that. If there’s anything I hate more than restaurant food it’s driving a car. So the pandemic has been a nice change with no reason to drive.
Long term progress
This widget never seems to change. We still are saving about 50% of our income. We’re still about 2/3rds of the way to financial independence once our house is paid off and daycare spending disappears (in a couple of years). Honestly I’m not sure why I post these. They’re meaningless metrics and aren’t particularly motivating to me currently.
Another reason these metrics aren’t helpful— my grocery budget doubled and my savings rate was still 50%. I think it just goes to show you how hard it is to “frugal yourself” wealthy.