Here’s our “money well spent” spending recap for October 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.
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October is a month of transition. At the beginning of the month I wear shorts and a t-shirt and at the end of the month there is often snow. I guess you never really know what kind of weather you’re going to have on any day. As someone that loves being outside, I try to be especially conscious of enjoying the “last nice days” of the year. Somehow I think if I can be especially mindful of how great they are I can make them last longer or draw from this beauty when winter is unbearable.
What we did in October
As I said earlier, October represents the last of pleasant outside recreation time. Since the pandemic started in March, we’ve only visited with our parents outside, with masks on, 6 feet apart. We prioritized having visits with our parents this past month. Luckily we were able to have decent weather on two consecutive weekends and have pleasant visits.
I’m a little bit sad when I think that we might not see them for several months. However, I did buy my mom an outdoor heater as an early Christmas present. And she’s been making her patio ready for potential year round visits. We’re at the mercy of the weather but hopefully we can still have some visits.
A weekend trip
We also took a short trip at the start of the month to a rental house on Lake Michigan. We typically stay there for a week each summer. However, given our current “location independence” we thought we’d try it again for a few days in the fall. This trip was “COVID-friendly“. The house is near a small town with really no other tourists attractions besides nature.
Where our money went in October
If you haven’t noticed, the pandemic is still going on. Life during the pandemic is hard. I decided early on that I’m not going to make it harder by being super frugal during this time. If there’s something we can buy to make our life better, you better believe we will buy it without hesitation. What’s the point of having money if you’re never allowed to spend it?
You may notice that our spending percentage in October was significantly higher than any of my previous spending reports. We spent more money because we sent the youngest child back to preschool. (The billing cycle is delayed by a couple of weeks). Sending her back to daycare has made a huge difference in everyone’s lives. Now that she goes to school, her sisters can focus on their online school and Mrs. Gov and I work with only minor interruptions. Also, she loves it. Although childcare is a giant obstacle to early retirement, it is definitely worth it.
I realized I’ve been adding my personal progress towards mental/physical improvement on the infographic but have never talked about them. I’m a driven person and love to quantify things. (Isn’t this everyone in the FIRE movement???) So of course I track not just spending but also healthy actions. If you open one of my filing cabinet drawers you will find journals with every workout I completed since 2009.
Lately I’ve been focusing on not breaking the streak. Once running marathons no longer sparked joy for me, I needed to find a new goal. It took a while, but now my biggest goals are to make sure I do healthy actions every day. They don’t need to be killer workouts. I just want to keep it up.
Right now I’ve “closed my Move Ring” on my Apple Watch 519 days in a row. (It’s a measure of how many calories I burn above my basal metabolic rate. I set my goal at +600 kcals). Closing this ring also helps me earn rewards with the Aetna Attain app. Having a streak greater than 1 year is a huge motivation to workout each day (I don’t want to start all over again).
I also started intermittent fasting (or time restricted eating) in 2019 and have fasted between 14 and 39 hours every day for over a year! Hopefully I’ll be able to keep these streaks going for another month.
So as you can see we spent 57% of our post-tax income. I calculate our savings rate based upon the difference between our income and our spending. Using that method, we saved 43% of our income, of which 15% went towards our mortgage principal.
As you may know, we track all of our expenses and net worth in CountAbout. It’s a great tool for tracking expenses and developing budgets. One of the best features about CountAbout is that you can attach receipts. It makes organizing paperwork for tax time a breeze. If you’re interested you can sign up through this link for a 15 day free trial.
We spent a little less than $500 on groceries this past month. That’s down $300 from the month of September and close to our 1 month low of $430 (February 2020). We still managed to stay below 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).
If the pandemic has changed anything about our family’s finances, it’s changed how we feel about grocery spending. It used to be a game to see how low we could go. Now, we’re happy to pay to have our groceries dropped on our doorstep from Instacart. We still cook everything from scratch, but are okay ordering what we need instead of scouting around for the absolute lowest prices on things. In some ways, I’m shocked we only spent $500 in October as that includes the grocery delivery fees.
Are kids expensive? This seems to be a big point of contention in the FIRE community.
My experience is that daycare is extremely expensive, but otherwise, the kids haven’t really added a lot to our expenses. We hardly spend anything on the “kid” line item. Although I guess we probably do spend more on food and gifts than we otherwise would.
We spent $151.97 on kids this month. So far we’ve spent $1,158 on kids this year (excluding daycare, gifts, and food). Most of this money went to their 4H club. I can’t say enough good things about 4H. The youth lead all of the meetings and use parliamentary procedure. (Seeing an 8 year old make a motion is so damned cute). And 4H isn’t just for farm kids; there are plenty of project art and STEM as well. This money we put towards 4H this month is some of the best money we spend all year!
Gas & Auto
When I tabulated our numbers, I realized that we drove nearly 1,000 miles in a month. I freaked out. How is that possible. We never drive!
But then I realized we went on a vacation and visited our parents multiple times. So I guess the miles were justified.
I am still working hard on growing the blog. October had some big wins. I set a new personal record for the number of page views and sessions. In fact, my traffic is up about 3-4 times from where it was earlier this year.
In the past I haven’t shared my traffic numbers. When I was a beginning blogger I would feel so ashamed when I compared my traffic to that of my peers. I am trying to think of a creative way to share my growth in these round-ups without making people feel bad.
I’m still working through Daniella’s Launch Your Side Hustle Course. I signed up for the premium version of the course which came with 2 coaching sessions. I really enjoyed working with Daniella. She was incredibly motivating and encouraged me to go out of my comfort zone and seek some sponsored posts.
As Game of Thrones said, “Winter is coming”. My workouts lately have been getting rather stale. I decided to buy some workout equipment to make workouts more exciting for this winter. So far I’ve been really happy with my purchase of this 25 lbs. slam ball and this battle rope.
Sometimes when you order things on Amazon you never know what you’re going to get. I was super impressed with the quality of the battle rope. The whole rope is encased in a nylon sleeve which I think will protect it from getting frayed over time.
Long term progress
Last month our dials said that we were 78% of the way to financial independence. This month we’re only 63% of the way there. What gives?
Part of the reason these numbers jump around so much is that I calculate them on our monthly spending, which is highly variable. We had the boiler tuned up and then a couple of days later the water heater failed and needed new elements. Even once those dials hit 100% we will still want to build up a buffer for emergencies. (And emergencies of FUN! I don’t want to quit my job just to miss out on all future opportunities to go to a soccer game with friends).