Money Well Spent- September 2021

By Sam •  Updated: 10/13/21 •  8 min read

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Here it is- my monthly recap of my spending, saving, doing, and blogging.

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What we did in September

As a parent, there is nothing more magical than the first day of school.

Don’t believe me? Just look how happy I was the day we could finally send them all of to school.

Gov Worker happy about it being the first day of school.

The first day of school was especially exciting this year as the kids barely entered the school building during the 2020/2021 school year.

After 18 months of sheltering in place with my wife, 3 kids, a dog, and a cat, we were finally able to return to somewhat of a normal schedule.

And dear god it was glorious.

Live music

Another major reason I had a great September was that I got to see live music for the first time since 2019. Andy Shauf, my favorite artist, was playing a show in my city.

It was amazing to go to a concert again. Also I was super interested to see him live. Andy Shauf plays and records all of the instrumental tracks on his records in addition to singing. I wasn’t sure if his live concerts were just him with a piano playing stripped-down versions of his music but he had in fact assembled a band.

photo of the Andy Shauf concert in Madison, WI
I am a huge Andy Shauf fan and loved seeing him in concert.

I also really enjoyed his set list. His last two recordings were concept albums where the lyrics from all of the songs tell a hauntingly empty evenings. He mixed up songs from his whole catalog in a really interesting way. It was so much fun.

Community garden update

Mrs. Gov and I have been really bad about getting out to the garden. While we tended it almost nightly in the spring and early summer, we have gotten out of the habit after the garden became self sustaining.

view of the community garden at the beginning of September 2021
Picture of the community garden at the beginning of September, 2021.

We harvested the rest of the tomatoes and have been harvesting quite a few butternut squash. We also got to pick my in-law’s (giant) garden while they were on vacation and filled up our trunk with produce.

Mrs. Gov took off work for a couple of days just to focus on canning vegetables. We’ve filled up 1.5 chest freezers and nearly all of our mason jars.

What we spent in September

Here is what our spending looked like for September, 2021. We track all of our expenses in CountAbout so it is easy to pull together these monthly reports.

September 2021 spending

You can see that most of our top spending categories are “fixed costs”- healthcare/health insurance, property taxes, and utilities. Given that we have one of the tightest grocery budgets of anyone I know, it’s really hard to get our spending much lower than it is right now.

One new addition to the list is the “Allowance” category. This isn’t a new spending category. I just changed how I was making these graphs. While most of our income goes into joint accounts, Mrs. Gov and I both give ourselves an allowance that goes into a private account. That way, we each have some money that we have full autonomy over.

While we have used this system ever since getting married, I hadn’t listed it as an expense category previously but instead just tacked an extra amount onto our total spending at the end of the month. This change makes it a little more transparent.

Groceries- $502.92

We crushed it on grocery spending this month! We spent roughly $100 per person in the month of September, or $1.11 per person per meal!

This is much lower than our goal of $1.50 per person per meal.

Not only that, but it is HALF of the the USDA Thrifty Food Plan budget for our family ($1010 per month). Side note- the USDA changed how it calculated the Thrifty Food Plan allowance so it is now much higher than it used to be. Regardless, we had a great, low-cost month on groceries.

Kids- (-$36.27)

If you thought our grocery spending was good, our spending on kids was excellent. In fact, we *made* money on our kids.

(Not really)

It turned out that the oldest kid did not need a new graphing calculator for Algebra because my 25 year old TI-83 was sufficient. So with a heavy heart, I handed over my beloved graphing calculator to the next generation and returned the newer color model that we bought last month. That resulted in a slightly negative amount spent on kids in September.

walking kid to school
Walking to school.

Pets- $242.68

This was a big month for pet spending. We had to buy a 6-month supply of medicine for Kenny. He also needed more food and Cheeto needed kitty-litter.

Apparently racing greyhounds need special deworming medicine as they frequently pick up drug resistant worms at the track. It was never clear to me if he needs to be on the medicine forever or only for a certain period of time after his racing career.

Since Kenny is a major source of happiness in my life, I’m happy to give him a monthly pill to protect him from worms and ticks.

Gas & Auto- $42.01

We only filled up the car once in September. Most of the miles were to visit our in-laws and pick their produce. My oldest and I also drove to a trail race on a gorgeous fall afternoon.

Progress towards financial independence

We have been plotting our “projected passive income” against our monthly expenses since we read Your Money or Your Life. The idea is that sometime these lines will cross and you will be financially independent.

Now that we aren’t paying for daycare, these lines got *a lot* closer together. They were about $600 away from touching. I feel like if we had a focused “no-spend” month, the lines might cross for one month. (Not that we’d be financially independent then, but it’d feel good to have them cross once).

What I read in September

I have been on a big young adult literature kick lately. I like reading fiction books. However, I frequently find myself frustrated with adult books. They always seem to be filled with people in unhappy relationships. If I wanted to read about unhappy stuff I’d read the news.

I really like Robyn Schneider’s work. It feeds a little bit of my high school nostalgia in a good way. And while I’m normally not into romance novels, teen-romances are fun to read. There’s nothing high stakes about it since the kids are going to go off to college at the end of the book anyway.

While You Don’t Live Here might not be my favorite Robyn Schneider book, I think I learned more from it than I did in any of her other books.

The premise of the book is that a teenage girl’s mother dies so she is forced to live with grandparents who are eerily similar to Richard and Emily Gilmore. The main character is bisexual and the book is told from her point of view. Reading a book told from her point of view helped me better understand what it would be like to be bisexual growing up.

My only regret is that I’ve finished the entire Robyn Schneider catalog so I’m not exactly sure what to read next.

Blog highlights (32 months)

My biggest highlight was that I attended my very first FinCon!

Gov Worker at FinCon
Very excited to attend my very first FinCon!

With the tagline, “Where money nerds unite”, FinCon is a major financial media conference. I had a great time at FinCon pitching potential partnerships to big brands and learning from other content creators who were farther along in their journey.

But honestly, one of the best parts of FinCon was meeting so many of my “blog friends” that I have interacted with daily on Twitter for several years in person.

YouTube

If you haven’t gotten the news from social media or my email list, I launched my YouTube channel.

YouTube Thumbnail- when can federal employees retire
Check out my YouTube channel- where you can like, subscribe, and comment.

If you’re not a YouTube subscriber, could you please check out my channel and hit the subscribe button? YouTube has two important thresholds for channels that you unlock at 100 and 1,000 subscribers. I’d love to have you be my 100th (or 1000th) subscriber!

That was my month! You can tell me about your month on my Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

Sam

Sam i.e. "Gov Worker" started working for the government at age 18 and loved it so much that he never left. He started GovernmentWorkerFI in 2019 to help fellow federal employees understand their benefits, take control of their finances, and live their best lives.