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January 2018: By the Numbers

I’ve been waiting a year for this day!

At the start of 2017, because I was worried about lifestyle inflation, I began tracking my expenses for the first time in years. Using a rusty copy of Quicken 2007, I resumed updating the same budget database I’ve been using since February 2004.

After three months of tracking every penny I earned and spent, I had enough data to draw a conclusion: As much as Kim and I loved where we lived, our fancy neighborhood was costing us a small fortune. Our mortgage-free condo took more than $1000 per month to maintain (between HOA, insurance, and taxes). Meanwhile, I was forking out $500+ per month for groceries (and Kim was spending some too!) and $500+ per month for restaurants.

Prompted by these high expenses — and other factors — we sold the condo and moved twenty minutes south. We now own a smaller, older home on an acre of land just beyond the edge of Portland’s urban growth boundary.

The burning question since July has been: Did this move save us any money? Now that January 2018 is in the books, we have an answer. That answer is: “Hell yes!”

January 2018 Expense Report

On the surface, I actually spent more last month than I did in January 2017. My expenses show as $5419.29 versus $4801.76 last year. That said, about $2500 of those are unusual one-time expenses, such as $811 to repair the RV so that we can sell it, $225 for an electrical permit so that I can wire my writing studio, and $425.58 to get shots for our new kittens.

Kim with the kittens

When I compare “problem” expenses from 2017 to those from 2018, I see lots of improvement. Here’s a sample of the numbers:

  • In the condo, property taxes and HOA combined came to $1093.56 per month. In our “country cottage”, property taxes run about $250.31 per month. That’s a monthly savings of $843.25!
  • Last January, I spent $535.77 on groceries and $554.95 on restaurants for a total food expense of $1090.72. Where we live now, groceries are less expensive. Plus, we’re not within walking distance of bars and restaurants. We have to make an effort to go out to eat. As a result, I spent $397.53 on groceries last month and $190.49 on restaurants for a total food bill of $588.02. That’s a savings of $502.70!
  • Other expenses remained relatively constant. In January 2017, I spent $135.34 on transportation and $296.33 on utilities. In January 2018, I spent $147.29 on transportation and $301.61 on utilities.

I’m pleased with these numbers. I had hoped that moving would save us about $1200 per month. With one comparison month in the books, that guess looks accurate.

One final note on my financial situation: In January, my net worth rose 3.71% over December. It was up 3.33% compared to the same month last year.

I need to temper this good news with the fact that we’ve spent around $70,000 for repairs at the new place. This old house has been a money pit. We had a $59,000 “profit” on the difference between the sales price of the condo and the purchase price of the house. That profit vanished into a new bathroom, a new roof, new siding, and new floors. Without these repairs, my net worth would have been up 7.04% compared to the same month last year. (I realize some of these repairs should convert to increased home equity, but for now I’m treating them as a lost expense.)

Our new home

2018 Goals Update

Meanwhile, how am I doing on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year? Pretty good — but not perfect.

  • At the start of January, I said that I wanted to run at least one mile every day in 2018. That goal went out the window when I caught pneumonia and the doctor ordered me not to exercise for ten days. Still, I ran every day that I could in January for a total of 34.01 miles. (My revised goal is to run 1000 miles in 2018 — no “every day” component to it.)
  • I also said I wanted to eat three servings of plants every day in 2018 (by which I meant an average of three servings per day). This is one of those goals that seems stupid and easy to many people, but is actually very difficult for me. (I’m a meatatarian.) In January, I averaged 2.42 servings of plants per day. That’s progress, I guess.
  • Kim and I tend to drink a lot. It’s our hobby. (This afternoon, for instance, we’re headed to the Portland Seafood and Wine Festival.) I want to drink less, though, so I’m aiming to have only 500 servings of alcohol in 2018. In January, I drank 33 servings. That’s below my target pace, so yay! (One subgoal is to drink no beer until my birthday at the end of March. So far, so good.)
  • I also set a goal to publish 500 articles at Get Rich Slowly this year. In January, I published 34 articles. (These 34 articles contained 51,051 words, for an average length of 1502 words per article.) This puts me behind my intended pace, but I’m fine with that. This lofty goals is really meant to push me to publish as much as possible. If I aim for 500 pieces and only publish 400, that’s not exactly a failure.
  • Finally, I said I wanted to read one book for pleasure each week this year. I haven’t hit this one at all. I didn’t finish a single physical book in January (although I did read most of Pillars of the Earth). I consumed a lot of audiobooks, but that’s not what my aim was here. I want to read physical books. I’ve got to figure out how to fit this into my schedule.

Again, I’m pleased with this progress, although I recognize there’s room for improvement. I want to find a way to encourage myself to eat more plants! Plus, I need to set aside time to read for pleasure. I think both of these things will come with time…

How are you doing with the goals you set yourself for 2018? Are you making progress? Are you struggling? And how’s your financial situation now compared to a year ago?

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11 Comments

  1. I’ve fallen behind my goal of 10 hours of hard endurance training every week (running and cycling). It’s kind of understandable since this winter has been pretty cold. I’ve been hitting about 7 or 8 hours a week so far.

    In the warmer months I’ll typically average about 12 or 13 hours a week so I know I’ll make up for these lost hours, but the goal was to get a good winter start. I’ll do better in Feb.

  2. One of my goals for 2018 was to begin furnishing our new home in San Miguel de Allende, MX. So far we have purchased the following:
    Master Bed
    Second bedroom Bed
    Three fireplace inserts (propane)
    Refrigerator
    Microwave
    Toaster
    Coffee Maker
    Washer and Dryer
    Artwork for Dinning Room Wall

    Pretty soon we’ll be ready to move in! 8^)

  3. JD, quinoa and veggies are your friends. They can cook together in the same pot, and it’s cooks really quickly. This could be the key for you. 😉 If you need further help, you know my e-mail.

  4. Thank you for sharing the photos of your lovely kitties!

    With one exception, I’ve met my goal of getting on my treadmill for at least 15 minutes 4 times a week. (The day I didn’t, I hands and knees scrubbed my kitchen floor, so yes, I got my workout.)

    I cleaned out my sock drawer and raided my closet and gave some warm clothing to a friend who does direct outreach to the homeless. (Just in time for a very cold night, too!)

    I have been MUCH better about bringing lunch and dinner to work. (I forgot my lunch today — so mad at myself!)

    I upped my HSA contribution from $200 to $320 a month.

    I fully funded my 2018 Roth IRA and have mapped out where I want the money to go. (I really gotta up my bond holdings.]

    I took advantage of two opportunities for FREE MONEY
    1) I had a coupon for a $10 gift card if I spent $50 at Target. (I’d already made a shopping list for a trip to Target. Perfect timing! Plus I got 5% off by using my Target card.)
    2) $10 bonus if I loaded $100 into my Amazon gift card fund.
    [I carry no credit card debit, so this really was FREE MONEY.]

    This has been a month of Big Banking Changes:
    1) I moved my Oh $nap fund to a money market account that pays 1.4% interest. It only took a few moments.
    2) I moved all my online payments to my online checking account.
    3) I moved my direct deposit to my online checking account.
    4) I applied for a savings account at my local credit union (I’ve been approved, but I’m waiting on my actual account number, which they need to hurry up on!)
    5) I closed my checking account at “Bank of Satan” … which was a bit emotional because I’ve been with them over 20 years, but I don’t like the direction they’ve gone in the past 7 or so years. (I also sold my BofA stock.)

    Next month I want to move an IRA from one brokerage to my current one. I also want to review our cable package. We watch about 5 channels regularly. Perhaps there is a cheaper package that has what we want.

    The hub and I had a big expense this month — we spent about $950 buying art at a charity auction. It was a splurge, which is why I’ve been working hard to curb impulse spending this month.

    (The splurge was offset a bit by the fact that my teacher — I’m pursuing a graduate certificate — is using an open access textbook, so that right there saved at least $150.)

    Finally, I want to say that Becoming Proactive article has been a great source of inspiration to me. I can worry myself sick about things I have little or no direct control over, or I can focus that energy and time on “tending my own house” and through doing that, I will actually be in a better place to have more impact on the world at large.

  5. I just learned from another blogger that you bought the site back. I am so excited! Your blog was the first personal finance blog I read.

    January 2018 was pretty exciting for me because Mr. MLM and I spent ZERO dollars on eating out. No restaurants, no pizza delivery, no fast food, NOTHING! Normally, that budget line runs $200-500 a month.

    Good luck with your 2018 goals, and welcome back!

  6. Do you have a separate category for beer or drinking? If so, I imagine you’re doing better here too. I have a category for Drinks (for retail consumption) and another for Package Goods. Quicken is great for tracking expenses.

  7. My husband and I wanted to eat better this year too. We started the Whole 30 last week and one advantage of it is that we are not eating out for dinner (we are within 1-2 blocks of several restaurants) AND we make enough for dinner that we have leftovers for lunch so our dining out costs were $0 for the past week which is HUGE for us. We did spend more on groceries than we normally do so I need to do some comparison but hubby typically spends $12-14 on lunch out during the week so I think we are going to see some savings in our food budget.
    We have gotten some quotes from auto/home insurance companies and will probably move to one of those. The biggest savings is $47/month but times 12, that’s nice chunk of change.

  8. Love the kitty picture. Thank you for adopting all black cats. Many times they have a hard time being adopted due to cultural myths regarding black cats.

  9. I also struggle with eating my veggies. I was never in the habit, worked with a dietician to get myself into the habit, and somehow got myself out of the habit last year. I need to work on that again.

    My personal goal for the year has been a strategic no-spending 2018. It hasn’t been quite as hard as I thought it’d be, but I’m only one month in so it could change completely. Before I started the challenge I didn’t think I’d notice a drastic increase in my bank account, but there’s been a lot more money in my checking account when the next deposit comes in than has ever been in the past. I’m curious to see if that trend holds, or if it’s the pace of bills and deposits. (We get paid every other week, so bills and deposits don’t always coincide regularly.) I think the hardest part for me has been that I can’t invite people to go out to eat, drink, go to the movies, etc. That’s definitely reduced the time that I spend with friends, so I need to work on inviting people over to hang out.

  10. Thanks for these “numbers” posts JD. I always find these sorts of posts so interesting. And well done on the changes panning out as hoped.