The fact that it took me multiple tries of adding up numbers to get ones that were reasonably the same means I a) am not as much of a recovering perfectionist as I thought and b) probably need to slightly rethink my system of tracking numbers. I think a lot of it is inconsistency in categorization, which is frustrating but ultimately doesn’t affect the total (so I could’ve spent a way healthier ratio of time spent writing this post compared to spreadsheeting for this post 🤦♀️).
But, I am finally done spreadsheeting. And in total, I spent $28,629.03 in 2018.
Numbers don’t lie
Comparing yourself to others is an ill-advised idea that I keep trying to remind myself of. Comparing yourself to your past self to measure your progress is a much better idea. I was thrilled last year because for the first time ever I had a whole year of data so I could tally up my spending; 2018 marks my second whole year of keeping track.
On the surface of it, when I compare my 2018 numbers to my 2017 ones, I failed. Because I spent about $1,500 more in 2018 than I did in 2017, even though large numbers like my rent and grocery spending stayed consistent (or rather, grocery spending decreased very slightly) over the two years.
How did those 2018 numbers shake out?
|Rent||$12600.00||$1050.00||Yes, I want to cry every time I see this number|
|Transportation||$114.46||$9.54||Lyft and metro top-offs|
|Gas||$301.85||$25.15||For fun, my car cost me a total of $1,487.44 or $123.95/month|
|Car repairs||$422.59||$35.22||Battery replacement and fixing my gas system|
|Barre||$1253.00||$104.42||Including $31.72 in fees for forgetting to cancel|
|Personal care||$508.85||$42.40||An unscientific category—some was household goods, some got lumped into groceries|
|Medical||$19.52||$1.63||There was a bit of a gap between what I spent and what I put on my FSA last year|
|Fees/subscriptions||$547.15||$45.60||Spotify and Patreon fees, plus things like Costco membership and credit card annual fees|
|Entertainment||$316.86||$26.41||Most of this was a Hamilton ticket!!|
|Vacation||$2524.30||$210.36||I’m including the extra plane ticket I bought for Cents Positive here, since I bought it and I’ve used part of the credit already for non-blog travel
|Blog events||$2789.16||$232.43||I already went into this in detail|
|Charitable giving||$880.00||$73.33||That’s not a fantastic percentage of my income/spending, but it’s not awful either|
|Clothes||$314.87||$26.24||MUCH better than last year, which is what a clothes buying ban will do for you|
|Miscellaneous/shopping||$651.49||$54.29||Including a hammock, travel items/packing cubes, and some other shit|
|Student loans||$1339.73||$111.64||Goodbye forever!|
If you want more details, reading back through my spending reports is the best way to go because I’m sticking with overall trends here.
$854.33/$71.19 versus $1,867.16/$155.60 in 2017.
I kept track of things way better in 2018 than in 2017. Lots of my 2017 spending was in the oh-so-helpful “miscellaneous” category. But even despite some more frivolous spending on things like a hammock and travel items, I substantially decreased my general stuff-buying. Hooray for being a more mindful, intentional consumer and stopping to think before I buy things!
I lumped gift spending into the 2018 numbers because that was included in my “miscellaneous” for 2017, even though they’re not necessarily the same.
$314.87/$26.24 versus “approximately” $739.00/$61.58 in 2017.
“I’m not going to implement a total yearlong ban (although I do think about it occasionally), but my goal is going to be to spend a max of $50 on clothes per month and to go without buying clothes for at least half of this year (so a total of $300).”
I spent a bit more than that $300 goal, although I’m pretty sure I assumed what I spent in 2018 would be on more fast fashion (it wasn’t, which is something I’m very proud of). But it’s hilarious that I didn’t think I was going to do a yearlong ban!
$606.42/$50.54 versus $482.71/$40.23 in 2017 (and like last year, this doesn’t include eating out while on vacation, which is in the vacation category).
My goal was to bring the number down in 2018 and yikes, that did not happen. However, it’s not because I made a bunch of bad decisions in 2018. I treated my parents to some meals. Dates cost money. And I had way more meetups with DC bloggers than I did in 2017. And because we are sane people
instead of boring, robotic personal finance nerds, we like food and usually end up going out after said meetups.
Besides, $50/month is a perfectly reasonable amount to spend out at restaurants and bars. My plan for getting to FI does not include cutting all of the fun out of my life. I can still aim for lower in 2019, but I’m not going to sweat this.
$2,524.30/$210.36 versus $1,193.41/$99.45 in 2017.
Well there’s a huge change! And I regret none of it. Vacations are the best.
Plus there’s the new category this year of blog event spending that didn’t exist last year. No wonder I spent more in 2018 than 2017!
$1,487.44/$123.95 versus $2,162.51/$180.21 in 2017.
I paid a lot more for insurance in 2017 so the numbers for 2018 look better, even though gas and registration were slightly more expensive (gas probably because I went hiking more in 2018. That’s a fantastic reason to spend more on gas). I also (thank goodness) had $100 less in repairs this year. I like that trend but fully recognize that as my car gets older I’m way more likely to be spending more in repairs, not less!
Yes, I know having a car here is absolutely not a necessity and I could’ve saved $1,500 if I didn’t have it. But I would’ve had a lot more headaches figuring out how to get to Costco and to go hiking (and rental cars aren’t cheap!), plus I would’ve been spending on bus tickets to get home to visit my parents (and maybe this wouldn’t hold for any random given weekend especially if I bought the tickets well in advance, but it is much cheaper for me to drive home for holiday weekends than to take the bus).
$1,339.73/$111.64 versus $1,473.00/$122.75 in 2017.
It’s pretty telling that despite paying off my student loans in May, I spent almost as much in the first part of 2018 as I did all of 2017. I don’t remember the terms of the repayment plan at this point (it was maybe have them paid off in 2022?) but boy would it have been dragging out interminably if I’d let my loans run their course.
My interest rates weren’t terribly high and my balances weren’t high enough for the interest to accumulate too rapidly, but I still saved myself at least a couple hundred dollars in interest over the course of the next three or however many years.
Plus I never have to make those monthly payments again. I’ll definitely take that.
So I have room for improvement, and trying to make sure everything I spend is a mindful purchase is a constant. But overall I don’t regret the money I spent.
I am honestly too lazy to go back and look up what my retirement contributions were in 2017 for the sake of comparison with 2018. I already had to go back and look up the first part of the year before I started including them in my spending reports so I could get a more accurate savings rate. So I’m only comparing my post-tax rate to my 2017 rate.
In 2018 my after-tax income was $35,504.88 (including my tax return from 2017). Technically for tax purposes it’s really $37,124.14 since taxes aren’t taken out of my side hustle paychecks, but I prefer to take out my own taxes ($1,619.26 worth of them) and put them in a separate savings account (and that reduced number is the one I report here for my side hustle income).
Here are ballpark numbers for 2017 (I am definitely not going back and double-checking that I’ve got everything right down to the last penny):
Post-tax income: $34,112.18
Post-tax savings: $7,043.54
Post-tax savings rate: 20.65%
So while those numbers are close, obviously that’s not great that my savings rate decreased. But you know what I know for a fact (even without looking it up) was a higher number in 2018 than 2017? My 401(k) contributions, and that’s where I do the bulk of my saving by far these days.
Actual savings rate
Here’s what that full spreadsheet looks like for 2018:
That bolded number is the one I’m going with for 2018 and that’s a much better number!
Since I set specific money goals for 2018 I’m going to go back and see how I did on those in a separate post. Looking at my 2018 spending shows there’s absolutely a lot of fluff I could cut out. But I wouldn’t have wanted to cut out that fluff. I had a lot of fun in 2018 and believe that $28,629.03 was absolutely money well-spent (besides the heinous cost of rent here but 🤷♀️).
However, it’s really easy to justify overspending by saying “I don’t want to cut all of the fun out of my life and I don’t regret what I spent.” So I’m not giving myself absolute free rein for spending in 2019 (despite the fact that I don’t budget). But spending below $30k to live in DC is nothing to sneeze at, so any overspending I do is definitely at a reasonable level.
Besides, I’m pretty damn proud of a 42% savings rate for the year. That’s absolutely something to celebrate!