Let’s take a look at our September Spending Report. Every month we like to review with you how our spending ended up compared to budget. We do this to help you compare your expenses as well as learn from our mistakes and successes as we go.
Tracking your expenses is the first step necessary to start your personal finance journey and one of the most important, if not the most important. We want to not only enunciate its importance by sharing our monthly expenses but show you that we too can struggle with staying on track and that’s just part of the journey. It won’t be perfect, especially as you start, but the only way to get better is to keep practicing, as with anything.
Since we are still in the early stage of FI where we are aggressively saving our money, we want to be able to cut our spending as much (and as reasonably) as possible. The more we cut our spending (on the things we don’t care about) the more we can put towards savings.
As you may know by looking at our previous spending report, we separate our expenses into a few different categories or labels. The two main ones are Fixed Expenses and Variable Expenses. Fixed expenses are our monthly recurring costs. We break all these down here. These costs don’t change from month to month although they can have variations from time to time. Those variations are what we will discuss below:
Disneyland Annual Passes
Our passes expired on September 24th and we will not be renewing them for this next year. With the way the payment contract works out, our last monthly payment was in August so there was no payment in September.
A benefit of being So Cal residents is that we are able to pay for the pass over the course of 12 monthly installments with 0% APR rather than paying the entire payment upfront.
Our monthly payment totaled $97.00 per month for the two passes. With us not renewing our passes, we will be able to reallocate those funds towards our savings (ideally).
Read our article about why we decided to get Disney Annual Passes in the first place. Spoiler: saving money doesn’t have to be a life suck and Disney was a great experience for us and our families.
Car Insurance Renewal
My car insurance plan is renewed annually in September. Previously, I had been on my parents’ plan where they paid the total upfront and they had me pay them back monthly. Thank you parents!
This year, however, their insurance required that I be taken off of their plan and start my own. Since I was no longer living at home or in school and otherwise completely independent of my parents, I needed a separate plan.
This wasn’t exactly ideal since my parents have been with their insurance company for 26+ years and now I am starting on a new plan from scratch. With less “loyalty” and no multi-policy discount, my car insurance increased from $45 a month to $52. Not a drastic increase but noteworthy, nonetheless as it is an overall increase of $84 over the course of the year, almost two months of my previous payment.
The rest of our fixed expenses stayed the same from month to month. Our total for fixed expenses was $1,485.18. That is a $93.96 savings to last month. Yay!
Now, this is where we are able to focus on areas that we have more of an active influence to change. Since we have already analyzed and worked on getting the lowest rates on all of our fixed expenses, we are able to put more of a focus on our variable spending month to month.
First, a note on how absolutely terrible we did. It’s not the end of the world because we are still able to cash flow all of these expenses and do not have to roll over any credit card balances. We just weren’t able to save as much as we would have liked to.
However, for those of you that have a lot less wiggle room on your budgets and going drastically over budget, as we have, would put you into debt, we highly recommend setting up Sinking Funds. I will point out where Sinking Funds would have made sense for these situations below.
This was one expense that we had planned for but was still already pushing us over our budget. We decided to indulge ourselves in one last weekend getaway to Disneyland before our passes expired this month. We were able to do relatively well on the budget I had set for the weekend. But anytime our vacation sinking fund isn’t able to cover the expenses for a trip, it ends up eating a large chunk of our monthly budget.
This trip cost us $351.67 and I had budgeted for us to spend $320.00 over the three days we were there. We did great in that regard, however, our overall variable expenses budget for the month is $910. With $200 going towards groceries and about $200 more for gas, that leaves $510. With $350 going towards a weekend at Disneyland, it doesn’t leave much room for much else ($160 to be exact).
In the future, we are going to have to look further out at our plans for weekend trips and set aside money specifically for those weekends in our v
Car Registration & Smog Test
Another expense that we were aware of, but we just didn’t actively plan for it. We did not set aside any money for registration into a sinking fund as we should have. It would be helpful to be able to easily pay the credit card off with the money from that sinking fund rather than needing to cash flow the $214.22.
I also had only anticipated paying the amount due on my registration notice, $125, plus a smog test. I didn’t do my due diligence to research how expensive it would be to go to a local registration shop and get it done there. PS it’s super expensive.
Moving forward, I now know that I need to pay and register each car in advance online so they can mail the registration and stickers to you and save on the convenience fee.
Zac Brown Band Concert
This was honestly a slip into the consumerist mindset that we haven’t seen in a while. We had gotten “free” tickets by using our Hilton Honors points to get Lawn Tickets. We had such a great time, even tailgating beforehand and bringing our own dinner. So far, so good!
I had a budget for us to spend $70 inside the venue as I figured we would want a drink or two. And, unfortunately, we just blew that budget out of the water. We ended up spending $125 at the concert. And there was no need for us to do that, we just had one too many beers and were having fun. A lesson learned for sure. YOU DON’T NEED THE $12 TACOS AT THE END OF THE NIGHT!
Our utility bill runs from mid-month to mid-month. For the bill due in September, it spanned mid-August to mid-September. This is the hottest part of our summer here in inland San Diego and had us running the AC into the evening. And of
We have a timeshare pup and we pay for her annual flea medication. It is on auto renewal and auto-delivered every year. And every year, Nate is completely surprised when it hits his credit card. We now have this recorded so it won’t be forgotten again next year. This was definitely an unexpected expense and just further hit our budget pretty hard. The total was $104.95.
This was one of our only two categories that really saw benefit from our week away. Since Nate wasn’t driving to work every day for a week, we were able to save on one full fillup for the Jetta. This saved us about $40 – $50 and we came in at $172.59 for the month.
Just as we weren’t using as much gas by being gone for a week, we also weren’t eating as much food (from the standard monthly budget). And usually, this is the category that we struggle to control the most. That’s why it’s the only category we have a specific budget for ($200/month).
We did great for the month and even though we were running low on food at the end of the month, we were still able to shop the pantry and make it work. We ended up spending $146.75.
How our DC Vacation Factored In
We had a week-long vacation in Washington DC this month and all the spending that took place on that trip was specifically paid for by a sinking fund.
With a separate budget and fund for one whole week of September, that meant only three weeks were being counted toward our regular monthly budget. And yet, somehow, we still royally screwed up. Usually, with our $910 monthly budget, we have 4 weeks to spend, so about $230 a week. This time though we only had 3 weeks to cover with the same $910, giving us $300 a week!
We ended up spending $505 per week! Ouch.
Looking back, we should have lowered our monthly budget to reflect the loss of one week on a vacation and we should have set up sinking funds to allow us weekend trips and easier car registration payments.
All in all, we still didn’t come close to the extra forgiving budget we had set for ourselves.
Those first three items (Disney weekend, ZBB Concert, and Car Registration) are what essentially blew our budget out of the water. Had we not had any of these three items, we would have been okay, but that’s not how life works. We knew all these items were coming up and should have planned accordingly. Either by setting up sinking funds for them or by adjusting our spending in our normal categories to help lessen the blow. But as you can see, we did neither and ended up going over budget by $607.18
Fixed Expenses $1,485.18
Variable Expenses $1,517.18
Total Spent in September $3,002.36
Now that you can see our shortcomings and (some) successes with our September Spending Report, it’s time to look through your spending!
How happy are you with your September spending?