2014: Review of How We Lived On $34,000

Our household expenses for the year

Another year has passed us by and it is admittedly getting tougher to live frugally. I especially felt like spending money this Christmas season, and felt jealous of others my age (in their 50's) who have houses worth 3x ours, and fancy vacations, and some even retiring. Granted there are plenty of people out there who are also falling into poverty through no fault of their own from medical issues to just bad luck in their careers. We are thankful to be able able to stay the course and hope the stock market continues its steady climb.

We do not make a lot of money, but we both work. But we have managed to save over half of our income and invest in some dividend stocks, peer to peer lending with Lending Club, and ETFs through Wealthfront. As a result our money made more money than we did this year. We have no debt and our retirement portfolio increased by over twenty percent again this year. And it is because we save more than we spend. We also spend less than we make. Both frugal actions are necessary to plan a successful future.  But it is hard, even though the behavior is ingrained throughout life. There are always new temptations and desires so my defense is to always wait on spending decisions. I have to think it through, alot. I once read that you should take a day to think about every $100 you spend. So, it you want to buy a $500 dollar laptop, you need to think about it for 5 days before you spend to determine if you can really justify the purchase. Thats my trick anyway.

So, this year we spent about $34,000 maintaining our lifestyle and household. We track everything on Mint.com and categorize the expenses. Last year we spent $32K. One big expense ($2,125) this year was our dog. She is over 14 now and has developed a permanent case of vertigo due to chronic ear infections and being under anesthetic surgery this year. Our largest expense category this year is allowance and personal care ($4200). We each get $250 a month in allowance to spend or save as we please. If we both do something together it is considered a household expense, but if only one person wants the expenditure it is allowance. I usually buy computer stuff or victoria secret or clothing, my husband buys experiences like auto racing, or massages. Our next largest category is travel ($3661) and it was lower this year than previous years. The third largest expense category was Clothing, Electronics and Miscellaneous ($3611). This was a surprise to me since it didn't seem like we spend much on clothes but I guess we did. This is an area for opportunity to cut back since probably most of it was discretionary and unnecessary.

We did have a couple categories where we managed to cut expenses, one was cable and also phone. We played the mars movie moments sweepstakes and won hundreds of dollars toward our cable bill this summer. We essentially had free cable and internet for four months. We also changed my husbands smartphone to ringplus where he only pays $11 a month for phone, text and data. I pay $50 a month for the unlimited Sprint plan. We still coupon for our groceries and with the changes in Publix coupon policies it has affected our ability to stockpile.

We expect to see our grocery bill go higher in 2015 but still plan to do what we can with coupons. I still will get six newspapers on Sunday for coupons, but I think printing coupons is probably cheaper and there are many of the same insert coupons that available to print. I also want to investigate a way to decrease the insurance costs of our 17 year old truck. We have max coverage and we only drive it 1500 miles a year making it expensive per mile analysis. We need to separate the vehicles and get a separate policy with just minimum on the truck. There are other areas we could cut back but at this point we don't see the need.

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