Tuesday, June 24, 2008

12 months of spending - revisited

If you don't use Mint.com, you should. It's an account aggregation service that consolidates your entire financial situation onto one screen. With one click of a button, you can get an up-to-the-minute view of your net-worth, bills, transactions, etc.

So, like many financial products, Mint.com enables you to categorize expenses. Here are a few of our biggest expenses over the past 12 months:

Rent       $12,560.00
Groceries         $6,511.33
Travel         $3,239.11
Hobbies         $1,496.83
Gasoline/Fuel         $1,221.31
Child/Dependent Expenses         $1,000.73
Insurance         $934.40
Automotive Expenses $643.88
Home Improvement $586.54
Utilities $346.63
Restaurants/Dining $329.32
Cable/Satellite Services     $301.16
Clothing/Shoes $278.04
Healthcare/Medical $230.15
Telephone Services $108.90 

This is what the Baugh family spends their money on. I glean a few bits of information from this list.
  1. I should own a house. Too bad $400k is the going rate for a starter home.
  2. I should live closer to family to cut down on travel expenses. What's within a short driving distance of both San Jose and Chicago?
  3. I'm lazy at categorizing my expenses. Every Costco expense counts as "groceries" even though at least 25% of our expenses there are not food.
  4. I love prepaid cell phones combined with VOIP. We paid $109 last year for all of our phones. It would have been about $120 more, but our VOIP was prepaid this year.
  5. We paid $1200 on gas during the last 12 months. Since gas is up about 25% from last year, we can expect to pay about $300 more this year on gas if our driving habits stay the same and gas prices stay elevated. I'm skeptical that gas prices will stay this high, but our driving habits have changed. We've started to drive less. We try to consolidate errand running so we visit stores that are next to each other. When we want to go out for fun, we walk/bike/play tennis, which don't require cars.
  6. We only paid $330 in restaurants during the past twelve months. That makes me happy. I'm convinced that cutting back on restaurants, cell phones, phone services, TV, and movies is some of the most effective ways to increase your savings. Most of these are recurring things which you don't even think about.
You probably don't care about my finances. I just thought that this might be a thought-provoking post that might convince on or two of you out there to get a better hold of your finances. As I have said before, it's not how much you make, it's how little you spend.

Does anyone have any recommendations on how I can cut my expenses? What are you spending your money on?

If I cared about budgets, I'd probably do something responsible and divide these amounts by 12 and allocate a set amount to each category each month. I don't care about budgets, so we spend our money on stuff we need and try to avoid frivolous wants. It works out well for us that way.

If nothing else, this post may convince on or two of you to check out mint.com. It's a cool program that I wish I had discovered a decade ago. I love tracking our net worth over time. It's empowering. It might help some of you to realize what you are spending your money on. I encourage you to at least glance at every penny that leaves your accounts.

- Brian

No comments: