Budget Mayhem – Goodbye, 2017

Budget Mayhem - Lost Creek Trail

Hello from the snowy north. Something, something, hell has frozen over. Yesterday was the first day in a week I could legitimately walk Russell without fear of him getting frostbite. It seems most of the US of A experienced some variation of tenders-and-bits-freezing-cold and/or snow. For the folks of Erie, PA or just the east coast in general, what better way to pass the time while you’re fending off the cold than read about some strangers’ budget!

And I’ll be honest, I legitimately look forward to pouring through our expenses and seeing how we did at the end of each year. It’s like a second Christmas for me!

For the Fi family, 2017 certainly had its peaks and valleys. Europe: peak. Struggling with my new business: valley. Through it all, we came out in relatively good shape. 

This year’s budget breakdown will be different from previous years. First, we now have five years worth of expenses tracked through Mint.com. So I’m showing a three-year budget breakdown below. Second, I figured out our income, expenses, and assets over those five years. This undertaking was a little tricky since I didn’t track expenses the same way as I slowly refined it over the years. I also didn’t have all my assets tracked super accurately until I started using Personal Capital. Still, I had enough information between earlier budget write-ups, PC, and Mint. 

Now I have beautiful graphs to illustrate our progress to early retirement. While technically we didn’t begin our journey to FIRE until early 2014, but since I had five years of data, I thought it would be nice to include it all.

Budget Graph Goodness

Some things to note. Looking at the below graphs, you’ll notice the trends. Income went up each year until this year. That’s because I quit my full time job to start a new business (linked above). Expenses were pretty consistent the first three years. 2013 saw us buy a house, 2014 a car, and 2015 a full kitchen remodel. In 2016, we committed to saving 60% of our income and came damn close.

This year was supposed to be more of the same until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I quit my job for my sanity while taking a financial risk. We also traveled Europe right after I quit for 3 weeks, which was a significant cost. But because of our financial savvy (and a killer stock market), we ended up boosting our assets $35,000.

Mrs. Fi “switched” companies this year (new company, same job) and took advantage of the HSA match the company provides. The new insurance added $2600 in expenses — woof. So anything we could do to offset it, we did.

The last things to note: our food budget continues to increase. This is because of dietary restrictions and our desire to eat healthier. So even though our eating out continues to dwindle, eating healthier (and organically) does add to the budget. Also included in our food budget is coffee, alcohol, etc. this is how Mint lumps it, so we just go with it. It’s not a huge part of our budget but it’s in there.

We switched insurance companies last January and saved in auto and home. I know, the auto insurance looks higher, but the 2016 payment was paid 2015, so it’s reflected there. It’s less, trust me. Additionally, I hope to drop our private mortgage insurance in June. Since we didn’t put 20% down our house (whoops) we’ve been strapped with an extra $143/mo. to cover for it. We’re this close to being at that 80/20 threshold.

The travel category is separate from Europe. We celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary with a trip to the mountains and a lovely stay in a cabin up there. We also booked plane tickets to Portlandia this spring to see my cousin get hitched. Luckily, most of this was offset with credit card points! I’m a fan!

Budget Mayhem - Lost Creek Trail
View from our Lost Creek Trail Hike

Budget mayhem, you guys

Let’s get to it! Here is the three-year breakdown of our expenses and below this spreadsheet is how we did in 2017 with our income, assets, and savings rate. Budget mayhem!

Expense Category 2015 2016 2017
Mortgage (inc. escrow) $14,890 $15,314 $14,518
Home Improvement $19,785 $272 $75
Lawn & Garden $215 $306 $77
Home Supplies $235 $209 $252
Home Services $85 $247 $405
Water + Garbage/Recycling $763 $843 $837
Heat $503 $425 $535
Electric $480 $426 $394
Internet $480 $479 $617
Cell Phone $1,450 $820 $840
Auto Payment $2,640 $0 $0
Car Insurance $1,540 $431 $579
Gas $625 $473 $411
Auto Maintenance + Services/Parts $450 $25 $393
Car Registration $145 $51 $54
Bus Pass $44 $262 $96
Travel  $570 $210 $379
Food/Coffee/Alcohol $4,020 $4,195 $4,354
Health Insurance $1,265 $1,636 $4,245
Health & Fitness $670 $1,417 $506
Personal Care $300 $415 $420
Pets $745 $671 $519
Gifts & Donations $1,800 $2,589 $2,551
Shopping $635 $546 $839
Education (Treehouse) $150 $100 $0
Entertainment $205 $178 $215
Other $270 $891 $653
Europe $0 $0 $5,770
Taxes $0 $644 $1,560
Total $54,960 $34,074 $42,090
  • Paychecks: $47,181 (net)
  • 401ks (Contributions + Match): $7,845
  • HSA (Contributions + Match): $1,000
  • Savings Interest Income: $82
  • Other: $2,977

Total: $59,085 

  • Investments: $132,590 (IRAs, 401Ks, HSA, Prosper, Fundrise)
  • Cash Accounts: $10,635 (Emergency Savings/Checking)

Total: $143,225

YTD Savings Rate: 29% 

2017 Target Savings Rate: 33%

So there it is. Our 2017 budget breakdown along with our whole financial picture from the past five years. Pretty cool stuff. And we’re only able to share this stuff with you guys because of anonymity. There are times when I wish we could just write as ourselves and not crop our heads out of pictures, but this stuff is important. Getting real insight into how other people spend, earn, and save is educational.

I think we also stand out a big because we aren’t super frugal people or huge income earners. So hopefully for those who want to take the leap toward financial independence but worry about living like paupers if you don’t have incomes over $100,000, maybe this is something in between. Just remember, it’s all about savings rate. 

We had to decide if saving 60% every year was worth putting off our dreams of traveling, not working in corporate land, having a dungeon for a kitchen, etc.

No one forced us to spend on those things. And we spent it knowing our dream of early retirement would be further away. But for us, it’s a balancing act of working to retire young but also enjoying ourselves along the way because there are no guarantees in life. 

We proved we can save 60% of our income. But we also learned that being stagnant in our careers and avoiding risk (financially and in general) doesn’t pay off. Who knows, maybe we’ll be able to work jobs with meaning to us while saving at a high rate. 

How was your 2017? What do you aspire to do in 2018? We love to hear from you, so share in the comments!

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