Every Dollar I Spent Last Year

We began the new year in a deserted city. Storefronts were planked over as we walked alone down the streets of Antwerp, the most populous city in Belgium. Most people were sleeping off the night before, quiet calm descending after a night of reflections and hope for the year of 2018.

I spent the first few months of the year in England for work, and I took advantage of my proximity to the rest of Europe to travel. Some of my travel expenses included:

£60 flight to Sweden

£80 flight to Amsterdam

£176 solo trip to Budapest

As early 2018 was marked by travel, when I flew home at the end of March I was ready to keep the adventure going.

We found some beautiful Oregon hikes, drove to spend weekends at the coast, and explored our own city of Portland on the weekends.

Hiking Dog Mountain
Hiking Dog Mountain

With all of this travel, how did my spending stack up to last year?

Spending in 2017

2017 was the year I really started taking a deep dive into my own finances. I signed up for Personal Capital in June to start tracking my spending, which was a real eye-opener for me. Prior to opening that account, I had no idea what my net worth was, let alone how I was spending my money. The figure below shows my spending from June through December in 2017.

Expenses in 2017
Expenses in 2017

If we take my average spending per month and pencil it in for January to May, then the total comes to $25,874 for 2017. It might not be exact, but we can use it as a general benchmark.

Spending in 2018

My expenses in 2018 come out to just under $20k.

Expenses in 2018
Expenses in 2018

Dang, December, why you gotta do me like that? There was a bit of a rent shuffle when my landlord changed PO boxes without telling us, so my expenses in December included a double rent payment, and I also paid a big medical bill.

Overall, I’m pleased with the overall flow of money as shown in the diagram below. A large chunk went straight into retirement investments, and this year I managed to shear down a lot of the smaller expenses so the “Negotiables” category shrank considerably. There are some areas I think I could improve on for 2019, but it’s looking pretty good.

diagram of spending breakdown in 2018
Approximate flow of money in 2018

My total spending was slightly lower than $19,438 for the year as some expenses, like groceries, are shared with Mr. Mechanic. I’ll break it down with the actual numbers below.

Let’s dive into the nitty and gritty details of my spending this year!

MONTHLY BILLS (74% Budget): $13,765

  • Rent $12,065

We have a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment a 15-minute bike ride from downtown Portland, OR.

  • Car Insurance $700

    2009 Copper red mica miata mx-5
    Goodbye, sweet sweet ride.

I didn’t use my car much, and recurring expenses like this were one of the influences that led me to sell my car. Now I split insurance costs with Mr. Mechanic on our one vehicle, so hopefully this line item will go down in 2019.

  • Electric Bill $300

The electric bill averages $50 total per month, or $25 each. We try not to use the heat and the air conditioning comes on only in rare heat flashes in the summer– maybe twice a year.

  • Phone $250

For most of the year, I had a plan with Virgin Mobile. It included Unlimited Talk & Text and 5GB of data for $35.75 (incl. taxes and fees). I also tried out Mint Mobile, ($15 a month for unlimited talk & text and 2GB) but my phone wasn’t compatible. Now I have a company phone, so that monthly cost is $0.

  • Fuel $150

I commute via bike or bus, so we only use the car for weekend grocery trips or hiking outings.

FOOD (11% Budget): $2,069

  • Groceries $1,569

An average of $130/month. This is down from 2017’s spending of $1,835 or $152/month. This is lower than in the figure above as Mr. Mechanic and I split this cost. We do lots of meal planning, and I’m looking forward to trying out a meat-and-added-sugar limited diet in 2019.

  • Eating Out $500

I averaged $42/month (Mr. Mechanic split a few of these meals with me). This is down from 2017’s spending of $850, or $70/month. Most meals out are workday lunches, which I attempted to cut down in 2018 by packing my lunch more often. Apparently August was our big eat-out month, which makes sense because that is the month of the famous $5 Burger Week in Portland. We also took our respective parents out for a meal.

average spent per month on restaurants
Restaurant spending in 2018

MEDICAL (6% Budget): $1,151

One case of pink eye cost me one visit to Urgent Care ($232), one visit to the eye doctor ($276) and one more visit to an eye specialist ($145). That totals $653 for an ailment that I just needed to wait out. Ouch. Unfortunately, mine lasted way longer than normal and the eye doctor wanted to do a few tests.

I also got two root canals done. Here’s to hoping for a fit and healthy 2019.

TRAVEL (4% Budget): $802

I visited several cities: Antwerp, Brugge, Ghent, Brussels, Amsterdam, Karlstad (Sweden), London, Budapest, Denver, and Vancouver BC. This total counts flights, trains, and hostels. I booked a couple flights (Amsterdam, Karlstad, and Denver) through points I earned using my Chase Sapphire Preferred card so they don’t show up as expenses.

EVERYTHING ELSE (3% Budget): $621.15

Coffee and cake treat in Belgium
Coffee and cake treat in Belgium
  • Gifts $217  –  This might be a category we could bring down with some extra planning ahead. I think it’s possible to give generously while still being frugal!
  • Blog $140  –  Includes purchasing this domain name and hosting for two years.
  • Service Charges and Fees $110 – Yearly fee for Chase Sapphire card and some transaction fees.
  • Personal Care  $60 – Shampoos, skin care, sunscreen, etc.
  • Clothing $18.75 – I wanted to stop buying clothes completely in 2018, but I ended up buying shorts and a dress for the summer. This is down from $74 in 2017. Next year I want to get this to $0!
  • Entertainment $27.40 – Tickets to a Finnish melodic death metal concert. I’m sure we spent more on entertainment, but it was likely food related so it would end up in that category. This is down from $229 in 2017.
  • Automotive $23 –  A sharp corner ripped the skirt off of my car. I ordered the parts online and fixed it myself.
  • Hobbies $25 – I count the dog walking experiment as a hobby. To sign up for Wag! and Rover, you need to pay for a background check. I also went to a software engineering workshop. In 2019 I’d like to do more rock climbing as a hobby. In 2017 I spent $550 on hobbies and $162 on rock climbing.

If you want to track your spending like me using Personal Capital, sign up using this link. If you do, we both get $20, score!

How do we compare? How was your 2018 spending? 

Get Posts Delivered Straight To Your Inbox!

17 Comments

  1. Thanks for your transparency. I’m waiting to be back from vacation so that I can check and report on how we did in 2018. Overall, I foresee our expenses being higher in 2018 compared to 2017 but that is ok. Our family grew in size so that is priceless. What I’m most interested in is in estimating my savings rate so stay tuned for that. Thanks for this post and keep it up.

    1. Yeah, the savings rate is a good metric to keep track of. I look forward to seeing your report on 2018. Thanks for your encouragement!

    1. Whoa I did not know about that tax credit! Thank you for alerting me to that, definitely something to take advantage of.

  2. That is a beautiful graph. How did you make it?

    Incredible spending. We spend that in two months. Congrats! Love seeing all that money flow to savings and retirement. Well done.

    1. Yes, completely separate finances. These numbers are just my personal spending! Mr. Mechanic spends a similar amount as me so I imagine that when we combine, our expenses will be about double. Thanks for the encouragement, I’m looking forward to it!

    1. Nice! Concerts were definitely highlights even though we only went to a couple. We also went to see Punch Brothers in September, at the zoo! It was a gift so it didn’t make it onto the expense report, but it was very different from the death metal concert.

  3. It is very interesting to view someone else’s actual spending (versus an article saying what other people spend). What hit home to me was how difficult it must be for a lot of low or minimum wage earners. I mean you have spending down to an absolute minimum ($18 for all year for clothes!) with no kids to pay for, and yet you still spent $20,000 which is $40,000 for two. A national average teachers salary is $38,617. No wonder people end up in debt or have nothing saved for retirement!

    Nice photographs by the way.

    1. Thank you! It was interesting to see the comparison at least in a few categories I was working on. I’m hoping that better record keeping now will make it easier in the upcoming years 🙂

  4. Nice breakdown of your expenses! I need to try the SankeyMatic tool sometime with our numbers.

    I had 5 work trips to the UK in 2018 but didn’t really take advantage of going anywhere else in Europe. On your side trips, which city or country did you enjoy most?

    Dragon Guy

    1. I highly recommend it! I was not very familiar with the relation to my income and expenses but the Sankey diagram helped a lot.

      Hmm each trip was so different! I would say Amsterdam was amazing, even in the winter, but my very favorite was Budapest. I was travelling alone but I met a ton of people at the hostel that really made the experience memorable. Plus the hot baths were very welcome when it was cold. How long were your work trips? For one trip in 2017 we took a train to Scotland which was also a great place to stop by.

  5. We loved Budapest a lot when we went in 2012; we loved the large public bath there!

    Most of my trips were 1 week. There was a 2.5 week trip in the summer where Dragon Gal came for most of it. We managed to do a weekend trip to Isle of Wight which is off the southern coast. One of the consultants I work with would fly to continental Europe on Friday night, spend two days in a different city, and then take the train over to London early Monday morning….that’s what I should have done, but learned about his approach too late.

Leave a Reply