Every year I do a recap of how much I spent.
Here are the previous breakdowns for the last few years:
- A Complete Spending Breakdown of 2018 [$20,850]
- How I Spent Just $15,000 In 2019
- Every Penny of $20,000 I Spent in 2020
In 2021 I moved from Santa Barbara to Amsterdam and made it my goal to spend more. I gathered every expense and sorted them into categories for this report. Here is every dollar I spent in 2021!
The Year In Pictures
Let’s start with a recap of the year. Before I left, I tried to squeeze as much of California adventures in as possible.
Note: some links in this article are affiliate links, meaning if you click through I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Then in April, I packed my bags to move. Here’s everything I brought with me for a move across the world for an indefinite-amount-of-time:
Then I set out to explore as much of The Netherlands as I could.
Admittedly, my international move did mess up my expense tracking– I don’t have my European bank accounts linked to my normal software. That will make this post a little harder to put together than years past, which was made easy by Personal Capital (my money tracking tool of choice). Let’s see what I can cobble together for 2021.
How Much I Spent in 2021
I admit to being a bit trepidatious about this report. I know the trend for my spending has increased exponentially, but will it put a damper on my FIRE plans? When it comes to calculating how much money in investments it would take to retire, how much you spend per year is one of the the most influential variables.
I can’t know until I figure out the damage, so here we go!
Adding Up Each Expense Report
Every month I write an expense report, which helps with the total tally for my yearly number. Note: these are expenses for just me.
I didn’t pay rent in March and my company covered accommodation for the month of April. However, even without rent my expenses remained high as I paid for travel, utilities, things for my new apartment, and donations. I don’t have corresponding expense reports for those months, but I went back and retroactively collected all of the expenses for this post.
The total is… $32,781 or €28.590! All in all, I spent about $2,732 (or €2.420) per month.
This total is much more than last year, when I spent $19,863.
According to Numbeo, the estimated monthly costs for a single person in Amsterdam before rent is $1,052 or €933. Since my rent is €1.700, that means if I spent about as much as an average single person and included my rent, it would be a total of €2.633, which looks about right in line with what I’m spending.
This really drives home for me the difference that housing costs can make. Last year my rent for half of the year was $500 per month and $1,320 for the rest of the year. In Amsterdam I pay about $2,000, and it shows!
Here is the breakdown of where every penny went.
Rent $16,771 ~€15.428
I live in a very central part of Amsterdam, just outside of the main rings of canals. I pay a premium for this location.
Therapy $1,500 ~€1.362
I got a therapist who specializes in the area I needed help in before moving. She does not take insurance, so all costs are out-of-pocket. Dr. X has offered to cover this expense, reimbursing me for this line item in the past and for future appointments, so this might not show up in future expense reports.
Last year I spent $625 on therapy
Utilities $1,403 ~€1.291
My utilities bill went up when I moved, partly because I am no longer splitting the bill with a partner. The average is about €165 per month which includes gas, electric, trash and water.
Last year this cost was $185
Insurance $914 ~€840
I paid in full for my health insurance in June. I picked a high deductible plan (my deductible is €885). With my plan I will be reimbursed 100% in hospitals covered by my insurance provider. This includes: general practitioner, treatment and hospital stay, medical specialist, medicine, maternity and obstetric care, and ambulance transport.
Last year I paid for car insurance and renters insurance which totalled $629, but this year I didn’t have either. This line item is now just health insurance!
Internet $344 ~€316
The price doubled since moving to my own place as I pay the full price rather than splitting.
Last year I paid $258.
Phone $177 ~€163
My phone bill is amazingly cheap. It’s about ~24€ a month, which includes the extra 5 I pay for unlimited international calls.
Last year I paid $0. (Work covered my phone bill before this)
Housecleaning $400 ~€368
I pay in cash from a withdrawal I made in April, thus the housekeeping bill didn’t show up in any of my expense reports. However, my landlord recommended a housecleaner who does a phenomenal job, and after the first time she came I was hooked. We never had cleaning services growing up, so I never thought about hiring anyone in my past apartments. However, it has been unspeakably nice to come home to a place that is made up in a way I never really seem to be able to achieve.
Last year I paid $0
Groceries $1,545 ~€1.421
There were two months (January and October) where I spent nearly nothing on groceries. This brought the average down, so I spent about $137 per month on groceries. However, there were also some spendy months too where I ordered in groceries from a local service called Picnic.
Last year I paid $1,915
Restaurants and Takeout $2,289 ~€2.106
I rarely ate out before the pandemic, and even during the first year when COVID-19 hit. However, this year I fell back on ordering food frequently. I can hardly believe I spend 4x as much on restaurants and delivery, but it makes sense because I’ve been meeting a lot of new people by going out to eat. I’m also no longer splitting an entreé when I go out, like I used to with my partner, and I order whatever I want off of the menu.
I once had an unlimited food budget, but it was on someone else’s dime. For now I can see this type of spending continue, but it seems like an easy win if I decide I want to save more to cut back on eating out or ordering in.
Last year I paid $518 on eating out expenses.
Flights/Airbnbs $1,404 ~€1.292
The majority of this was my flight home to go to a friend’s wedding. Aside from this, I also flew to Croatia and visited my sister in Luxembourg.
Train and other transport $215 ~€198
With no car, I take the train most places when I leave Amsterdam.
Last year I spent $675 on travel
Stuff for the apartment $830 ~€763
Last year I had two categories for moving, furniture and general merchandise and home improvement. This year I lumped everything I got for my apartment in a single line item. Because my apartment came furnished, I only had to buy a few things.
Last year I spent $1,705 on moving
Other than that… nothing! I don’t have a car anymore, yay!
All The Fun Stuff
Electronics $1,016 ~€935
I bought myself a new iPhone 12 mini as well as a few other electronic gadgets.
Personal Care $802 ~€738
For a gal who always had home haircuts, and never dyed my hair since that incident in 6th grade…. this year I perhaps went a little overboard in the salon cuts & dyes category. However, I’ve been really happy with the big changes handled by professionals. I doubt this level of spending will continue. I will continue spending on personal care, but will likely ‘cut back’ on the salon visits (pun intended).
Last year I spent $208
Health $720 ~€662
Most of this cost is starting a gym subscription. Some of it is for vitamins, allergy meds, and other health-related costs.
Last year I only spent ~$50 on the gym. I didn’t have this category last year, as the costs were lumped in with “Personal Care”. I split it into two categories this year.
Gifts $604 ~€555
I tried to be more generous with gift giving this year.
Last year I spent $418 on gifts
Entertainment $463 ~€426
From Dutch movies on rooftops to kayaking the canals, I expected this line item to increase this year. I did a lot of really entertaining things!
Last year I spent $131
Fees $396 ~€364
Anything like gathering bureaucratic documents, fees for transferring my HSA, as well as a fee for my Southwest Airlines card. Also re-upped my WordPress subscription for the blog.
Last year I spent $451 on fees
Clothes, Shoes & Jewels $335 ~€308
Because I am the queen of fashion, obviously.
Charity $300 ~€275
I had a goal previously of donating $100 per month. I followed through for the first couple of months but did not continue this practice through the year. This is partly because I also stopped being diligent about publishing my expense reports, which was usually my reminder to pick a charity to donate to. As it is, I hope to save a charity cash cushion in order to open up a Donor Advised Fund before retirement.
This year I donated to Friends of the Earth and NRDC (National Resources Defence Council ) to focus on environmental justice as well as Girls Who Code to tackle the gender gap in software engineering careers.
Last year I gave $480 to charity
Education $175 ~€161
Dutch books, a museum pass, and other educational things.
Last year I spent $131
Pet care $75 ~€69
The cost of fostering 3 cats before their forever home adoptions.
Last year I spent $150
Miscellaneous $108 ~€99
The expenses I’m not really sure about. This could be paying someone back for a FB marketplace item, or for a meal here or there.
This year was a radical experiment in spending as much as I wanted on things that would bring me joy, from a solo-apartment, to anything that struck my fancy in a store window and even *gasp* buying groceries without looking at the price. Even though this was a possibility before, I still lean more intrinsically frugal. This is an important data point for me. With no self-imposed guilt-limit on spending, the max I spent was just under $33k.
If I use the back-of-the-napkin math for the FIRE number related to a $33k a year spending average, I would need:
$33,000 * 25 = $825,000
My current net worth hovers at around $700,000 depending on the market (which is fluctuating a lot during the time of writing). If I want to continue this type of lifestyle, I will likely need to put in a few more years of work before retiring comfortably. However, there are certainly categories I could cut down on heavily if I wanted to leave the workforce sooner. Most of the increases were in discretionary expenses and also lifestyle adjustments that I could easily halve (like getting a roommate or living in a cheaper country). There is opportunity in almost every category to cut back if necessary.
This is essentially the maximum amount of spending I can do as a single person with no partner or children. It’s a great data point to have for FIRE planning. Overall, I learned a lot about intentional spending from an entirely different angle this year.