How I Spent Just $15,000 Last Year

It’s the time of the year for reflection, and looking back on my expenses for the year reminds me of all of the adventures I’ve had. This year I said goodbye to friends and family in Portland, Oregon and moved with Mr. Mechanic to upstate New York. 

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.

Highlights of 2019

Before our move, we made sure to fit in a few ski trips.

We drove to the Oregon coast and went tide pooling. 

We flew to visit my folks in Denver (and skied some more).

and planned an international trip to Colombia.

Then Mr. Mechanic moved while I went on a series of work trips. First, I taught a negotiation workshop at a local conference. Then I travelled to Texas, Arkansas, Denver, Washington D.C. and finally, New York.

After making it to New York in August, we took advantage of the tail end of summer and the fall season to explore the scenery and changing leaves. We took road trips, picked berries, and went on long hikes in the woods. 

How Much I Spent in 2019

With all of the chaos of uprooting and moving across the country, I am so curious to dig into this year’s finances to see how it all turned out.

Adding Up Each Expense Report

Every month I write an expense report, so I went through each one to double check my total with Personal Capital (affiliate link), the software I use to track my spending. Note: these are expenses for just me.

Month Expenses
January $1,286
February $1,518
March $1,347
April $1,270
May $1,746
June $921
July $255
August $1,966
September $1,495
October $945
November $1,425
December $1,165

The total is $15,339! All in all, I spent about $1,278 per month. This includes one international trip, a move across the country, and funding a great, fulfilling year.

$ 0
Total Expenses in 2019

This total is way less than last year, when I spent $20,850. I was very curious to see what changes in my spending caused such a significant difference. 

Here is the breakdown of where every penny went.

Monthly Bills

Rent $7,413

For the first half of the year, we lived in a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment in Portland, OR and paid $930 per month each. Our lease ended in June and our new housing for New York wasn’t available until August, so I was adrift for a month and didn’t pay rent. The new cost of rent is $507 per month (woohoo!)

Last year, I spent $12k on rent, so I think we can contribute the difference in spending between 2018 and 2019 to the difference in rent.

Utilities $167

Our utility bill in Portland averaged about $55 per month, but we split the bill between the two of us. In our new place, the utility bills are included in the rent, so this expense was just for half of the year.

Insurance $464

Last year I paid $700 towards car insurance, but I sold my car and now split the insurance bill with Mr. Mechanic on a shared vehicle.

We also paid $125 ($62 each) for renter’s insurance this year.

Internet $200

The price dropped after the move. We split the $45 bill every month. We didn’t pay for internet for 3 months out of the year due to traveling, moving, and utilizing public WiFi (with a VPN).

Charity $400

After finally sitting down and reflecting about giving, I decided to start donating $100 per month. So far I’ve donated to Mother AfricaACLUPlanned ParenthoodNatural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), my local church, and I plan on donating to the local animal shelter next month.

$ 0
Monthly Bills Total

Food

Groceries $2,010

I spent an average of $168 per month on groceries. This is up from last year’s total of $130 per month, and significantly higher than the total I calculated when I wrote about our grocery spending when it was $108 per month

I think it is higher because we had to restock our kitchen after moving. We also made a few huge trips to stock up at Trader Joe’s as we don’t have one nearby at our new place. Finally, the cost at our local market is much higher than we are used to spending in Portland. Still, we manage to make a lot of delicious meals without breaking the bank.

Eating Out $1,144

This line item came out to $95 per month, which is double last year’s spending. I blame it on my own attempt to eat at every well-recommended restaurant in Portland before we moved. Unfortunately I didn’t realize what a fool’s errand this is⁠— there are too many delicious spots!

My birthday dinner of ramen
My birthday dinner at Afuri Ramen in Portland, OR
$ 0
Food Total

Travel

Flights $460

I flew to Denver, Washington D.C., Portland, and Bogotá. My flight to Bogotá also took up the last of my Chase points.

Airbnbs $244

Our week in Colombia, a few nights in Vermont, and a night in Portland.

Rideshares $71

A few Lyfts to and from airports, mostly. We would usually drive to a friend’s house that was closer to the airport, then take a rideshare from there.

Other (hiking gear, hostels, meals) $520

It was tricky to separate trip expenses exactly from grocery and restaurant expenses, but this “other” category includes buying bug spray and other gear for Colombia, hostel stays that weren’t Airbnbs, and larger meals out while traveling.

$ 0
Travel Total

Moving Expenses

Furniture and General Merchandise $375

This includes furnishing our new apartment including a desk, chair, bed, side tables, dining room table and chairs, bean bag chair, couch cover, and a kitchen island.

Home Improvement $39

We picked up a few things from Home Depot for the new place. All-in-all, we didn’t spend that much on the move due to doing most of the heavy lifting ourselves. A friend lent us his truck and some family let us crowd their garage with our furniture until we pick it up next year. This saved us a TON of money and we are very grateful.

I insisted on a cover for this surprisingly comfy street couch.
$ 0
Moving Expenses Total

Automotive

Fuel $278

Last year I only spent $150 on fuel. Things are a lot more spread out in rural New York compared to the city and we’re trying to see a lot of new places!

Maintenance $40

After driving cross-country and using the car for the year, I took it in for a check-up and oil change. I also picked up an extra quart of oil to top up when it was running low.

Parking $20

$ 0
Automotive Total

Medical Expenses

Last year I had a few unfortunate medical bills totaling $1,151. I’m happy to say this year I got away with paying just $181.

$ 0
Medical Total

All The Fun Stuff

Gifts for Myself $317

I bought myself a few things this year including noise cancelling headphones ($252), a mountain necklace ($40), and a couple of books like Work Optional and All Over The Place ($25).

Business i.e. This Blog $239

The FinCon ticket was $200, I printed some business cards, and I renewed the domain for the website.

Gifts for Others $202

This is on par to last year’s $217. I expected this line item to be higher as I count gifts for my hosts in this category, as well as birthday and Christmas gifts.

Hobbies $165

Kayaking and skiing.

Kayaking at Lady Bird Lake in Austin TX

Personal Care $77

Gym pass, hairbrush, hair cutting kit etc.

Shoes $61

I bought two pairs of shoes just before my clothing ban. Unfortunately my pair of hiking shoes leaves me blistered, and I’m hoping to sell them to recoup the costs.

Entertainment $52

Admission to the local museum and some drinks with coworkers. I saved a lot here because our workplace had a few beers on tap, and we would frequently take a brew to the rooftop for entertainment.

Cat Adoption $50

Best thing I’ve spent money on this year. 😻
$ 0
Discretionary Expenses

Conclusion

I had no idea what to expect when it came to my yearly spending and I’m blown away that it’s this low. 

Last year I spent $20k, and this year at just $15k, it looks like the main difference is a $5k savings on rent. Unfortunately, this will not be sustainable into 2020 as we will be moving to California where our rent will surely go back up.

Aside from rent, the rest of my spending stayed about the same. After such an eventful year, I’m very pleased I was able to stay so consistent.

Breakdowns By Month

If you’re interested in digging in deeper, you can click on the image to go to the matching expense report.

January

$1,286

February

$1,518

March

$1,347

April

$1,270

May

$1,746

June

$921

July

$255

August

$1,966

September

$1,495

October

$945

November

$1,425

December

$1,165

What About You?

How were your yearly expenses?

Do you have spending goals for 2020?

Share in the comments below!

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21 Comments

    1. Yeah July was a pleasant surprise. It was a stressful time overall but being able to save a lot that month helped!

  1. Whew, this is both an impressive spending level and an impressive level of tracking/detail! As someone who’s spending for the year was above $80k (!), going under $15k is going down to what I spent in college.

    Are there any areas you’re excited to spend more on in the new year?

    1. I loved reading your year report and all the things you did this year! I didn’t feel like I was trying that hard and yet I still ended up at $15k. It makes me wonder what I was spending in college! I know that in the new year we will be looking at places to live in California, so our spending will increase. Now that we got a pet I’m expecting some expenses to go up for him as well. I’m excited for both of those things!

  2. Impressive spending for the year, Mechanic. Nice to see you several times through the year and witness some of that spending firsthand!

    I like the $100 a month commitment for giving. I give a similar amount, split between charities endorsed by Effective Altruism – aiming to provide the most benefit per dollar.

    I’m just finishing up my own 2019 spending round-up and looking closer to the $20k mark. Stay tuned!

    1. I’ll try out Effective Altruism! I saw your carbon offset post on Twitter and I’ve been considering that as well. I’m excited to read your spending round-up!

  3. … I think we spent something like 90K this year (including property taxes but not including health insurance– basically anything that gets paid out of take-home pay)… it might be less than that since a lot of reimbursements end up going to another account.

    There are four of us (and a cat), and we have really upped our charitable giving, but… I’m not sure where it all went. I don’t think there are any purchases we really regret though.

    1. Reimbursements did make tracking expenses a tad more difficult. I also didn’t include taxes or health insurance as expenses here. It would be interesting to see where the $90k went though! Do you use any tracking software like Personal Capital, Mint, or YNAB? A car would definitely make a dent in yearly spending 🙂

      1. We have Mint, but also I don’t think there’s much benefit for us at this point to go through and see where money went. At worst that would lead to unnecessary regret. At best… I don’t think there is a real benefit given that we’re meeting our savings/giving goals and have a lot leftover.

  4. You guys are crazy… I spend over 15k/mo…on a good month, and that’s when we seem to really hunker down, but stuff always seems to come out of the woodwork with 5 kids, doctors visits, lacrosse, piano lessons, etc. My rent is 3500/mo, and I spend about 3200/mo on groceries. I did switch over to a vegan diet which helps keep costs down a little bit.

    1. I’m sure 5 kids does a number on the expense report. You need more space, more food, more… of everything! As these expenses are just for myself, it makes it all a bit easier. If you pay 15k a month, then that’s about 3k per person per month. I’m interested in looking into how meat affects the grocery bill, it may be coming in a future post 🙂

  5. I’m interested that you total your expenses as a single person… I think you’re amazing, but am interested in the idea of saying your rent was 930 a month when it was only because you split it with a spouse…if I ever marry again, I’ll definitely do finances separately, but I might think it a bit misleading to say I pay that much for rent when it’s only possible due to sharing a home with a partner. Does that make sense?

    On the other hand, it’s kind of a rabbit hole, right? Figuring out how much of the groceries are shared, etc., if you were to present it altogether. You are, after all, individuals. It just reminded me how a significant part of your journey is being married. Not that this makes it easy! I just wish sometimes I knew more single women on the path to FI… any in-person friends I’ve had who have been successful have either had partners, or parents who supported them a lot (not always financially, but in terms of giving them their first car, which they wisely kept, or helping to furnish their first apartments, or paying for college). It can feel like a lonely road when almost every person I know who has reached FI has a partner–especially when, unlike you, they seem to hide it until the last possible second.

    It just seems like another kind of privilege that should be mentioned. Unless, of course, your spouse isn’t a fan of FI, in which case it’s probably easier to be single.

    I hope I am not sounding too critical. I really admire who you are and what you’ve done. I just wish I had more single women examples to emulate!

    1. Hi Abby,

      I can see your frustration and wanting to see more single women on the path to FI. I definitely recommend checking out the list here: https://treadlightlyretireearly.com/2018/01/18/meet-the-women-of-the-financial-independence-movement/

      The reason I’m in the SINK (Single Income, No Kids) category is that despite the potentially confusing moniker, Mr. Mechanic and I are not married. In fact, we’ve only been living together for 2 years. Given that, I feel very confident that my spending would be the same, if not less, if I were single. Prior to living with my current partner, I lived with roommates and spent between $400-$1000 on rent. Similarly, I tracked my grocery spending while living in England on my own and it was $146 (£114) per month.

      However, like you said, it can be a rabbit hole. There are tons of variables for different people about why they spend what they did, and different privileges for different situations (some people may have workplaces that pay for most of their food expenses, for example).

      I hope the other SINK bloggers on the list give you something more relatable to look at!

      1. Abby,

        When I first discovered this community, I was a huge fan of Frugalwoods (a blog I discovered by sheer accident) and then Mr. Money Mustache, JL Collins, etc., and I felt the same way. Everyone, it seemed, was married and had a partner to share the journey, i.e., the BILLS! It was rather deflating, but I knew I was already doing many of the things they were, just on my own. As a single woman in her late 30s at the time, I was excited about this movement, but also extremely frustrated by the lack of single women in this movement, so I started documenting my own journey. And I’ve found others along the way.

        As frustrating as it might be, there are actually plenty of single women (and men) out there trying to reach FI. So you’re not alone. 🙂 Take what you can from everyone and apply it to your life – the principles are the same anyway, though the means may differ slightly.

        FM,

        Great job with such low spending! Welcome to the east coast and enjoy NY before heading to CA!

        Katie

  6. Thank you for your kind reply! I just reopened my computer to delete the comment because it’s really NOT my usual “modus operandus” to complain, and I realized that it’s truly an unfair question. You have built a life of powerful habits that it’s unfair to even accidentally disparage BECAUSE you have a partner!

    I will definitely check out the link, and while you had no reason to share what you did, I appreciate your openness. Thank you, again, for handling my comment with such graciousness.

    1. Don’t worry, I didn’t take offense at all. It makes total sense to want to see more single ladies kicking butt at FI and for people to be more transparent at how they save so much. It CAN feel like a lonely road if most of the people achieving FI seem like they are doing it with help of a partner. Let me know if you find some awesome single FI ladies that help the road seem less lonely 🙂

  7. Kudos on how you decreased your expenses from last year! My job doesn’t allow me to travel so my biggest expenditure goes to travel. But flight and hotel are capped at around $250 so these expenses are still manageable. Was going through some podcasts recently and it sent me to your site:) sending you a virtual hi 5 (my boyfriend is still studying overseas for a specialised course (FOR SO LONG) as well but I appreciate this headstart when it comes to saving $$.

    1. Glad you found it, which podcast was it? I return your virtual high-five for $150k at 25, impressive! I feel you for boyfriends abroad. My SO and I were long distance for 7 years and we both studied/traveled abroad in that time. It can definitely make travel expensive.

      1. It was simplemindedmillenial:) I can’t tell you how comforted I felt when you touched on your relationship. I made me feel so hopeful about the future (THANK U) It has been 4 years since we lived in different countries. Each flight ticket cost around 500 (if I m lucky to get a discount) so it is quite expensive. This year is his final year and we have no idea which country we will settle down in 2021. Haha thanks for dropping by my site, it really keeps me occupied in a good way:) – Jenn

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