The Most I’ve Spent In A Month So Far: July 2020

I blinked and July disappeared. At least, that’s what it felt like. The news cycle blares bad news and rising COVID-19 cases every day, and I sometimes feel like a straight-faced duck– calm and serene above the water but paddling like crazy underneath. As you know by now, we moved cross-country and spent a good hunk of money doing it, so I was hoping to see costs settle in July.

Unfortunately, this month’s expenses (spoiler alert!) are the highest I’ve had in a while. In fact, the total is the same as the cost of moving in June, and higher than any expense report in 2019. When I got to my final total, I’m pretty sure I had a similar reaction to Tituss Burgess on the late show with James Corden:

Is this going to be the new normal? If so, I might have to crunch more numbers to see if I’m still on track to reach $1.2M by the age of 32, or if my article about being able to retire next year at the age of 28 is just a lie.

Let’s get to the expense report and see where this crazy high spending came from.

July 2020 Expenses

Note: This is the spending for just me. I report expenses when I pay them, so you may not see insurance or other bills until the month that I pay them.

Item Amount Mechanic Musings
Rent $1,320 As expected, rent nearly tripled after moving to a high cost of living area. Goodbye $500 rent, I will miss you dearly! This is the most I’ve ever spent on rent. Luckily, we love our little house. 
Furniture and household goods $290 Yes, we thrifted a lot, but that doesn’t mean it was all free. This is the total for everything we bought off of Facebook Marketplace, Goodwill, and Craigslist this month, including our 55” Smart TV, dining room set, porch furniture, coffee table, carpets, kitchen utensils, plants, and other household goods.

Edit: Originally, I forgot to halve this expense, and thought I spent $580. This is much more agreeable!

Groceries $230 We are getting back in the swing of things now that our kitchen is fully restocked. Hopefully we can trim this back down to $108 per month, but we might have to be a bit more intentional if we want to do that.

Donation $100 The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “Black people are being murdered and brutalized by police with near impunity. Act with us to end police brutality, demand racial justice, and defend our right to protest. Your donation will fuel our legal battles and urgent advocacy efforts.”
Gifts $40 Two July birthdays!
New bedspread $40 The cat needed a bigger bed.

Just kidding, but we did need a new bedspread.

Home improvement $26 Stuff we bought at the hardware store like plug adapters, tools, and plant-care.
Internet $20 Our new internet is $40 per month or $20 each.
Fuel $21 Fuel is much more expensive in California and we have been driving much more to buy things around town. I hope our driving goes down (especially when I finally buy a new bike) but we will see if this becomes the new normal.
EZ-Pass Toll Road $13 Oops, I forgot to return my EZ-Pass, which North Easterners will know is the highway toll pass that sticks to your dashboard and lets you fly through toll stops. Apparently we need to mail it back. Hopefully I can haggle us a refund when we cancel our account.
Restaurants $30 We went to In-and-Out, ordered take-away Thai food, and ate at the famous McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream shoppe.
Laundry $5 After multiple years with in-unit washer and dryer, we are sad to go back to coin operated machines, but there are worse things.

Total

$2,130

Last July was my lowest expense month, totaling an unbelievable $255. Funnily enough, this July is my most expensive month so far! I want to dig a bit deeper below.

How Much Of The Difference In Spending Is Due To Rent?

I wonder if rent is the big change here, I thought at first. In Portland my rent was $930 a month, while in the Albany-area it was just $500. That means I’m spending $390 more than in PDX and $820 more than in New York!

So how much did I spend if we ignore rent? Without my rent factored into July’s expenses, my total would have been $810. In 2019, my expenses not including rent averaged $348 per month. That’s a difference in spending of $462. That’s a big difference in discretionary spending!

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Our cozy Portland apartment cost $930 a month each.

That calculation shows that it’s not just rent that’s causing the spike. Of course, we do have one large line item as we furnished our house, but I struggle to dismiss it all as a one-off, as I find that every month ends up with a “one-off.” In the end, there’s always something that sneaks into my monthly reports that I don’t expect to stick around for long. So while I hope expenses will go down now that we have finished furnishing our house, I still need to keep an eye on lifestyle inflation.

What If This Becomes A Pattern?

So what?” you might be thinking. In 2018, the average monthly spending of one ‘consumer unit’ in America was $5,102. If you count the Mechanic household as one consumer unit, we still hit just below average.

However, to become financially independent, you have to do better than average. With my previous spending levels, I could be FI next year. If I continue to spend over $2,000 a month, my new FI number balloons from $500,000 to $720,000!

California Dreamin’ or California Screamin’?

Luckily, my original savings plan still covers these spending levels comfortably. But this is a good reminder of why tracking your spending is important. It would be very easy for California Dreamin’ to become California Screamin’ if I weren’t watching my wallet. In fact, if this level becomes the new normal, I could start looking into ways to bring in a bit more income to cover the difference. 

Now that I live in a bustling city again, I have reinstalled dog walking/sitting apps like Rover and Wag!. If I can get out and get some exercise while earning a bit of ‘fun money,’ why not? All in all, I feel lucky to live in such a beautiful place with blue-bird skies and shining sun and a gentle breeze. Is it worth the extra cost? We’ll find out this year!

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What about you?

How were your July expenses?

Have you moved from a low cost of living area to a high cost of living area (or vice versa?)

What are your thoughts on this all-time high expense report?

Share in the comments below!

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20 Comments

  1. Wow—impressive that you were able to furnish your new place for so cheaply! It makes me want to be a TON better at thrifting for when we finally find our next place (which hopefully should be in the next few months, though house prices are INSANE here right now…).

    1. I definitely recommend starting with thrifting before buying anything new! A little bit of inconvenience made up for likely thousands of dollars if we had rushed to buy anything. I feel you on house prices!

  2. We had higher expenses than anticipated the last couple of months too b/c we needed to replace all of our appliances, but it needed to be done, and we buy new with a 5-year warranty. While I think it’s great that you track your changes in expenses so closely, the fact that you had a big swing during a life change month is not bad. Now you know to tighten the belt for a few months to catch up as needed, or do more side hustling.

    1. I hope you’re pleased with your new appliances! That’s an update I’d be happy about lifestyle-wise even if it did increase our expenses for a bit. My parents were lucky and the next door neighbors were doing a remodel and got rid of their appliances, which were still much newer than what my parents had so they got a bargain. However, that isn’t going to magically happen very often, and a 5-year warranty sounds good to catch any mishaps.

  3. July was a cheap month for me, and it coincided with an extra paycheck month, so it really stands out as an outlier. But my usual spending is around $2,500 per month and this month clocked in in the 1900s! I’d love another low month like that to keep padding my EF!

    1. Yes! Any time I have a low month (like July of last year) I think of it as going towards padding my emergency fund and also funding expensive months like this one!

  4. The rent is expensive, but that’s about how much I’d expect to pay in that area.
    Hopefully the average spend will come down to the normal level soon. Nice job furnishing the new place for so little. Amazing finds.
    Oh, check out Super Rica Taqueria, my wife’s favorite restaurant in SB. They’re great and not too expensive.
    Our July was good. I went on a DIY spree and spent more than usual.

    1. We will definitely check out Super Rica Taqueria! Thanks for the recommendation. You’re not alone with the DIY spree, apparently people across the country are spending more on home improvement. I saw your photos on Instagram about the IKEA line and it sounded insane!

  5. Gosh I’m jealous of those living costs! I knew it was going to be expensive when I moved to California, but my rent and health insurance are each almost as much as you spent the entire month!

    1. Where are you living in California? We could have lived cheaper if we moved outside of the main town, but we actually got a great deal renting from a couple who had previously rented our place for 8 years to a family. I don’t think they raised the rent much and so it’s actually very affordable for a 2 bedroom/1office/1bath set up!

  6. Your spending is not bad at all, considering you are in CA. We were spending quite a bit more on mortgage when we were in Seattle. We moved to the burbs and the monthly rent for a single family homes here are still abut 2600 – 3000. And this is about 45 miles southeast of Seattle. Our July spending wasn’t bad. We also have some one off purchases, but just like you said, there will always be one off purchases every month, so we should really just account for that.

    1. We could also have moved to the burbs to bring down our housing costs but we chose to live in the city for our first year to get a better feel for it and reduce my partner’s commute! Seattle prices sound similar to those in Portland, people are moving further and further away. So far we’re happy about our choice. Glad your July wasn’t bad!

  7. Yes, impressive to furnish an entire house on so little! I read your last blog post with all the pictures of your insanely cute new place with all the bargain prices posted but didn’t realize that it added up so favorably. While you still pay attention to that insidious lifestyle creep, I think you should also sit back and enjoy the gorgeous place you are now calling home!
    You asked about July expenses and I usually have a dent from travel and eating out as that is a priority for us. WIth the pandemic there has been no travel and no eating out, so July was pretty low in expenses. Husband spent some on golf and I took a kayak out for $15. That is about it.

    1. Going out on a kayak and playing golf sound like lovely activities in the summer, especially when we’re all trying to stay socially distanced. Hopefully all that money you’re saving can go into an emergency fund or a nice vacation later on down the line.

  8. Good on you for keeping an eye on that lifestyle creep!! That being said, despite the rent, it really feels like most of these were tied with moving expenses. It does take a couple of months to get fully settled, so I’m hopeful that you’ll get back to a spending that feels better to you! 🙂 It looks like such a lovely spot! Hoping you get plenty of time in August to explore your new surroundings :).

    P.s: super impressed on how quick you got your spending reviewed and posted lol. Whenever I know I’ve spent more I procrastinate on reviewing last months expenses, so good on you hehe.

  9. That view is beautiful! I’m not sure if you have covered this already on your blog, but do you plan on continuing to split expenses 50/50 (I believe you are engaged, congratulations!) since there may be income differences between your spouse and you in the future/ currently?

    1. I’m planning to write a whole post on this soon! We are currently planning on continuing to split expenses

  10. Echoing a lot of readers, I think your furniture thrifting skills are on point! On food, have you considered starting a garden / growing things in pots? It’s a cheap way to get fresh and organic food.

    1. Not yet. As we are at the end of summer and are in a new climate, we’re not sure exactly what we will do. We currently grow a couple herbs and green onions, but we will have to look into expanding our repertoire!

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