2019 Spending Projections

I mentioned the voyeuristic thrill of seeing others’ spending, comparing numbers with an air of faint superiority (“how can you spend $800/month for food for two people??”) or incredulity (“how can you spend only $100/year on clothes??”). So it seems only fair that I share mine.

I always try to project conservative amounts for spending and income.  It’s logistically and emotionally more difficult for me to pull money out of savings than to accept a lower savings rate.   I start with a baseline of savings – usually maxed-out 401Ks, some college savings, an HSA.  Mortgage prepayments are low priority (we already have a 15-year mortgage), as are any taxable savings or investment accounts (though my compulsion to hoard cash is ever-present).

With that in mind, here are the numbers:

Housing (includes PITI + HOA): $4140 / month

I actually count about $1280/month of this as savings, which is the extra principal of the 15-year mortgage.  I do this because otherwise it would seem that we save less with a 15-year mortgage vs. a 30-year, and math doesn’t work that way.

Utilities: $500/month

This includes basic utilities, internet, and also our unlimited-data cell phone plans.  Those plans are bonkers at $160 per month (for both me and Chad), but I consider it to partially be a payment for the reduced cognitive load of worry about data usage.  Chad uses up to 18GB per month (I HAVE NO IDEA HOW), so we at least get our money’s worth.

Entertainment: $70 / month

We are homebodies, generally.  And if we want to go somewhere during the weekend, there are plenty of free options. Spending that gets assigned to this category includes alcohol / beer (for home and when I can be bothered to itemize receipts, at restaurants), movies at home or at the theater, outings with the kids (e.g. June will include a trip to play mini golf). Last year we used this account to rent a jet ski while on vacation.

Food: $500 / month

This includes groceries and some bakery items (e.g. we buy a challah at Panera every Friday).

Eating out: $125 / month

If more than one person eats at a restaurant / gets takeout, it goes in this category.  If Chad and I get lunch on our own or with friends, that’s counted in our own personal spending categories.

Auto/Transportation: $450 / month

About half of this is property taxes (Virginia is weird) and auto insurance. The rest is gas, oil changes, other maintenance, tolls, etc. We generally do not spend the whole amount, but I remember $4/gallon gas and do not wish it to derail our plans.

Household / Toiletries: $450 / month

Usually Target/Walmart runs go here (when I’m on top of things, food items are stripped out to the Food category), as well as house repairs, furniture, décor, etc. Last year we spent at least $1000 less than this amount (despite buying some furniture and still having a kid in diapers), but as home repairs are unpredictable and expensive, my conservative budgeting accounts for it.  Also, there are parts of our house (think textured 1990s wallpaper and your grandma’s window valences) that we’d like to update/upgrade this year.

Personal Spending Accounts: Me: $150 / month, Husband: $250 / month

Anything that benefits a single person is here: gym memberships and fitness classes, outings or meals with friends, electronics, books, clothes, etc. It all goes here.

Why is my monthly amount less than Chad’s?  The simplest way to answer this is because I’m the one interested in early retirement.  Chad is naturally a frugal person, but if he wants something, he just buys it.  My journey is not his journey.  I’ve also constrained myself on purpose – to limit thoughtless expenses (especially fast fashion), and to meet savings goals.

Ultimately, money fights with your spouse are the worst and the whole reason I want money is happiness.

Gifts: $2000 / year

This is self-explanatory.

Medical: $200 / month

I never know how to budget for medical expenses. I adjusted this year’s to be a little high, but this is one categories that I figure will cost what it costs.  If a kiddo needs to get stitches, I’m not worried about the budget!

Travel: $6700 / year

I’ve coined this The Year of Travel.  We haven’t spent over $1000 on travel since 2015, but this year We are taking a 10-year wedding anniversary trip AND we both have solo trips planned with friends and family.  The solo trips have been planned by others, so cost control is limited.  Our anniversary trip is a big enough deal that we were willing to go all out, though we did use travel points for some of it.

Childcare: $31,000 / year

It is what it is.  I try to project 2 price increases into this, as well as extra fees.  We have a wonderful daycare with lots of outdoor space, loving teachers, and a good mix of free play and learning.  The amount will drop slightly once Kiddo #1 enters kindergarten, but I suspect that money will instead flow to the next category…

Kiddos: $250 / month

Kids don’t have to cost much, but we find it does add up.  This includes extra classes for the kids (Kiddo #1 is in karate), sports fees, clothing, toys, diapers (when I can be bothered to itemize Costco/Target/Walmart receipts), etc.  Daycare costs have been creeping down as these costs creep up.  Their birthday party costs are also included here, which includes food, décor, space rental (we paid $500 for a bounce gym party for Kiddo #1 this year, much to my chagrin), and presents.

This is one of those categories where it seems so high but then I look through expenses and most of it seems reasonable (or, as noted above, not worth a fight).

Charity: $200/month

Like StackingPennies, I wasn’t raised to give to charity and my history with it is pretty spotty.  I tend to have years where I donate a lot (last year we gave $7300, but the years before that were between $1200-$2000 with one year that spiked at $5000).  Much goes into our donor advised fund first since I’ve been burned by charities selling my information (I get 2 – 3 letters per week asking for donations from charities I’ve never supported).

However, Matt’s post made me realize that I’m making excuses.  I’m glad I’ve been flexing the giving muscle a tiny bit, but we can – and should – give more. I may end up increasing this number with the money left over in our spending categories.


Total spending: $122,000 / year  <—— Holy sh**********t

Total spending minus childcare: $93,000 / year

Total spending minus childcare and mortgage (FI budget): $53,000 / year


7 Responses

  1. Wow your medical is awfully low. I guess you don’t have prescriptions and the like. Are you including your insurance premiums in that or are those elsewhere?

    The daycare costs blow me away, although I know I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s still a painful amount of money.

    I need to start giving more. After last month’s nasty blows, I’m hesitant to make this the first month I do so. But ya gotta start somewhere, right? It’ll probably be a low amount this month, just to get myself comfortable with the outflow. Then I can work up to more.

  2. Hmmm, I don’t count premiums, they are automatically taken out of my paycheck so I don’t always think about it! They would be about $6000-7000 per year.

    I’m not sure I agree that everyone needs to give to charity, but I decided my words and my actions were not in alignment. So it’s something I’m working on!

  3. Horrifically, I can only hope our annual spending is close to yours by the end of the year but it’s probably going to be higher *sobs*. I don’t break out the separate categories anymore, though.

    PiC’s personal spending used to be higher than mine but now I think we average out to approximately the same.

    We don’t track the pre- and post-tax paycheck deductions though, since we don’t see them. I suppose that data might be useful….

    • I’m pretty sure your area is a LOT more expensive than ours though, at the very least on the housing side.

      I tend to ignore everything pre-tax, and especially things like medical insurance. It doesn’t really feel negotiable, and we probably wouldn’t find it cheaper elsewhere.

  4. We spend a zillion dollars on food, it seems. I’m not sure why/how, but we also don’t try hard to keep the grocery budget down. We don’t do personal spending accounts at all, we buy what we need and talk about what we want if it is significant.

    Our total spending is likely to be similar, even with just one in daycare. My projections have it is as less at the moment, but I think we’ll add some house stuff this summer that I haven’t yet scoped.

  5. […] who’ve read our spending projections post may have noticed that our housing costs are a bonkers $50,000 per year. This is only slightly […]

  6. […] spending projections were fairly accurate, with a few […]

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