View Full Version : Here's Some Spending You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

10-14-11, 11:30am
DH and I have been back on the bandwagon of tracking our spending for a complete year as part of of our mortgage payoff journey. We skipped two months when we had a tree fall on our house and a massive tornado hit our town. I just can't really deal with recreating those two months, but DH tracked all the house repairs and they were pretty much a wash with insurance. We did go on a trip during that time but it was mostly paid for in advance. So, for most things (except once a year payments) I took added up 10 month totals divided them by 10 (monthly average) then multiplied by 12 to get the "yearly total" Not perfect but it will have to do this year.

We have A LOT of room for improvement. But, in some ways we have accomplished a lot in the past year. We brought our mortgage balance to 86,000 to 52,000. DH graduated with his Masters degree and we made it through the ordeal with the house. Then when I see some of the categories I cringe! They are definitely not in line with what I want to be spending.

So here it goes, these are the yearly totals/monthly averages...baring my financial soul...our grand total of all expenses except our mortgage was $51,111.46 over the past 12 months.

Car Insurance - $2,132.00 / $177.67 We have two Honda CRVs. One is a 2000 and only has liability. The other is a 2007 and has full coverage. Our insurance went up $300 this year, likely to DH and I both getting speeding tickets.

Car Maintenance - $1,917.05 / $159.75 This includes all regular stuff, oil changes, tires, etc and also any repair work. The older car had a catalytic converter replaced and some other smaller issues this year. It has 165,000 miles.

Cleaning - $265.00 / $22.08 When things get out of hand or if I am having a bunch of guests over (had 15 over for brunch this weekend) I give my self permission to have someone clean the house. This is an expense that I think is totally worth it for me personally, while some of you may disagree.

Clothing - $717.71 / $59.81 This one was a shocker! I cannot believe how much we spent on clothes. I rarely buy clothes and nearly always at the thrift or salvage store. I have determined a chunk of this is shoes. Some of yall may know that my DH has CP, and he walks dragging one foot a tad...so he goes through shoes like a madman. I guess I need suggestions of getting good loafers size 9E at a super bargain. I also started running in Jan and am on my second pair of running shoes.

Dental Insurance - $504/00 / $42.00 We get two cleanings each year for this price. I had my first ever cavity this year so I guess its worth it. DHs parents didn't take him to the dentist as a child so he has bad teeth despite trying to care for them as an adult.

Dining Out - $5,789.15 / $482.43 - I am going to go hide in a corner now.

Donations - $113.33 / $9.44 - I feel pretty bad we don't give more. We did give a lot of time and items this year with the tornado cleanup.

Fun - $1,100.11 / $91.68 - any sort of fun stuff we do. Movies, drinks with friends, DH bought a guitar, etc.

Furniture - $127.46 / 10.62 - bought a new mattress. Not planning any major furniture purchases.

Gas - $3,209 / $267/48 - fueling our two cars. I would like to reduce this. We used to carpool out of necessity (we drove 100 miles round trip) but now we live 4 miles from the office and our school/work schedules sometimes don't mesh so sometimes its just "easier" . We are also planning biking...for real gonna do it next week.

Gifts - $1,367.43 / $113.95 - I was suprised with the amount of this. It seems high to me. It includes all gifts we give to each other (we try to keep it small) and also birthdays, weddings, Christmas, etc.

Groceries - $4,301.44 / $358.45 - Wouldn't be bad if we didn't have that pesky dining out category! This includes everything at the grocery store including paper products, etc.

Health Care - $2,539.07 / $211.59 - all health care expenses...Dr copays, prescription meds, allergy stuff. DH had some major ear problems this year (perforated eardrum, ickkk). My birth control is $50/mo but it has virtually eliminated my migraines so I don't want to change it to a cheaper option because life is so much easier without migraines and I don't like the side effects of the migraine meds, plus they are $10 a pill anyway so not much financial benefit. My employer offers a health debit card with pretax money so this is helpful to know. I guess I can knock a chunk of the total just for signing up for that.

Health Insurance - $1,536.00 / $128.00

Home Insurance - $801.00 / $66.75 - $1,000 deductible. Had to use it this year so I wonder if it will increase.

Home Maintenance - $4,728.85 / $394.07 - $2000 of this was repair work to the side of our house that was rotting over time. The rest is just living in a house I guess.

Miscellaneous - $1,270.97 / $105.91 - I haven't been especially thorough in my tracking and dump odds and ends here. I guess I need some new categories since that is a lot of money to go into the abyss. I also stuck our two speeding tickets in here...we are not horrible drivers, but I guess we need to slow down!

Parking - $406.00 / $33.83 We tried carpooling we also bought one parking pass that year...we made it maybe 3 months. Lots of arguing.

Personal Care - $950.84 / $79.24 - Haircuts, hair color, eyebrow waxing, pedicures, very rare makeup purchase. This category would be 90% me, 10% DH. I had my hair natural for 5 years...I am really enjoying its color right now and I did only have one pedicure this year.

Pet Care - $2,037.31 / $169.78 - Three dogs, two cats. Includes pet food, vet visits, boarding, etc.

Ring - $648.85 / $54.07 - Maybe this should be titled Jewelry. Except we don't really buy jewelry. DH lost his wedding ring in the river this year. Now we know to take that off when swimming!

School - $3,238.76/ $269.90 - All expenses associated with school. DH graduated in August and I started working on my doctorate in the fall. Our employer reimburses most of the cost, but there are still expenses for us.

Student Loan - $3,578.16 / $298.18 - The last remnants of DH's 92,000 in school debt. This loan is down below $40,000 now and is at 1.5 interest rate.

Tech/Office - $568.84 / $47.40 - Anything computer related and also things like paper, toner, etc for our home office. DH works from home one day a week and we also use it for school. We are fortunate that our desktop was an old one from the office, but we had to replace the hard drive and also the battery in my laptop died.

Travel - $3,776.31 / $314.69 Aside from food, travel is a big one for us. In the past 12 months we went to camping, the Bahamas, New Orleans, Turks and Caicos, Gulf Shores (AL) and the Smoky Mountains. We love to travel and I try to get the best deal possible.

Utilities - $3,401.37 / $283.45 - I probably should break this out next year. It includes power/gas/phone/internet/water/trash pickup/TV. We pay $25 mo for our cell phones and our TV/Internet run about $80 I believe. DH has to have fairly high speed for work. Water and trash are usually about $40...which leaves about $140 for gas/electricity.

Ok...lets hear it! I really want suggestions. I might not do all of them but I will listen and take into consideration every one! I would love to get us below $40,000 next year.

10-14-11, 5:12pm
Hmmm. Car insurance seems high. My 2008 Jeep is insured in WA and is less than $70/mo for full coverage. Might shop around unless it is part of a group thing with the homeowners insurance. My insurance is with Liberty, and now that I think of it my homeowners did go up this year. School and Tech expenses, taken together, seem a bit high. I bought a new Dell desktop a few months ago for under $400 from the refurbished side of the website, new netbooks are around $300 for a good one, 1T external drives are under $100. Just saying, you mght look at that. You already mentioned the Dining Out category. :) The other stuff looks fine, and I wouldn't try to trim a lot from fun and travel. As for the Gift amount, well, only you and DH can tell if you can do that cheaper. Are you spending because of other peoples' expectations, or if it's gifts for each other could you transfer that to fun/travel/clothes that would lower those categories rather than getting something just because it's a 'gift'?

That's all I got. Take it for what it's worth (.02 might be over-paying me).

10-14-11, 7:18pm
I also thought all your spending seemed reasonable except I agree with Shadowmoss that the vehicle insurance seems high. I have a 2002 Hyundai Accent and it's les than $350/year to insure with liability only and a high deductible. I have it a State Farm along with my home insurance so I get a discount. You might want ot look at your house coverage too to see if you can cut out some things - I mean do we really need $50,000 in coverage for "furs and jewelry" - I don't. Lots of little things like that get tacked on that you can eliminate if it doesn't apply to you.

Also the gifts and gas seem high but I don't know how many people you have to buy gifts for or how far you need to drive so really don't know if you can get those down or not - probably yes on the gifts and no on the gas. Clothes - again seems high but that's for 2 people so I don't think $25/month each is bad. I found that doing a sort of reverse budget for my discretionary spending helps alot. By that I mean that I ONLY take out the amount of money I want to spend that month and no more. And that amount has to cover everything I buy that month whether it's clothes, gifts, food, gas, entertainment, etc.. So I stay within mu budget no matter what and almost never make those spontaneous purchases. If at the end of the mnonth I have some money left over the I may buy myself some new boots - as long as I have enough left in the pot (i.e. envelope) to pay for them with cash. if not, then I can't buy them.

10-14-11, 10:20pm
I have two thoughts. First, you kick A** for being able to take that many trips for that kind of expenditure!! Amazing!!

Second, I would seriously investigate the health benefit at your work. What is it called? HSA? VEBA? Or is it a flex plan? I don't know a lot, but if you can get free pretax money, take it! If it's flex, it might be good if you can for sure predict your expenses, and it sounds like you know it's a $50/mo. expenditure. Then you have to redeem it all by a certain date after the end of the year.

What changed your mind about the biking? I thought you were nervous because of safety reasons.

10-15-11, 12:21am
The obvious thing is eating out, but you already know that.

Does your home maintenance include your taxes? I did not see much for home expenditures overall.

You really are good with the travel budget- lots of trips for very little.

Clark Howard http://www.clarkhoward.com/ has a spending category called "stupid tax." into this goes speeding tickets, library fines etc. Maybe that would be a category worth adding to your budget because these little things that we can avoid can add up to real big bucks, as in not only speeding tickets but higher insurance. It serves as a reminder to be more mindful of the consequences of what we pay attention to.

10-15-11, 1:08am
I would look at the personal care. Only you can decide if it would be worth changing to an "every other" for it. As in, say you get a pedicure every month...can you go every other? Or skip winter months? That sort of thing. What about reducing cable to just internet? You could look into streaming Netflix or HuluPlus which may or may not be cheaper overall, and may or may not satisfy your entertainment overall. Often cable companies will say it's cheaper to bundle but in fact they mean each separate service is more when added up, but nobody does that. I think our total is less than $60/mo for high speed + Netflix streaming only (thinking of exploring Hulu though as the selection for NF is less than I initially expected) and we could probably be fine without the Netflix. As for the food, I actually don't think it's that bad. How is the eating out? Is it like "date night" or regular conversations with really good friends? Or a "I'm feeling lazy let's get takeout"? The former might well be worth it, especially if you're getting a couple of meals for the price of one and it's not impacting your health/caloric intake. The latter can be dealt with by making double-portions when you cook then freezing half for those lazy days. I actually didn't think your food spending was all that bad....my DH and I spend about $600/mo on food per month which includes eating out, alcohol (and the cheapest beer we get is Dos Equis), and groceries.
Go first for the things which will be less noticeable. You might notice and really miss a trip but not the 3 pair of shoes you didn't buy, for example. You might notice not eating out, but notice eating at a pay-at-the-counter place less than a full sit-down, or notice less eating a places where there is likely to be leftovers than not (for example if you ate at a Thai place and saved half for lunch vs ate at a steak place and...who eats leftover fries for lunch?). Work with your DH as well, because he may notice certain things you don't care about. The things that generally bring people the most happiness are experiences, especially when they are often enough to frequently look forward to but not so often they become blase. Somewhat but not completely reducing the frequency of some stuff may make it actually more special.

10-15-11, 1:17am
Dining out is obviously the first place to tackle, but you know that already! Can you identify what the triggers are for you that pushes it that high? Is it due to being too busy to cook or more the fact that you really enjoy it. Are there ways you can bring it down without complicating your life too much (e.g. if you are late getting home it is better to pick up a roasted chicken and bagged salad mix, and then eat the leftovers for a few days, instead of eating out)? Lots of people here struggle with the same thing, so maybe participating in some of the discussions about easy meals and cooking in advance would help you get this back into a range you feel is more acceptable.

Car related costs seem disproportionately high. SLOW DOWN on your driving. You are only 4 miles from your jobs -- what's the rush? The tickets were a warning, heed it. Gas seems AWFULLY high -- was the 100 mile commute included during that time? What have your monthly averages been since that ended? Are there low or no cost options for parking that would allow you to drop one of the parking passes if you do follow through with doing more bike commuting? I think I remember that it is not a good route for you to run or walk, and you also have southern heat to deal with.

School costs seem a bit high given the fact you get reimbursed for most things. Are there ways you can bring that down? Buying textbooks used or sharing with someone in your class (hey, grad students are poor, might not hurt to ask)? Was most of that your DH's expenses or yours for the new program?

Pets. I hate to say it but that is a LOT to pay for animal companionship. WOuldn't suggest getting rid of animals, I know they are family for many people, but can you agree not to bring in new ones as the ones you have pass? Can you find someone in your grad program who would housesit for low cost or no cost (free access to a washing machine and a decent kitchen can sometimes be a great incentive!) when you go on trips rather than boarding your animals?

Personal care also seems high to me. Have never had a manicure, pedicure or my eyebrows waxed in my life -- how much value do you really get from these services and are they really necessary? Can you go longer between hair appointments -- say going once every 6-8 weeks instead of every 4-6 weeks (not sure what your current schedule is like).

Do you really need cable TV? Could you drop it and go to netflix/internet TV?

Again, I know it is a very personal thing, but I wouldn't have replaced the wedding ring. My DH and I haven't worn our wedding rings for years. We still know we're married :). I know it is really important to some people, but just saying, another place to consider doing things a little differently if a similar situation ever comes up.

Assume there isn't a generic for your BCPs, but might be worth checking and confirming when it comes off patent. Then you can switch to the generic as soon as it is available. Where does your DH get his prescription meds? Are there ways to bring the cost down through use of a low-cost pharmacy (Target and Walmart have very low costs for many common meds, Costco is also great) or mail order options? That might be something to look at for your BCPs, too.

I agree with previous posters that your travel expenses are AMAZING! How on earth did you pay for two trips to the carribean on that? I am seriously impressed. Maybe you can start a side business offering frugal travel tips as an income generation strategy.


10-15-11, 9:00am
A few thoughts...you're currently spending ~$51,000 per year and want to get it down to $40,000 per year. You need to trim a mere $1,000 a month. No problem!!! As noted, the dining out is the first place to target. Let's be honest...it's probably not going to be eliminated so aim to shave $330 a month off that bill and you are already 1/3 of the way to your goal. Get serious about organizing your life so that biking to work happens most every day and you could drop that gas expense by maybe as much as $170 per month. Now you're half-way to your goal and you've only tackled two categories!!! If you are only 4 miles from the office, is it possible to become a one car family? That would drop your car insurance, car maintenance, and parking expenses by maybe $150 a month.

Aside from that, I think you have to examine each category and decide what is really important to you. We're a two person household and we spend about $70 per month on personal grooming, which is just haircuts and a few high quality hair products and skin care products. We've discussed this expense and we don't consider it unreasonable or something that we are willing to change unless absolutely necessary. (We care very little about clothing, but are a bit vain when it comes to maintaining our youthful appearances!) We have 3 dogs and 2 cats, which we never board, but our monthly pet expenses are $200+ and we're okay with that as our pets' health is incredibly important to us. So perhaps spending a few months really examining the monthly expenses and discussing with your DH at the end of each month how much you value the various expenses is the best way to eliminate the smaller amounts of wasteful spending.

10-17-11, 10:17am
Car / Home Insurance...something to check into. I actually had a decent experience with my insurance folks (aside from a rude adjuster) with my recent claim. I have all my cars/home/rental property/umbrella through Liberty Mutual. They sent us a letter this year that our rate was going up due to our driving record :( We both got tickets driving to the beach, on little back roads. We are both committed to slowing down and seeing those come off our records.

School - $2033 of the school expenses are straight tuition. The rest are books (all purchased used) and DH's graduation fee. So not too much to squeeze out of there sadly.

Tech - should be lower this year since we just replaced the hard drive and battery. The other expenses are mostly paper/ink. We also bought a digital camera this year, I had forgotten about that until I went back into the expenses.

Gifts - my sister and I already discussed and we are dropping bday gifts for us and spouses. I think I have not been careful with this category and have been spending to others expectations. I am going to try to scale back Christmas with careful spending.

Clothes - we have to keep a careful eye on that too. I do know in May to prepare for the destination wedding trip we bought some new stuff which was probably not needed. And shoes, ugh...I have got to figure out something for DHs shoes. He has had two pairs of loafers and two pairs of tennis shoes this past year. The last pair of shoes I bought for myself cost $1 at the salvage store :)

Health care - its an FSA. We have signed up before but open enrollment changes and I completely forgot to register. Now we have the spending for this year so I can predict how much to put in. I actually just got a new prescription so this weekend I went online and found my BC for $23 from a Canadian pharmacy. I ordered the entire year. So, my expenses this month will be high, but it will be over $300 in savings for the year for that medication.

Gas - I honestly don't know how we spend that much...I know our driving trips are a big factor bc we don't drive too much around town. We are planning on carpooling 1-2 days a week (did this morning!) and biking one day a week. Fidgie, some kind of light switch flipped in DH. When I was planning it a couple of months ago it would be me alone. Then I sent DH a post from the Mr Money Mustache blog where he details the cost of commuting. We also talked about trying to keep the old car running as long as possible, so not putting miles on it and then of course I got all the yearly numbers together. There is a route that is a mile longer each way but is much safer. So, we are going to do that together. DH even went for a practice run to and from the office this weekend. He said its doable but he was really tired (he did all 10 mi at once). So, we are set for Friday as our first bike day.

Home taxes......totally forgot this category! We refinanced (home mortgage + one of our rentals) and the old mortgage had the taxes included. But, now I have a tax bill on my desk for $550 due 12/31. At least our taxes are low!

Stupid tax...good name for the speeding tickets and maybe the wedding ring too! We went on a $5 tubing trip that ended up costing $600 for the ring, ugh. Lhamo encouraged DH to look at some cheaper rings. He was funny and felt naked without his ring and thought the other metals felt different. We ended up buying the same ring he had, a pretty thick platinum band used.

Personal Care...yes, I will have to check into how I can reduce that. Maybe spreading my time between appointments. I generally get my hair cut/colored every other month, but maybe I could spread that out to 3 months.

Cable - I could live without TV and would like to cut this but DH loves sports and won't consider it. Maybe we could go to a lower package...

Dining out - of course the biggie. We actually have slowly slid into this horrible pattern. We ate at home pretty much exclusively the first few years of our marriage. Then when the budget wasn't as tight (we paid off a lot of debt) we got into the trap of wanting to enjoy dinner and have a meal out. We generally don't eat cheap places. Most of the places we eat at serve fairly good quality food and thus are not inexpensive. I have to admit I enjoy sitting in a booth having a leisurely meal served to me. We are busy, but we can make enough time to cook. We just have to commit to it. I think seeing the numbers laid out for the year is good because we see how much we spent overall, it wasn't just a couple of bad months...its become a pattern.

Pets - these are our furry babies! That said, we both have discussed after they die off not replacing them with so many. They do hinder the travel. We have a great dog sitter who watches the house full for $20/day which is about the cost to board one dog for one day. I would like to get down to one dog and two cats.

Travel - well, we really like to travel but the cost of travel is so crazy. So, I read forums like flyertalk.com and have racked up a lot of hotel and airline miles by doing free internet promos and also by signing up for credit cards (canceled upon receiving the miles of course). So, airline travel is generally just fees/taxes for us. We've also done those horrendous time share promos...that paid for our hotel in New Orleans. We also own the condo in Gulf Shores, so we just stay for the cleaning fee. In Nov we are going to St Lucia which I booked on airline miles and a $50/night room promo I found on flyertalk for a room that is normally $400+. Next year we are going to the Baja peninsula and used airline miles...we are going to rent a car and stay at cheap beach palapa type places. I will warn anyone, the bulk of our expenses came from Turks and Caicos...there are no hotel deals to be had there! Believe me I tried...that place has a beautiful beach (lots of free snorkeling too) but rooms are crazy expensive. Food is not cheap there either but we packed a lot.

The problem with other people is they never are disciplined enough to get the deals. My mom frets too long and then the deals are over. We had to book our dates for Baja 331 days in advance and even then I didn't get one day I wanted because the frequent flier flights to Cabo filled up. DH and I (ok mostly me) love to plan trips. We both really want to see the world. I think I was definitely a travel agent in another life.

Thanks for the suggestions! We have been working the numbers this weekend and have made a commitment to get the total lower this year. That way we can stay on target with our mortgage pay off.

One thing that worries me though is that I don't like having to live off this amount. The median household income in AL is $40,547 according to census stats. I don't really like that we live off more than that. We aren't even including our mortgage costs in the numbers. I guess in a lot of ways we are living an expensive lifestyle, eating out, travel, pets, etc. I am not sure why, but I feel guilty about it. If most people have to live off $40,000 we should easily be able to. I don't know if I have this part wrong, but something I've just been batting around in my head.

iris lily
10-17-11, 10:36am
a very minor thing re: your DH's shoes for the upcoming wedding:

My DH's old wing tips bit the dust (and I don't really understand how, since they were only 20 years old and he wore them 2 -3 times a year, they should have lasted his lifetime, but whatever.)

Anyway, he went for a period of just wearing all black tennis shoes to semi-formal functions. Only YOU know how high are the expectations for dress at this wedding. At the past 4 family weddings that DH attended he could have easily got by with those black tennis shoes.

For a costume event we attended last weekend, I had the sudden (brilliant!) idea to get thrift store shiny leather men's shoes for DH. And while the pair I bought was not a huge success because he is picky about where shoes hit him and hurt, I still think it's a good idea and I will be taking him along to purchase a better pair.

While I wouldn't buy shoes that I wear daily a thrift store, occasional use shoes from Goodwill are fine.

P.S. $20 per day for pet sitting is rock bottom, you cannot beat that price.

10-17-11, 12:30pm
Believe me, your health insurance will kick down your prescription to something cheaper if they can. Mine did - no notice, just a new brand in the mail (I use drugstore.com).

Agree w/ Iris Lily about pet sitting - and that's a lot of pets! We have 2 cats and pay a former vet tech friend $15/day to come to our house to care for them, but she also watches TV, makes a cup of tea, does some laundry, etc. with our blessing (she's a good friend). It's a great deal if you can find someone like that.

We pay full insurance on 2 cars, and it's only $90/mo. or so w/Geico, but no speeding tickets in recent memory & one car is way old (2000). Don't know if you could shop around and get a better deal.

Gas - yup! We spend about $250/mo. for 2 cars: one 2x/day 30-45 min. commute & one work-at-homer only tooling around town on errands. I cut down a bit (but every little bit helps) by walking my kids to and from school as much as I can while the weather is tolerable.

Dining out. Our achilles heel as well! No advice there!

I don't think your clothing bill for 2 people/one whole year is high actually. Shoes are expensive, but that's a penny wise, pound foolish issue in my opinion, having known several people who have had to have foot surgery in recent years.

I have also thought about the idea of living on/having expenses in the range of other people's median salary. One issue there is just that a lot of things have gotten more expensive over the past 10 years or so, and not 5% more here and there like when I was growing up, but gas = 4x what it was 10 yrs. ago, some food items 2x and 3x as much, health insurance over the top more. If we were in that salary range, we would probably simply do without health insurance, maybe not be able to pay our student loans, etc. Our rent plus health insurance plus student loan payment (not even an excessive amount) for our family per year is what some people here live on.

Also, DH and I have talked it over, and we love our town and the social network we rely on (heavily for childcare and friendship) & don't want to live the lifestyle of the cheaper places around here (far-out burbs, no friends or family, lots of driving). So we do make some sacrifices, like not owning a home, to do that. We also have a pretty fun life full of social activities, friends, some travel, family get-togethers, kids' activities, etc. All that costs at least some money (even if we choose relatively cheap alternatives), but for us, that's what life is about. So, we try to balance having a fun-filled life and good mental health (taking time off to rest, etc.) with wise stewardship of our finances.

10-17-11, 12:35pm
PS How do you do $25/mo. for cell phones?

PS2 Please, pretty please, start a thread with your methods for finding travel discounts. Very interesting!

10-17-11, 6:06pm
Maybe you can start a side business offering frugal travel tips as an income generation strategy.

Love it!

10-17-11, 6:12pm
I saw the MMM commuting piece just now. It was pretty thought-provoking! Nice that you can try a combo of things to make a difference in that cost.

And I agree with Iris Lily. $20 for petsitting = awesome.

10-21-11, 10:23pm
I have changed the categories around a bit, so that it is not in alphabetical order but by category:

Clothing - $717.71 / $59.81 ....

Yowsa – this is high. I would check into seeing if his shoes can be bought online, or at eBay or something like that. Or see if there might be a way to not drag the foot as much, health costs might go up, but if you can get him better in health, then this might be able to go down.

Fun - $1,100.11 / $91.68 - ... (And by the way, drinks with friends would go under dining out...!)

This needs to be split out. I have a section called recreation, which includes books, gardening, fun stuff (like activities), donations, and gifts. All of those in recreation came to $1,144 last year for us.

Donations - $113.33 / $9.44 - .....

Do not feel bad you do not give as much. YOUR TIME is worth more. Have you figured out your true hourly wage? Times it by the hours you give and the items you gave to get the true amount here.

Gifts - $1,367.43 / $113.95 - ....

This is too high. You do not need to give gifts to each other, the fact that you love each other is gift enough, don't you think? I saw that you posted afterwards about making it lower with family, that is a great way to go.

Travel - $3,776.31 / $314.69 ...

OK, while I applaud your frugalness with the travel expenses, you are asking us about lowering your expenses. I would suggest taking this out completely. Or just go with the camping.

Home expenses:
Furniture - $127.46 / 10.62 - ...

Make sure that all of your appliances are in good working order, and make sure to clean filters and do the maintenance on them on a yearly basis, so that they last longer.

Home Insurance - $801.00 / $66.75 - $1,000 deductible. ...

It should not increase, but if it does, say that you will go to another company. Do your homework beforehand and see if it could be decreased.

Home Maintenance - $4,728.85 / $394.07 - ...

This one you should make sure to split out. Is part of your house cleaning in with maintenance? Are you getting the repairs done for you instead of doing them yourself? See where you spent the money and see if this can be decreased by doing the work yourself or getting better deals.

Cleaning - $265.00 / $22.08 ...

IF this makes you feel better, then fine, but you might want to see if others have a lower price.

Utilities - $3,401.37 / $283.45 - ...

Yes, please split it out. We have pay as you go phones which run about $30.45 for 300 minutes every two months, is the $25 a month per phone or for both phones? The TV/internet is high, try to decrease. If you have that much for TV, then why go to movies? You could watch streaming movies at home and save there, or do Netflix or RedBox.

Not sure if you have a landline phone, hopefully not, as it is not needed if you have cell phones. You can also save on the electricity and gas to make them lower. Check to make sure appliances are turned off, check to see that the TV and other systems are not on and drawing power when you are not using them, etc.

Also, you would place your mortgage amounts here as well.

Car Insurance - $2,132.00 / $177.67 We have two Honda CRVs. One is a 2000 and only has liability. The other is a 2007 and has full coverage. Our insurance went up $300 this year, likely to DH and I both getting speeding tickets.

OK, So do you both need a car? Why? It sounds like you car-pool, so why not just have one car, thereby eliminating the car insurance, maintenance, and the gas to lower amounts.

Car Maintenance - $1,917.05 / $159.75 ...

Learn to change the oil of the car yourselves. Why go and pay the $30-40 every three months when you can buy the stuff for the change yourselves?

Gas - $3,209 / $267/48 - ....

Like I said before, still think the losing a car would be benefitial for you.

Miscellaneous - $1,270.97 / $105.91 - I haven't been especially thorough in my tracking and dump odds and ends here. I guess I need some new categories since that is a lot of money to go into the abyss. I also stuck our two speeding tickets in here...we are not horrible drivers, but I guess we need to slow down!

Since you put the Speeding tickets here, I am putting it into Vehicle Expenses. But really this should be separated out, see below.

Parking - $406.00 / $33.83 We tried carpooling we also bought one parking pass that year...we made it maybe 3 months. Lots of arguing.

I am a little confused. You tried carpooling (with each other? Or with other people?) IF there is a parking pass, who would get it? Again, like I stated before, try with one car, there would be less expenses.

Groceries - $4,301.44 / $358.45 - Wouldn't be bad if we didn't have that pesky dining out category! This includes everything at the grocery store including paper products, etc.

Dining Out - $5,789.15 / $482.43 - I am going to go hide in a corner now.
Well, you know this is high, so obviously you need to find ways to change it, like not going out as much, tracking every time you go out – did it give you pleasure, was it worth it, etc.

So just so you see, you spend more in dining out than groceries! Both of these could be lower, I would suggest that you go through your grocery receipts to see where you are spending the money for groceries and try to reduce.

Dental Insurance - $504/00 / $42.00 ...

Health Care - $2,539.07 / $211.59 - all health care expenses...Dr copays, prescription meds, allergy stuff. DH had some major ear problems this year (perforated eardrum, ickkk). ... My employer offers a health debit card with pretax money so this is helpful to know. I guess I can knock a chunk of the total just for signing up for that.

Health Insurance - $1,536.00 / $128.00

OK, for all three: You said that you have these two insurances, why would you have to spend more in the Health Care? IF you have insurance, the health care costs should be much less. Health insurance usually also means that the presciption meds should be lower. So yes, this Health Care should go down. See with the FSA what stuff you can get pre-tax as well. It has changed over the years so make sure you know exactly what you can get with it.

Personal Care - $950.84 / $79.24 - Haircuts, hair color, eyebrow waxing, pedicures, very rare makeup purchase. This category would be 90% me, 10% DH. I had my hair natural for 5 years...I am really enjoying its color right now and I did only have one pedicure this year.

I am also putting this under health, because it is not just your body, but also your mind that needs to be healthy. That said, this is a bit high. Have you thought about doing each others haircuts? What about hair coloring? Or the pedicures? (I would not suggest the waxing, as he wouldn't be able to do it, too scary for men :~) )

Pet Care - $2,037.31 / $169.78 - Three dogs, two cats. Includes pet food, vet visits, boarding, etc.

One last one under health, because it is the health of your other “family”. But just so you can see: YOUR health care is $2500 and your pets are $2000? Ever think about health insurance for your pets? Maybe then the price would not be so high, same with the food, and boarding. Those items are too high. See how much the food costs are especially and then compare with your favorite food item; is it more? And which would you reduce?

Ring - $648.85 / $54.07 - ...

Student Loan - $3,578.16 / $298.18 - .....

Taxes: Home taxes......totally forgot this category! We refinanced (home mortgage + one of our rentals) and the old mortgage had the taxes included. But, now I have a tax bill on my desk for $550 due 12/31. At least our taxes are low!

( I would separate out the taxes of home and the rental and make sure that the maintenance you show here is for your home and not for the rental. - The rental should be it's own category. )

Put it under mistakes, also the speeding tickets can go here. Also the student loan, not a mistake but a loss.

School and Office:
School - $3,238.76/ $269.90 - ....

Tech/Office - $568.84 / $47.40 - ...

You might be able to write off some of the expenses of a home office if you work from home, I am not sure about this totally. But there are always ways to cut corners here, like shopping around for toner and paper products, or take from the office if it is allowed.

And is the school category mean the tuition? Or does it mean books, or the meal out or the gas that was spent going to school. Split it out so that you can see where you can cut back.

Hopefully this has helped you a bit. It might mean more work in the beginning, but in the end, you can see where you are spending the money and where you can ultimately reduce. (sorry for the weird blue, did not know until I posted!)

5-29-12, 10:53pm
I have an awesome podiatrist. He looked at my feet, where the calluses are, etc. Then he made some inserts for my shoes. It helped my gait considerably. This surprised me quite a bit. (It was for plantar faciitis which had been treated wrong by other podiatrists). I'm not sure if there is anything that could be done for the foot dragging, but if you can find a really good podiatrist, he might be able to help compensate for your dh's slight foot dragging. My insurance paid for this, including the shoe inserts, but plans vary. If it helps his gait, it would help with wear on the shoes. I know it is quite different than a typical foot problem, but if you hear of a good podiatrist, a really good one, you might ask.

5-30-12, 8:03am
If you really want to know how to be frugal, check out www.frugalincornwall.blogspot.com. They went draconian to pay off all personal debt and now have found a frugal lifestyle. Her most recent post sums it up but it is good to go back and read her posts for a new perspective on debt and frugal living.

First step is recordkeeping, second is deciding what in YOUR life is important. If changes are more important than the spending, you will do it. No matter what we tell you, if you consider it important, you will not do it. Only you and your husband can decide this.

I go out for breakfast and/or lunch instead of dinner. I get my "eating out" at much less cost. We did not eat out during the week while I worked so we could still enjoy Sat/Sun brunches which was fine for us. When I needed gifts (to a few), I shopped all year for a bargain. Just got a Hadley Pottery pot for a friend who raises bees that has bees and our last name as part of the saying on the pot ($12 at an antique mall). She will love it. We dont do presents for each other since we get what we want during the year and we have had 39 anniversaries to find out we dont need to buy to celebrate. I also make presents.

Good shoes are a mandatory purchase around here. Everything else may be cheap but I go for good shoes. Just got a bargain at an outlet mall on four sets of sandals which will last me for the next 5+ years. They were less than 1/2 the cost of those in a retail shop here even on sale.

Pets are expensive but that is a given. Cheap food equals more vet visits and a shorter life. Boarding is pretty necessary for dogs unless a neighbor has a reciprocal agreement to take care of them. I pay for twice daily visits for my four cats and it relieves my stress which is a necessary thing when I am out of town. Unless you get rid of the pets, I totally understand this category.

5-30-12, 8:19am
Did you really buy a new mattress for $127???

I think others have pointed out the major areas--how many miles do you commute? What's your mpg? I'm not familiar with the Honda CRV gas efficiency. Keeping one of those plus trading the other for a more efficient car might help your gas allotment as well. We have a Honda Fit that gets about 34-36 mpg and my Prius gets 48-50.

Congratulations on your diligence and success at working those numbers to pay down debt!!!!

6-4-12, 9:58am
Oooh, my thread has been brought back from the dead.

ljevtich, I am sorry I think I missed your reply way back when. Thanks for taking the time to write...super hard core suggestions are always appreciated.

Catherine, we did get a mattress for $127, and that included the sales tax, haha. It was a floor model at sears. And what is funny, just a couple weeks ago, after I have been telling the world how great the floor model mattresses are, I read someone on the internet griping about buying one...apparently his was half plush and half firm! Mine fortunately is all firm. So, I guess that is one caveat in purchasing one...make sure its not a half and half.

We've been doing monthly tracking, but I think I need to do a check of all our months and see how we are doing for this point in the year. I know we are doing well in some areas, for example I have really focused on cutting back on personal care, but other areas like food are still dogging us.

On the positive side we have less than 10 mortgage payments (with the extra payment amount included) and the mortgage is paid off!