An (Honest) Look At What We Spent In March
We’re coming up on 6 months of being 100% debt free, house and everything. And honestly, our spending hasn’t really changed that much. I’ve never been a big spender. My parents taught me early on the importance of saving money and that’s kind of always been ingrained in me. But, when you don’t have any debt, it definitely helps to have a little wiggle room and be able to have a little guilt-free spending as well as not feeling the burden of some practical purchases. I thought it would be fun to take a look at where all our money goes in a month!
For the last six years, I’ve used EveryDollar to budget every single month. I still use this to plan our spending. If you don’t already plan your budget ahead of time, I highly recommend it! I talked a little bit about it this blog post when we switched from credit cards to cash. I used to track my spending after it was spent, but now we plan before we start spending.
After we initially paid off the house, we did make some big purchases as a way to celebrate. Within the first 6 weeks we bought a new couch and new TV (with no financing, obviously). We also had a couple of big tax payments to make (county and village) in January and March now that we no longer have an escrow attached to a mortgage payment. Finally, we started renovating our living room, a project that we had delayed because we were working on paying off the house. So a lot of our EXTRA money from not having a mortgage payment each month has been going to those things. March brought a little slow down on the living room project so I feel like this past month has been the most “normal” month of spending since paying off the house. Let’s dive in!
Monthly Bills (utilities, services, etc.)
These are consistent monthly payments that don’t have much wiggle room with them! Natural gas goes down as it gets warmer and the lowest months are under $50. Electricity this month is actually a little high for us. We have solar panels so about 9 months out of the year we only pay a $17.78 surcharge to National Grid – but during the winter months with less sun and more snow on the roof, our electricity bill goes up a bit since we’re not generating enough solar energy to cover our usage. Planet Fitness is normally only $10 but I pay my annual renewal every March!
In this category, we don’t NEED Disney+, Planet Fitness, or Spotify Duo, but as you can see in THIS POST, I break down why we choose to have these three luxury memberships.
Natural Gas: $140
Cell Phone: $71.72
Planet Fitness: $49 ($39 annual renewal was due this month)
Spotify Duo: $12.99
As frugal as I am, the grocery budget is NOT something I super duper cut corners with. We spend *a lot* of money on groceries and this is one of those categories that I just needed to learn to be okay with it being high. I view food as medicine and try to take a PREVENTATIVE method to health instead of reactive. I believe in investing in quality food NOW instead of paying for medical issues down the road. I buy a lot of organic (but not everything) produce, cage free eggs, grass-fed meats, and not much processed foods. Right now we have 2 growing kids who are eating just about as much as Mark and I do as adults.
Note: I DO include toilet paper and other non-food products (hand soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) into my grocery costs.
Car Related Expenses
When Mark isn’t coaching, he carpools with a co-worker to cut costs on gas and wear and tear on our cars! Coaching started back up for him this month so the second half of the month he was driving himself every day. On months that we need an oil change, Mark has started changing the oil himself. Thankful that he taught himself that and started that about a year ago!
THIS is the category that I think is the most beneficial to talk and read about. These are the things that are above and beyond our needs. A lot of these things are just because we want them OR are items that don’t really fit into anything else. I feel like the first four categories here are the ones that define a person as a spender or a saver.
Our entertainment was a little higher this month because of just TWO outings. We saw Vanessa Carlton live in March at a local venue in town. It cost $70 for a babysitter and we spent $30 on drinks at the show. It was also my sister’s 30th birthday so we went to celebrate with her and helped out a little with the cost for bowling and bought a pitcher of beer to share.
I was a little surprised that our clothing was at $77 because I was like…what did we buy?! Then I realized that pretty much everyone needed new socks and underwear and man do those add up! Back when we had debt I would have been like “SEVENTY-SEVEN DOLLARS ON UNDERWEAR?!” and probably would have made everyone go a little longer with what they already had. Now it’s just kind of like….🤷♀️ yeah that seems like a lot but that’s what we need so just buy it. It’s nice when basic things feel less stressful.
Miscellaneous is the category of RANDOM things that just don’t fit anywhere else. We needed new dry erase markers for my meal planning and calendar board, Kenzie needed a new hair brush, she needed some materials for a project at school, we needed new vacuum filters, and a new clock, things of that nature. Things that are not regular expenses but that pop up and just need to be purchased. None of these miscellaneous things were “just because” or “for fun” though. It’s very, very rare that I buy STUFF for stuff’s sake.
Living Room Project: $200
Private School Registration: $180
Insurance/Taxes/Medical (the boring stuff)
My daughter broke her pinky toe at the end of February, resulting in a big higher costs on our medical budget this month. Since paying off the house, we’ve decided to set aside $500 every month so we are *always* prepared for property taxes and home insurance bills! Once the bill comes, we’ll just transfer the money we’ve saved up, write a check, and be done with it!
ID Theft Insurance is an annual fee and it just happens to land in March so you’ll see that, but that’s not a monthly bill. Our life insurance IS a monthly bill and that covers Mark, me, and riders for both kids.
Property Taxes/Home Insurance: $500
ID Theft Insurance: $145
Life Insurance: $54.82
Hope of Life (Child Sponsorship): $35
Discretionary Giving: $50
School Donation: $10
All of the money for my retirement comes directly out of my business account and never even touches our personal checking account. I don’t have a consistent amount that I contribute each month because I do not have a consistent income. I just pull out 15% of everything I make and earmark it for retirement. I actually hadn’t invested in a few months so when I realized I had a chunk sitting there I threw it all to retirement!
Mark had a little investing lesson with the kids this month! They have been making pretty good money this winter shoveling the neighbor’s sidewalks and decided to teach them about investing rather than just spending it on random stuff. Each kid invested $20 and we promised to match their contribution!
Mark’s Retirement: $500
Ashley’s Retirement: $800
Matching the Kid’s Investments: $40
Let’s wrap it up. Our total spending for the month of March was $5066. The only thing for our spending that didn’t come directly from our monthly income was my retirement which came directly out of my business account. Also, this was a 3 paycheck month for us, which happens twice a year. Whenever that happens, I split the third paycheck between 2 months, in this case between March and April.
Let’s break down our spending in percentages:
Monthly Utilities/Memberships: 8%
Discretionary Spending: 15%
Honestly, the 26% for retirement and investments is not normal for us. That $800 that I contributed to my ROTH IRA was not part of our monthly income. If we took that out of the equation completely, our investing percentage would be at 12% and all the other categories would increase a bit.
Here’s my takeaway…
I’m super pumped that I can put a big fat ZERO next to the debt category. NONE of our money is going to banks or lenders. We get to invest all of our money either into our current lifestyle or our future. And *because* of that – it makes what would be stressful situations into only inconveniences. Take the inflation on food for example. It’s frustrating that food prices are so high but that’s where it ends for me. It’s just frustrating. It’s inconvenient. But it hasn’t stopped me from buying the food that’s important to me. It hasn’t made me buy less food and I’ve continued to buy pricier organic food.
The same goes for things like Kenzie breaking her toe. Or having to buy everyone socks and underwear. Those aren’t things I’m pumped to be spending money on but it just ends up being a 🤷♀️ moment instead of anything that actually causes stress.
There are so many variables in life. Inflation. Pandemics. Government changes. Sicknesses. But because of having *no debt,* any of those things that may pop up will be easier to handle than if we were buried under a pile of debt. There is definitely a sense of peace that comes with it. An extra security net that honestly feels a lot better than a credit card.
So there you have it! Even though I always keep track of all my spending, this was still enlightening to me to really look at the percentages right next to each other and to reflect on the last 5+ months of being debt free. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes.
love a debt-free-lady,
(all debt-free style pictures were taken by Ramsey Solutions during our debt free scream visit!