As usual, it is time for another expense report. This time for March 2023.
Housing was $1,300. Due to changes in the platform, my landlord is using, I have to now pay a small convenience fee to autopsy or use a debit card to pay. There will be a small bump in my housing expense as a result. I may offset this with a new credit card reward strategy. I may look into going to pay in person but it’s about a 40-minute drive one way to their office when I want to do that, I’ll need to compare it to the approximate mileage of my car.
My utilities for the month were $269.
Although I updated my read date for gas and electric usage to better match when I pay my bills. It is now billed on the first. This makes it shorter this month than last.
Overall it was about 10F warmer over that period compared to the last. I expect as it warms up my bill will continue to trend downward. I also still have a deposit to make being billed at $90 a month. This has 3 more payments remaining, once that goes away I expect a significant reduction in my bill (approximately 1/2 of my gas and electric bill will go away). Water is still billed on the same cycle it was before. I do want to cut these expenses a bit if I can. Below we’ll share some methods on how I plan to do that.
Overall I’m going to try and cut my water bill down some. I’m going to achieve this by taking shorter showers to try and get them down to the bare minimum time. I may try more efficient dishwashing as well to try and lower this expense.
For my gas and electric, I expect the cost to continue to trend down towards some lower minimum number as spring and summer get into the swing and I’m not warming the house as much and I move my plants outside to where they’ll have a better location. I expect to hit some minimum cost that reflects my use without heating. I also don’t expect cooling to make up too much of the costs over the summer either, if it gets above 90F I may turn on the AC, but otherwise, I plan to avoid cooling my house to save on costs there. More efficient water usage will also mean less energy will be used to heat the water.
I already keep the house at about 60 F with a small heater for my plants (which happens to be close to the thermostat for the house), which means other parts of the house are 5-10 degrees cooler (I’m guessing, I spend most of my time at home in the same room as my plants and it is noticeably cooler when I go into these other rooms) and I’m not comfortable pushing the temperature other parts of the house down much more since I don’t want to burst pipes. Maybe with the warmer weather, I’ll push it down just a bit to see if the heat comes on more often.
I could start turning the grow lights off at night, but I don’t know if that’s worth it as it’s already the only light I leave on. I don’t know if there’s much more fat I could trim from my gas or electric bills.
My groceries were $404. I’d like to bring this down closer to $300 going forwards. I’m working on the full details of that at the moment. But I have some ideas.
This month I ate the following meals for dinner: Carne Adovada ($1.80/meal), Spinach pasta ($0.82), beef noodle soup ($5.75), lo mein ($2.96), and pad thai ($3.67). I’d have a bit of trail mix for dessert ($2.59). Overall the average per meal was $5.59 for all dinners. I don’t have good data for my pizzas so I’m excluding them.
For lunch, it was: Spinach Pasta, and sandwiches ($3.26). With these meals, I also had a bit of trail mix, a Nutri-grain bar ($0.41), and a piece of fruit ($2.36). Overall, lunch cost $8.63 a meal.
Breakfast was just smoothies, each cost an average cost of $3.73.
I was originally going to include a screenshot of the spreadsheet I used to track my groceries but I couldn’t make it work so instead I’m just going to talk about it. Of the items that I’ve completely eaten, the most expensive individual item was the fruits I get for my lunch which came in at $2.99 a meal at one point this month. Second was one of the frozen fruit mixes that I get for my smoothies coming in at $1.71 a meal.
Now the issues with my average price per meal above, my most expensive component was the beef noodle soup, but I’m going to contend that the actual price per meal will be longer given enough time. There were a lot of spices that went into it that add ~$3 a meal to the price. But I didn’t completely use up all of those spices in this one meal. I plan to use them in other dishes, which will bring down the price.
There’s a similar issue with my daily sandwiches, they include some cheeses that I’ve yet to finish, which artificially raise the price by about $1 a meal, which may drop the price. I also don’t include the cost to make the bread as the flour I used for that still isn’t completely exhausted.
Now with all of that out of the way let’s take a look at my largest expense category, it was lunch at $8.63 a meal. Most of this came from the expenses of my sandwiches and my fruits. Let’s look at some of the ways I can cut this down. For one thing, the sandwich measure is kind of an item that I’m expecting to at least half if not third the cost per meal by the time I exhaust it. Otherwise, it’s the meat that I use to make the sandwiches, so I may look to switch to a lower kind of lunch meat to put on my sandwiches. Alternatively, I may look to bring something different for lunch that’s cheaper than a sandwich.
Last month I predicted that dinners or breakfasts would be my most expensive individual meal. I was completely wrong, it turns out that it was lunched that were the most expensive. I think my error in this prediction was that I wasn’t thinking about how few meals I get out of the components of my lunch, each piece of fruit is only eaten once. I guess this is just more proof that I cannot predict the future, good thing I don’t try to time the market.
For the lunch fruit, I was buying pomelos which are rather expensive. Albeit they’re a seasonal fruit and with that season ending, I’m switching over to grapefruits and other fruits that should be cheaper. I’m expecting this to drop closer to $1 per meal, which should help with this expense.
But lunch isn’t the only place I’m looking to cut from, for the frozen fruit, I’m going to have to look at either adjusting my ratios or finding a cheaper bag. Maybe I’ll add an extra handful of spinach and one less handful of frozen fruit.
For meat, I learned of a different place in town that offers better deals. I’m going to give that a try next time I buy meat. I already usually buy the cheapest cut of meat that will meet my needs. I’m also going to try and cut the amount of meat in my meat meals in half, when possible. 1 chicken breast is 1 chicken breast, it’d be hard to buy half a chicken breast, there’s no reason to try and cut that down, although I may only eat half and save the rest (assuming it wasn’t shredded or cut into a different meal).
My other expenses were about $181. I’m hoping to have all of my expected other expenses out of the way (plants, pots, forge, and 3D printer) by July. After that, it’ll just be a couple of dollars a month for my streaming services. I may have to cheat the rules a bit next month depending on how expensive getting the pots I need and go over my other budget quite a bit. If so, I’ll take it as a loan from next month’s other budget. I might be able to kind of do a two-for-one type deal as I do need to pot up some of my plants anyway, so I may be able to reuse some of those for other plants. This month I did buy some of the plants I need just to make sure I get them (tea plants were surprisingly sold out at a lot of the places I buy plants from). I’m expecting April to just be one remaining plant and the pots for them.
In total, I spent $2154. Overall, I’d like to cut at least $150 from that amount going forwards. That would allow me to save about 50% of my take-home pay every month, excluding 401k contributions. While I do expect about $90 a month to disappear soon as I pay off the deposit for my utility company, I’ll need to find other cuts.
My total income for the month was $5,400. Currently, I do not include investment income in that total.
I expect this to remain relatively constant until I get a raise/promotion. Although I am joining the company’s confined space rescue team. This comes with an additional stipend, when that happens I’ll note it.
I will note there was one retirement contribution that had not been posted to my 401(k) yet. I’ll wrap that into April’s instead. This was just because of the lag from when I started working to when my 401(k) contributions started. I expect there to be a nearly constant amount posted to my account from here on out.
To better track my income and where they’re coming from, I’m going to break it down into take-home and retirement. This will not affect my savings rate though.
Below are the balances across my accounts as of late March 31. I use this to track net worth and how it is distributed.
The graph below tracks my change in net worth since I started tracking it in January 2023.
Up and to the right. Just what I like to see. Unlike last month, however, this seems to be a little less steep than last month. Minus some room for capital appreciation, I expect this to be the slope going forwards.
This month, my savings rate was: 60%. I aim for a minimum of 50% a month but I’d prefer to be at 66% or more. I expect with a second 401(k) contribution I’ll be closer to this number next month.
My average savings rate Year to Date is 64%, still below my goal of 66%.
Much like the net worth graph, the graph below tracks my savings rate month to month. This is to help me track long-term trends regarding my savings.
That is a rather sharp drop. But the income from last month was a bit of an anomaly, with me getting my signing bonus. I expect this graph to level off quite a bit going forwards and I have more data points to level out some of the noise like January and February.
The table below tracks my goals for the year. Also located here.
|Expand Emergency Fund||Short||One time||100|
|Workout 5 days a week||Short||Continuous||On Track|
|Repair Forge||Medium||One time||25|
|Enroll in a Spanish Course||Medium||One time||0|
|Reduce Spending in a Category||Medium||Annual||0|
|Repair 3D Printers||Medium||One time||25|
|Expand Potted Garden||Medium||One time||100|
|Net worth 150,000||Long||One Time||79|
|Learn Spanish Verb Conjugation||Long||One time||30|
|Set New Workout Goals||Long||Annual||On Track|
|Expand Engineering Skills||Longer||Continuous||On Track|
|Obtain some Degree of Fluency in Spanish||Longer||Continuous||On Track|
|Maintain Retirement Contributions||Longer||Continuous||On Track|
|Increase Savings Rate||Longer||Continuous||N/A|
|Expand workout Regime||Longer||One Time||On Track|
For my emergency fund, I have finally socked away 12,000 to establish about 6 months of savings. This goal is complete. Overall I’m not making a large amount of interest on the money I have in this account even if it is a high-yield account with my bank (0.1% APY), but that’s fine. Probably I’ll just let the interest sit there unless it becomes a significant amount. The point is that I have the amount set aside to feel comfortable should an emergency arise and that I’ll have access to them. Although it will feel good to start investing again now.
Reduce Spending in a category
As mentioned above, I’ve picked a few categories to try and lower expenses. This time groceries. I’m going to shoot for $300 a month in groceries. Mostly through trying to cut expenses in my lunches and some specific high-cost per-meal items. I’m going to continue the spreadsheet to help with that (we’ll ignore that I managed to lose my receipt for April 1st’s shopping trip).
Workout 5 days a week
For my planks, I’m updating my goal. From this Harvard article, you don’t get many benefits after 2 minutes of planks, I’m going to shoot for that with a handful of sets thrown in. First I’m going to get to 2 minutes, maybe try and find a way to wrap them into other activities I do (maybe when I’m relaxing in the evening or something) so they don’t take up as much of my time. We’ll see how that goes and update you. I’m going to do some more research into the other timed workouts I do and see if similar changes would be beneficial.
I also kind of fell off the wagon with the weight workouts in the second half of the month, I’m going to have to work to get back onto them in April.
For my body weight routine, I’ve gotten most of the workouts up to 33 reps a set or 1.5 minutes on the timed workouts.
Overall though, I’ve been working out 5 days a week every week barring the odd day off here and there.
Expand my potted garden
I did buy some of my plants this month, namely the peppers, tea, and tomato plant. The vendor I was ordering the tomato from had a bundle thing so on top of the peppers and tomato I also got a lemongrass plant. On April 1st I also ordered the last plant, so once they all arrive I will just be getting pots for them and some other plants I need to pot up. I’ll count this goal as complete in that all the plants I planned to buy have been ordered (although I am trying to sprout thai peppers and a grapefruit tree from seed those are just bonuses).
Next month I’ll move completed goals to the bottom of the table.
That’s it for expenses this month. I’ll see you in the next post.