Year-End Spending Roundup, 2016

Wow, hi, anyone still reading. Even by my low posting standards this year, this has been a long stretch. Honestly, after the election I kind of lost most of my interest in where my money was at, and also I’ve been really busy with various organizing and work activities.

But I have a few quiet moments now, and I figured I’d look at where I’d ended up this year. Still a few days to go, but I’ll be out of the country on New Year’s Eve so I’m doing this now!

First of all, yearly spending. Here’s last year’s post for comparison. I’ll drop a cut on this since it’ll get long. First, all the expenses; then, the analysis.

Fixed Expenses

Rent and utilities: $4600. (Last year, $4881). I’m still living where I was last year, at $400/month for rent and utilities combined. This housemate situation has been a joy. I really like both of them and their pets, the house is nice and well-located, there’s really nothing to object to.

Cell phone: $200.00. (Last year, $200)

Car & renter’s Insurance: $523.35 (last year, $569.64). My car is really old, so I carry the state minimums on everything. Renter’s insurance is rolled in and I get a substantial discount for doing both together, so I end up paying just a couple dollars extra a month to protect my stuff. I got a small reduction halfway through the year, hence the slightly lower number.

Total Fixed Expenses: $5323.35 (last year, $5650.64.) This is still amazing to me.

Basic Expenses

Cash draw: $3466.75 (last year, $3420.00). I kept the amount of cash I drew out pretty much the same this year, but my overall slush spending went up considerably as I used my credit card more for extra food, groceries, etc. I’m considering what to do next year; possibly I should increase the cash draw to $400 a month and get more hardcore about not using the credit card again. This is the money I spend on most food, but also dry cleaning, postage, movie tickets, etc, etc.

Fuel: $297.73 (last year, $347.08). This number is insane. Low gas prices, a very short commute (just a few miles), and a penchant for walking/biking all help. I also loaned my car to a friend a bunch of times this fall and a couple of times he filled the tank up. This number doesn’t include the gas I paid for out of my travel money when I drove somewhere long distance — just the basic daily life stuff.

Total Basic Expenses: $3764.48 (last year, $3767.08.)  Interesting to me that I hit virtually the same number as last year!

Variable Expenses

Slush: $2799.78 (last year, $1388.76)

  • Entertainment: $572.74 (last year: $261.38): About 3/5 of this was subscriptions to hulu, magazines, etc, etc, and about 2/5 was tickets — nearly all for the music festival I went to this summer with a few movies thrown in.
  • “Stuff”: $725.13 (last year, $682.12). Interesting: the overall number was close, the individual transactions fewer. I bought a few fairly expensive house things (blankets!) this year in addition to smaller charges for books, CDs, and the like.
  • Other: $1501.91 (last year, 445.26). This is mostly food-related, though there are some other things in here, like carpet cleaning for the house. The vast increase over last year — about $1000 — is pretty much due to not cooking at home nearly as much this year. I ate out a lot and/or bought more expensive prepared foods. I also saved some money here because I was eating other places a lot, either at the place I volunteer or from food my housemates bought, but overall, just not a great number. Something I really want to work on for many reasons (not all financial) this year.

Gifts and Donations (not including giving out of cash draw): $1699.63 (last year, $550).
I don’t have separate categories in YNAB for gifts vs charitable donations, but looking at the specific transactions, $551 went more or less on gifts to specific people (including postage — when I put a care package box together for someone, the postage comes out of this money.) That leaves around $1148 in donations. $769 of that was given after the election, mostly in small donations to a variety of groups, with $500 going to a local charity that provides legal help to immigrants. The rest was again smaller donations at various times earlier in the year.

“Gremlins”: $202.08 (last year, $421.05)

—What surprised me this year?

  • taxes owed after filing: $95.00
  • Car registration renewal: $58.35
  • a membership fee: $48.73

I’m not sure I need this category. Last year, it had pretty much the same stuff in it — taxes, registration — and I feel like maybe I should just fold these things into other categories, like car maintenance and slush.

Personal and Health: $1894.24 (last year, $937.89). GOOD GOD WHAT HAPPENED. Um. wow. None of these look awful to me; a few smaller expenditures on facial products but mostly this is dental expenses (got a couple of fillings), contact lenses, and drugstore.com purchases, along with the usual assortment of co-pays for doctor’s visits. Oh, and $145 of yoga classes.

Clothing: $772.95 (last year, $792.00). Fascinating to me that I spent nearly exactly the same amount this year as last. Looking at the specific charges, virtually all of it went to LL Bean. I just really like buying warm winter gear, I guess 🙂

Car Repairs and Maintenance: $800.78 (last year, $962.21). Oy. My car is just really old. I expect that as long as I have it there’ll be a big repair once a year. This year it was the O2 sensor.

Non-Car Repairs and Maintenance: $85.53 (last year, $260.93). The sole charge in this category was a new power cord for my laptop.

Travel: $3280 (last year, $3800).
I went to Los Angeles twice, to the east coast for various family/college reunion stuff a couple of times, paid in advance for housing and plane fare for the Cuba trip I’m going on, and there were some other miscellaneous short trips in here, or incidental expenses incurred on mostly professional trips.

Non-reimbursible professional expenses: $390.72 (last year, $219.74). I paid for a couple of memberships in professional societies again; the big difference here is that I bought a bunch of books this year, which I didn’t last year.  

Total Variable Expenses: $12336.14 (last year, $9332.58)

Total Total Expenses: $21533.98 (last year, $18750.30)

So, basically, my fixed and basic expenses were nearly exactly what they were in 2015. But in variable expenses, I spent about $2800 more. Less went on travel and in a few other categories, but a lot more went on personal care, food, and donations.

I’m happy that my donation number increased and would really prefer to increase that, not decrease it, in 2017. I have a feeling that travel is going to stay a big part of my budget no matter what. Personal care should get back into line if I don’t need dental work this year. That really just leaves the food thing as an issue I’d like to pay more attention to in 2017 — when, overall, I need to address my health more. That includes food but it also includes overhauling my exercise regimen (currently mostly nonexistent.)

4 thoughts on “Year-End Spending Roundup, 2016

  1. Mariana says:

    I was thrilled to see 2 blog posts from you and on the same day too! 🙂
    Awesome how you are closing the year spending less than $22k. Housing costs in NYC are a killer. Cannot wait till we move to lower these down.
    Happy Holidays. Hope to see more posts from you in 2017. Xx

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Hi! So good to hear from you 🙂 And yes, not living in NYC is basically the key to my making any progress on this salary!

  2. Welcome, back! This is quite the write up. I agree with you that your fixed expenses are killer. How does your mobile phone only cost you $200/year? It’s good that you are making room in your budget to travel. Don’t ever regret it. I am in the same boat with you about food costs and needing to get my health back on track. That’s already on my to-do list for next year.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I’m on a family plan with some friends of mine, that’s why 🙂 I pay them $25 a month, but both last year and this year I’ve skipped $100 of payments and spent the money on traveling to see the same friends. So, $200.

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