Here’s a preliminary look at my income and expenses or as the bloggers say, everything I spent in 2019!
First, here’s a look back.
2019 Budgeting Spreadsheet Snapshot
I had two employers in 2019 – Call Center #1 from Jan to July and Call Center #2 from Oct to Dec 2019. I was technically unemployed for August and September, however I received 2 paychecks in August from Call Center #1. The first was for hours worked from Jul 15 to Aug 2. The second paycheck was 2 weeks of paid out vacation time. That was nice!
Gross Pay (rounded): $91,000
Take Home Pay (not including 401k): $51,000
Last year (2018), my expenses totaled about $34,000. When I made my Working Budget for 2019, my expense target was $26,000. Let’s see how I did.
2019 Target Expenses: $26,000
2019 Actual Expenses (rounded): $29,000*
This is a little bit lower than it probably should have been. The reason being I stopped student loan payments in Jul 2019. So I didn’t make any student loan payments from August to December 2019. At a little more than $500/month, I did not make about $2700 worth of payments. *So for real comparisons in the future, my expenses would be closer to $31, 700. I’m actually pretty pleased with either number. It’s a couple thousand less than I spent in 2018 without trying that hard.
Notes on Everyday Expenses ($5291/yr)
- I’ve been able to keep my grocery bill under an average of < $200/month.
- Went most of the year without a phone, although with the budget plans out there, I probably could pay something similar and have cell phone service for the whole year. It’s just not that high on my priority list right now (although most of my family and colleagues would disagree).
- Went 4 out of 12 months without some sort of TV/ cable service (line item = Entertainment). That said after trying regular cable, Sling, DirecTV Now and Hulu Live, Hulu Live is my favorite. It’s cheaper than regular cable and it tees up the shows I want to watch without a whole lot of clicking around. But the price went up from about $44 to about $54/mon in December and I had to stop service and reassess.
Notes on Housing ($11,289)
- This is for a studio apartment in North Carolina. It’s altogether too high, and I’ve been trying to do something about it for the last 2 years or so.
- At first it didn’t make sense to just move to another apartment, but I couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy that actually lowered my housings costs without increasing my commute. And there was the fact that I wanted to be able to leave NC in the near future.
- Now that my job is more flexible with remote work and I was unsuccessful in securing a job out of state after searching for a year, staying in North Carolina in a more affordable area seems to be a more viable option.
Notes on Student Loan ($3902)
- As I mentioned, it’s a little lower this year than it should be because I was able to stop payments with my loan servicer in Jul 2019 pending my job loss.
- Notably, my payments decreased earlier in the year from about $570 to $529 because my adjusted gross income for 2018 was lowered due to my 401k pre-tax contributions in 2018. Win!
- I took a few trips this year, and while costly by FIRE standards, I managed to stay right around what I received as a bonus in 2019. Travel-hacking was a bit too involved for me at this particular juncture, but not out of the realm of possibility for future me.
- The rest was for money spent in relation to job hunting to include eating out, clothes, hair, parking, supplies, emotional eating.
- This year if I find myself on the job market again, I’d like to stay between $100 to $300 or less.
Gifts/Tithes/Darling Family ($3522)
- I’ve decreased spending on my family vs 2017 by almost half (from $7,000 to $3,500). And in 2020, I’m planning to donate more of my time.
- I haven’t yet put a cap or limit on this. How do you say no to your family?
2019 Magic Math
When I look at my expenses spreadsheet and think about FIRE, I like to drill down to my core expenses. If I removed Extras which was mostly travelling and financial contributions to my Family and even Student Loans, most of which I could theoretically eliminate or significantly decrease in early retirement, my expenses would total (28,698-3902-3522-4694) about $16,500! Considering $11,000 of that is housing, that number seems very doable. This is one reason I really want to improve my housing situation, cost wise anyway.
Savings this year comes from 401k contributions, Roth IRA, and anything I had direct deposited to my savings account.
2019 Savings Goal: $45,000
- 401k Goal: $19,000
- 401k Actual: $18,996
- Post-tax Goal: $26,000
- Post-tax Actual (rounded): $21,000
2019 Actual Savings (rounded): $40,000
I was able to max out my 401k (less $4). I was able to max out my Roth IRA at the eleventh hour. I contributed a little less to my broker account mainly due to unemployment and I’m still hoarding some money in cash, I think for the first quarter of 2020, until I figure out my housing situation. I’m closer than I’ve ever been to buying a house.
Savings rate: 41% to 44%
- Based on take-home pay: 21,000/ 51,000 = .41
- Based on gross-pay: 40,000/91,000 = .44
Overall, I’m pleased as punch with the state of my finances. I don’t love work anymore than I did at the start of 2019. Although not the 30% increase I was looking for, I did increase my hourly rate by 6.7%. I quit my job and realized I’d rather wait until I reach my FIRE number to take time off work. I traveled and realized it’s not something that’s high on my priority list at this time. And I don’t know if I see myself doing too much of it in retirement/ early retirement. Maybe a trip or two every couple to five years, but that could change. That said, one day I still do want to do the Teach English in Spain program for at least a year. I reconnected with old friends and realized it’s not something that’s high on my priority list either now or in the distant future. I think I still want to have interesting and new experiences but I’m still not sure what that looks like.
Wishing you a prosperous 2020!