Today, my focus turns away from my personal finances and on to the household's finances. This is probably something the more financially savvy among you have been doing forever, so it's not news, but Mark and I have been keeping track for the last 9 months (since February, but, for the most part, excluding August, when I got lazy about tracking) of how much we're spending in each category. We've mostly been tracking, rather than budgeting, though we do refer to this document as our budget. This morning, I took a look at the record of our spending in a few of our more flexible (and more problematic) categories, to see how far we've come and what our averages are.
I am not pleased.
But first, the good news:
The first thing I looked at was our spending on gasoline, because we really did make an effort to cut back on our driving when the prices started to spike. What I saw was a bit puzzling--months of one-tank spending ($44 in September?) followed by months of three tank spending ($140 in October). We didn't go anywhere in particular in October...Then I realized that more than reflecting our driving, this reflects the dates on which the bills came in and were paid. Our average spending over these months for gas was about $108/month, which, given the prices gas has been at, seems reasonable to me. Not a lot of concern here.
The category I was the next most pleased with was groceries. Though we hit an embarrassing spike of over $500 in June, we've been progressing since then, and we went amazingly low in October. Our average grocery spending was about $339/month, which is not great, but not terrible. That's about $11 a day, or $5.50 a day each. Can't complain a whole lot about that.
Except when I see where we made up for it...
Yes, we spent an average of $277/month eating out. There is no excuse for that. And, while we did a bit better over the summer months, we were up to a ridiculous high of $415 last month. And it's not even like we're going out to nice meals--these high numbers are mostly due to ridiculous numbers of pizza orders and coffee shop stops. We have to work harder on that.
People are often asking me how much our menagerie of pets costs. Well, here you go. They cost an average of $219/month over the past nine months. That's for food, vet care, litter, etc. Everything except for Leo and Ata's pet insurance, which is a separate budget category and adds about $35/month to the total. That $461 spike in April was when a bunch of pets needed to have their annual check-ups and vaccinations at the same time. We're going to have a similar spike this month, as both Leo and Illy went to the vet on Friday, for a total of about $325.
This category just kind of is what it is. We don't spend extravagantly on our pets. We buy them very high quality food and get them quality preventative vet care, but the cats use generic litter, I make the dogs' treats, and their beds and toys come from the bins. Having as many pets as we have is just expensive, no matter how you slice it.
This last category bothers me the most, because it's the most ambiguous. Misc. I might as well have called it "Target," because that is most of what it is. Everything we buy collectively that is not food or pet care. And it is wildly divergent, with monthly bounces. I suppose that's because a lot of what we buy in this category is needed every other month? I don't know. I do know that an average monthly spending of $272 on stuff I can't quite put my finger on is too damn much. The only thing I know that goes into that category every month is $6.95 in online bill pay charges. Can we really be spending $265 in an average month on toilet paper and deodorant? The mind boggles.
And so, there you have it. An eye-opening exercise, and one I suggest you do if you haven't. Before I did it, I thought pets were a bigger problem than they are, gas was more expensive than it has been, and we were doing better with regards to eating out than we have for months. These things are very good to know moving forward.