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2017 income and expenses in review

December 29th, 2017 at 05:50 am

It's that time of year when I take a micro look at the past year's income and expenses. I couldn't take this kind of close look if I didn't track my expenses (and income) all year long. This is when it really pays off, because I always come away with some surprises.


Here we go with my Top 10 expenses, ranked highest to lowest:

Health insurance: $6,267. Health insurance accounted for a whopping 17.4% of my total budget. I paid for it via COBRA, which I felt was an "affordable" $520/month compared to much higher healthcare exchange rates (figured without the subsidy).

I would be much better off with an employer-paid
plan and that of course is still a goal, although it remains to be seen if I can find one.

This expense was much higher than last year's (41% higher) $3,711, only because I was laid off in July 2016 and thus only paid the higher COBRA costs for 5 months of the year, not 12.

Property taxes: $5,904. This is my 2nd highest expense, but it is pretty stable from one year to the next.

Central air $4,650. This represented 13% of total expenditures. I think it was worth it.New England summers can be sweltering.

Food: $3,276. The very welcome news here is that this total is 24% LOWER than last year! I really tried to shop Aldi's as much as possible, and I think that paid off. I still buy quite a bit of organic produce but shopping at Aldi's more and at BJs less helped a lot. I am not renewing my BJs membership in February when it expires so I hope to see continued savings in 2018 in my 4th highest expense category.

I will buy a year's worth of cheap cat litter before I lose the membership.

Cats: $1,669. Both cats had very expensive dental work done in 2016 (teeth pulled) until I began to suspect the vet used this as an easy $$-maker. I switched to a more reasonably-priced vet, but still, Waldo had continuing challenges last year with his asthma and hyperthyroidism until his passing last summer.

I hope to contain costs in this category with just Luther now. Nonetheless, this expense is a 77% decrease from 2016.

Built-in bookshelves:$1,665. This is a good example of getting a lot of bang for the buck for a relatively small amount of money. I LOVE my dining room bookshelves and they're a great place to display my many family heirlooms, from my late mother's art to my grandfather's marquetry.

The bookshelves really enhance what used to be a plain Jane dining room, and it's one of the first things you see when you walk in the door. Love these, and am still considering getting more built-in shelving elsewhere in the house.

Household: $1,371. "Household" is my one catch-all category to assign certain purchases to when there's really nowhere else to put them. Mainly it includes purchases for the home that are not "used up" and which are under $500, since I have a category for big expenses over $500. This amount represents a 57% decrease from last year...nice!

CT taxes: $994. Most of this was taxes owed to the state from 2016, paid at tax time. The rest is estimated tax payments due to my freelance work. Calculating taxes from contract jobs that don't deduct taxes from your checks can be tricky. I do hope to get a refund for this year.

Phone/Internet: $941. This is about the same as 2016, or 3% higher, to be exact. I'm still with AT&T and I do keep a landline.

Clothing: Hmmm. I spent 34% more than I did in 2016. I tend to splurge and buy a lot of stuff just before starting a new contract job, and I recall doing that twice this year. Clothes are so expensive. I need to rein this in; ideally, if I lost weight, I'd fit into so much more.

Those are my Top 10 expenses for 2017. My remaining expenses, in order of amount, are:

Lawn and garden: $876.

This is mainly from paying a guy to mow my lawn, every other week, from about April thru November.

Electricity: $845. I continue to shop around for electric rates for the best offers available. Still, this represents just a 2% decrease from 2016.

Heating oil/cleanings: $784. This is 22% higher than 2016, I think because I simply ordered more oil before year's end than in 2016. In fact, I do remember topping off the tank earlier in the fall when prices were lower. So this is one expense that should be looked at on a seasonal basis rather than a calendar year basis.

Homeowners insurance: $682. This is an increase of 6%.

Gas: $661. This is 15.5% more than last year, but that's because I've been working and commuting since last September.

Car maintenance: $544. This is 21% higher than in 2016 on my 2013 Honda, mainly because I bought brand new, top line Michelin tires.

Out of pocket medical/dental expenses: $539. Off the top of my head, this would all be expenses associated with my annual physical and my twice-a-year dental cleanings, which I have to pay out of pocket.

Car insurance: $487. This is 82% lower than 2016, because I decided to drop my collision insurance. It's a calculated risk, but I have funds available should I need to repair or replace my car, and I've never had an accident save for a fender bender in a parking lot that was someone else's fault. So I'll take the savings here.

Entertainment: $473.

Car tax/miscellaneous fees: $381

Home maintenance: $338

Dining out: $259. Not that I don't eat out! When I wasn't working, I would frequently eat out for free at very nice restaurants at those MS dinner lectures. And dad treats me weekly on Saturdays. So this is mostly lunches out at work, which I hate to do because I consider it a waste of money but occasionally I don't have time to make my lunch.

Gifts: $235.

Water: $210

Borough taxes: $149

Dump sticker: $95

Haircuts: $57

Total 2017 Expenses: $35,994
Last year my expenses were $42,970, so I did great this year by reducing expenses by 19%!!


Pharma contract job: $11,691. This represents net income from the last 3 months.

Unemployment benefits: $7,408 (net)

Marketing agency job: $6,824. This represents 6 weeks at my highest pay rate ever, $55/hr.

Freelance work: About $5,000.

Sale of my mother's art: $2,578

IRS tax refund: $1,279

Credit card rewards: $754

Miscellaneous sales on Facebook: $300

Cat sitting: $210

Rebates and class action lawsuits: $139

Focus group: $125

Total 2017 Income: $36,592

So even having worked f/t only about 5 or 6 months of the year, I was able to save $5,690. I'm pretty well satisfied.

10 Responses to “2017 income and expenses in review”

  1. greenleaf Says:

    Very interesting! Looks like you did a great job generating extra income and cutting expense. And your built-in shelves look AWESOME!

  2. Carol Says:

    I also think the bookshelves look great. I like the plant islands in your yard, too!

  3. rob62521 Says:

    Very interesting! You are very organized.

    I love those bookshelves!

  4. Dido Says:

    Great job cutting expenses--impressive!

    And I too love the shelves!

  5. Bluebird Says:

    You did a wonderful job in 2017!!!

  6. frugaltexan75 Says:

    You did great cutting expenses!

    For the cat litter - is it less than $10 for 30 lbs? If not, then that's what I pay at Petco using the refillable containers. I can sometimes get it for less using coupons or Amex deals.

    I've been shopping at Aldi a lot, but my grocery bill definitely has gone up trying to follow Dr Greger's recs. That's something I plan on working on this year - get the $$ much more reasonable.

  7. PatientSaver Says:

    FrugalTexan, I believe it's about $10 for a 40 lb container. It used to be less but the price did go up. Still a great deal.

    I'm not familiar with refillable containers at Petco. Is it like the dried grain bins at Whole Food where you just help yourself?

  8. frugaltexan75 Says:

    Wow - $10 for a 40lb container is fantastic. I think so - they have a huge container of cat litter with scoops. You use those scoops to fill up your container. The first time you buy it it's $11.49, but when you refill it, it's $9.99. If you sign up for their rewards card, you get $5 off after spending $100. I also get quite a few coupons for other stuff - like this month I had a coupon where if I spent $20, I got a free 13lb container of cat litter.

    We have Costco here now, and I really need to get over there to see if their prices would be better enough to warrant a membership. I do know they sell the vegan DHA supplement for much cheaper than I get from Amazon. I'm waiting for the holiday frenzy to be over before I check it all out.

  9. PatientSaver Says:

    Frugal Texan, I'm pretty sure Costco's boxed cat litter is about the same price as BJs. At least it was last time I checked a year ago.

  10. james.hendrickson Says:

    Patient Saver,

    No way, costco has the best VALUE. My wife thinks Target has better prices on diapers, but when you factor in the cleanliness and good customer service at COSTCO its a far superior shopping experience.

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