I did my end-of-year income and expense crunching a few days early. There are often little surprises and discoveries the numbers reveal, and this year was no exception.
Here's the big picture: I had $31,067 in expenses this year while my income netted $43,178. (I'm diverting quite a lot of my paychecks to my Roth 401(k). So in addition to the 28% of paycheck I'm putting in the 401k, I also saved $12,111 in taxable monies, exceeding my goal in my sidebar, IF you don't count my one capital improvement this year, the redo of my front entry/stairs. I paid for that out of savings.
But anyway, the more interesting findings have to do with what I spent money on, and how that compares to what I spent money on last year.
Here are my 2015 expenses, ranked from highest to lowest, with some additional commentary by me:
Masonry front entry: $9,800
This was my single biggest expense this year, even though this particular mason was cheaper than the other two who quoted me prices. BUT it was so worth it and I appreciate what they did, and how it enhances my property, every single day, coming and going.
Side Note: While on the subject of capital improvements, I am thinking that 2016 might be a very good year to finally get my driveway repaved, given how low gas and oil prices have fallen. Asphalt is a petroleum product, although I imagine the labor end of things will still be a factor. I will start calling for estimates late winter/early spring. I may go with asphalt on the hill portion of the drive but do gravel at the top where it levels out. I am concerned with leaves getting in the gravel and it becoming difficult to clean them out, plus i wonder how snow plowing or even using a snow blower on gravel would work. Still, you don't have to worry about cracks developing in gravel and it looks so much better. The stone won't wander into the lawn because I have stone walls and one side of the garage surrounding the area that would have gravel on 3 sides.
Property taxes: $5,832
Property taxes account for 14% of my total spending, and is about what I spent last year. I would love to lower this figure by moving to a small condo....someday.
For much of this year, I felt I really wasn't paying attention to prices in the supermarket; if I saw something I wanted, I bought it. However, my figures show my food bill is up only 6% compared to last year, so I guess I wasn't as out of control as I thought I might be. Keep in mind I went vegan mid-way through the year, but things like organic fresh produce and nuts can be very pricey. But to think that I am averaging $331 a month on food as a single person is kind of mind boggling.
OK, spending on my cats this year was way, way up, 68% more than last year. That's because I chose to bring Waldo to the exceedingly expensive 24/7 emergency vet specialists in town when Waldo stopped eating, and he was eventually diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Having 6 teeth pulled last fall added another $1,000 to the overall bill, but the cats are so worth it.
This is my only "catch-all" category into which I put expenses that don't seem to fit elsewhere. Meaning, these are non-consumable items I buy for the house in general, whether it's a new kitchen appliance or a dishtowel, this is where that kind of expense would go. Spending in this category is down 10% from last year.
Health insurance: $1,782
This is a very pleasant outcome of my becoming a permanent employee of the bank, instead of a contractor. Last year, my health insurance premiums were the #4-ranking highest expense. But my premiums in 2015 made my expenses this year 27% lower than 2014, and I can expect greater savings in 2016 thanks to the wellness incentive I'll be getting ($20 a month) off my premiums after getting a simple BMI and cholesterol check. A no-brainer.
Lawn and garden: $1,230
This is a rather hefty new expense for me; it's almost all due to my having my lawn cut for me every week instead of doing it myself. But again, SOOO worth it, in terms of time saved for more enjoyable tasks and not having to kill myself trudging around my 1.5 acres on a sweltering summer afternoon. I plan to continue this next summer.
I DID, though, tell them to stop cutting a little bit early, maybe 4 weeks before the tail end of the mowing season in November. (I emailed them to stop, and wrote it on a bill payment, but still they showed up so luckily I was home and could tell them in person to STOP. Maybe a language issue there, not sure.) By that time, we were into fall and the rate of growth was much slower, meaning only a few more mowings were needed, which I really did because I wanted to mulch the fallen leaves, which I noticed the professional mowers did not do well with their blades.
Fuel oil: $$1,181
Thanks again to falling oil prices, I realized a 23% savings in heating oil; since heating season extends into the new year, I will of course continue to enjoy savings. So last year's #5 greatest expense is this year's #8 highest expense. Nice.
Dining out: $923
Expenses here increased 4% from last year. Mostly due to relying on the building cafeteria when I don't have time to make lunch. Having reduced my in-office work days from 5 to 3, I hope to lower this expense in 2016.
It seems my biggest increases occur in utilities over which I have less control. This is a 19% increase over last year, but I DO know this number will fall in 2016 as I recently locked into a lower per kilowatt fixed rate for the next 12 months. Here in Connecticut, you can (and should) choose your electric provider, not once, but on an ongoing basis as most fixed rates (there are also variable rate offers) are fixed for 3, 5, or 10 months, typically. To enjoy reasonable electric rates, you have to have good timing and pick carefully.
Gas for car: $783
Happy to report this number represents a 38% decrease from last year, no only due to falling gas prices but also because I'm only commuting in 3 days a week.
Car insurance: $733
This is a 4% increase over last year and while small, it bothers me a lot since I continue to have a perfect driving record and my car is one year older this year than last. I know this is how insurers reel you in; to get you to switch from your current insurer, they give you a great rate...for the first year. Then you'll see steady increases until they, too, need to get the boot. They count on your complacency or general busyness with life not to notice your bill is creeping up. But they haven't met Patient Saver!
This is up about 11% from last year, because I upgraded to the next broadband speed to make working on my office laptop a little less painfully slow.
Homeowners insurance: $687
Up about 18% from last year, this is another bill that rankles me since I've never filed a claim.
Out-of-pocket medical: $670
Happily, I had few reasons to see a doctor this past year aside from the routine stuff so total expenses in this category are down 42% from last year. May it continue.
This was my priceless 2-day solo getaway to a Massachusetts beach town. I still think about that lobster roll sandwich.
Car tax/registration, license: $549
These expenses are up 18% from last year and I hate having to pay such high fees just for the right to drive my car. Grr. Owning, maintaining and operating a motor vehicle is so expensive, if I lived in an area where one wasn't absolutely necessary, I would ditch the car.
This is home maintenance, down 53% from last year. It's down, not because my home needs fewer repairs, but because taking care of my mother consumed all, and I mean ALL my free time.
This figure is up 65% from last year, but it's so small overall I'm not going to worry about it. I usually just put book purchases in this category, but a chunk of it was for an online dating service a while back.
Wow. I thought my spending on clothing would be way up this year, but there again, my sense of what I've been spending is not always accurate. Compared to last year, my clothing purchases fell by 50%. Then again, when I get my credit card gift cards, I often get them for stores like Kohl's or Macy's.
Total spent on other categories like: Gifts, Water, Sewers Borough taxes, Car upkeep, dump sticker, haircuts, subscriptions, charitable donations are not reported here because they're pretty small. Most were about the same spend as last year.
The car is a 2013 so it's mostly been just oil changes so far, but my 30,000 mile checkup is about due. I just learned from the dealer they will charge over $400 for mostly routine stuff for this 30K checkup so I will have to find a way to have it done by my mother's mechanic, which is hard because, unlike the dealer, he doesn't have a comfy lounge with TV and drinks, a shuttle service to nearby shopping or anything else.
One other notable thing to mention is that I did make a small charitable donation to my local volunteer fire department. I haven't made any kind of donations for quite some time, though in my defense my 4 years of underemployment only recently ended. I believe very strongly in supporting my local community first, and these guys will get up in the middle of night to rush to my home if there's a fire, so I think they deserve my support. They will pump out a flooded basement and not charge you too.
In summary, I enjoyed significant savings over last year in the categories of health insurance, heating oil, gas for the car and out of pocket medical expenses while I paid substantially more in the categories of my cats, electricity, homeowners insurance and miscellaneous car taxes and fees.
Of note on the income side, I made $641 in credit card cash back rewards without really trying too hard, and that's not counting all the gift cards ($500 in gift cards from one credit card alone). I also earned Amazon gift cards worth about $360 from 3 online forums I'm active in, although my favorite, an AARP forum, has ended.
All in all, it was a pretty good year, financially, and I'm grateful for all that I received.
An analysis of my 2015 spending and income
December 26th, 2015 at 12:28 am