January 2018: By the Numbers

I’ve been waiting a year for this day!

At the start of 2017, because I was worried about lifestyle inflation, I began tracking my expenses for the first time in years. Using a rusty copy of Quicken 2007, I resumed updating the same budget database I’ve been using since February 2004.

After three months of tracking every penny I earned and spent, I had enough data to draw a conclusion: As much as Kim and I loved where we lived, our fancy neighborhood was costing us a small fortune. Our mortgage-free condo took more than $1000 per month to maintain (between HOA, insurance, and taxes). Meanwhile, I was forking out $500+ per month for groceries (and Kim was spending some too!) and $500+ per month for restaurants.

Prompted by these high expenses — and other factors — we sold the condo and moved twenty minutes south. We now own a smaller, older home on an acre of land just beyond the edge of Portland’s urban growth boundary.

The burning question since July has been: Did this move save us any money? Now that January 2018 is in the books, we have an answer. That answer is: “Hell yes!”

January 2018 Expense Report

On the surface, I actually spent more last month than I did in January 2017. My expenses show as $5419.29 versus $4801.76 last year. That said, about $2500 of those are unusual one-time expenses, such as $811 to repair the RV so that we can sell it, $225 for an electrical permit so that I can wire my writing studio, and $425.58 to get shots for our new kittens.

Kim with the kittens

When I compare “problem” expenses from 2017 to those from 2018, I see lots of improvement. Here’s a sample of the numbers:

  • In the condo, property taxes and HOA combined came to $1093.56 per month. In our “country cottage”, property taxes run about $250.31 per month. That’s a monthly savings of $843.25!
  • Last January, I spent $535.77 on groceries and $554.95 on restaurants for a total food expense of $1090.72. Where we live now, groceries are less expensive. Plus, we’re not within walking distance of bars and restaurants. We have to make an effort to go out to eat. As a result, I spent $397.53 on groceries last month and $190.49 on restaurants for a total food bill of $588.02. That’s a savings of $502.70!
  • Other expenses remained relatively constant. In January 2017, I spent $135.34 on transportation and $296.33 on utilities. In January 2018, I spent $147.29 on transportation and $301.61 on utilities.

I’m pleased with these numbers. I had hoped that moving would save us about $1200 per month. With one comparison month in the books, that guess looks accurate.

One final note on my financial situation: In January, my net worth rose 3.71% over December. It was up 3.33% compared to the same month last year.

I need to temper this good news with the fact that we’ve spent around $70,000 for repairs at the new place. This old house has been a money pit. We had a $59,000 “profit” on the difference between the sales price of the condo and the purchase price of the house. That profit vanished into a new bathroom, a new roof, new siding, and new floors. Without these repairs, my net worth would have been up 7.04% compared to the same month last year. (I realize some of these repairs should convert to increased home equity, but for now I’m treating them as a lost expense.)

Our new home

2018 Goals Update

Meanwhile, how am I doing on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year? Pretty good — but not perfect.

  • At the start of January, I said that I wanted to run at least one mile every day in 2018. That goal went out the window when I caught pneumonia and the doctor ordered me not to exercise for ten days. Still, I ran every day that I could in January for a total of 34.01 miles. (My revised goal is to run 1000 miles in 2018 — no “every day” component to it.)
  • I also said I wanted to eat three servings of plants every day in 2018 (by which I meant an average of three servings per day). This is one of those goals that seems stupid and easy to many people, but is actually very difficult for me. (I’m a meatatarian.) In January, I averaged 2.42 servings of plants per day. That’s progress, I guess.
  • Kim and I tend to drink a lot. It’s our hobby. (This afternoon, for instance, we’re headed to the Portland Seafood and Wine Festival.) I want to drink less, though, so I’m aiming to have only 500 servings of alcohol in 2018. In January, I drank 33 servings. That’s below my target pace, so yay! (One subgoal is to drink no beer until my birthday at the end of March. So far, so good.)
  • I also set a goal to publish 500 articles at Get Rich Slowly this year. In January, I published 34 articles. (These 34 articles contained 51,051 words, for an average length of 1502 words per article.) This puts me behind my intended pace, but I’m fine with that. This lofty goals is really meant to push me to publish as much as possible. If I aim for 500 pieces and only publish 400, that’s not exactly a failure.
  • Finally, I said I wanted to read one book for pleasure each week this year. I haven’t hit this one at all. I didn’t finish a single physical book in January (although I did read most of Pillars of the Earth). I consumed a lot of audiobooks, but that’s not what my aim was here. I want to read physical books. I’ve got to figure out how to fit this into my schedule.

Again, I’m pleased with this progress, although I recognize there’s room for improvement. I want to find a way to encourage myself to eat more plants! Plus, I need to set aside time to read for pleasure. I think both of these things will come with time…

How are you doing with the goals you set yourself for 2018? Are you making progress? Are you struggling? And how’s your financial situation now compared to a year ago?

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