2017: A Financial Reckoning

As 2017 mercifully ends and 2018 dawns, I’ve busted out the TF budget spreadsheet I’ve used all year for a final reckoning. In short, here’s what I learned from tracking nearly every purchase all year.

  • As I anticipated, we eat out a lot. We get takeout, eat in restaurants, and I occasionally grab cocktails with friends. I’d allocated $400/mo for eating out but we ended the year nearly $300 in the red in that category. This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s worth noting. It’s also worth noting that this category’s use is mostly my doing: the other night, for example, I texted the Mister to please get Chinese food on the way home. I have a cold and didn’t want to cook. I’m the one who usually petitions to get out of the house, and I’m the one who rarely says no to a request for pizza. So, uh, yeah. This would be the easiest category to cut back in, if we choose to.
  • However, we don’t spend that much on other stuff, like entertainment. Our “stuff” category–budgeted at $5k–came in enough under budget that it covers the overrun in dining out and some of other categories. “Stuff” includes movie tickets, hair cuts, parking in town, Sephora visits, and things like tissues and laundry detergent.
  • The gym is one of our great expenses but usually it’s worth the investment. We’re both gym rats when the stars align; problem for me was that this last term, the stars barely got together. Considering how much we spend there (we have more than a basic membership), we need to use it regularly. I have no qualms about spending our money on the gym, so long as it’s used well.
  • We don’t spend much on clothes. I budgeted $2000 for both of us for the year (I had no idea what we spent in general, so it seemed a figure with which to start) and we well under half of that, including a dreaded bra replacement purchase. Those things are godawfully expensive.
  • We budgeted $5200 for groceries and came in under budget. This might be a mixed blessing, though, since it’s likely hinging on high dining spending.
  • We over-budgeted for heating oil and house expenses, though the latter included an unanticipated purchase of new dressers (ours were from my husband’s childhood and busted). Money left in those categories went to the next one…

    Good thing she’s cute.
  • The great budget breaker, as most of you know, was the cat category. Good god. I didn’t budget in January anticipating a lot of things that happened: we tried to adopt a cat, and that was a bust–the adoption fee was never refunded (it was about $200, unheard of for an adult cat!) and the vet fees were a couple of hundred for the results of that cat’s attack on our resident cat. Then, the cat that had been injured unexpectedly died a few months later–cremation fees were over $200. Then, because I am an idiot, I convinced my husband we should adopt kittens. Two. Which are expensive–their adoption fees are high, their initial costs (think baby vaccinations) are high. And, as it turned out, both of our kittens were quite sick at adoption, and then diagnosed with chronic illness. So! We adopted special-needs kittens who are damn lucky to have us and super cute when not hellions but which have also led to a $3000 overage in that budget category, and that’s not including adoption fees–those count as charitable donations and can be written off on our taxes (which meant we exceeded our giving budget as well). I’ve moved all the under-budget amounts over to cover a bunch, but we end up $1900 in the hole there. Talk about a reckoning. I’m hoping that that category will be much quieter next year.

We are remarkably blessed that we could cover those overages and still have money to save in our emergency fund, replenishing a dent made over the summer. Further, we were able to pay off the end of my husband’s student loans, making us student-loan-free for the first time since my grad school deferments. We only have the mortgage and my car we’re paying off now. Assuming things continue as they are, we’ll likely be able to add more to my retirement account this coming year as well as take care of things like replacing our worn-out mattress and my beat-up, sometimes malfunctioning phone, and consider replacing my husband’s car–it’ll be 10 next year–in the nearer future.

Tracking spending for a year was eye-opening, if a pain in the ass, and because I’m one of those people who likes to do things religiously I’ll probably stick with it this year, too. If you, like me, have no idea where your money is going, it’s a great exercise that allows you to truly see where your expenses are, and what you’re spending in addition.

Happy new year, dear readers.

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5 thoughts on “2017: A Financial Reckoning

  1. Hopefully the cat category gives you some breaks this year! Good work tracking all year. I tend to go through tracking phases where I track everything for a while and then put things on autopilot for a few months. Going to get back to tracking in January, the winter oil bills are a killer.

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