Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I feel that I have always been a pretty frugal spender. However, I do not skimp when it comes to certain things. Interesting though, is how my "actual" spending list stacks up to my perceived spending list. In this post from 2012, I thought that the heavy expenses would be: travel, gifts for other people, and running related items.

In all actuality, I was not too far off. Check out the pie chart** below:

Let's break it down, shall we?

Rent -- This includes rent and utilities. This is a category I didn't really consider as something that I "splurge" on, as it is a necessity. However, this is clearly my biggest expense, at over 2x the cost of the next category.

Travel -- I was right when I said I would spend the most on travel. In 2014, I did not skimp on the trips. I went to Charlotte to visit Lisa, central Oregon for an annual summer trip, Mt. Whitney, New York City, Europe and Phoenix. In addition there were several weekend trips to Tahoe, Sacramento and Marin for running excursions as well as many trips to Sonoma county to hang with Broski, and home to see my parents. Looking at the numbers, the dollar amount I spent on travel was a bit outrageous. However, I will bring a bag lunch every day if it means spending that money on traveling!

Dining Out -- This category is pretty self explanatory, and includes dining at all restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

Transportation -- This includes mostly public transportation / commuting costs. However, a couple of times a year I rent a car to get to races or to holiday functions, so car rental and gas are also included in this category. Really, about half of it could also be added into the "travel" category.

All Other --There were a lot of categories, and I had to get rid of some of the smaller ones. However, some of the other categories that were higher on the list but didn't make the cut were: taxes (2.4%), insurance (2.2%), gym (1.1%), credit card fees (0.89%), and entertainment (0.61%). Apparently my main "entertainment" is Running or Dining Out.  

Shopping -- This category is pretty broad, but basically includes the following: gifts, toiletries & household items (non food), clothing & shoes, electronics and books. The bulk of this category went to the gift subtotal. This distant second runner up was toiletries/household items. Funny enough, this year I only spent $4.00 on books, as I am getting most of them from the library these days.

Running -- This includes the cost of races and shopping for running related items. I found it interesting (and proving my theory) that it was high enough to warrant it's own piece of the pie and to not get lumped into the "all other" category.  If transportation costs were also added in, this category would probably be closer to 9%.

Groceries -- Although this is 6% of my spending pie, when it all boils down to it, I spend less than $40 per week on groceries. To note, I very rarely buy meat or alcohol, which are two of the more expensive things. However, I make up for this by buying lots of fancy nuts and cheeses. Of course my food cost is also supplemented with dining out, but even added together, total food costs equal about $80 per week, including booze, coffee and fancy nuts. This also includes food eaten while traveling. This cost could have been a lot higher, but my brother is a wine (and beer) maker and so I can't remember the last time I bought a bottle of wine in the store.

Health -- This mostly includes my premium, but also includes co-pays and contact lenses, which are minimal.

**Not included in the pie was any money set aside for retirement, savings or investments.

The Verdict? I was pretty much spot on regarding where I spend most of my money. I love budgeting how to spend, as well as looking back to see where it all went. I feel that being aware really makes a difference in your spending, just as logging your calories makes you think twice about reaching for that second piece of pie. In order to keep track, I use my bank's "Portfolio" tool, which lets you upload/link all of your accounts so that you can look at them all at the same place. I have also heard good things about Mint, and have just started to try in out recently. So far it seems to have good budgeting tools.

What will I watch next year? I could spend more on groceries and less on eating out, but I really do not eat out that much unless friends are in town or I am traveling. I could save a lot of money by not traveling, but that is one of my rewards to myself and I am not really willing to give that up. However, the Europe trip I took was not really a "budget" trip, so I could have saved by staying in cheaper lodging and/or buying my plane ticket earlier (it was over $1000!). I could also save by buying less gifts or less expensive gifts for people, as well as not buying so much running related stuff.

All in all, I was pretty happy with my spending this year. If you check out Mr. Money Mustache, he writes a post every year about how much he spent the last year, and I am about on par with him. Of course, his is for two people, but on the other hand, he does not have to pay rent (especially rent in the Bay Area). How about you: Do you spend more, less or about the same amount as Mr. Money Mustache?

Do you keep track of your spending? Where do you spend the most? What costs do you feel that you need to minimize and/or cut in 2015?


  1. Very interesting, I definitely spent more than Mr. Money Mustache last year because my rent alone is a significant % of what he spent in total, but I am OK with that because I really value living in a convenient location that I love. I use mint.com to track my spending. My biggest expense item is rent. I spend more than you do on groceries even though I don't buy meat much and rarely buy alcohol... not sure what I am doing wrong as I feel like we eat similar diets but I would say I spend $80/week on groceries usually. I spent more on shopping this year than I did in years past but I've been trying to slowly build up my professional wardrobe as like it or not, I work in an industry where appearance seems to really matter... so I've added quite a few new pieces this year. Hopefully I will have to by less this year, though. I could also cut back on my Target spending. There is a Target next door and it's so easy to go there too often and spend more than I need to!

  2. $80 on groceries!?!?! I did our weekly trip yesterday and spent less than $80 for a family of three. Unfortunately, that is not the norm.

  3. My grocery bill gets a little out of hand because I make multiple trips to the store and suck at planning. I'm definitely working on dinner planning lately.

    Good job keeping track of things - impressive.

  4. I don't keep a detailed track of how we spend our money, but know where most of it is going. Mortgage payments, taxes, food, etc. We do spend a lot on our dog to send him to doggie day care once a week, but it's so worth it to us and him as he loves it. My husband and I each put a certain percentage into the joint account and then the rest of the pay cheque is our own personal money. It's worked out well for us as we don't judge each other how we spend that money (I'm more of a saver than he is).

  5. Worldwide, families tend to spend around 30% on food but americans tend to be around 10% and we also eat out more often than people in other countries do as well. Most finance people say to keep your rent no more than 25% but if you've got utilities included in there as well then that's an interesting breakdown. Cool chart! I wish I had more to spend on Travel, but with 2 kids it just isn't there.

  6. Very interesting! I do not go this detailed into looking at my spending on a yearly basis, or even a monthly basis, but we do have a budget that we try to follow pretty closely each month. It really helps us to take out a cash allowance each month for things like groceries, eating out, gas etc. For two people we spend $400 per month on groceries and that includes things like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. I don't think that's bad at all since we barely ever eat out and both pack lunches every day! This year one of my goals is to save more money though so I really want to look at and analyze purchases. One way I'm planning on doing that is never buying anything without sleeping on it. Obviously this doesn't count for basic necessities like groceries but I mean more like clothes or random things for our house.

  7. We spend very little on rent, because out landlords give us a great deal (under 50% of going rate), but our food costs are high. Because our area is so hot, not a lot grows here, so all the transportation for fresh foods adds up. Grocery and food costs are high. In general, though, we are incredibly cheap, so we don't spend a lot unless we're entertaining or splurging or vacationing.


Thanks for commenting! Any suggestions, tips or praise you have is always welcome!