I would like, and expect, these numbers to be lower in the future but this year a few things kept it up. First, I was sharing an apartment in Boston that was costing me $735/month. That ended in August, now I’m staying in a room in a small town in New Hampshire, saving me a lot of money, but it did mean I had to buy myself a car. I was helping a friend through a rough time for a few months which meant sharing a lot of my food and transportation costs for a little while. And the big thing making my life expensive is graduate school. Just another year and a half to go. It’s not the tuition, but the commuting 2x/week into Boston and all the transportation and food costs that come along with that. Plus the roughly $2,000/year in books and suits that gets me. I’m not including the money I spent buying and rehabbing my house in this budget. Since this analysis is to look at my personal expenses, not my investment/business expenses.
My food costs are a little out of control. Here’s a breakdown of the $5,392.18 for food:
I get a lot of enjoyment out of food. It’s about the only thing in my life that I approach with an eye towards maximizing immediate enjoyment rather than future gains. I like French cooking, I like complicated desserts and I like dairy. All expensive, labor intensive and generally bad for you. And not very well inline with a minimalist, low-impact lifestyle.
$1,944 for groceries is high. Though, as I said, I have shared a lot of food this year, so perhaps some of this would be more properly categorized as ‘charity’. Though, for food I personally ate, I’m sure the number is still up around $1,600-$1,700/year. Which is a little high. I’d feel more comfortable with it down around $100/month because I know I could do that by just being more careful without having to give up much of anything.
$1,515 on restaurants and $598 on fast food is because of school, mostly. It’s not that I am sitting at home and decide to go out to eat, but it tends to be that I get hungry when I am on the go. Especially spending 12hrs/day at school, having to carry in heavy books with me to campus, there isn’t much room in my bag to include a lunch as well. Plus, getting to go to lunch somewhere between classes gives me one more thing to look forward to in the morning. In addition, I’m there 12 hours, so it’s not just lunch. Often it’s a lunch after my first class, a snack between my evening classes, and then a fast food burger or something from wherever is open at 10pm when I’m walking over to the train station to head home. With effort, I’m sure I could lower this. But it makes school so much better not to have to starve myself all day, or eat cup o noodle 3 times a day. I’m just going to think of this as one of the costs of full-time school. When school is done, this can easily go to a quarter of what it is without any effort or sacrifice.
$812 on alcohol and bars, that includes bringing beer to a friend’s house or going out to a bar to have a beer with a friend. Again, this is 95% school-related social stuff that I think I would rather just bear spending for one more year until I graduate rather than make an effort to cut back and risk being socially outcast from my classmates and future colleagues.
My car is a little 31mpg used Focus I paid $1,700 for in August when I left Boston. It ought to last me at least 3, maybe 5 years. I got a deal because it had a couple of problems, but I fixed them immediately thanks to my mechanic younger brother. It has 150k miles on it, but I only drive about 10k miles a year and tend to take good care of cars.
Gas cost me $731 and insurance was $198 for the minimum required coverage.
I spent $1,900 on public transit. That includes some zip car use, lots of subway rides, and commuter rail. I make maximum use of monthly/weekly passes and buying in bulk.
Some other highlights…
I spent $1,174 on clothes. This is tough for me to do since I’m happy wearing an old t-shirt and jeans day after day. But I needed a couple new suits, shirts and ties for school. So that’s where most of it went.
$1,120 for education related expenses.
$1,317 on gifts and donations. My siblings and I don’t exchange gifts. But I do still get things for my parents, nieces and nephews and some close friends. Plus I gave a little money to a few causes here and there. Sometimes I jump at offers to give to a cause in exchange for the “free gift” you get, which are usually tickets to a museum, concert or play. Making me look like a better guy on paper since stuff that would normally go under ‘entertainment’ ends up under ‘charity’.
Only spent $283 all year on ‘entertainment’. That included a couple of concerts and movies.
Only $302 fell into the other/uncategorized category.
Only $240 spent on travel. I took a couple of week-long camping trips. And spent a few weekends at friends’ houses one out in Rochester, NY and some other friend’s up in Lakes Region of NH. Makes for close friends and cheap vacationing.
Next Year’s Budget $15,000
So the encouraging thing about this year was that it’s lower than last year. Next year, 2011, I expect it to be even lower.
I will try this next year to keep my grocery bills under $1,200. I’m not going to cut back on my eating out while at school, but between fast food, restaurants and alcohol I paid out $2,922. I’d like to try to keep that below $1,800 next year. Which I think I can do just by not indulging so much in restaurant alcohol and choosing the slightly cheaper places for lunch.
It will be nice if I am able to settle into a place by the spring with access to a yard where I could plant a summer garden, off-setting some of my grocery costs a bit.
I expect transportation costs to come down since last year included the purchase of a car. I expect to spend about $900 on public transit, $1,100 on gas, $500 on maintenance/parts (I’ll need new tires), $350 for insurance and some other miscellaneous stuff like parking and inspections.
Housing is tough to predict for next year since I just bought a house that I am rehabbing, and aim to buy at least one, if not two more next year. I will probably not have any rent to pay since I’ll be living in my investment homes while I fix them up and try to sell them or rent them out. But one thing is certain, I won’t be paying out huge rents to a landlord like I had to for the beginning of 2010.
This ought to stay the same for books/fees, etc.
I will probably have to buy a couple of more suits and ties in order to meet the bare requirements for that appropriately fashionable professionalism I’ll need to exude at school.
Socially, I need to buy certain gifts. I really think I ought to hold back on the charitable giving though until I know I myself am all set for life.
Some friends and I have discussed taking several camping trips and perhaps one large 2 week road trip. I’d like to have the money prepared for me to go should they come through on their ambitions.
Year of phone service ($300), some video games, entertainment, used books, wine-making supplies, etc.
I am trying to think if there is anything I will want or need next year in terms of material possessions I need to buy. This could change drastically depending upon my living situation. If I end up settling into an apartment in one of the buildings I purchase, or a house I rehab, and thinking that I am going to live there for the next few years, I may end up needing to acquire certain household goods like a couch. Of course, if this does happen I won’t be in any hurry to furnish the place, and won’t buy furniture for ornamental reasons just for it to go unused. And I’ll make good use of my large family’s social network to collect second hand furniture and cookware for free and only bother with things of high-quality that will last.
So I am hoping to spend drastically less in 2011 than I did in either 2010, 2009 or 2008. My plans tend to pan out pretty well. 2011 will be a big year for me financially. I plan on buying two more buildings to rehab. Bringing my total to 3 properties. I also plan for the rent from my rental properties to exceed my expenses, thus making me financially independent before I have even finished grad school, which will take a lot of pressure off of the job hunt after graduation.
I am also hoping that, among these 3 buildings I purchase, there will be a somewhat permanent home for me. I have been a transient my entire adult life, never living in the same place for more than 18 months. It will be nice to have an apartment or house to call home, where I know I will stay for the next 3-4 years while I build up my retirement portfolio and search for some land on which to build my retirement cabin. This will mean finally being able to buy things that will last, since I don’t have to worry about the cost of moving it from place to place anymore. I’ve always been hesitant to buy stuff, knowing I’d just have to move it all over and over again. I don’t think this means you’ll be seeing me on the next episode of Hoarders, but it does mean I can finally get myself some nice iron cookware, a comfortable bed, and maybe a small workspace to tinker with electronics projects. – And Oh! – a garden of my own.