Well it’s that time of year again. Last year I wrote about how I spent $20,284 in 2010.

This year I went up a bit, mostly due to a couple of outrageous dental bills, to $21,160.

Here’s where it went:

Food continues to be my biggest expense. Though some of it should probably be put under “entertainment” because I love flavor. Last year one of my goals was to keep my food budget down around $3,500 (just under $10/day).

Here’s how the food budget breaks down:

I eat out a lot. School is mostly to blame. I’m there for about 13-14 hours at a stretch when you count my train ride, which means eating at least two, sometimes three meals in Boston where it’s hard to find any kind of meal for under $10. So that ends up being about $30/day, 2x/week, for 28 weeks out of the year. It seems I could just pack some food. But between carrying my laptop, books and papers, my backpack’s already bursting, never-mind trying to squeeze three prepared meals into it as well. But I only have one semester left, and my time on campus will only be for about 6 hours at a stretch, so the eating out should come down by itself.

The $713 in fast food is scary looking. But the fast food places I go aren’t the big chains, they’re small places that make decent burritos or all beef burgers or that kind of stuff. A little pricier than typical mass-market fast food.

The other 5 days of the week I cook pretty much 95% of my meals, so the fact that the grocery budget is that low is actually kind of impressive to me. I eat lots of meat and dairy.

I could probably cut my food budget in half and still have a healthy diet. But I quite like steak, ribs, chicken and cheeses. Dinner’s an event in my apartment. I like having people over for it too. So I’m not going to fret too much over this part of the budget. Hopefully graduation will cause the eating out half of the chart to shrink a bit next year.

I think when I move into a house this part of the budget will shrink as well. I really look forward to the year when I can keep a large garden, a hen house, and maybe raise a couple of pigs and sheep. Some space to store items bought in bulk will help too.


Shopping $4,531 consists of ~$700/clothes, $1,000/a media PC I built last August, $900 for a new bed, about $450 for some high-quality second-hand furniture, and the rest consisted of lots of small trips to Target and other stores for toilet paper, cleaning supplies, apartment stuff (I moved in July) like dishes, glassware, bath towels.


Transportation $3,224 consists of about $2k in gasoline, $800 on subway and train fare, and the rest on insurance, maintenance, parking and tolls. Lots of gas has been spent riding around looking at houses, plus commuting to an EMT class I took over the summer that had a long daily commute.


Education $2,428 was a mix of fees, books and tuition expenses my grant doesn’t cover, plus the EMT class I took over the summer out of interest.


Home $1,949 is mostly just my share of the rent since July at $325/month.


Health & Fitness $1,919 I got caught without insurance with a couple of really bad tooth aches that required expensive x-rays and emergency extractions. Turns out, I have a condition called hyperdontia. I was born with 8 wisdom teeth, it’s extremely rare. I’m very special you know. And wouldn’t you know, when they do extractions, they charge per tooth! Fortunately I have insurance now and plan to get the remaining 6 wisdom teeth removed this year, and this fiasco can all be put behind me. I also started seeing a dentist regularly at a dental school and am in excellent oral health at this point.


Bills and Utilities $989 this includes $400/year for my cell phone, and the rest for electric and heat. I get free wireless internet at my apartment.


So I’ve been pretty consistent year after year. I had been steadily dropping until this year. I blame the dental bill for that. I did think my expenses would be a little lower this year. But moving into a new place seems to bring up all these annoying little costs that add up.



So what’s going to happen next year?


Food $4,500. The big thing is I graduate in May. So my education, eating out, and commuting costs will drop drastically after that point. I’m not going to beat myself up over buying a lunch when I’m at class. Hopefully the fact that I will be on campus a little less this last semester will help to curb things a little without much effort. I’m ok with where my grocery bill is at and just trying to keep it in the same ball park.


Transportation $3,200. Cutting out commuter trains and subways after May will be a boon. But I will have to drive around quite a bit as I hope to pick up another couple of houses next year. And my brother’s helping me to put about $500 worth of parts into my car in two weeks, which ought to keep it running another 2 or 3 years without a major problem.


Education $1,700. I still need to order some books and probably pay some “graduation fees” or some baloney like that. Plus I need to take the bar which is going to run me about $1k. There are these post-graduation bar-prep courses that go for around $3k that are supposed to increase your chances of passing the bar. Just about everybody ponies up for them. I think I’m gonna skip it though and take my chances studying on my own. I can afford to take the risk of failing it since my future doesn’t hinge on a job offer. I can always just retest.


Home $5,500. I plan to stay in my apartment all next year. This will cover my rent, electric, heat and cell phone bill.


Health $1,500. I’m not sure yet how much the wisdom teeth removal is going to cost with insurance, but I’m planning on something pretty high and hoping I get pleasantly surprised with a bill lower than expected.


Shopping $1,500. This category will hopefully be much lower as the apartment is now all set with everything I need. I don’t plan on buying any new computers or furniture or anything next year. This ought to cover cleaning supplies, some clothes, maybe a few video games, a bit of tobacco, and all the miscellaneous householdy things I can’t predict.


Misc. $2000. Gifts, donations, replacing broken things, a trip with friends to a water park or something, maybe a camping fee.


So all that comes to just shy of $18,000, which would be a pretty good goal for 2012. It’s still high. I’m interested to see what I can get it down to once I no longer have to commute to school or drive around looking at houses. And once I have a house to live in myself where I’m not paying rent, and I have room to grow some of my own food. But I’ll leave my prospective post-retirement budget as a subject for another post.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. chenda
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    You’ve inspired me to do the same for next year Mike – starting from tomorrow, I’m going to track every pound.

    See if I can spend even less than you in 2012 ;)

  2. Stephen
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Anna’s Taqueria is worth every penny.

    Barbri is a racket. I know of at least one person who passed the MA bar without Barbri, but she had the materials.

    It might help to get the Barbri materials from a recent graduate.

  3. Posted December 31, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    @chenda I don’t know if it’s available outside the US or if there is some kind of similar site where you are, but I use mint.com. Super easy for tracking expenses. They have other tools for tracking investments but I don’t bother with that stuff. And you have to give up a little privacy so they can get your information. It can actually retroactively look at all your transactions for the past year when you sign up, depending on the checking/credit card account you have, so you may actually be able to do some digging right now without waiting. Unless you do a lot of cash transactions.

    @stephen I tend to agree. Law students are so nervous about “succeeding” they seem pretty eager to cough up money to anyone who promises them a better chance. I was thinking I’d just try to pickup some good review materials, take the free review class my school offers during the semester, and see what comes of it.

  4. chenda
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    thanks mike. Looks like mint.com is’nt available outside the us and canada but there’s a site calld lovemoney.com in the uk I’m going to try.