Our Expenses – November 2016

Being able to look at the details of other people’s budgets and expenses is one of my favorite things about the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) community. It appeals to my voyeuristic side and it’s a no-nonsense way to see exactly how people assign value to different pieces of their lives. I’ve never tracked our household expenses in detail before, but keeping myself accountable is part of the mission of this blog, so here we go!

This month we spent $3,148.55. That seems reasonable, but since I don’t track our expenses on a monthly basis, I can’t really tell how it will stack up against future months. What did all that money buy us?

Scroll down to the bottom if you just want the numbers (I don’t blame you!) but read through the explanations if you want a more thorough dive through our spending.

The Usual Suspects

There’s some stuff that I know stays pretty constant in terms of our expenses month-to-month:

1. Rent

We always pay $1,825 a month for our spacious, yet cozy apartment. It is very close to public transportation, we park our car in the underground garage, and we love the neighborhood. It’s conveniently situated within easy commuting distance of both of our jobs, although that won’t matter for Mr. Chedda starting any day now, so we may end up moving when our lease is up.

I hate that we pay so much in rent, but the DC area is pretty pricy. We’re also pretty picky about the space where we spend literally half of our lives! We highly value a convenient location, having a washer/dryer, and having a useful floorplan that fits the way we live (there has to be a good spot for our piano!)

2. Groceries

The Thanksgiving turkey!
Mr. Chedda carving the Thanksgiving turkey!

We gotta eat! However, this month we spent a very low amount on groceries. We ate out much more than usual, made some bulk soups at home with stuff from the pantry, and ate a few free dinners at our parents’ houses (or they charged the low, low fee of one pecan pie per Thanksgiving dinner).

We also got a $25 Amazon Fresh credit, since they just opened up the service to include our area—we used it to buy our usual groceries one weekend. And another stroke of good fortune: one of our friends gave us his promo code for a free Blue Apron box that covered dinners for a week!

3. Cell Phones

Both Mr. Chedda and I started new cell phone plans about 3 months ago. My phone is a Nexus 5X that runs on Google’s Project Fi plan for around $30 a month (depending on my data usage). Mr. Chedda has a Samsung Galaxy S5 on a Verizon Prepaid plan for $45 per month.

4. Utilities

The table of expenses below only shows our gas bill, because we prepaid our water, electricity, and internet bills near the beginning of 2016 in order to meet minimum spending requirements for some sweet credit card bonuses.

Prepaying the utilities has the upside of not forcing us to look at the bills when they come in, but also a corresponding downside. Since I tend not to look at the bills when they arrive, I’m less aware of what we consume each month.

5. Insurance

We pay car insurance in 6-month chunks, so it won’t appear on most of our monthly expense reports. However, this month we had to pay an extra $24.44 to replace Big Blue Vue with Sir Shrimp on the insurance policy.

Sir Shrimp in the unflattering light of our parking garage
Sir Shrimp!

We both have health, dental, and vision insurance, but that is highly subsidized by our employers, comes straight out of our paychecks, and doesn’t vary from month to month, so I’m not including it in our expense reports. These reports are just meant to be an indicator of how we’re spending our take home income. (I could probably be convinced to include it in the future, but for right now I’m tracking post-paycheck expenses.)

We don’t believe that adults without dependents should have life insurance, so we don’t pay anything for it!

The Anomalies

Laptop – $387.31

We didn't expect to be purchasing a new laptop this month, but we couldn't figure out how to fix this screen of death.
We didn’t expect to be purchasing a new laptop this month, but we couldn’t figure out how to fix this screen of death.

Our old laptop crapped out and started displaying a screen of death

featuring colorful vertical lines over the Summer. We tried various fixes, some of which didn’t work (reinstalling the graphics card) and one of which worked for about a month (the old standbytaking the whole thing apart and putting it back together again.)

Apparently the inside of the computer still works fine, so that laptop is now hooked up to our TV via HDMI cable to serve all of our Netflix watching needs.

Since Mr. Chedda and I will both be doing homework this coming semester, we “needed” a new working laptop. Black Friday deals lowered the price on one we were eyeing by $50, so we bought it!

Travel – $186.78

Most months we spend nothing on travel. This month, not so much.

We went on a lovely long weekend road trip over Veteran’s Day weekend to a cabin in Pennsylvania owned by Mr. Chedda’s aunt and uncle. They let us go up there whenever we want, but we always cover the $100 fee their cleaning lady charges to get it ready for visitors.

Glühwein-fueled play of a homemade cooperative strategy board game at the cabin

It was $100 well spent! My cousin and his wife traveled with us and we had a weekend full of drinking vanilla rum by the potbelly stove, knitting furiously, cuddling, canasta, and playing the cooperative board game my cousin just created!

We also prepaid some expenses for a weekend trip to Milwaukee we’re taking in December. Southwest miles mostly covered our flights (read about some of our credit card churning adventures here), but we had to pay $22.40 in security fees. We also rented a car for the weekend for $64.38.

Clothing – $139.99

Clothing’s another category where we usually spend very little money. This month it was time to replace both Mr. Chedda’s running shoes and his favorite work shoes, so we had to shell out some cash.

Health – $137.59

As I’ve mentioned before, Mr. Chedda needs to ice his shoulders every evening after work. Our ice packs serve us well, but two have been retired recently due to leaks. We replaced them and also ended up paying through the nose for a TB test that Mr. Chedda needed done quickly for his student teaching application.

Work lunches – $54.92

I’m curious to see what this category’s average is over the long run, but this month’s work lunch expenses seem high. We each went out for a few sandwiches (the best food group!) and I picked up a Chipotle burrito bowl one day. I also treated my office to a dozen bagels on the day after the election when there was a stupid rumor that my agency could be closed and people were freaking out.

Every dollar we spent this month

Okay, enough explaining! Here’s the beef:

Rent$1,825.00We love our homey apartment with short commutes to both our jobs, but we pay dearly for it
Electronics$387.31New laptop
Travel$186.78Cabin cleaning fee, airline fees and rental car for Milwaukee
Clothing$139.99New running shoes and work shoes for Mr. Chedda
Health$137.59Two reusable ice packs, a very expensive TB test
Groceries$124.41Low this month!
Blog hosting$82.08Covers blog hosting for 3 years!
Phone$73.95A cell phone on Google Fi and one on Verizon Prepaid
Car$63.89Gas for road trip, $22 to update our insurance to cover the new car
Work lunch eating out$54.92Seems higher than usual—includes a few sandwiches, Chipotle, and a dozen bagels
Other eating out$40.31One double date lunch at a Balkan restaurant, a coffee shop stop while waiting for someone, and a traditional McDonald's stop on our road trip
Utilities$29.35Washington Gas bill
Candles$2.97Taper candles for our Advent wreath

The total

All told, we spent $3,148.55 out of our take home money this month.

Not including rent, we spent $1,323.55. Not shabby!


I’m super curious to see how that compares to the average month. Any bets? How do you like to track expenses?

6 thoughts on “Our Expenses – November 2016”

    1. I know the rent probably isn’t all that high compared to what people have to pay in San Francisco or New York, but every month I pay it I think of a friend’s apartment in NC that’s twice the size of ours and less than half the price. I’m not too bitter about it though, because I do love where we live!

      We were eyeing moving to Colorado or Arizona for a while, but as of now we’re planning on staying put. It’s so great to have our families close to us, so I doubt we’ll move unless they move away.

  1. You guys are killing it! That’s a great month right there! Ever since we moved to California we’ve been eating out more so the last couple months we’ve been over on our food budget. Working on bringing that down but sushi is so good!

    1. SUSHI! Yeah, even one night of sushi around here would run us more than we spent on our total “other eating out.” When we were in Hawaii, though, there was a sushi spot we went to that served these heaping plates of really good sashimi for $8. It was such a treat!

      Thanks for stopping by Julie!

  2. Hi there,

    Belated comment, or question really. You wrote “we prepaid our water, electricity, and internet bills near the beginning of 2016 in order to meet minimum spending requirements for some sweet credit card bonuses.” This is a revelation to me!!! It never occurred to me that I could do this! Utilities companies let you pay in advance (i.e.,more than you currently owe) with a credit card? Is there any special trick to doing it? Thanks in advance for your guidance!

    1. Yeah, it’s great!! I don’t think there’s really a trick to it, besides checking that you aren’t being charged an extra fee to pay with a card. I just started keeping my eye out for a “pay by credit card” link on the website, and then I would overpay as much as it would let me. Most will limit you to $1,500 or $2,000 in my experience and also most (surprisingly) don’t charge fees for paying by credit card. Some also immediately offer to send you a check to refund your overpaid amount, which is nice 🙂 Good luck!

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