Our 2015 Living Expenses: $32,080 – Not Too Shabby!

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When I hear about people needing to spend more than $100,000 a year to be happy, I question their source of happiness. The more we lead fulfilling lives that require less material possessions, the happier we are, and last year was no exception: we traveled, we ate well, we danced, we spent a great amount of time with family, friends and each other. We were living and living well!

And how do we get to “travel so much”? It’s all about priorities and the choices you make. If you fall for the peer pressure and need to impress others, you’re going to struggle no matter how much income you bring in.

To give you a better view of our financial picture, we’re a working couple with middle class salaries with no children yet. We’re also very disciplined savers. We can get by in life with a lot less and still be happy, and when we do splurge, it’s usually on experiences instead of materialistic possessions.

You might be wondering why we choose to put our expenses out in public. We want to show that the majority of Americans can lead happy lives with a lot less, Enchumbao Style. That you can minimize your spending, reduce stress and be happier altogether.

2015 was a great year for us when it comes to our personal finances. We always say that our expenses must reflect our values and bring us true happiness , and once again, we accomplished that. We’re conscious of our spending because they represent our life energy. One main goal of spending consciously is to able to reach financial independence as soon as possible without sacrificing the present.

Our formula for the Enchumbao lifestyle is to live in the moment with a line of sight to the future. After all, if you don’t have a target to aim for, how are you supposed to even shoot in the right direction? One way to do this is by knowing how your money is being spent.

Now, let’s see how we spent our Benjamins last year. We divided our expenses into three buckets: Essential, Discretionary and Gift/Donations. What’s different from the 2014 spending report? We combined cost for fuel and insurance on both cars to simplify the report, and we also added a column with our expenses from the previous year. What didn’t change? We were too lazy to put the second car, ’03 Suzuki Aereo, for sale but we’re committed to getting it done this year!

Let’s get some comments going at the end of the post, people. We’d love to hear from you!

Essential Expenses

 

 Category

2015

2014

Comments

Net Rent $2,798$3,585It includes heat, water, lawn mowing and snow removal, all repairs. 🙂 We subsidize it with our rental property income: $13,800 (annual rent) – $11,002 (rental prop. net income) = $2,798.
Internet $520$475Loving the nice deal we got with Verizon, $29 a month! Total cost is higher for 2015 because it includes a one-time new modem charge.
Electricity$634$127First full year paying for electricity.
Trash$206$41First full year paying for trash.
Groceries $5,205$3,860Ouch! There’s an increase because we cook more at home now. Also, what household with a Russian doesn’t run on Caviar? Gotta have that Caviar at least once a year around New Years.  Enough excuses, let’s try to do better this year!
Home Supplies $781$878Still loving that Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper! We also began switching to all non-toxic personal care products (Mrs. Enchumbao will cover that in another post), which can be more expensive.
Mobile Phones $840$8612 prepaid plans @ $35 a month with Cricket. It includes unlimited minutes, unlimited texting and 2.5 gig of data.
Auto Insurances1,039$1,2482  used cars (2007 Toyota Camry & 2003 Suzuki Aerio).
Auto Fuel$844$1,703Much lower than 2014 now that we live 2 miles from work!
Services & Parts, Registrations, Other $304$340Not many repairs needed when the work commute is so short.
Total 13,171$13,118Just a slight increase from last year’s spending in the essential category.

We spend $13,171 of our money or 33% of our total spending went to essential expenses. These are expenses that we deem necessary to live.

Homeownership vs. Renting

The question of whether one should rent or buy is a never-ending one in the personal finance community. One can be more beneficial than the other depending on your situation. You just have to do the math. It is more beneficial to us at the moment to have a rental property than owning a home for several reasons, mobility being one of them. Renting is not throwing your money away as long as you’re investing the rest of the income that could have gone towards a mortgage and the costs of maintaining a home. Paula Pant at Afford Anything has a great article comparing both: Renting is Throwing Money Away… Right?

Discretionary Expenses

Category

2015

 2014

 Comments

Health Insurance$1,066$780Employer subsidized – for both
Dental Insurance$312$208Employer subsidized – for both
Renter’s/Umbrella Insurance $196$246
Toll Fees $275$303Damn NY bridges are so expensive!!!
Parking$49 $47
Public Transportation$ 157 $48
Dry Cleaners$69$61
Shipping/Office supplies $37$90
Alcohol & Bars $1,547$1,843We tried cutting back a lot on this last year, but ended up cutting back a bit. 2016 is all about reducing toxins in our lives, so we should see a reduction in alcohol consumption as well.
Coffee Shops$117$190We were already on mostly decaf coffee last year, and now that we discovered and got hooked on the caffeine-free Chicory Root drink, 2016 should bring even more savings.
Restaurants $2,920$4,527Living in the suburbs has it’s advantages, like being tempted less to go to our favorite places to eat downtown. While Groceries went up for the year, Restaurants helped offset it.
Lunch at Work $530$840
Entertainment $914$1,062We went to a few concerts, shows, movie theaters and subscribe to Netflix and Dramafever for TV viewing.
Education $0$2Not bad for lots of book reading! Love that local library!
Fees, Interest & Bank Charges$0 $10$3We hate paying extra charges, but this one slipped through. SallieMae charged us an excessive withdrawals fee because we had an extra withdrawal within a month period. Still working to get this fee refunded. Update 1/13/16 – We were able to get this fee refunded!
Health & Fitness $935$421Includes work gym membership.
Home Furnishings$852$3,132
Personal Care$689$908
Pets$447$206Aish Pushok! The cat food quality upgrade that Mrs. Enchumbao insisted on for Pushok will keep us working longer than necessary!
Shopping $1,528$2,287Includes $209 for a car stereo and installation kit on the Camry that we self-installed.
Travel$6,269$6,548Nothing exotic as far as traveling for the year. We went to the DR and Florida a few times. Travel hacking is on our radar for this year.
Total $18,909$23,752Awesome! That’s almost $5,000 less than last year.

We spent $18,909 or 46% of our total spending went to discretionary expenses. Although these expenses were not necessary, most of them brought extra happiness into our lives. At some point the return on extra purchases diminishes and can bring stress, more than anything. There could be lots of ‘wants’ in this category that people might categorize as ‘needs’. The key here is to avoid spending money that you don’t have.

Entertainment

We are Latin music concert goers and were able to enjoy two great concerts this year: Chayanne’s En Todo Estare Tour and Ricky Martin’s One World Tour, which is now heading to Latin America. Both concerts were held in Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The venue is medium-sized and very cozy compared to a bigger venue such as Madison Square Garden. During Ricky’s concert we only sat down for a slow jam and danced the rest of the time. Wisin opened the show and later joined Ricky on stage to perform Adrenalina (sube la adrenalina!). Ricky Martin is a must-see performer and a great human being, when he says that he’s going to live his soul on stage, he means it and knows how to connect well with his audience. We were naturally high for days following the show and wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Fees, Interest and Bank Charges

There were no interest charges here. We live debt free and intend to stay that way.

If you add up the essential and discretionary expenses, our living expenses were $32,080 in 2015.

Gifts and Donations

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This one is very dear to us. Last year, $8,802 or 21% percent of our total expenses went to this bucket. We’re happy that we are at a point in our lives where we can make a difference by helping others. No one gets somewhere by themselves. We got here because there were others helping us along the way. Our parents sacrificed a lot for us to be able to get an education. A big chunk of this money goes to help them and the rest for donations to charitable causes and a few thoughtful gifts to friends and family. Thankfully,  we got everyone to unsubscribe from excessive gift exchanges for birthdays and holidays, and instead we spend time together with our loved ones.

Drum roll please… Our New Projected FI Date!

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I’m coming out…want the world to know…got to let it show 🙂

Back in March 2015, when we posted our first annual spending report, our projected FI date was March 2019. According to our new projections, our new FI date is November 2018. Yay! We’re doing better than our original projection and hope to get there quicker. The stock market could delay or advance our FI date, but it can’t delay our early retirement plans, as we’re not investing the reserves that we’ll need immediately after early retirement in the market.

How did you do in 2015? Did you spend more or less than what you expected? What tips do you have for saving more and living better?

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Mr. Enchumbao

I work for a large investment management company helping people save for traditional retirement. During my spare time, I write about our FIRE journey here, at Enchumbao. My journey to FI began in 2012. I was in a lot of debt back then, but I turned things around and became debt free a few years later. My wife and I reached financial independence in 2017 and are preparing to retire soon.

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6 Responses

  1. LM says:

    117% increase for el azaroso.. forget about Social Security and COLA increases, that welfare cat lives the high life in the Enchumbao household XD.

    But seriously now, thanks for sharing. This is all very encouraging to all of us on the FI pursuit to compare notes and see how we are doing!

    • Wow, I didn’t even realize what a huge increase that was! That conniving azaroso already eats better than me. Watch him hint at getting medicaid next year!

      You’re welcome. It’s a fun post to put together because as we put down every line item, it makes us really analyze them. By the time we’re ready to pull the plug on the 9to5s we’ll be able to predict with extreme accuracy how the spending will go. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Bob ;) says:

    Great article! Thanks for the share. Now we will have to strive to reach that amount as well 🙂

  3. Nice breakdown! I was just working on our numbers, and it looks like our spending is pretty close to yours. Though we don’t have subsidized housing 😉

    • LOL. Including the rental income as part of that equation makes it feel worthwhile when I get a call to repair something at someone else’s apartment instead of mine!
      I can’t wait to see your numbers. Thanks for stopping by.

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