What we Spent in February - A peek into Our BudgetMar 06, 2022
If you're nosey, like me, and want to know what a married couple pursuing financial independence spends in a month...
Well then, this blog post is for you!
First and foremost - The lay of the land on our situation and goals.
What is Financial Independence?
Financial Independence is when your investments reach the defining point where you have enough to pay for living expenses for the rest of your life without having to be employed or dependent on others.
Some, actually many, never reach financial independence in life. They reach a point where they stop working or work minimally but DEPEND on a government program such as social security to support living expenses.
Others reach financial independence around the traditional retirement age of 65, when their 401(k), other retirement investments, or pension can safely fund their lifestyle through end of life.
My husband and I are working to reach Financial Independence as soon as possible, without depriving ourselves of living life now.
You may have heard of the 'FIRE' MOVEMENT. It stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. Many pursuing FIRE live EXTREMELY frugal (like, extremely frugal) lifestyles with a desire to retire ASAP. And that's awesome, you do you, some of these people manage to retire before 40 which is no easy feat.
^^BUT we aren't those people. We do want to retire early (or RELAX EARLY as I like to call it), but we also value our time today. One eye on today, and one eye on tomorrow.
TIME is your most valuable asset in life.
My husband and I really value our TIME and it is the primary motive of our pursuit to achieve financial independence before 50.
The thought of being able to allocate our time however we chose age 50 and later is our ultimate life vision.
The ability to be present for family, ourselves, other relationships, etc whenever and however we need to be, at the drop of a hat. I don't want to live through the sandwich years (the years your children are needing you more than ever, but at the same time your parents area reaching end of life) strapped for time.. reporting to someone else 5 days a week, and only having weekends to truly control your days/be present for loved ones.
But we also believe our time today is just as valuable as our time tomorrow - we don't know how much time we'll get here, ya know!
We would hate to deprive ourselves now, have all this dough stashed up, and then boom die in a car accident at age 40 without TRULY living and being present for others. NO THANK YOU.
I wanted to lead with that context as I lay out our monthly expenses and budget.
You may look at these numbers and think "holy cow I cannot believe 2 people live in less than $5K a month" while others might think "Wow, this feels pretty spendy".
It's all relative. Relative to what? Your income and your life vision.
Some people make far less than we do, yet spend a lot more. On the flip side, some people make more than us and spend less... YOU DO YOU.
As long as you have a healthy cash cushion in place, are adequately investing for your retirement years, and spend in alignment with your values... you're killing it.
Let's get into it (Yuh) - like my Doja Cat play there? IYKYK.
To lead off - we use 2 tools to track our spending efficiently and seamlessly.
Oftentimes, people fall out of tracking expenses because it is too hard and time-consuming! I truly only spend about 20 min per month tracking expenses with these 2 tools. If you don't have an extra 20 min/month to spare - well then, I'd say finances aren't a priority of yours.
I absolutely LOVE this app for automated expense tracking. I have tried almost every budgeting app on the market (Mint, EveryDollar, GoodBudget, etc) and CoPilot is hands down my favorite.
The user experience is superb. I mean who doesn't like emojis with each expense category? I actually work in app development for my 9-5, so you could say I might be tough to please when it comes to UX. This passes my test. I read an article about the Founder and CEO of CoPilot - he was a former Software Engineer at both Google and YouTube. So yeah, that explains it.
The app integrates with your banks, credit cards, and favorite services (like Venmo) for a very succinct way of tracking and categorizing expenses.
Venmo - that was something I found almost impossible to track and categorize effectively with other apps. With CoPilot, no problemo.
I also love that you can designate certain expense categories to "rollover". Say you have an entertainment expense category each month (my husband and I do) and some months, like in the dead of winter, you just don't use it! Well, you can designate this category as a "rollover" expense and if you don't use it all one month..unused funds roll into next month, and the following. I like this because we have months where we do not use this entire expense bucket, but the following month we might go out of town and spend more in this category. Just helps with the psychology of spending in these more sporadic categories if you ask me.
Why else do I love CoPilot - well, you can also use this app to track your Net Worth & Investments. You don't have to do this, but if you want a one-stop shop, CoPilot can do it. It is really easy to link your debts such as a mortgage, student loans, etc into the app as well as your investments for an updated view of your net worth and investment performance at all times.
Literally, the only CON I can find about Co-Pilot - they don't yet have an Android version of their app. While I don't have the inside scoop, I imagine this has to be on the horizon. Keep checking, Droiders.
Lastly, the app is a paid experience. This means there are no ads and an overall great user experience like I said. If you pay monthly it is $8.99/month, but you can also pay annually for $69.99 or $5.83/month.
BUT HOLD RIGHT THERE BEFORE YOU PAY - Test it out for 2 months FOR FREE using code MALLORY when you sign up. Might as well give it a shot if you haven't quite mastered the money tracking game.
You can download this FOR FREE right HERE.
This is the budget template my husband and I have been using for years.
At the end of each month, I open up the CoPilot app and document our expenses into our Money Tracker.
Doing this each month takes little to no time and provides a FULL YEAR, detailed view of your spending and money put towards goals at the end of the year.
Reflection is KEY in personal finance.
We have full-year copies of this exact Money Tracker dating back to 2018. It's amazing to look back and see how far you've come. Truly does help you visualize and understand what is possible when you TAKE CONTROL of your money instead of letting your money control you.
FINALLY - Our February Expenses. Down to the dollar.
Here's the recap - pulled directly from our F³ Money Tracker
Now Let's Break it Down -
As you can see, we do not have any debt outside of our mortgage. No debt (outside of the mortgage) is a big reason why our monthly expenses are the way they are.
We have worked hard to stay clear of debt on items that are not appreciating assets, such as a home. We drive paid-off cars - I bought a new to me, used car, with cash in January 2021, and we refuse to take on any type of consumer debt.
A big one - we also do not have student loans. I was very fortunate to graduate without student loans. My husband, on the other hand, did have a fairly small amount of loans that we attacked quickly post getting married.
Looking at the Fixed Expenses...
Pretty standard I'd say for a low cost of living area. But we have been adamant about living beneath our means. Our mortgage payment, for example, which includes principal, interest, taxes, and insurance is now less than 10% of our net income from W2 jobs after taxes.
Could we upgrade our home or the furniture within? Most definitely. But it's not a priority for us. We are genuinely very happy living in the smallest house in the neighborhood with furniture purchased from Facebook Marketplace. We would rather have more to invest at this point in our lives - so that's what we do!
Looking at Flexible Expenses...
We came in under "budget" in February. Couple of drivers here...
- February is a short month! Yay - fun month for budgeting, lol!
- We both worked from home the entire month of Feb and didn't have a ton going on in our personal lives. Definitely impacted the gas and food categories.
One area we went "over" - house cleaning. I wanted a deep clean to kick off Spring, so I got it!
But here's the deal. I truly don't like to frame spending more than usual as "overspending" or "going over".. that feels like a restriction mindset and I don't think it is healthy! As long as you feel GOOD about your spending and intentionally made the decisions you did - you're doing it right.
So that being said, we don't fixate on going "over" in certain areas as long as we are meeting our goals and the spending is justified.
And sometimes, we don't meet our goals for the month! And guess what? IT IS OKAY. Life happens and things come up. We reflect and move on.
You also have to readjust your spending parameters every so often because things change! Prices go up, your income changes, etc. I am going to have to start driving to my office a couple of days a week, so naturally, I will be spending more on gas. It is what it is! Accept the reality and keep doing your best to live a life aligned with your life vision.
That's it F³ Fam - our monthly expenses.
Should I do this more often?!
Let me know through an Insta DM or comment on my post!
OH and PS - if you noticed the TOTAL monthly expenses quoted at the end of my Reel was slightly understated, you're right! I misquoted and it wasn't worth the time to redo the whole recording... content creators know how long reels can take sometimes, ha!
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