Now that we've finished paying off our debt (I'm still over the moon about it, I really am), I've been working on an updated list of our household expenses for the current quarter. This season of the year is typically our spendiest, thanks to two birthdays, our anniversary, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
We try to restrain ourselves when it comes to presents, but even when we're conservative and limit ourselves to 1-2 gifts per person, we always seem to veer away from true frugality (and frankly, I'm at the point now where I'm not going to forego gift-giving in my immediate family just to save a little money).
Although the topic of expenses might seem a bit boring, I've found it useful to track how they've changed over time. And I know that even with no debts to service, we're spending more than we used to, partly because our needs have changed and partly because of inflation (I'm looking at you, grocery bill and rent!)
Here's what our monthly expenses look like right now:
Rent: $2430 (includes water and trash). If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that our rent has always been pretty high. We live in an HCOL area with an extremely limited housing supply. Renting is expensive. Buying is expensive. No matter how you slice it, it's hard to live cheaply here.
To add insult to injury, our property management company jacked up our rent by nearly $300 last year. I'm not ready to think about what they might do when our lease comes up for renewal again in six months. Just going to shut that whole concept out of my brain for now.
Ideally, we'd be able to purchase a home to avoid these frustrating annual rent increases and gain more control over our basic living costs. I check on the local housing inventory at least once a week. The good news is that prices have finally dropped a bit, and listings are now sticking around for more than a day or two. But with rising interest rates, the total cost of what we could afford would still exceed the cost of rent, and we'd still be looking at condos or townhomes rather than single-family homes. At this point in my life, I don't want to share walls, deal with an HOA or HOA fees, or dump resources into a fixer-upper.
In other words, we can't afford what we want, and there are some compromises we won't make.
We're still fairly happy with the rental, although after living here for so many years there's some basic maintenance that needs to be done and that our property management company seems happy to ignore. We'll see what housing prices do in the next few months and see if there's ever an opportunity to jump into the market.
Groceries: $1250. Whew. So expensive thanks to rising food costs. We create meal plans and make grocery lists. We eat a vegetarian or vegan dinner every other day. We don't waste food and we rarely go out to eat. I think these prices simply reflect a) the nature of the economic beast right now, b) the fact that I live with a teenage boy, and c) my desire to make delicious, varied meals. Cooking has become a hobby of mine this year, one that I truly enjoy on a daily basis.
Health Savings Account (HSA) contribution: $628. I love our HSA! It's tax-free to put money in and tax-free to take money out for medical expenses, which we now have on a regular basis. It's nice to have an account separate from the rest of our finances that allows us to pay for prescriptions and doctor's visits.
For 2023, I plan to sign up for a plan with a much lower deductible ($750 instead of $5000), which means we will no longer be able to contribute to an HSA (booooo, it's so stupid that these aren't available unless you have an HDHP). But I really don't want to deal with a high deductible now that medical bills are basically guaranteed. It doesn't make sense for us. So this expense will go away, but our premiums will rise.
Utilities (electric), gas (for car), and phones: $356. This line item varies somewhat depending on the season but it's usually somewhere between $350 and $400.
Subscriptions/entertainment: $157. This includes our streaming subscriptions (Netflix, Apple, and Amazon Prime), our cat food/cat litter orders, a Dropps laundry subscription, and a monthly charitable donation.
Miscellaneous: $500. This includes things like gifts, going out to eat, and our child's school and sports expenses. If this segment of our budget seems high, again, that's because we tend to spend more in the last quarter of the year. I expect our costs to decrease somewhat come spring after all of our fall celebrations have wrapped up.
Total monthly expenses for Q4 2022: $5321