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Expense Report, February 2012

This article was written by in Monthly Update. 14 comments.

I mentioned a few months ago with my year-end balance sheet that I would soon be changing the way I report my finances publicly. These monthly reports have been a relatively consistent part of Consumerism Commentary since I founded this website in July 2003. One of the original purposes of this website was to help myself take control of my finances and learn more about managing my own money.

After a while, though, the net worth reports, which include not much more than an accounting of my bank account and credit card balances, became less meaningful. At the same time, I stopped myself from reporting my income figures due to the complexities with dealing with a private transaction. I’ve decided to turn back to basics with the monthly reporting in order to focus once again on reducing my expenses.

The report below includes the last six months of my expenses after taxes and not including a few items like charitable contributions and business expenses. It will provide a good baseline for moving forward and determining where I can reduce my expenses and where I can compromise and allow myself more leeway. I’ve already done a good job of eliminating unnecessary expenses in order for me to enjoy certain things without stretching my budget, so reducing expenses might not be as important right now as monitoring my spending to ensure I’m not being wasteful.

Expense Report, February 2012

The first thing you may notice is the large expense in the first category. In February, I had work done on my 2004 Honda Civic. At 138,000 miles, this was the first major maintenance I’ve needed since buying the car new in June 2004. The total cost of about $1,900 was higher than I expected, but I’ve resigned myself to getting major work like this completed at the dealership despite the higher cost. I’ve had bad experience with independent mechanics in the past, and at least at the dealership I have slightly more confidence that the work is done correctly.

I have expenses for food and groceries listed under non-discretionary while dining out is listed under discretionary. In some months, I spend more on groceries, and in other months I find myself dining out often. I’m not a big fan of cooking at home. I live by myself and buying groceries often results in having too much food for one person to eat. I’ve tried preparing a week’s worth of meals in advance, but I’m just not someone who enjoys cooking often.

If you’re wondering about that $85 expense under interest and fees from September, that would be the annual fee for a travel rewards credit card. That month featured the one-year anniversary of the card; the first year was free. If you assume that without the card I would have had to pay for checking bags on my flights for the prior year, the fee was more than worthwhile for me. Many people would be better off with fee-free credit cards.

The entertainment category houses a variety of expenses. The biggest of these is usually grouped under “hobbies” in Quicken. I’ve been involved in photography for the last several years, going as far as converting a small portion of my apartment into a mini-studio. I’m interested in film as much as digital photography, so I’ve started preparing for my own development. In fact, the expense listed under the education category on the report refers to the latest photography class I’ve signed up for, but it will be my last class for a while.

My gym membership isn’t exactly frugal. While the membership is advertised at $21 a month, what’s not clear until you’re sitting down signing the membership forms is that you pay for your first month’s fee, last month’s fee, and other random fees at the time you sign up. Each year in January, the gym assesses yet another fee. Furthermore, I haven’t had a chance to take much time out of my day to go to the gym, despite the proximity of the facility to my apartment. Lately, my time at the gym has been used more as a stress reliever than as part of a fitness plan.

I mentioned recently that I am planning my annual family visit, and that’s contributing to the recent vacation expense. The $75 credit from last month is a fee refunded to me from earlier travel. I used miles (and an annoying co-payment) to try to upgrade a portion of my flight, but the upgrade was not available. The airline returned the unused miles to my frequent flyer account and the co-payment to my credit card.

The only expense I have under the “Other” category at the bottom of the chart right now is pet care; the expense in January was the fee for taking my cat to the veterinarian for the last time. It will be some time before I replace him, if I ever do.

Did you have any outrageous expenses so far this year?

Published or updated March 6, 2012.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

car brakes, and new tires. Close to $1900. Not to mention gas. shudder.

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avatar 2 lynn

February 2012

Food and Groceries / 228.00
Dining Out / 267.00
Total / 495.00

If you don’t like to cook, then go with it. I would assume some of the cash spent on food is wasted. Simple items to survive the no cooking mentality that are needed are:
bread ( healthy choice here)
pb and j
salt and pepper
some sort of snack
one fresh fruit per day
one fresh veggie per day
butter ( margarine, yuck!)
Cheerios ( or other whole grain)
beer or wine (I’m stepping out on a limb here, but I would assume a cold beer fits the bill for you)

You won’t go hungry if you can’t get out to eat. Granted these items are eat to survive foods (rather than survive to eat foods), but I think altering your thought process here would be beneficial to your bottom line.

I know this seems like small amounts to some, but I have literally watched a fortune grow from emassing small amounts of cash over time.

Otherwise, in my opinion, you are right on track. Good luck.

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avatar 3 lynn

I see a savings of about 200.00 a month in this catagory.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

For what its worth Flexo, you can get that fee waived if you spend enough on the card:

Saved me $175 on the Amex!

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avatar 5 Luke Landes

I don’t have the AmEx Gold card, but might get it if the fee can be waived easily. How much did you spend on the card? (Doesn’t need to be specific, just a range, if you don’t mind answering.)

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avatar 6 Anonymous

I was just using that as an example…if I can do it on that card you might be able to do it on your card. I put my spending on my site monthly (don’t want to add another link lol) but lets call it minimum of $3K a month. I put as much as I can on it.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

Flexo: Your Net Worth statement was a motivation to me and many people, it was nice to see how you were progressing in your finalcial life. This expense report has no meaning to me. I think you really have to go back to basics.

People need to understand the strategies that made you succeed in your financial life, how you invested your money, etc. We all know we need to cut expenses, I don’t need to read this blog or any other blog to undersant that.

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avatar 8 Luke Landes

I understand your concern. I’ll continue to write about my investing decisions and progress. I’ve done so recently, following a conversation with a financial planner, mapping out my plan for my future investments. I’ll continue to provide updates on this plan and how it works for me… and perhaps I’ll continue to do some form of portfolio analysis, but more likely that will be on a quarterly basis.

The idea of reporting my monthly net worth progress was initially (ie., in 2003 when I started) holding myself accountable for my financial decisions… and over time, through the success of the business, the net worth reports failed to do that… They just became a way to say, “Hey! Look at me!” and that’s not what I wanted to do. I don’t think readers have much to gain from a net worth report that is missing context, context I couldn’t provide from a business perspective.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

It’s good to see that you have gone back to the basics with your reporting. Maybe if you plan your groceries around a menu put together for the week there is less opportunity for waste

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avatar 10 qixx

I’m happy to report that thanks to my tax return i am now credit card debt free. This leaves me with only a car loan and my wife and my student loans. If we focus a little more i think we might be able to knock out the car loan this year as well.

On the cooking front you might look into the local meals ready to cook businesses locally. Many of the places such as Dinners Done Right where you can go in and make a ton of meals also have options for pre-made meal purchases. Like with a take-and-bake pizza all you’d have to do is the cooking as all the prep work would be done. The meals usually only drop to 2-3 servings so you’d have some leftovers for lunches.

On to my numbers:
Assets $16,695.79
Liabilities -$33,655.52
Total -$16,959.73

Last month’s total -$19,683.28
Change over last month $2,723.55
Last year’s total -$20,611.13
Change over last year $3,651.40

The overall change from last year to this year is bigger than i expected considering it has felt like we are just barely getting by most months.

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avatar 11 lynn

Congratulations, qixx, for a job well done. It’s difficult to focus on debt reduction when there’s so much around us to tempt one’s soul. I’m happy you have joined the ranks. Now you’ll sleep really well each night.

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avatar 12 Luke Landes

That’s great news, qixx! Glad to hear you’re now credit card debt free. That’s an interesting idea about the ready-to-cook meals business. My grocery store has some options like this, but I’m not aware of any local businesses dedicated to that. Then again, I’ve never looked, so I may be missing something other people know about.

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avatar 13 Anonymous

My sincere condolences on the loss of your cat.

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avatar 14 Anonymous

Thanks for sharing your expenses. It helps to see how other people are spending their money. While your dining out expenses could be lower, they are not out of line, especially since you manage your other expenses so well.

I am sorry to hear about your cat. That is never easy.

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