With 2018 halfway over, I decided it was time for a deep dive into six months of spending to see just where all of my money has gone so far. It can take a few hours, but getting a big-picture look at your finances is a useful exercise, especially if you have previous years’ data to compare it to. (I even added new subcategories so I could get a finer look at exactly where my money was going.) For something this detailed, a budgeting program or app is essential. Personally, I’m on my 14th year with Quicken, and I’m happy with how it lets me keep track of every penny of my finances.
I’ve always been fascinated by money breakdowns, mostly because I find a detailed look into someone else’s financial life a great way to highlight my own values. Where people spend their money can be a strong indicator of what they value, so whenever I run into a budget breakdown where I am appalled by how much someone spent on one category or shocked that they spent so little in another, that’s instructive to me. That immediate reaction helps me articulate what my own financial priorities are, not just what I claim they are.
So here’s a look at the total I’ve spent from January 1 to June 30, 2018, both for my own reflection and to help you sort out your own financial values. For reference, I have had four income sources: salary ($25,452.96), freelance income ($616.60), interest earned ($117.10), and employer HSA contributions ($62.50). That’s a total of $26,249.16 for me to account for, minus a scattering of birthday cash/gift cards that I didn’t keep a record of. I live in the same one-bedroom apartment as I did last year, located in a mid-cost-of-living city (<50,000 people). I have no debt.
1. Home: $5,631.94. Putting a roof over my head continues to be my single biggest expense in life. I need to call my apartment management company and see what the rent hike will be for renewing a lease and make plans accordingly. Four subcategories: rent ($5,394.00), supplies ($184.67), furnishings ($49.54), and kitchen items ($3.73).
2. Taxes: $4,973.71. Payroll taxes are easy, at least. Three subcategories: state/federal payroll taxes ($4,567.71), 2017 taxes owed ($346.00), and property taxes ($60.00).
3. 401(k): $3,308.89. Still not vested in my company match, but I will be soon. Once I am, I’ll start including my employer’s contributions in this amount.
4. Medical/Dental/Etc.: $1,687.15. My employer pays the bulk of my insurance costs, or else this would be much higher. Five subcategories: medical insurance ($1,260.80), copays ($187.29), HSA contributions — including employer’s ($124.50), dental insurance ($66.16), and prescriptions ($48.40).
5. Food & Dining: $1,518.60. I don’t go out to eat very often, obviously. Four subcategories: groceries ($1,329.55), restaurants ($152.96), alcohol and bars ($26.61), and fast food ($9.48).
6. Bills & Utilities: $1,441.33. I switched to a cheaper cell phone plan, which has helped. Three subcategories: utilities ($624.83), cell phone ($434.74), and internet ($381.76).
7. Roth IRA: $1,380.00. I’m just $20 shy of what I contributed over the entirety of last year. I’m rather proud of upping this.
8. Auto & Transport: $919.09. My gas costs are up sharply this year, but otherwise, the bulk of my transportation is taken care of by the commuter pass my work provides. Five subcategories: insurance ($428.60), service and parts ($213.17), gas ($197.32), parking ($60.00), and license/registration ($20).
9. Travel: $721.03. I have a ten-day vacation planned for later this year. Six subcategories: airfare ($532.71), insurance ($70.00), food ($60.64), transportation ($47.00), miscellaneous ($6.00), and gear/supplies ($4.68).
10. Personal Care: $713.56. If we simply look at the dollar amount, I put the greatest effort into my hair. Four subcategories: hair ($400.00), skincare and makeup ($168.00), toiletries/hygiene/etc. ($95.56), and spa/massage ($50.00).
11. Gifts & Donations: $584.59. I’ve tried to be more reasonable about how much I spend on gifts. Three subcategories: gifts ($374.59), charity ($150.00), and pledges ($60.00).
12. Shopping: $248.42. I’m not planning on any big-ticket wardrobe or electronics purchases this year, so barring drastic changes, this should stay low. Five subcategories: clothing ($172.03), office supplies ($32.41), accessories ($20.93), books ($12.36), and electronics and software ($10.69).
13. Fees & Charges: $206.02. Hi, Amazon Prime. At some point, I need to decide if you really are worth it. Two subcategories: membership fees ($105.98) and service fees ($100.04).
14. Entertainment: $151.89. I have already spent more money on movies than I did in the entirety of last year. Two subcategories: movies/DVDs ($87.96) and streaming sites ($63.93).
15. Everything Else: $156.00. Everything from cash withdrawals at the ATM to miscellaneous items that didn’t neatly fit a category.
So in the first half of 2018, $23,642.22 passed through my hands in some way or another. The remaining $2,606.94 is in my checking or smaller savings accounts.
The first thing that struck me upon finishing this breakdown and comparing it to last year is that I’m really proud of how I’m doing with my retirement contributions. I have roughly 18% of my gross income headed toward my 401(k), Roth IRA, or HSA, and that’s before my soon-to-be-vested company match kicks in. If my annual review goes well, I’ll bump that up to an even 20% in order to ensure I’m on track for retirement. The security of my senior citizen self is one of my most pressing financial concerns, and I’m grateful to be able to prioritize it.
The second thing that caught my attention was the shakeup in my entertainment category. I have seen a total of nine movies in the theater this year, mostly matinees, early bird showings, or $5 Tuesdays in order to cut down on costs. Considering I saw exactly five movies last year and two the year before that, this new movie “habit” is one that I’m enjoying. I usually go with friends, but I’ve also gone on my own when they weren’t interested in the movie I wanted to see. I guess you could call this lifestyle inflation on my end, but I think it’s worth it.
A third item that stood out to me was my gas bill for my car. I’ve already spent $197 on gas, while I spent just $270 in total last year. There was a prolonged medical emergency in my family earlier this year, and I ended up putting an extra 800 miles on my car so that I could make weekly trips to help out. It cost me several sick days and more than one tank of gas, so it’s no surprise that this category inflated unexpectedly. This was a good reminder that sometimes life throws wrenches into my spending plans and that having wriggle room in my budget is essential for my peace of mind.
Overall, I’m satisfied with how I’ve spent my money this year. There are still some big ticket items on my horizon and an unknown number of wrenches, but right now I’m on track to spend about the same as I did last year, which is good news for my finances. Taking the time to really examine my spending has been reassuring and helps keep me honest about what my financial values really are.
Manuela prefers to write under a pen name.
Image via Unsplash