At the start of every year, I set aside a couple hours to go over the previous year’s finances. It can be a tedious process even with excellent record keeping and a budgeting program/app/spreadsheet, but it’s worthwhile to figure out exactly where all my money came from and where it went to over the course of a year. After all, I can’t figure out if I should course correct or stay on target if I don’t know where I’ve been and what direction I’m heading in. (I’m still using Quicken to keep track of my money, for the record.)
I’ve always enjoyed spending breakdowns. Part of it is definitely that wait, they seriously spent $XXX on that? spectator factor, but the rest I chalk up to being generally curious about what other people (have to) prioritize in their lives. Someone who has the same income as I do will have radically different priorities, both in discretionary and non-discretionary expenses. And contemplating those differences is a great way to figure out whether or not you want to change something in your own financial life.
So here are all the gory details of my 2018 finances. For reference, I had six income sources: regular salary ($51,715.11), bonuses ($4,540.00), freelance income ($2,392.30), employer 401(k) match ($1,687.65), employer HSA contributions ($437.50), and interest earned ($252.47). That’s a total of $61,025.03 for me to account for, minus a scattering of birthday cash/gift cards that I never keep a record of. I’m still in a one-bedroom apartment located in a mid-cost-of-living city (~50,000 people). I have no debt.
1. Home: $11,893.64. Keeping a roof over my head is so expensive, and yet I know many people who spend much more than I do. At least I have a fancy new vacuum cleaner? Five subcategories: rent ($10,928.00), supplies ($376.72), furnishings/appliances ($297.01), renter’s insurance ($262.00), and kitchen items ($29.91).
2. Taxes: $10,710.18. Not much to say here other than I’m grateful the bulk of this gets taken out of my paycheck automatically. Three subcategories: state/federal payroll taxes ($10,232.18), 2017 taxes owed ($346.00), and property taxes ($132.00).
3. 401(k): $9,000.82. I am fully vested in my company’s 401(k) plan and can finally acknowledge that my employer’s contributions exist. Two subcategories: my contributions ($7,313.17) and my employer’s contributions ($1,687.65).
4. Medical/Dental/Etc.: $3,641.31. Still grateful that I’m in relatively good health and haven’t had any emergencies. Six subcategories: medical insurance ($1,973.79), my HSA contributions ($806.00), employer’s HSA contributions ($437.50), copays ($220.26), dental insurance ($128.90), and prescriptions ($74.86).
5. Food & Dining: $3,131.76. Cooking large meals and living off of leftovers keeps my costs here relatively low. Five subcategories: groceries ($2,480.46), restaurants ($408.79), alcohol and bars ($195.18), fast food ($41.91), and coffee shops ($5.42).
6. Roth IRA: $3,020.00. I’ve doubled the amount I put into my Roth IRA compared to 2017.
7. Bills & Utilities: $2,892.98. I’m staring at my gas bill and trying to decide if I should raise the heat because I’m freezing today. Three subcategories: utilities ($1,278.76), cell phone ($830.76), and internet ($783.46).
8. Travel: $2,440.64. I went on four trips this year, two domestic and two international, and the costs for all were either split with or subsidized by the people I traveled to see or credit card points. Seven subcategories: cash/miscellaneous ($919.79), airfare ($790.44), hotel ($282.99), transportation ($191.88), food ($126.95), insurance ($93.63), and gear/supplies ($34.96).
9. Auto & Transport: $2,187.72. This would be much higher if it weren’t for the commuter pass my work pays for. Five subcategories: insurance ($849.40), service and parts ($684.13), gas ($401.44), license/registration ($132.75), and parking ($120.00).
10. Gifts & Donations: $1,729.27. Would you believe it if I told you that this is even after cutting my normal holiday spending in half? I have no idea what happened here other than I clearly enjoyed buying presents for people. Three subcategories: gifts ($1,270.27), charity ($330.00), and pledges ($129.00).
11. Personal Care: $1,385.08. I like my hair short and with vibrant highlights. Five subcategories: hair ($880.00), skincare and makeup ($244.69), toiletries/hygiene/etc. ($191.44), spa/massage ($50.00), and dry cleaning ($18.95).
12. Shopping: $821.99. Several wardrobe staples finally wore out and needed to be replaced. Five subcategories: clothing ($643.96), electronics and software ($92.28), office supplies ($52.46), accessories ($20.93), and books ($12.36).
13. Fees & Charges: $350.22. I was surprised when I saw this amount, too. Two subcategories: membership fees ($105.98) and service fees ($244.24).
14. Entertainment: $184.82. Down to just one streaming site now. Two subcategories: movies/DVDs ($109.36) and streaming sites ($75.46).
15. Everything Else: $269.51. Just really random stuff that didn’t fit into other categories very well.
In 2018, $53,659.94 passed through my hands, either spent somehow or tucked away into retirement accounts (401(k), Roth IRA, HSA). The remaining $7,365.09 is split between my checking and short-term savings accounts.
I’m thrilled that I’m fully vested in my company’s 401(k) plan now—I could put in my two weeks’ notice tomorrow and walk away with the entire account. My company’s modest 401(k) match and HSA contributions are great boosts to my retirement savings, and I’m grateful I have access to them because many of my friends and family members do not.
One thing that struck me as I went through my finances is that my freelance income was nearly equal to the amount I spent on traveling. While that doesn’t account for taxes on that freelance income, it was exciting to realize that I more or less broke even between the two. I’ve now set a goal this year for my freelance income to be enough to pay for all of my travel (and taxes) without dipping into any savings accounts. I don’t have any trips planned right now, but it never hurts to start earning money for the future.
In general, I’m content with how I’ve spent my money this year. While it’s difficult to predict what speedbumps 2019 will have in store for me, the fact that I keep a close eye on my finances and have been fortunate enough to have a surplus last year means that I will be better prepared for life’s chaos. If you haven’t yet taken a close look at last year’s finances, I’d highly recommend that you do so sometime this month. Looking at the entire year as a whole can push you to make changes or set relevant, helpful goals for the new year.
Manuela prefers to write under a pen name.
Image via Unsplash