December is the Monthly Downsizer Special Edition, in which we reveal our 2016 Expenses! In July of 2015 we moved from a 1,400 square foot house with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and an oversize double garage to an 880 sq. ft. apartment. Four months later, we downsized again and moved to a 670 sq. ft. apartment. With the goals of shortening our retirement horizon and simplifying our lives, we jettisoned most of our belongings and took the plunge into an ongoing adventure in downsizing.
The Monthly Downsizer is a once-a-month post that documents our continuing process of intentional reduction. Here’s a link to last month’s post.
This month features our 2016 annual expenses. As we compare 2016 with 2015, what becomes readily apparent is a tale of less and more:
The Stories of Less (less than 2015, that is)
Housing – $5.5k Less
The Original Downsize took place in July of 2015, so our 2015 housing expense was inflated by the unusual activities of preparing our house for sale and beginning our apartment lease before we closed on the house. The interesting story with our 2016 expense was that though rent in Portland is quite high, the total annual expense was on par with our 5-year average spend as home-owners. What we learned through our years as owners of a 100+-year-old house is that the projects were seemingly never-ending. They were also quite spendy given our lack of time, skill, and desire to tackle them.
Another interesting bit on housing expense comes from a look at rent expense vs. home proceed investment gains. We’re happy to report that the gains on our home proceed investment have exceeded our 18-month total rent by $6,700. We were also able to invest an additional $20k that we had saved for an upcoming siding project. As Mr.Grumby says in in his post, “owning is always better than renting” is a fundamentally flawed assumption.
Pet Expense – $2.6k Less
If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that we lost our 2 wonderful dogs in early 2015 (we miss them!). Both of them had serious health problems and end-of-life care expense was high. In 2016 our pet expense was fully dedicated to 15-year-old GrumbyCat, a personable, entertaining, and wise companion that loves napping on warm laps and vocalizing her concerns and wishes. GrumbyCat also has a long history of digestive ailments that require a ~$3,000 annual budget to cover specialized vittles, medication, and frequent pet sitting visits when we are out of town. Though our pet expense was $2.6k less than it was in 2015, it still represents 6% of our total annual spend.
Transportation – $1.6k Less
As I shared in my post, You Are What You Drive, Mr. Grumby and I sold our last remaining car in July of 2015 and have been getting around by bicycle, on our own four feet (that’s two feet each), and using public transportation (annual passes subsidized by our employers). When we absolutely need a car for a difficult-to-reach in-town trip, we can use one of Portland’s multiple car share programs or Uber, Lyft, or a cab. For longer distance trips, we pack up the bikes, hop on the train, or sometimes rent a car. Though our year-over-year transportation savings is not eye-popping, the moral of the story is that this opportunity we’ve had to ditch spending countless hours sitting in a metal box has been better for our bank account, our physical health and our sanity.
Entertainment – $1.3k Less
We owe this one to Mrs. Frugalwoods. Before we started reading her posts about frugal entertainment, Mr. G. and I were fully immersed in the routine of dining out one or two times every week. I mean, we work hard and we deserve these special treats, right? Is often-too-salty, less healthy, and over-priced food in crowded places that are too loud for enjoyable conversation really a “treat”? Mr. Grumby and I began to experiment with doing some more cooking for ourselves and have even been brave enough to invite a few friends over for frugal gatherings. I’m not sure our friends would agree that the food is more tasty than restaurant food. However, I’m confident that what we prepare is more healthful and conversations are more relaxed, audible, and entertaining. I suspect that we’ll save even more going into 2017!
And the Stories of More (more than 2015, that is)
Savings – $6.4k More
We spent $6.4k less in 2016 than we did in 2015. That means more $$ to Savings! The most significant lessons we’ve learned in our journey toward financial freedom:
- The less you spend, the more you save
- The more you save, the earlier you retire
- The less you spend habitually, the lower your future spending requirements
- The lower your future spending requirements, the earlier you retire
Charitable Giving – $1.5k More
It feels good to say that even though we spent $6.4k less in 2016, we increased our charitable giving by $1,500. Our total contribution also received a 61% match from my generous employer! Three of the influences in this positive shift were:
- A visit to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle
- Reading about Mr. Money Mustache’s $100k contribution
- Watching the Peter Singer Ted Talk
As we learn more about shedding some of the excesses in our lives, we want to share our good fortune with others. Giving is, and will continue to be, a priority in our annual spending.
Gifts – $900 More
Again, one of the benefits of more closely aligning our wants with our needs is having a surplus to share with others. We generally focus our gift giving on special occasions and on experiences that build relationships.
One of our fun ‘gifts of experience’ was a trip to Central Oregon with Mr. Grumby’s mom. Though we couldn’t convince her to try bungy jumping or rock climbing, we did all go on a couple of brief treks on the Pacific Crest Trail and at Smith Rock state Park. We also enjoyed playing cards with her at a cozy AirBnB in Bend.
Travel – $700 More
Mr. Grumby and I have always said that travel is a priority, so it’s nice to see an increase in our 2016 spending. After a few spring and early summer bike camping trips close to home, we went on a camping trip to Little Crater and Timothy Lakes and a backpacking trip in Wenatchee Wilderness up in Washington. We also spent time with both of our families in Colorado, Missouri, Texas, and Washington.
Fun fact: Little Crater Lake is almost as beautifully blue as Big Crater Lake in Southern OR, but is just a 2 hour drive from Portland. When we were there in July we were treated to the calls of sandhill cranes in a nearby field. The lake is also a short distance to the Pacific Crest Trail and is hiking distance from Timothy Lake.
OK, Enough Stories already! Where’s the Expense Spreadsheet?!
So, there’s less and there’s more and yada, yada, yada … Without further ado, here are the scintillating details you’ve been waiting for … <drum roll, please!> … our 2016 expenses. Please continue reading after you’ve scoured the numbers!
If you’re new to the world of personal finance blogging, maybe it seems odd that we’re sharing these intimate financial details with the world. The purpose of this exercise is not to compare our spending with that of anyone else. It is is to demonstrate that:
- We know where our money is going
- We’re pleased that our spending is aligned with our values and priorities
- We’re able to enjoy ourselves and to give to others
- OMG, rents in Portland are sure high
- Company match for charitable giving is an awesome benefit!
- A lot of our spending is cushy fluff, so …
- If the sh*t hits the fan for one reason or another, can reduce our spending by 39%
- If the sh*t hits the fan and GrumbyCat is no longer with us (hopefully that won’t happen anytime soon), we can reduce our spending by 45%
Maybe if we all started talking more openly about money, it would cease to be a scary taboo. If we could share ideas about our goals, challenges, fears, and success stories, could we all make wiser choices and therefore be happier people?
Questions for You, Our Esteemed Readers
- Do you know where your money is going?
- Does your spending reflect your values and priorities?
- If you had to cut expenses for one reason or another, how much could you cut?
- What are your questions, observations, and thoughts?
Here’s a link to The Monthly Downsizer: January 2017