May Expenses: Is this what lifestyle inflation looks like?

Money-wise, this was a rough month. I’m a little bit embarrassed of the reckless spending shown below, but I think this provides a good platform to analyse what went wrong. Hopefully this will be helpful example of how to be critical of your own expenses.

May Expenses

Income

This typically includes my stipend, which is fixed, and some side income which is highly variable. This month, it wasn’t super high. But I don’t like to rely on side income anyway. Spending less is a much easier way to save more, at least in my case.

The Good

Honestly, not much. A few of my categories don’t change much, and when you go through a spell of increased spending these lower fixed expenses can save you. Renting an affordable yet still conveniently located apartment keeps my highest expense category at a reasonable $600. And using a phone plan for intelligent people means a lot of months with a $0 phone bill. Judicious use of the A/C also keeps the electric bill low. Windows and shades are your friends.

The Bad

  • Internet: For the past 6ish years, I’ve maintained an affordable internet plan through a series of long and frustrating phone calls with Comcast that typically go like this.
    • Comcast: You’re promotion is up. We’re going to double your bill for no reason.
    • Me: I’d like to cancel my service.
    • Comcast: Oh look! We found another promotion for you!
  • That’s a summary of a 45 minute conversation. Well, last month the Comcast representative was a little bit too annoying and not as willing to give me what I wanted, so I ended up actually cancelling. Unfortunately, when Comcast essentially has a monopoly in your area, this can be a bad idea. In the process of restarting service I managed to have to pay extra money and lose our HBO. Since Joe and the Third Roommate had nothing to do with this, I paid all the extra amount that this cost. Lesson: negotiate with a level head!
  • Medical/Charity: Medical bills tend to fluctuate, and this month was a little higher. Charity is usually fixed, but sometimes an opportunity arises and pitching in is the right move. We have a highly highly anticipated guest post on this topic coming…sometime!
  • Food: This was rough, especially groceries. It’s tough to identify what exactly went wrong, but I think I just bought a little too much fancy food. Like beef short ribs, a few steaks, plus a Costco trip that maybe wasn’t the most efficient. I don’t mind a little splurging on food, but this was too much in one month. On the bright side, I did have one spectacular meal with friends where we all pitched in $15 to enjoy the feast you see below. So while I don’t really regret specific purchases here, I do think it’s better to spread them out a bit more.
  • Car/Travel: Car was pretty standard, and I always spend a lot on travel, which I’m ok with.
  • Miscellaneous: This is where things really went amiss. Clothing and Entertainment, which are usually around $0, were out of control this month. These purchases were not necessarily bad purchases, but again, it would’ve been better to space them out. I don’t mind spending money on Entertainment, but in the wise words of Frugal Professor, “the best things in life are free-ish”
Dry-aged ribeye, hanger steak with red wine pan sauce, seasoned rice and roasted root vegetables. Not the most frugal dinner, but it was spectacular. On the other hand, knowing how to make this at home completely eliminates the desire to order a similar meal at a nice restaurant for 4x the price.

Summary Table

Categories  May April Rolling 10 month Average 
Saving rate  13.1% 36.9% 29.5% 
Time to Financial Independence1Based on this. Assumes a starting net worth of $0, so actual numbers are a little better than what’s shown.  45.7 years 23.4 years  28.3 years
Monthly Expenses  $2278.22 $1758.86 $1905.40 
$ Required to be Financially Independent2Multiply the above by 300 $683,466  $527,658 $571,621

The one benefit of this month’s increased spending is a renewed desire to be more efficient in June. Of course, mistakes will be made on the road to financial independence. And they’ll sting a little more when there’s a corresponding little dip in the stock market that you can’t fully take advantage of. But it’s a nice reminder to get back on track!

In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at travelling in style while on a budget and the cost effectiveness of cooking/meal prep!

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