When I'm asked for my "Number One Personal Finance Tip," I always say to track expenses. So with a new baby in the house, I decided to follow my own advice at the beginning of February and see how spending went in the shortest month of the year.
Here's how it shook out:
Household: $1300. $156 to get our dryer vent cleaned out and $1,144 on a car repair. (Yikes...)
Groceries and Baby Supplies: $746. This included shopping at Target, Big Y, Aldi, and Amazon. It was very close to my estimate of $800.
HSA-Eligible Health Expenses: $525. Vitamins and an Elvie wearable breast pump.
Non-HSA Eligible Health Expenses: $130. Lactation supplements that didn't work. Trying to get my HSA account to pay for it after the fact.
Fun Stuff: $190. Beer, #bandcampfriday, a church offering, a trip to a food truck...
One of my other personal finance tips -- not sure where this one ranks on the list -- is to keep a 0% interest credit card hanging around if you are able. (And then close it after the introductory period so you don't end up with a thousand credit cards.) That way, you can pay for a large purchase over time rather while your savings continues to earn interest. Of course, you have to pay off the balance before the intro period ends or you get hit with interest. But if you think you can make that work, it's one of my favorite hacks.
So anyhow, I got one of these 0% cards before the baby was born in case something unexpected came up. Taking my car to get a recall fixed and walking out with a $1200-dollar bill for the 60,000-mile tune up was definitely unexpected... I'll need to do some comparison shopping the next time I need repairs, but in the meantime I used that credit card -- so rather than dipping into the emergency fund, I'll be paying a manageable $165/month until the bill is payed off.
Life is expensive.
Breast milk isn't "cheaper" than formula in terms of time or money -- at least not for me. However, I'm not worried about spending the HSA money because we are maxing it out for a reason; also, our contributions this year will be more than our in-network out of pocket max.
Percentage-wise, my spending on fun stuff was perfectly acceptable and a small amount in the overall budget.
Areas for Improvement:
Finding a local mechanic that's not the Subaru dealership....
Possibly groceries. We are stocked up on Size 1 diapers from a diaper raffle at my baby shower, but I've noticed that the Aldi brand of diapers are literally half the price of Huggies and Pampers, AND leak less often. If I want to reduce the grocery bill, I will need to do more shopping at Aldi and less at Target/Big Y.
Have you tracked your monthly spending recently? What did you find out?
Free stock photo by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels.com.
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