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Old 03-27-2010, 01:24 AM   #121
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(snip)Maybe for groceries. Walmart will have stuff on clearance for 50-90% off. Many times non-perishables. So I'll load up on stuff. A lot of it goes to the in-laws to feed their starving mouths (my kids stay there during the day, and my nieces and nephews who stay there like to eat food too! ). Constraining myself to spending a fixed amount would cause me to miss out on excellent one time value propositions.

I guess part of the issue is that we don't impulse shop unless the deal is a good value proposition and it is something that we would have bought anyway or a luxury that is priced similar to a staple. Or if it has resale value exceeding the cost of purchase plus a reasonable amount to offset the hassle of selling.
Yes, I would prefer to be able to take advantage of those bargains, and right now my budget is too tight to do so. There's usually nothing left in the grocery envelope at the end of the month. I'd like to increase the amount by a few tens of dollars a month, to build up a bit of float, so I can jump on those one-time deals when they come along. But that just means I need to keep w*rking a while longer until I'm eligible for a higher pension benefit, and I've saved more toward retirement. And it's reassuring to know that I could live on my pension if I had to, at least for a few years (it's not fully COLA'd).
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Old 03-27-2010, 06:09 PM   #122
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It's that time of year when I have to focus on emptying the well stocked winter pantry. I load up every fall just in case we get snowed in. It does happen to folks just about 30 miles due north of me.
All winter, all I have to buy is perishables like fresh fruit, milk, yogurt, produce. Grocery bills are minimal.
I will be facing regular grocery bills again in about 2 months when I have exhausted the winter surplus stuff. I have accounted for this in my monthly budget.
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Old 03-27-2010, 07:39 PM   #123
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It's that time of year when I have to focus on emptying the well stocked winter pantry. I load up every fall just in case we get snowed in. It does happen to folks just about 30 miles due north of me.
All winter, all I have to buy is perishables like fresh fruit, milk, yogurt, produce. Grocery bills are minimal.
I will be facing regular grocery bills again in about 2 months when I have exhausted the winter surplus stuff. I have accounted for this in my monthly budget.
Similarly, in May I always focus on finishing off everything in the freezer. My freezer needs to be empty during hurricane season, for obvious reasons, and my shelves filled with canned goods. In late fall as hurricane season ends I stop replenishing the canned goods and fill up the freezer. What a wonderful convenience it is to have frozen food there to rely upon, all winter long.
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Old 03-30-2010, 10:06 AM   #124
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Oh, then you will have to visit Seattle, because the parking meters here take credit/debit cards, at least the ones downtown. Then you won't need any cash at all.
I have seen that more and more. I think our city just converted to "pay station" parking meters where you pay at a central location for your spot, and you can use bills or CC's. They have these at the public beach parking lot now, too. Thank goodness I don't have to pump $5 worth of quarters into a slot any more (at the beach). The only hold out is the State U in the next county over, but I only go there ~4x a year to teach. But that consumes all my quarters since I rarely do a cash transaction to generate change.
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Old 04-10-2010, 12:28 PM   #125
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STATUS UPDATE:

I have entered in a few expenses manually so far (walmart purchases, 1 cash transaction, some recurring bills). Everything has been very simple and smooth to date (10 days into the tracking process). Still plan on downloading checking acct activity and CC statement data at the end of the month and putting that into the proper categories.

I managed to split out some small-ish clothing and house maintenance purchases from the large walmart purchase yesterday and categorize those quickly into the proper categories. Fairly painless, and only required 1x a week.

DW is on board so far, but this hasn't really required her to do anything yet (no cash transactions to report manually from her end).

The only tricky thing so far was figuring out how to account for $750 we spent to rent a house at the beach. We paid it before April 1 (expense tracking start date) but it is for Sept 2010. So I went ahead and put it in as an April 1 Vacation expense. Figured that was fair and I'll just not record any expenses for vacations we take after April 1, 2011.

355 days to go.
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Old 04-24-2010, 08:14 PM   #126
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Anyone use an envelope budgeting system? It's supposed to be easy.

I don't, but somehow the concept wouldn't register with me until I saw a good illustration on youtube:



I read that the system probably orginated around the depression.
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Old 05-10-2010, 04:12 PM   #127
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THREAD UPDATE:

I recently finished my first month's data dump and processing. It probably took about 30 minutes to copy/paste/process data from 3 credit cards and my checkbook register spreadsheet, including labeling each expense with a spending category number (4 for Home Maintenance, 7 for gasoline, 12 for groceries, etc). That 30 minutes includes figuring out how to do what I was trying to do, doing it, then reviewing the data. Outside of the 30 minutes at month end, I spent maybe another 15-30 minutes during the month manually entering a few transactions in the "cash" category, as well as breaking out certain expenses from the walmart receipt (like lawncare stuff = home maintenance, and shoes/clothes = clothing, not groceries/household). Splitting the walmart receipt out wasn't too hard, since it was usually 90% groceries/household stuff and 10% other miscellaneous stuff that fit into a particular category. I'm not sure if I will continue doing the monthly data dump or go to quarterly. I would get a slight economy of scale by doing a larger batch of data less frequently. Although I might just create a macro to do the majority of the data manipulation.

Cash tracking went well. We had $6 unaccounted for. I recall there was something smallish of a few dollars that DW told me about (breakfast??), and I told DW not to worry about keeping track of purchases that small. And a $5 parking fee that I charged to a CC and then received cash reimbursement for a couple bucks more than the $5. And last night DW reminded me of a $10 bill she slid to our nephew for his bday that she swears she told me about before (she didn't! ). Not a lot of slippage at this point, and April was a fairly typical month in terms of spending. DW has bought into the expense tracking, mainly because it requires her to do very little other than tell me about the handful of cash transactions she has each month. Again, if we miss one or two small ones, it won't really matter and gets reconciled and recorded as a "cash" expense on a monthly basis.

As usual, some expenses were larger than normal (dental and home maintenance/repaid/lawncare) and some smaller than normal (car maintenance and dining out). It probably balanced out to an average month.

Basic spending just over $1700 or $21,000 on an annualized basis. That doesn't include the mortgage or student loans or a 1 time prepayment of a beach house rental (vacation category). And it doesn't include around $2500 a year in lumpy expenses like property tax and insurance.

For FIRE projection purposes, that $21,000 would be closer to $24,000 a year, minus some spending in the gas category, plus a lot more spending in the health insurance and particularly travel/vacation category.

So we are feeling pretty good about our current basic spending and it is not way out of line from what I was expecting it to be based on when I last looked at it years ago. It will be interesting to get a whole year of data in.

I'll have to post the expense tracking spreadsheet I built some time (it is at home right now).
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Old 05-10-2010, 05:25 PM   #128
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THREAD UPDATE:

I recently finished my first month's data dump and processing. It probably took about 30 minutes to copy/paste/process data from 3 credit cards and my checkbook register spreadsheet, including labeling each expense with a spending category number (4 for Home Maintenance, 7 for gasoline, 12 for groceries, etc). That 30 minutes includes figuring out how to do what I was trying to do, doing it, then reviewing the data. Outside of the 30 minutes at month end, I spent maybe another 15-30 minutes during the month manually entering a few transactions in the "cash" category, as well as breaking out certain expenses from the walmart receipt (like lawncare stuff = home maintenance, and shoes/clothes = clothing, not groceries/household). Splitting the walmart receipt out wasn't too hard, since it was usually 90% groceries/household stuff and 10% other miscellaneous stuff that fit into a particular category. I'm not sure if I will continue doing the monthly data dump or go to quarterly. I would get a slight economy of scale by doing a larger batch of data less frequently. Although I might just create a macro to do the majority of the data manipulation.

Cash tracking went well. We had $6 unaccounted for. I recall there was something smallish of a few dollars that DW told me about (breakfast??), and I told DW not to worry about keeping track of purchases that small. And a $5 parking fee that I charged to a CC and then received cash reimbursement for a couple bucks more than the $5. And last night DW reminded me of a $10 bill she slid to our nephew for his bday that she swears she told me about before (she didn't! ). Not a lot of slippage at this point, and April was a fairly typical month in terms of spending. DW has bought into the expense tracking, mainly because it requires her to do very little other than tell me about the handful of cash transactions she has each month. Again, if we miss one or two small ones, it won't really matter and gets reconciled and recorded as a "cash" expense on a monthly basis.

As usual, some expenses were larger than normal (dental and home maintenance/repaid/lawncare) and some smaller than normal (car maintenance and dining out). It probably balanced out to an average month.

Basic spending just over $1700 or $21,000 on an annualized basis. That doesn't include the mortgage or student loans or a 1 time prepayment of a beach house rental (vacation category). And it doesn't include around $2500 a year in lumpy expenses like property tax and insurance.

For FIRE projection purposes, that $21,000 would be closer to $24,000 a year, minus some spending in the gas category, plus a lot more spending in the health insurance and particularly travel/vacation category.

So we are feeling pretty good about our current basic spending and it is not way out of line from what I was expecting it to be based on when I last looked at it years ago. It will be interesting to get a whole year of data in.

I'll have to post the expense tracking spreadsheet I built some time (it is at home right now).
Sounds very good to me for a whole family! How terrific to be getting a handle on exactly what you are spending. Your adjustments to figure out your ER needs sound very sensible to me. You are that much closer to ER for having done all of this.

I have noticed in my expenses, that "lumpy expenses" (that I put in bold in your post) are as much as or more for me than the regular expenses each month. Don't know if they will turn out like that for you or not. For me these lumpy expenses include root canals, replacing a broken TV, insurance, big home repairs, and that sort of thing. Just anything big and unplanned, in addition to insurance and property taxes.
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Old 05-10-2010, 06:28 PM   #129
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Sounds very good to me for a whole family! How terrific to be getting a handle on exactly what you are spending. Your adjustments to figure out your ER needs sound very sensible to me. You are that much closer to ER for having done all of this.

I have noticed in my expenses, that "lumpy expenses" (that I put in bold in your post) are as much as or more for me than the regular expenses each month. Don't know if they will turn out like that for you or not. For me these lumpy expenses include root canals, replacing a broken TV, insurance, big home repairs, and that sort of thing. Just anything big and unplanned, in addition to insurance and property taxes.
It's hard to get a handle on the lumpen slums!

The lumpy unknown expenses are hard to predict, but the lumpy known expenses are pretty easy to predict (although mostly not captured in my 1 month of data so far). Insurance and property tax are probably the biggest lumpy expenses.

We will of course have a lot of one time capital expenses like replacing appliances and electronics, and home repairs. Some of these will be captured in my expense tracking, and others will not (like roof replacement and car replacement). I will probably need to just estimate house related repairs, since it will be so lumpy (most items are on 10-20 year replacement cycles). I have heard 1% a year for house maintenance expense, so that is something like $1600-2000 (1% of fair market value vs. replacement cost per insurance company). That would cover a major repair or upgrade every few years or a minor repair or two every year (assuming I don't do much myself).

I'm thinking I may try to get the absolute basic living expenses covered by dividend income from my portfolio, then spend maybe 1-1.25% of principal on the finer things in life. Currently yielding 2.25% roughly, so that would mean $1.067 million in my portfolio to fund $24,000 per year basic expenses. There are still a lot of unknowns in our spending as our kids get older and we figure out what we want to do the rest of our lives. There will have to be some margin of safety in our portfolio as well.

At a 4% SWR, we are coming very close to having enough in financial assets to fund our basic living expenses right now (the $24000/yr figure). For all I know, the portfolio may be there, I just won't know until I add it all up July 1. We are at a point now where this FIRE thing is not too far away, and I'm starting to think about how nice semi-FIREing would be, even just 30 hrs/wk instead of 40 (DW and I both work). Semi-FIRE is probably a few years off though.
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Old 05-10-2010, 07:11 PM   #130
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It's hard to get a handle on the lumpen slums!
That's for sure!

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We are at a point now where this FIRE thing is not too far away, and I'm starting to think about how nice semi-FIREing would be, even just 30 hrs/wk instead of 40 (DW and I both work). Semi-FIRE is probably a few years off though.
That sounds ideal if your work is suited to semi-FIRE. Glad to hear it may be getting closer, even if it is a few years off still. Exciting times ahead, for you.
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Old 05-11-2010, 11:16 AM   #131
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I don't do any of it, aside from what Mint.com shows me. I have a good idea of my expenses and am conservative financially anyways.

I figure as long as I'm saving 15% in my 401K, paying my bills, have no consumer debt and 3 or so months of emergency fund, I'm set.

I'm sure I could wring out a lot more $ to save, but want to enjoy my ride thru life as well.
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Old 05-11-2010, 01:25 PM   #132
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Old 06-23-2010, 02:55 PM   #133
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I just did a quick glance at my actual spending for the year since it's almost mid-year. Ends up the total is pretty much 50% of what I budgeted. I actually was hoping a little less than 50% (LBYM habit), but I'm on track
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Old 06-23-2010, 04:09 PM   #134
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Now that the thread has been revived, I'll just say that I'm still on track with my expense tracking spreadsheet. Still itemizing Walmart/Target type purchases that have a little bit of stuff that falls into non-grocery categories (auto, home, clothes, fun, electronics, etc).

Still keeping track of cash transactions - and surprised at how little cash we use. Almost all the cash outlays are in the form of cash gifts stuffed in an envelope for birthdays, mother's/father's day, etc.

So far my spending is lower than I thought it would be, but June is going to be a doozy once all the numbers are in. HDTV and peripherals, auto and home insurance, car registration, professional license fees, hotel reservations for vacation, etc etc all in June. Grrr... at least some of that stuff is "fun" related.
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Old 06-24-2010, 03:31 PM   #135
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I am probably a little (a lot?) odd, but every month when I receive my bank statement I am really excited. Why? Because I am just dying to type in the stuff and see how much I spent in the previous month.

For some reason I get a huge charge out of this. Perhaps my Scottish heritage?
I am Irish we and the Scottish are similar in many ways.
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Old 06-24-2010, 03:38 PM   #136
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I am Irish we and the Scottish are similar in many ways.
I share both the heritage and the idiosyncrasy. I loved it when I could start getting my statements online instead of having to wait for the mail. Balancing the checking account is very therapeutic.
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Old 06-24-2010, 05:25 PM   #137
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I share both the heritage and the idiosyncrasy. I loved it when I could start getting my statements online instead of having to wait for the mail. Balancing the checking account is very therapeutic.
I, too, am of this descent -My Robert Boyd's parents immigrated to Ireland in sixteen hundred something where Robert found a Diana O'Kelly, came to America and the rest is history.

In addition to a love of being in the "Counting House" I, unfortunately, inherited that other well-known Scottish trait. Those were the folks who took their families into battle with them to prevent retreat. Or as James Webb put it: we are the "kind of people who would die in place rather than retreat")
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Old 06-25-2010, 09:58 AM   #138
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My last name is Scottish, but as my grandfather said when I asked when we immigrated to the USA, "Well, I reckon we have always lived here. Our people used to live down near the state line". So that dates my lineage to at least the mid-1800's as being in the US.
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Old 06-25-2010, 11:11 AM   #139
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We are, I think, what were called the Ulster Scots, who were Scots farm managers imported into Ireland to run the farms. That, in part, explains why so many of the "Irish" immigrants in this part of the world are Protestant. I have a copy of the diary that records the passage of my paternal ancestors, in the 1680s, to Charleston.

But for all that, we were poor farmers and not some sort of immigrant aristocracy by any stretch. I really appreciate the Scots heritage. On my mom's side they have labored to prove some sort of French Hugenot connection with some success, but I think that it is just haughtiness to suggest that religious persecution provides you with some better pedigree than simply being poor and wanting a start at a new life.

Fuego--maybe we're related--my dad's bald, too.
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:08 PM   #140
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We are, I think, what were called the Ulster Scots, who were Scots farm managers imported into Ireland to run the farms
Wow! What a terrific Thread Hi-jack... gotta love it.

Anyway, in-depth data on this subject can be found at this website:

SI-Main Page

Linda Merle has forgotten more about the Scots-Irish than anyone else ever knew.

A related site that gives sources for specific areas of S-I history (Family History, for instance) is found here:

SI-Genealogy
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