Saturday, January 7, 2017

2016 Spending in Review

Every year I do a look back at our budget categories & our actual expenses per category. It helps me determine which categories need adjustment, or further scrutiny. As a reminder, we budget in two different ways - monthly budget items, which are typical monthly expenses. The amount may vary slightly, but it exists monthly. Yearly budget items are those where we know we will spend the money in the year, but we may spend the entire yearly budget in one month (Christmas), or spread out in dribs & drabs throughout the year.

Monthly expenses:
Okay, so let's see how we did. We finished the year under our planned monthly spend, which is always a good position! This was mostly due to an adjustment of our Seattle mortgage (permanent renters, reduced costs) & refinancing our vacation house.

We were also over in LOTS of monthly categories.
-We've reduced the number of hours we're using for childcare, but are now including date night coverage. This also included summer camps, which were extremely expensive. As a result, and because it impacts how we plan our travel/vacation plans in 2017, I'll be creating a separate summer camp budget this year.
-Also, that dining out number. . . is the result not of frequent small meals out, but a few blowout meals out. So, that will clearly need attention in 2017. We spent $1600 more in 2016 than 2015!! This is why I have a goal to find free/reduced date night options for at least a couple of date nights this year.
-I cut our insurance by making policy modifications.
-Lower gas prices allowed us to continue to save in this category.

Dining Out18004522.9-2722.9
Vac Mortg2760019168.518431.49
Seattle Mortg579001396043940

Yearly expenses:
Our core tax withholdings, health insurance, and charitable donations are not calculated here (taken away before we see the money). However, due to the overall mix of our compensation, we still typically owe given our stock options. That's listed below, in taxes. Health is a combination of things like race entry fees, the occasional massage for me, etc. Charity is above and beyond our fixed monthly budget that's automatically withheld.

If you take out the taxes, we did pretty well on most of our categories. And, again, we've adjusted our withholdings drastically in 2016, so I'm hopeful this number will be much smaller. Eventually, one day, we will own a house as a primary residence & get to deduct some interest. Until then, we continue to pay $$$$$. 

There were a few other outliers:
-I decided to ramp up the boys college donations to $200/month, hence the overage.
-The boys are clearly expensive, and had a ton of expensive activities. The majority of this was club soccer, but some of it included swimming lessons & flag football (they start in January, but the fees were due in December). 
-We paid $3000 for a one time gift to my dad. M took my dad and a few of his buddies to Las Vegas for an all expenses paid blowout for his 65th birthday. M gets comps at the casino, so this was the overage & own't be repeated next year.
-I've discussed the housing budget in more detail, but I clearly need to start tracking this more carefully. 
-Travel. . . more than planned due to my 40th birthday, three unplanned soccer tournament hotel stays (we didn't expect to go this far - for either team!) & a few other unplanned trips. This year needs to be less, so I will be maximizing travel hacking (using points, hotel rewards, miles, & some airline credits).

Boys (All)10002106.08-1106.08
Boys Activities15005037.74-3537.74
Boys College20002350-350
Clothing (All)20001965.9634.04
I've written a full post about our planned 2017 budget, so I won't go over all of the numbers. All told, we came in $8,088 under budget, but that's hiding a lot of sloppiness in some of the actual categories. Now that we have clean accounting for our rental property, I expect that much more scrutiny will be required in 2017 to bring us in on target.

That's it for 2016 spending! How about you? Did you track & review your spending? Were you on target, below or over? Tell us your tips & tricks, & plans for 2017.


  1. For date nights as opposed to eating out, are there any wine clubs that host complimentary social events? While we don't attend everyone because the time starts earlier than DH often gets done with work, we enjoy the night when we make it. We get three bottles of wine to take home, wine tasting, networking with others if we choose, and can cost us very little extra than our $59 a month fee. What about events at art galleries, college concerts or plays (some really spectacular performances for peanuts) followed by a glass of wine (from your wine club) at home? I should take my own ideas more to heart!

  2. Do you ever coordinate both boys' having sleepovers with friends on the same night? Then you could go on dates those nights to minimize the need/cost for babysitters.