David @iRetiredYoung | Nov 6, 2023
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I record and track my spending for the following reasons:
- I used to be an accountant, so it’s in my genes
- To ensure our life is affordable, both for now and perhaps another fifty years
- It helps me be more conscientious in my spending
- I worked hard to earn the money, so I want to get good value for that effort
- It discourages me from wasting money on things I don’t really want
I imagine Sally is less keen on the cost tracking process, particularly when I ask her what this or that cost was for so I can plug it into my spreadsheet. In some ways, we have similar views about money, but in other ways we are different:
- We were both raised in families that watched the pennies, and I suspect it’s rubbed off on us to an extent.
- We’re not extravagant or particularly materialistic and, on the whole, don’t chase after the latest “new” thing or the products where you pay lots extra for the brand.
- Sally tends to buy cheaper things, but more of them. She likes a bargain. I buy less, but might spend more on what I do buy. I say it’s not a bargain if you don’t need it.
- I like to understand our finances, while Sally has less interest in it. I once asked how much she thought we spent each month, and her estimate was less than half the actual amount. Maybe it’s just as well that one of us is paying attention!
Another similarity is that we’ve both reached financial freedom, or maybe it’s more accurate to say that we’ve reached financial freedom together. Sally tolerates my cost tracking, but I hope she also appreciates that it’s one of the things that helped us reach the financial position which allows us the choices and freedoms we now have.
I don’t understand why more people don’t track their spending. If a business didn’t do this, in the best case it probably wouldn’t optimise performance and, in the alternative, it would quite possibly go bust. But most people don’t apply this same logic to their own financial situation. Recently, someone told me about one of their daily costs which they considered a small, insignificant amount. I, on the other hand, thought “wow, that adds up to quite a sum”. over a year it added up to £4,000/€4,520/$4,920, which surprised them because they hadn’t viewed it that way before. It’s fine to choose to spend that money, but best if it’s done knowingly.
A downside of tracking our spend is it can sometimes reveal something we’d rather not know. Ignorance can be bliss, but perhaps it’s not always helpful. My bugbear is our grocery costs (which I count as pretty much everything we buy in the supermarket). We’re certainly not champagne and caviar people, but our grocery spend always seems higher than most other FIRE bloggers who share their costs. I don’t understand why.
But this month, I have some new data which might shed some light on this mystery. Sally was in the UK for the entire month, while I remained in France, so we’ve each shopped separately. In total, we spent £640/€723/$787 between us, which was split as follows:
Obviously, one month is a very small sample size, so there could be some anomalies. For example, I started with some staples in the store cupboard whereas Sally started with bare cupboards. On the flip side, I was shopping in France where various surveys have shown that groceries are around 20% more expensive than the UK, where Sally was doing her shopping.
While this information doesn’t stop our grocery spend being higher than average, I’m now claiming a moral high ground and will put the blame on Sally…just kidding! However, it is a reminder that, if we are aiming for financial independence, different choices can affect the speed of our journey. It might be that moving to a lower cost of living area is an option or downsizing to a smaller home. With our grocery costs, it seems that different diet choices can affect cost too. I follow a plant based and alcohol free lifestyle which appears to be cheaper than Sally’s omnivore and enjoys a glass of wine diet. This matches a study by Oxford University which found that a vegan diet reduced food costs by up to one-third due to the use of whole foods over meat (and meat replacements).
Here’s the table with all the costs, groceries and the other stuff too.
Our early retirement costs – October 2023
Early retirement targets
There isn’t much to report on my early retirement targets – most are heading in the right direction., but three areas that I’m a little disappointed in are:
1. Stretching: I still can’t get back into the habit of stretching regularly, and my body feels less good (older?) because of this. I’m annoyed because it’s an achievable thing that has tangible benefits. I’m determined to make a better effort this month – it’s not the first time I’ve said that, so we’ll see if, this time, I follow through on my good intentions.
2. French: It’s frustrating that despite making a decent effort this year, my improvement is limited. I probably deserve an A grade for effort with my lessons, but I do need to watch more French TV. Languages clearly aren’t my thing.
3. Campervan: I suspect I’ll struggle to achieve my 30 night target. In theory, there is still time, but it’s mostly cold and wet during November and December. I wrote a post, Campervan – were you a good buy? and it feels difficult to say yes.