Chart Your Expenses

#chart your expenses

This year I’m keeping a tally of all our expenses throughout the year. I decided to do this after noticing that our grocery bills were larger than I remembered in years past. This is my first quarter report to give you an idea of what I’m seeing in my part of the world.

I keep every receipt, and if I don’t get a receipt like for a cash tip or donation, I jot it down on a Post It Note. Every month, I divvy the receipts by category and pull out my trusty calculator.

I do this every few years, but when I went back to see when I did it last, it was four years ago. That seems reasonable to see how prices have changed.

Groceries: The price of food does seem to have gone up. In January and March we averaged about $250 a month, yet in February, the shortest month of the year, it was $428. I was so shocked, I had to count the receipts twice. Part of it was due to some bulk buying, but still, it was high for us.

I should explain that I don’t skimp on ingredients. I buy what we like to eat which doesn’t always equate to cheap.

Dining Out: We eat out occasionally, usually when I’m too tired to cook. That happens more in the spring when the weather is good and we work from dawn to dusk on outdoor chores. We seem to average about $140 for February and March. In January we had a No Spend Month and spent nothing on dining out.

We didn’t do too badly in this department. We try to stick to sharing one meal, coupons, and senior discounts.

In the summer and winter, we eat at home more. Not only because we’re able to eat more of our own produce, but because we tend to entertain more at those times.

Gas (car): We try not to use the car too much, but this is Texas and you have to travel to get from one place to another. We seemed to average about $100 a month, until this month when the price of gas jumped up. What bogus excuse do the oil companies have this time?

I have to tell you this story. Years ago, in the midst of an “oil shortage”, Greg was talking to a gas hauler and asked him about the shortage. The guy said there was no shortage. Every single storage tank was full as far as he was told by the operators. If you’d like to put that in perspective, Exxon posted 20 billion dollars in earnings in 2018. That’s billion with a B.

Animal feed: This one is a little high. We underestimated how much hay we’d need. We’re short by two months and now hay is more than double the price of what I bought it for last year. It’ll be at least another month before the new hay is baled. The goats don’t like the hay I’m buying right now either. We’ve been supplementing the girls with alfalfa too since they’re still nursing. Alfalfa, (for those keeping score at home) is three times more than what we spend on regular hay. You do what you have to do.

Hopefully, if we downsize we won’t have this problem next year. The reason we ran out of hay is because we ran out of room in the hay barn. We should’ve just loaded the trailer too, but we didn’t think ahead. We paid for our folly. We tacked on $200+ for not planning ahead.

I’ll know more at the end of the year when I get a better picture of what we spent overall. We do try to be careful, but we don’t get chintzy when it comes to quality.

Aside from the usual expenses, we’ve had truck trouble again. Our poor truck is OLD, but as long as Greg can keep it running, we’ll stick it out. He needs to fix it soon though because that’s our hay hauler. It’s the only vehicle we have that can pull a trailer.

Looking at my numbers for the last quarter, I can see how easy it is to amass debt. If you’re not careful every minute, expenses mount up fast.

I put part of the blame on the oil companies. Since nearly everything relies on fuel, every time they raise their prices it has a trickle down effect on food and manufacturing. They pay their workers well, and they deserve it because the work they do can be dangerous, but can you imagine what the guys in charge must make?

I put them in the same category as the NFL. No matter how much they pay their players, the owners rake in even bigger bucks. Though to be fair, if fans stopped paying the exorbitant prices for tickets and merchandise, maybe the owners wouldn’t get away with murder.

Ah well. There’s nothing I can do about the big boys. All I can do is take care of me and mine the best I can.

If you’d like to gauge how your expenses are going, you can do your own tally. Whether you do it for a few months or a whole year, it’ll give you a concrete view on how you’re spending your money, and where you need to adjust.

There are only three steps.

  • Hang on to all your receipts for a single month.
  • Categorize your receipts.
  • Tally your receipts.

You can do this for a month, three months, or a whole year. The longer you run the test, the better you’ll understand where your money is going.

Have you noticed a rise in grocery store prices? I might not be a good judge because I buy in bulk. It’s also the wrong time of year to make that call. You really have to look at the average for the whole year, which I’ll do next January.

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  1. Hi Maria,
    I guess rising costs are something we can’t stop. It really does make it more difficult for us little people to afford our everyday expenses!

    We are getting into the season where I can start foraging for free food…and I’m looking forward to saving some money on groceries.

    Best of luck with tracking and reducing spending!

  2. This made depressing reading, Maria because I’m unable to compete in efficiency. At the back of my head I know intuitively how much I can afford or not afford but otherwise just drift on – every so often checking the bank balance BUT going through it with a fine tooth comb if and when contemplating a major purchase just to make sure. One final thought, I think they should appoint you as Head of the IRS

    • Mike: Well, I only do this every few years. More out of curiosity than anything else, but it does keep me from sliding off the path if I can see we were reckless.

      re: IRS
      Rich people wouldn’t like me. I’d put a ceiling on loopholes. 🙂

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