December & 2015 Year In Review

December in Review

In addition to gifts for other people, I spent a bunch on myself this month. I bought a hiking backpack, sneakers, a hat, a compass, some T-shirts, a wallet, a compact and tweezers, and some other random stuff. None of these things were urgent, but I can think of several reasons I felt compelled to buy:

  1. Christmas. Some of the items were "stocking stuffers" for myself or things that I found while shopping for others.
  2. Buying as a proxy for doing. Most of what I bought is outdoor-related, because I didn't spend enough time outdoors. It was unseasonably warm this month, but also really dark, because December. Instead of taking walks, I spent long evenings indoors shopping online, daydreaming about taking walks.
  3. Sales & promotions. Particularly insidious: my Chase Freedom card's 10% back on Amazon and Zappo's this month. I've been telling myself that I'm just timing my purchases differently, making them now instead of later due to the promotion, but I probably wouldn't have gotten ALL that stuff.
  4. Resistance to indecision. Related to above. I decided to shop for some of the lower-priority items off my Buy With Intention List due to various promotions, and once I start researching potential purchases, I find it hard to stop until I decide on something. Then, once I decide on something, I find it hard to resist buying the thing I decided on, even if I decide on something that is not applicable to the promotions that got me started shopping!

With the new year around the corner, I need to get back into a Consumer Disobedience state of mind!

2015 Spending In Review

My goal for this year, which I decided in September, was to spend $40,000 or less this year. At the time, it was still technically possible, if we really buckled down in the next four months, which we didn't. We ended up at $43,050.97.

When I told my wife the results of my calculations, she said, "Oh, well, we'll probably hit it next year. We trended down, right?" The answer to that is a firm NO.

Our lowest-spend month was actually January, the first month of the 2015! My secret? Being unemployed that month! I didn't spend because I wasn't bringing in money. Not a strategy I recommend for financial security, ultimately.

For the most part, our bills didn't change much, so most of the variation comes down to our "wants" spending. Specifically, my wants spending, since my wife spends very little on herself as a rule. 
My average personal spend in 2015 was $583 a month. I feel that this can be improved. In some ways, it's disheartening that my personal spending on myself is responsible for so much of our budget variation -- I'm the problem! In other ways, it's exciting because it means I have a lot of power to contribute to achieving our $40,000 goal in 2016.

Here's my personal spend category by month. This includes anything that's just for me, including clothes, lunches out at work, personal care, etc.

Again, January and February were very low. The peak in April is when I got into fashion. I had recently gotten a new job, and was trying to figure out my "look." On the plus side, I bought a fantastic blazer that might as well have been tailored for me; at $300, it was more than I had ever spent on any one item of clothing, but I wear it all the time and, because of it, I do not need any other blazers. No regrets there. On the minus, I also bought several trendy pieces that looked good but ended up not being useful to me at all in practice, such as skinny jeans and cherry-red Converse All-stars. While cool-looking, these items were not really formal enough for work, but not comfortable or practical enough to beat out regular jeans and running sneakers for weekend lounging, errands, and outdoor adventures. 

I also did a Stitch Fix in April and kept most of the stuff (I did another in June, but didn't keep anything). The only item I still have from my Fix is a dress, but it's a great dress that I wore to work every week in the spring and fall, so that alone made it worth it. That said, I don't think I'll do Stitch Fix again, since I've developed a much more specific sense of what type of clothing actually fits into my wardrobe. I'm no longer interested in letting anyone else "style me," but it was still a worthwhile experience toward the beginning of my journey.

My hope is that a high spend year in 2015 will translate into a low 2016. I'm now pretty happy with my current wardrobe (almost all of which I bought during 2015--seriously, except for a few items, there was almost complete overhaul in my wardrobe!) With clothes more or less locked down (I hope), I'll undoubtedly find something else to spend on in 2016… but what?? I don't have much on deck right now, but I always seem to find something!


  1. I just started tracking my non-bill spending last month. Do you count a gym membership in your "personal spending"? What about your cell phone?

  2. We have a line item for "Phones" under bills, which includes both of our cell phone bills. We use Ting and try not to use too much data, so it's usually not very much. Neither of us has a gym membership, so we haven't had to encounter that particular issue--I am really not sure where I would put it!

    I think one problem with our budget, currently, is that it's unclear whether "bills" vs. "personal" means "needs" vs. "wants," or if it means "fixed" vs. "discretionary," or if it means "stuff for the household" vs. "stuff for the individual." Right now it's kind of a hybrid of all of those, which doesn't really work. Mortgage or rent is a classic need/fixed/household, and personal blow money is a classic want/discretionary/individual, but a lot of bills don't fall neatly into that dichotomy. For one thing, if you have one person in your household, the "individual vs. household" line doesn't exist. But even setting that aside, a lot of categories are murky.

    Gym membership - want/fixed/individual
    Phones - need AND want/fixed AND discretionary/individual
    Netflix - want/fixed/household
    Clothes - need AND want/discretionary/individual
    Groceries - need AND want/discretionary/individual AND household

    A lot of things are judgment calls. I probably need a better way of dividing up the master categories. Ours right now is sort of divided into personal spend vs. household spend (including bills) based on the question, "Does this expense require/benefit from both partners' buy-in, or is it something where we'd rather decide individually?" So that's why clothes ended up in personal spend. When I was a household of one, I divided things differently.


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