July 2017 Frugal Mom$ter Expense Report: Are We Even Frugal Anymore?

July was a pretty expensive month around our house. We’ve been writing checks like there is no tomorrow. Well, only two checks, but otherwise we’ve spent the most out of any monthly report thus far. Ugh.

Are We Even Frugal Anymore?

September 2016 was our lowest frugal monthly report clocking in at $3,581.88. We have tended to spend more since doing these reports. How does that make sense?! I thought these reports would help us save more, but now looking over the past year, we’ve inflated our lifestyles a bit. We’re already over that total for August and all of our expenses have yet to be tabulated. What are we doing? Where did our frugal selves go?

Should I keep writing reports?

Leave me a comment and let me know…

I’ve been debating ending these monthly expense reports after the August one, as I will have published a full year of our spending since last September! I’m still on the fence if these provide any useful information for others or really just for us.

I personally find them fascinating to look over and comb through to see what we spent. Some months we’re more on top of things, and other seasons like summer we spend more for projects and other fun adventures. In addition, I am not sure if I’ll take the time to sit down and review our spending as regularly if I am not holding myself to a monthly post to review.

I do feel that now I’ve had a chance to see our spending for a year, I can really try to put the brakes on and ramp up our savings in the coming year to get the numbers as low as possible with these reports. So, as I’m writing to you, I think I’ll continue them and just surprise ourselves by getting back to our frugal roots.

Lesson Number One: Don’t Use Credit Cards

The other caveat is that this past winter I decided to dip my toe into credit card hacking which was a fail in my mind.

While we did reap hundreds of dollars in rewards, we spent FAR more than we would’ve without the credit card rewards beckoning our spending. I’d venture to say we spent more than the rewards totaled. I went back to buying clothing, Chris spent endlessly at home improvement stores, and we ate out a ton more knowing we’d get 10% cash back from it. In reality, none of those rewards are beneficial, and the credit card companies did their job: we spent more. Damn you credit card companies!

Going Forward: Goodbye Credit Cards!

With that realization, I’ve already closed two cards and I will be closing two more cards in September. Then we’ll be back to operating on one regular card, one store card, and our checking account. We’re just not cut out to use credit that way in my mind.

While we never paid a dime in interest, it just led to easier spending because I didn’t have to keep our checking account balance in mind. Chris never mentioned his budget for Home Depot trips as he used to, and I never kept to our food budget.

Keeping Balances Low

In addition, this summer I tried something new financially. I put all of our summer savings into the checking account to dwindle down throughout the summer as we paid bills (plus I needed money available to write fence and landscaper checks as I never knew when they were going to show up).

With such a high amount available, it was easier to splurge where there need not be at places like Costco, because I didn’t have to keep the bottom line in mind. I usually only transfer over in $1,000 increments to pay bills and cover expenses. I like to keep our checking account balance low to encourage less frivolous spending.

So, note to self, keep my balance low and use the debit card. Otherwise, I would’ve had an additional 2,000-4,000 banked from the summer.

We’re Still Frugal…

In my mind, we’re still frugal. We slip up from time to time on our spending goals, we’re only human, but we still spend less than we earn and spend on what is important to us. The major focus of frugal living is to live below your means and focus on what is important to you.

I’m disappointed at such a high number, but also know that a good chunk ($5,000) was for outdoor projects. This is a reminder why we never pay others to do labor for us. It is ridiculously expensive, but in these two instances, we were willing to spend to get it done after years of DIYing outside.

In thinking back, only one time other than our outdoor projects this summer did we ever pay someone to do something for us was installing brand new HVAC in our old townhome. Otherwise, every single project, renovation, upgrade, or repair has been done by us (mostly Chris with my project management). That’s wild to think of considering all we’ve done in the past decade.

Fall and Debt Freedom

This fall we’re slated to start paying down our mortgage. I have been unsure if I want to track that openly, but Chris is on board and sharing it definitely will keep us more accountable toward our goal. We have the opportunity if all goes well to pay it off in the next 3 years, or 5 years if we want to be more conservative. I have a few mini goals in mind to reach and will most likely share those in the fall.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of what we spent in July.

ItemAmountFrugal Mom$ter Musings
Clothing$231.01New running shorts, hats, and uniform clothes for Monkey. Some of this was returned after month’s end so next month will show a negative.
Donations$25.00Local firehouse donation.
Food$1,326.19Dinners out and um, I went to Costco a few times too many.
Household$5,128.27Our fence was finished being paid and our landscaper finally came to dig out a million and one river rocks. This also includes 10 trips to Home Depot for Chris’ project habit…
Leisure$167.62A running book, a Galloway Training course, and a movie out with Monkey.
Pets$130.14A bunch of bully sticks, cow hooves, and bones for Jeter. I removed my credit card from Chewy so I stop buying him things, my closet is full!
Travel$420.00 Washington DC to meet Liz! This includes travel, tolls, food, etc.
Natural Gas$60.00 
Total Spent$9,795.27Wowzers!
Without Mortgage$7,795.27 
Without Fence/Landscaping$2,957.77Okay, still quite a bit high for us, but now that the outside is done we’ll never have to pay for either again as we’ll do any maintenance ourselves!

Wondering why some bills may be missing from this report?

The September 2016 Expense Report will answer your questions.