Monthly Money Check: Rich’s Expenses Are Lumpy. $150,000 For Child Care Lumpy. So Why Track Coffee? — March 2017

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Hey Penny,

I think a lot of people who read personal finance blogs do so because they want to see in public what most people keep private. It’s financial voyeurism. Money porn.

What’s funny is we receive around 2 readers per day who, apparently, are searching for some combination of “money” and “porn.” I don’t think a personal finance blog is what they have in mind. Imagine their annoyance. “Hey, this isn’t money porn! It’s just a couple bloggers who are cousins bickering over nonsense!”

My question is, what the heck are they actually looking for??

Don’t answer that.

Ok, let’s have a look at my finances for the month of March. First, net worth.

Click to enlarge

In March, Mrs. Rich and I got paid 3 times. That’s the primary reason our net worth jumped by $22,488. Our average net worth gain per month in 2017 has been $12,358, waayyyy ahead of the pace we need to reach my goal of $1MM when I’m 45. 

Now for the bad news. We won’t be able to maintain this pace, because we’ve got some lumpy expenses coming up. 


I’ve been tracking my expenses for 3 months now. I’d never done it before, but I thought it’d be interesting money porn for you and our readers. Have you found it … exciting?

I think I’ve confirmed 2 truths about my budget that I had suspected. First, we spend a lot on food (average = $2,200 per month). It’s more than I expected, but not ridiculously more than I expected. We’re not frugal when it comes to food, I knew that already.

Second, I’ve confirmed to myself why I don’t usually track regular, recurring expenses. This will sound crazy: I don’t think they matter in my situation. Look at this chart (click image for a better view):

Something is jumping out at me here … click to enlarge.

Everything is in a narrow, somewhat predictable range, and then BOOM — half a year of preschool for 2 kids for $12,000. In the past 2 years, we’ve spent, I don’t know, $60,000 on preschool-related expenses. We more or less had to send our kids to this preschool because we’re in a foreign country, but even without preschool we’d still need full time child care. In the past 5 years we’ve spent $150,000 on preschool + child care. Conservatively.

When the kids were little we had a live-in nanny. Having a nanny was just as affordable as day care in our area ($30K per year), so we weren’t acting like celebrities. I’m glad we could afford all this for our kids, because neither of us wanted to stay home and our salaries easily covered the cost. I’m not complaining. We have twins, so almost everything we’ve paid for since their birth is double that of one child at a time. Double the lumps.  

Why Track Coffee?

Anyway, the point of all this is that the lumps matter more than the small stuff, which flies in the face of many budgeting tips in personal finance articles. Sure, I could save $3 by not buying that Starbucks latte or whatever. But it just doesn’t make a whole latte difference. Get it?

Consider that child care number: $150,000. That’s 50,000 lattes. I could have a latte every day for the next 137 years. I could fill a swimming pool with lattes. I could stack my latte cups on top of each other and they’d be 18,040 feet high — higher than the highest mountain in the Alps, Mt. Blanc!

12oz latte = 4.33 inches high x 50,000 cups = 18,040 feet. Mt. Blanc = 15,774 feet.

For the record we brew french press coffee at home. And we need it — the kids are up at 530am every day.

So, it’s not the coffee. A few big expenses, here and there, really dominate my budget. Staring at my monthly phone bill is not going to yield the secret to wealth. Instead, I need to just plan for the lumps and get past them. And we’ve got some lumps coming our way this summer:

    • Taxes: $9,000
    • Kids Summer Camp: $2,300
    • Buy A Car: $18,000
    • Move back to US: $10,000
    • Total Lumps: $39,300   

Bah! Almost 40K! So here are my monthly expenses, but I’m not really sure why I’m tracking them. Maybe I should be tracking something else? I need to think about this more. What do you think?  Later, Rich

Not sure why I’m tracking this … click to enlarge.

18 Replies to “Monthly Money Check: Rich’s Expenses Are Lumpy. $150,000 For Child Care Lumpy. So Why Track Coffee? — March 2017”

    1. Hey Erik — I can honestly say I have no idea of how SEO works! I wasn’t sure where to go with this title so I made it long and descriptive, generally the opposite of good writing. Ha.

      We both like our careers so neither of us wanted to stay home. That’s the primary reason. Financially speaking, staying home wouldn’t make sense either, because we both make much more than the cost of child care. I also think there are longer term financial benefits to working even with a lower salary, such as cumulative retirement benefits and the cost of re-entering the workforce. At any rate, staying home wasn’t something we considered much, although I completely understand why people do stay home for financial reasons or, more likely, personal family reasons.

      The cost will lighten up a little once Kindergarten starts, but it’s still going to be high because the school day is shorter than the work day.
      Rich @ recently posted…Rich’s Plan To Build A Generational Family Legacy. Uh, Yeah, In 3 Easy Steps!My Profile

    1. Household is kind of a catch-all for “stuff.” We order stuff on Amazon, usually larger quantities because it’s shipped overseas. I didn’t break it out in the chart but here it is:

      $125 gym classes
      $75 phone, internet
      $50 books (maybe should be entertainment)
      $40 swimming goggles for the summer x4
      $40 toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, tooth brushes
      $30 ziplocs, tin foil
      $25 garbage bags
      $15 cat food

      Entertainment was higher this month because we bought 2 scooters for the boys, totaling around $280. I combined that category with Travel, where we spent $430 on a rental car for our next vacation.

      I agree it’s all interesting but just not very helpful. Unless I’m looking at it the wrong way? I’ll try to highlight some expenses in the future but it’s not worth the time to track each category so closely for the reasons I mentioned …
      Rich @ recently posted…Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Increases His Brain Waves By 0.0125 In March 2017My Profile

    1. During the summer, there’s one or two day camps, so that’s a few thousand bucks. After that … we’re not quite sure yet. Sometimes we need to just juggle for a few weeks where we alternate days staying home. Last summer we flew some family out to help for a week. It’s tricky!

      And get this — Kindergarten next year is something like 9am to 330pm. Not very conducive to the work day. So, we get to pay for an extended school day so that we can drop them off a little early and pick them up a little late, depending on our work meetings and so on. That’ll cost a cool $1,000 per month for 2 kids.
      Rich @ recently posted…The Helicopter Parenting Paying For College FINAL SHOWDOWN (or, Part 3)My Profile

  1. Take it from someone who’s been tracking expenses for a few years, it’s worth the effort. It’s always good to have a baseline for future reference, and more importantly you never know what life might throw at you. If you needed to make some important financial decisions, having the budget as reference could help steer you down the best path.

    Preschool costs are a killer…I just finally got past those last year. Like you, we chose to both continue working, since it made the most sense for our family.

    Basically, it may not be helpful to know this stuff in the moment, but may come in handy in the future.
    Max Your Freedom recently posted…Do you invest in Capturing Memories?My Profile

    1. In theory I agree Max, but in practice I haven’t yet seen close tracking play out to my benefit.

      Then again I should mention I keep a detailed cash flow spreadsheet to make sure I can cover bills, investments, and big upcoming expenses. I’ve found this very helpful, but it’s different from examining expenses in detail …
      Rich @ recently posted…Rich’s Plan To Build A Generational Family Legacy. Uh, Yeah, In 3 Easy Steps!My Profile

  2. This is why I don’t really set out a monthly budget and track my expenses day to day. My continuous expenses are pretty steady (I almost always spend $600-$700 per month on groceries), but it’s the bigger ticket items that get me. A new laptop here, a vacation there etc. Since these purchases are not frequent, I can track them in my head.
    Troy @ Market History recently posted…Will the S&P 500 consolidate within a range in the next few months?My Profile

  3. Ultimately my wife stopped working partially because of the price of daycare being such a huge drag on her after tax income it hardly seemed worth it. We checked the older one this year into a local public school preschool for 100 a month. We didn’t know it existed until this year so I might suggest looking around if anyone’s still not kindergarten age. My wife is going to try to grow a freelance business for the hours they relate in school starting with the oldest in kindergarten this fall and the youngest in preschool three days a week. Well see how it goes.

  4. I don’t track monthly expenses, but I do have a baseline set for my fixed monthly expenses plus average monthly variable spend. We put everything on credit cards so it’s easy to see how we end up each month. Some months we’re a little over, other months we’re a little under. But for the most part, we don’t have wild swings each month because we’re pretty locked in with our spending.

    Unless you’re trying to cut expenses significantly, I don’t think it’s necessary to track monthly spending in detail. Like you, we spend a lot on food. But good quality food is important to us. As long as we don’t go over the total I’ve set aside for variable spend each month, I don’t really care how the various categories add up.

    And wow, kids are expensive! 🙂
    Go Finance Yourself! recently posted…Investment Update: Q1 2017My Profile

  5. Hi there! This article couldn’t be written much better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I’ll forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a great read. Thanks for sharing!|

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