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Breakdown of Our Expenses in 2015

Back in 2008, I wrote my initial post about our monthly expenses.  It’s always interesting going back in time to see what the circumstances were.  Back then, the update was compiled just before we had our first child, and we had a mortgage on our principal residence (a new build).  Our annual recurring outlay was around $50k (not including RRSP, savings etc).

Five years later in 2013, I wrote an updated post with quite a different life story.  By that point we had two young children and we managed to pay off our mortgage a few years prior.  Even though the mortgage payments were eliminated, the kids tied up the extra cash flow and more!  At that time, child care/pre-school costs were high at around $12,000 per year (spouse working part-time).  Our total annual recurring expenses back then were around $52k (not including RRSP, RESP, TFSA contributions etc).

Fast forward a few more years and at this point, my oldest child is in grade school, and my youngest in pre-school about to start kindergarten in the fall.  Although one child is out of daycare/pre-school, there are still summer camps and activities that really add up.

As we funnel our spending through a credit card (where possible), I use mint.com to organize transactions into categories where I pulled most of the numbers below.

Here are the numbers;

Housing Expenses: $9,180 ($765/month)

  • Mortgage: $0
  • Property tax: $3,500
  • Maintenance/Furnishings/Upgrades: $2,000
  • Utilities: $3,000
  • Home Supplies: $680

Car Expenses (2 vehicles): $3,475 ($289.58/month)

  • Car payments: $0
  • Gasoline: $2,250
  • Maintenance: $900
  • Registration: $325

Home Essentials: $1,609 ($134.08/month)

  • TV/Internet/Landline phone: $1,509
  • Cell phones: $100 (one phone on prepaid plan)

Food and Booze: $12,360 ($1,030/month)

  • Groceries: $11,000
  • Entertainment/Eating Out: $1,360

Insurance: $5,130 ($427.50/month)

Children: $11,700 ($975/month)

  • Preschool: $5,700
  • Activities/summer camp:  $6,000

Spending: $4,500 ($375/month)

  • Shopping/clothing/hair/gym/misc: $4,500

Other Expenses: $5,160 ($430/month)

  • Charity: $2,360
  • Gifts: $2,000
  • Health care (prescriptions, eyecare, dentist): $800

Total Annual Expense: $53,114 ($4,426.17/month)

Since 2013, our recurring annual expenses have increased about 1.7%, or very little. Even though we try save money whenever possible, there is still work to be done.  Specifically, the grocery line item.  Even with a big improvement over 2014 where our grocery costs were over $1,100/month, having an average grocery bill of over $900/month for a family of four is still on the high side.  We tend to eat a lot of fresh veggies and protein sources, which is not easy on the wallet especially where our produce tends to be a bit pricier in NL than other areas in Canada.

While the ideal situation would have all of our costs included in the $53k annual number, unfortunately, that is not true.  It does not include a family vacation, or savings via TFSA, RRSP, RESP.  So realistically, our annual expense number is much higher.

So what does your budget look like compared to mine?

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FrugalTrader About the author: FrugalTrader is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Duncan April 4, 2016, 2:28 pm

    The quest to reduce grocery costs seems to be inversely proportional with the quest to eat healthier. Organic, locally grown fruits and veggies (and meat) are just so much more expensive than imported stuff. It’s a question of balance, I think.
    Definitely one area we try to reduce is eating out – only for special occasions (birthdays etc). It’s so easy to stop off at a fast food joint and pick up a burger but it’s cheaper and probably healthier to take the time to make it at home.
    I use mint.com, but I find it has connectivity problems with my bank (pcfinancial) and so I end up spending a lot of time manually connecting. Definitely a good tool to track your expenditures. Have you experienced connectivity problems like that?

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 4, 2016, 2:32 pm

      Hi Duncan, we definitely find it pricey to eat healthy, however, the issue lately is the rising price of produce and meat. With regards to Mint, you want to be careful connecting your bank account to mint as I believe it’s against most bank’s terms of service. For that reason, I connect my credit card only.

  • Tawcan April 4, 2016, 2:44 pm

    It’s great to see these numbers from a fellow Canadian. We’ve been trying to reduce grocery spending but trying to eat healthier means spending a little bit more on grocery. The poor exchange rate has increased food cost quite a bit. That’s why we’re trying to grow our own veggies as a way to reduce grocery spending.

    Kudos to you and your family for donating a good amount of money the past year.

  • Money Beagle April 4, 2016, 2:47 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy looking at other people’s common money themes and seeing how they compare to our own or to others. Everybody does money differently and it’s always very interesting to me to see how.

  • nobleea April 4, 2016, 3:20 pm

    If I take out our RESP, TFSA contributions and our mortgage payment for a fair comparison, our monthly expenses are within 1.4% of yours. 2 adults, 1 toddler. Maybe a bit lower since we are paying property taxes on two properties at the moment (temporarily).
    Food bill is about $850/mo. I’m positive we could lower that a fair amount through proper planning, just haven’t put a lot of effort in to that yet.

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 5, 2016, 8:46 am

      Thanks for sharing Nobleea. Have you started paying daycare fees yet?

      • nobleea April 5, 2016, 12:56 pm

        Yes, we pay about $5700/year for a dayhome, included in those costs. It’s only 3 days a week.

  • Jason April 4, 2016, 6:19 pm

    Here are my monthly expenses (MA, USA). I am a recently graduated professional but still living “like a student” – just starting my wealth journey:

    Monthly essentials ($USD):
    Rent: $900 (Includes cable, internet, all utilities) I am really lucky to find a nice house in a great neighborhood. I have my own 1 bedroom apartment but my kitchen is the families laundry room so we occasionally run into each other!
    Cell phone: $55 (prepay monthly Verizon)
    Car payment: $250 (DCU Credit Union, 3.8 years remaining)
    Car Insurance/Reg: $100 (Geico)
    Gasoline: $50 (Often commute with a bicycle so this is sometimes a cushion for other expenses)
    Clothes: $50 I wear the same shirt and pants, purchase to last
    Food/Booze: $400 roughly $200 each (I like to eat and drink….)
    If something comes up like an unexpected expense (tooth cleaning), I take it out of the booze budget, so it’s more like $325 a month plus a $75 expense.

    Debts ($CAD):
    Provincial Student loan: $100
    Federal Student loan: $300
    Bank Student Credit line: $600

    Remainder 80% Investments / 20% life stuff (Travelling back to Canada etc) I hope to use the investments as a path to a home purchase in about 5 years.

    I can’t seem to cut my food/booze down too much more, maybe another $50. If I want to save more I will need another income stream. I put a lot to my student debt and it should be paid off within 3.5 years. After that I will focus on saving for a down payment for a home.


    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 5, 2016, 8:45 am

      Looks like you have it under control Jason. Keep us updated on your journey.

  • Sarlock April 5, 2016, 11:13 am

    You could consider cutting back on the amount of meat that you eat. We have gone almost entirely vegetarian and it has helped the food budget considerably. Dried beans, etc are very affordable and go a long way in making healthy soups and other dishes. Not only can you cut your budget but eat healthier in the process!
    We also grow a large garden every summer and save as much as we can through the winter. We store our root vegetables in the cool basement (garlic, onions, potatoes, etc) and they last a long time. We make our own bread (a loaf almost every day/night), home made pizza doughs, etc.
    Our food budget is around ~$600 per month for a family of 4.

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 5, 2016, 2:05 pm

      Thanks for the comment Sarlock, and congrats on getting your grocery budget under control. In an ideal world, I would cut my meat intake to save more, but in reality, I like meat too much. :) Maybe something we can try is to have one day a week where we cut out meat.

  • BeSmartRich April 6, 2016, 11:53 am

    Having kids and living in house seems to be quite costly there in BC even though you paid off the mortgage. Myself and wife can live through about $3K per month including rent but I guess once we started having kids then it will be a totally different story. Thanks for sharing!


    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 6, 2016, 12:22 pm

      BSR, thanks for the comment, and yes the budget definitely changes after you have kids. One more thing, we live on the other coast in NL. :)

      • BeSmartRich April 7, 2016, 8:50 am

        Oh right. Sorry. For some reason, I temporarily was confused with Freedom35. :)

  • Billy Martens April 6, 2016, 1:18 pm

    I would be hesitant not including vehicle depreciation in your costs. I know from previous posts, you drive an older vehicle that’s paid off. However at some point it will need to be replaced and averaging that cost over years is a safer and more accurate way of reporting annual vehicle expenses.

    My wife and I drive a used Toyota Camry that we bought with cash at 70,000km. We plan to drive it for 10 years, and average 20,000km/year. Our annual depreciation prediction is $100 per month, or $1200 annually. I’ve set up a budget in Mint that’s Auto Payment for $100/month. We don’t have a car payment, so that money accumulates and in 10 years we’ll have enough cash set aside to purchase newer used car.

    We try do do this for all infrequent but still recurring Large purchases. Such as new roof, furnace, vehicle, etc. Each Monthly payment for future large expense pools in one savings account that we can access as an emergency fund should an unexpected expense come up. Then we replenish the fund before the the arrival of the expected large expense.

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 6, 2016, 1:47 pm

      That’s a good point Billy. Big ticket items we tend to just use cash to pay for it, but I can see how it’s more of a mandatory cost (depending on your situation) rather than a discretionary cost like RRSP/TFSA.

  • Joel April 6, 2016, 1:19 pm

    What’s the breakdown of your utilities between electricity and heating? I’m only curious because I live in NS and our number is $475 a month. Just wondering if I need to blame the power company or oil company :). As well, we’ve done everything you’ve recommended to reduce our auto/home insurance but we are still about $75 more a month. Who’s your insurance company?

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 6, 2016, 1:46 pm

      Our utility bill includes heat and light – most houses around here use electric heat. I use TD Meloche Monnex for home/auto. Manulife for disability/life. Note that insurance premiums are really dependant on region as well.

  • Cool Koshur April 6, 2016, 11:36 pm

    Like anyone expenses there are fixed expenses mortgage, property tax, insurances, gas, utilities, phone/internet. My average hydro/water/natural gas bill is $275/month. I may be able to save a bit by buying a gas stove which needs $1000 purchase. I don’t see there is any no room elsewhere. We manage with just one car. Only area I can cut down on are groceries & entertainment. We are family of 4 and we eat good. Our grocery budget is approx $800/month on average. We cook at home and eat few times outside in a month. I have found price matching to be your ticket to only game in town when it comes to grocery shopping. I stock up on non-perishables likes toilet tissues, dish soap, soap bar & other toiletries when they are discount. I buy meat when it is on sale and store it in freezer. I buy clothes in off season and when they are deep discounted.

  • BK April 7, 2016, 2:48 pm

    Your numbers are similar my own, FT. We have a family of five (wife, 3 children ages 7, 11, 13). By far the biggest expense is food. Last year it was around 12k. It’s been steadily increasing as you might expect with the children eating more. Our expense for the year was ~$45,000. We don’t have a mortgage or car payments. This does not include contribution to investments like RRSP, RESP, and TFSA.

    We run a pretty tight ship. I doubt very much we could make it any more lean than this. We don’t eat out much. We could eat less, or perhaps less well, and we might shave $1-2k off of that.

    • Cool Koshur April 7, 2016, 5:15 pm

      12K for family of 5 is $1000 per month or $200/head which is pretty good. You have expenses of 45k/year and spend 12K/year on food. What are the expenses that eat up remaining 33K. I hope you are not counting RRSP, RESP and TFSA contributions as expenses. I would call them as “forced savings”.

      • BK April 7, 2016, 6:28 pm

        Our fixed expenses are about $12.2K. This includes things like heating, water, hydro, property tax, insurances, cable, phone, and TV. Our variable expenses are $32.5k, 12k of which is food. The remaining 20k are spread toward household repairs/expenses, clothing, car expenses, gasoline, miscellaneous expenditures that do not fit in any category, and surprisingly, music lessons for the kids take up over $4K.

        And no , I do not count the investments as expenses.

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 7, 2016, 7:52 pm

      Hi BK,
      If you are a family of 5 and annual expenses in the $45k range, you win. :) What city do you live in?

      • BK April 7, 2016, 8:02 pm

        I’m just north of Toronto in York Region.

        We are lucky to be able to make it work with my wife staying at home to look after the kids, so childcare expenses are essentially zero.

        • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 7, 2016, 8:12 pm

          I’m very impressed with your budget BK! If you are interested, I think an article about how your family of 5 can live on $45k a year would be popular. Thoughts?

          • BK April 7, 2016, 8:32 pm

            Well, $45K doesn’t seem so impressive when I read Mr. Money Mustache’s recent post that his family spent a scant $26K. He’s got only one kid, granted, but that’s still impressive.

            As for the offer to write an guest article, I’d love to do it.:-)

          • Rob April 25, 2016, 5:32 pm

            Mustache’s numbers are enough to make anyone depressed, his hydro bill is like 20€ a month, I honestly wonder if at times he fakes the numbers they simply seem to low.

            BTW why disablity insurance?

          • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader April 26, 2016, 4:38 pm

            Hi Rob,

            I’m nowhere near as money efficient as Mr. Money Mustache, nor do I ever expect to be!

            For me, I use insurance to protect against cash flow issues. Right now, since we aren’t financially free yet, there is a need to protect against the event of a disability that renders us unable to work.

  • WS July 25, 2016, 10:20 pm

    Although it is pleasant to think that you will be able to retire at 45 (?), you should consider working a bit longer so that you can qualify for the government retirement medical coverage for you and your wife. This will become an absolutely necessary as you both age.
    In my case, I was eligible for the medical coverage and pension benefits of the company I had worked for almost 20 years. The company was bought by another company who refused to honour this agreement. The consequences of losing that coverage were disasterous. I am now in my late 60’s. Thankfully, I am in good health and single.
    If you are lucky enough to retire earlier with these benefits intact, then you are in an excellent position, and your dream of early retirement can be fully realized.
    You are certainly off to a good start!

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader July 31, 2016, 2:27 pm

      Sorry for the delay WS, just seeing this comment. There have been changes to the NL pension where you can only qualify for medical benefits “IF” you retire with government. In other words, if I were to leave my work right now, although I would get a small pension benefit when I turn 60, I would not qualify for medical benefits.

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