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How we Spend our Money – Breakdown of our Annual Expenses 2018

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, capital expenses 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 to 2015 and 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.  We managed to keep costs fairly low spending about $53k for the year.

On to 2016 –  Pre-school costs only consume half of the school year, the other half year is covered through kindergarten.  However, children activities in 2016 really kicked it up a couple notches which resulted in a few more swipes of the credit card (starting to see burn marks!).  The increased activities offset any savings we received from reduced pre-school fees.  I’m all for the kids going out and enjoying activities, but what I didn’t anticipate was that it would result in lifestyle inflation and our highest reported annual spending thus far.

2017 was really a transition year for childcare costs where we didn’t need any (besides summer sports camp) (cha-ching!), but the activities still maintained at a high level and then some.  I suspect that this current year may get a little pricier in terms of activities as my son has yet to really ramp up  – time will tell.

In the last budget update, I mentioned we purchased a 7-seater SUV to help in carpooling situations.

With a high number of activities and neighbors/friends going to the same location, we discovered that we were limited in carpooling opportunities (car seats take up a lot of space!).  After much discussion and debate, this frugal blogger reluctantly upgraded to a seven-seater SUV.  The details of the purchase are for another post, but we managed to buy a high-quality three-year-old SUV for about half retail price (with cash so no financing charges).  While we got a good deal on the purchase and a very fair trade-in value, it was no surprise that the large SUV increased our annual recurring expenses.  Specifically, gas and insurance.  I’m hoping though that as the kids grow out of car seats, that going back to a mid-size car/SUV (or maybe an electric vehicle) would suit any carpooling situation.

I will admit that the big SUV has been useful this past year, but with fewer car seats required, I can see a regular car/SUV being just fine within the next couple of years.  The scary thing is that driving the 7-seater feels “normal” even while it guzzles 16L/100km (city) in the winter (it hurt me to type that).  The bright side is that we drive relatively few kilometers annually with that vehicle.

How do we track our budget?  We funnel our spending through a credit card (where possible), then connect the credit card to mint.com to organize transactions into categories where I pulled most of the numbers below.

Here are the numbers:

Housing Expenses: $10,040 (vs. $9,867)

  • Mortgage: $0
  • Property tax: $3,700 (vs $3,700)
  • Maintenance: $2,000 (vs. $2,500)
  • Utilities: $2,640 (vs. $2,600)
  • Home Supplies: $1,700 (vs. $1,067)

Car Expenses (2 vehicles): $4,235 (vs. $4,041)

  • Car payments: $0
  • Gasoline: $2,618 (vs. $2,372)
  • Maintenance: $1,292 (vs. $1,345)
  • Registration: $325

Home Essentials: $1,505 (vs $1,509)

  • TV/Internet/Landline phone: $1,505 (vs. $1,509)
  • Cell phones: $0 (work provided cell phone)

Food and Booze: $13,009 (vs. $13,000)

  • Groceries: $11,526 (vs. $11,500)
  • Entertainment/Eating Out: $1,483 (vs. $1,500)

Insurance: $6,080 (vs. $5,780)

Children: $7,600 (vs. $11,500)

  • Preschool: $3,500
  • Activities/summer camp:  $7,600 (vs. $8,000)

Spending: $5,500 (vs. $5,100)

  • Shopping/clothing/hair/gym/misc: $5,500

Other Expenses: $ 6,063 (vs. $6,200)

  • Charity: $2,300 (vs. $2,400)
  • Gifts: $2,163 (vs. $2,300)
  • Health care (prescriptions, eyecare, dentist): $1,600 (vs $1,500)

Total Annual Expense: $54,032 (vs. $56,997)

Finally, a decrease in expenses year over year!  Most costs were fairly consistent compared to last year with the exception of cutting out $3,500 in pre-school costs.  It’s reassuring to see that over severals years we can keep our annual recurring expenses relatively in-check and still live a very comfortable lifestyle.

Keeping an eye on our expenses (while increasing both active and passive income) over the long term and paying off debt has really allowed us to supercharge our ability to invest over the years.  Being confident that we can keep our expenses in the $50k to $60k range means that I can potentially use passive income to subsidize our expenses while working part-time to make up the difference.  But since I tend to lean on the conservative side, I will continue working full time for now (more on this in my next quarterly financial freedom update).

While the ideal situation would have all of our costs included in the $54k annual number, unfortunately, that is not true.  It does not include a family vacation (we went to Florida in 2017), large capital expenses, or savings via TFSA, RRSP, RESP (all maxed out).  So realistically, our annual expenses are much higher.

So what does your budget look like compared to mine?

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FT About the author: FT 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.

{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Tawcan February 19, 2018, 3:28 pm

    Love the breakdown, looks like we spent a similar amount in 2017. We spent a total of $51,144.77 in Vancouver with 2 adults and 2 kids. (https://www.tawcan.com/2017-financial-review/)

    We have spent quite a bit in 2017 for preschool and private swimming lessons. Sure looking forward to taking preschool cost off the spending report next year.

    • FT FT February 19, 2018, 4:39 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Tawcan. Good to see other bloggers with similar numbers. Just a warning though, kids activities just seem to keep increasing! :)

      • Tawcan February 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

        Haha, I know! Will be an interesting exercise to keep the annual expenses low while giving kids enough things to do. :)

  • Bob Lin February 19, 2018, 5:42 pm

    Did you adjust your numbers for CPI (inflation)? If not, you’re managing your costs better than the chart shows.

  • dividendgeek February 19, 2018, 9:03 pm

    Amazing job tracking down your expenses. It is very educative, especially the cost of raising a child. Keeps me up all night :-)

  • Bob Lin February 20, 2018, 1:16 am

    Your post reminded me that for our first 10 years in Canada we tracked our expenses down to the last penny. Below are the total expenses for absolutely everything, including a 90% mortgage (a house with a swimming pool), car loans, a new-build house and finishing the basement, several low-cost vacations and one family vacation to Europe, then another house, and raising three kids and a dog:

    1998 – 51,317
    1999 – 53,259
    2000 – 56,365
    2001 – 67,607
    2002 – 67,806
    2003 – 74,241
    2004 – 67,997
    2005 – 68,643
    2006 – 79,824
    2007 – 89,226

    In January 2013 we decided it was time to get control of our finances. We wiped out our remaining $85K mortgage in two years, then went on a typical vacation of a life-time, then cleared all other debts within six months, and then focused on FIRE. This month (February 2018) we achieved FI. We’re just not ready for RE yet; working to build up our financial cushion. Our total expenses are now:

    2018 – 50,000 (budgeted)

    • FT FT February 20, 2018, 10:26 pm

      Congrats on reaching FI Bob! When do you plan on taking the plunge and leaving full time work?

      • Bob Lin February 21, 2018, 3:06 am

        If things go according to plan, we’ll hit that particular target after 477 more days in the office. At that point I’ll decide if I’m going to retire from main-stream type work. My wife has already decided she is retired at 52. Regrettably, we’re not retiring super early, but that’s the price we pay for all that spending and little saving in those early years.

  • FrugalSaver February 20, 2018, 9:18 pm

    Thanks so much for the breakdown, FT :) I love seeing expenditure breakdowns like these and then comparing them to my own expenditure breakdown – I kind of make it into a game :)

    I’ve been very sick these last 1.5-2 years (3 diagnoses so far as I wasn’t responding to my initial treatment), and it really hit home when I looked into our expenditures last November – $84,000 out the door by the end of 2017! I’m not looking for a pity party, but I truly understand when people say “health is wealth” they really aren’t kidding.

    I’ve made it my mission to buckle down our spending, revamp our savings, and totally rethink our life goals, despite my continuing ill health. So far we’ve managed to triple our savings and cut our spending in half, and I’m pretty proud of that. My end goal is to get my husband and I to live off of roughly $30,000 (sans mortgage and without taking a big hit to our lifestyle) by the end of 2019. Wish me luck – and keep posting your yearly expenditures. It’s fun!

    • FT FT February 20, 2018, 10:29 pm

      Thanks for stopping by FrugalSaver, yes some sort of relative comparison can be helpful and like you said – fun! On that note, I treat personal finance like a game with net worth like a point system. I hope that you are on the mend, do you have insurance to help offset some of the costs?

      • FrugalSaver February 24, 2018, 6:01 pm

        You’re welcome :) It’s really up and down – but I’m hoping I’m on the general upswing now. I do have insurance through work benefits – I actually maxed both mine and my husbands out last year, which was is a big part of the excessive spending we had in 2017. “Progress, not perfection,” is my motto this year as I get the spending under wraps ;)

  • Enoch@SavvyNewCanadians February 21, 2018, 4:48 pm

    Interesting that you were actually able to keep your general expenses lower y/y…that’s impressive. Kids can cost a lot, and we are also looking forward to not having to pay preschool fees in a couple years! Cheers.

    • FT FT February 24, 2018, 1:06 pm

      Thanks for the kind feedback Enoch. Like I mentioned above, don’t forget after school care! :)

  • May February 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    We did not track the expense so I don’t know the exact number. My estimate is around $60K not including vacation and we don’t have any debt. We spent a lot on kids’ activities. Metro Vancouver is so expensive and we live in a suburb with long commuting distance. Driving two cars long distance every day is very expensive too.

    I am aiming for $70K dividend income for FI. Hopefully we can get there in five years time.

    • FT FT February 24, 2018, 1:05 pm

      $70k in dividend income is huge – about $2M portfolio? If you don’t mind sharing, what are your top holdings?

      • May February 27, 2018, 10:58 pm

        We are aiming for $2M portfolio, not there yet. Hopefully another five years.

        My top holdings most likely are the same as many DGIs. Canadian big banks, utilities, pipelines, Canadian rails and telecoms.

  • Randell February 23, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Our expenses are higher and lower. We are aggressively paying down a mortgage; $2000 per month, and daycare; $1450 per month. This puts us at +/- 72K per year and about 30K w/out these two expenses. As mentioned, daycare will be replaced with other activities, so 30K forward looking is optimistic. I assume you keep vacation spending off for privacy. I am struggling a bit with the SUV purchase. As that is a large one time expense, should it be stated as monthly cost item based on how long you intend to hold onto the car? – because it is a depreciating asset, unlike a home which should retain value based on the land. Great job, great site, Cheers

    • FT FT February 24, 2018, 1:03 pm

      If the kids are in full-time daycare now, don’t forget after school care when they start full-time school which isn’t cheap. An official income statement should probably count the depreciation, but that’s getting too fancy. :)

  • Bob K February 23, 2018, 11:05 pm

    I may have written a similar comment to a similar post you wrote this time last year. Our total expenditure in 2017 was just a tad over $40k. We’re pretty frugal for a family of five (kids ages 14, 12, 8). The only years when our expenses exceeded $50k was, ironically enough, before we had kids when we aggressively paid down our mortgage.

    The biggest single expense for us is food, which hovers around $11-12K for the past ten years. Insurance and taxes are the next biggest items–both around $4k.

    That activity cost for your kids at $7600 seems excessive.

    • FT FT February 24, 2018, 1:01 pm

      Very impressive that you can have 3 kids and spend $40k, I should be getting lessons from you!

  • GYM February 24, 2018, 4:19 am

    Wow, I’m super impressed! Did your family take a vacation in 2017? This is good to know ballpark how much family spending can be. We got an SUV last year as well (Mazda CX-5) and it has been okay on gas so far, was definitely tempted to get a 7 seater but no way can I park that easily. Props to you for being able to parallel park a 7 seater SUV! Kids activities are expensive, I almost put our 6-month-old baby into swimming lessons (thank goodness a voice of reason stopped me haha). For now, we will just take our baby to the pool without lessons.

    • FT FT February 24, 2018, 1:00 pm

      GYM, we did take a Florida vacation in 2017, but not counted in the recurring expenses list. For 2018, it looks like we will be doing a staycation. I’m actually looking forward to downsizing the 7 seater sometime in the next couple of years.

  • Noleigh February 28, 2018, 5:33 pm

    Question about your vehicle expenses:

    Do you ever consider that you may be understating your expenses because you’re not including the depreciation expense on your vehicle? I understand that you paid for them with cash so you have no interest expense, but where do you account for the cost of actually paying for the vehicle?

    Example- If your 2 used vehicles are worth $30,000, and you drove them for 15 years until they were fully depreciated ($0), then your expense per year would be as follows:
    15 years / $30,000 = $2000 depreciation expense

    Thoughts?

    • FT FT February 28, 2018, 6:34 pm

      I can see the merit of depreciating assets, however I feel they it just adds to the complication . I guess it could even help the expense numbers if we cut down to one vehicle after early retirement. It’s not just vehicles that should be depreciated, you need to count for washers, dryers, water heaters, BBQs, snow blowers, lawn mowers , camera equipment, computers , laptops, pianos , tvs , stereo equipment , furniture etc. It can get over the top !

      • Noleigh March 1, 2018, 12:17 pm

        I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere of how detailed to be. Keeping the expense tracking more generalized still captures the gist of it while makeing it more manageable to stay on top of.

        Thanks for your point of view.

      • Randell March 3, 2018, 7:47 pm

        What about the person banging it out with a bus pass and renting a vehicle on an odd weekend for family occasions. How do they align their spending with yours. Also the additional things listed would be included in annual expenses for most. Time to remove F from FT?

  • Krystal February 28, 2018, 10:45 pm

    I’m super new to this and I’m in awe by reading this. My property taxes alone are 6100 a year and mortgage is around 36000 a year- how do you aggressively pay these down while making two car payments and all the other general life activities? Paying into rrsp, tfsa, we were paying in resp, and employee purchase plans, vacations, etc. We have one kid left at home in university … I think you guys are amazing! I have a lot to learn!

    • Bob Lin March 3, 2018, 9:10 pm

      “how do you aggressively pay these down“

      You start by taking a long hard look at your life, and think seriously about the future, then decide what you want, what is achievable, and if you’re prepared to put in the effort to get what you want or not. Just by asking the question you have reached a cross-road in your life, now it’s time to decide.

      • Max April 26, 2018, 9:27 pm

        I couldn’t have said it better my self. We made the decision 25 years ago to aggressively pay down our debt, and were mortgage free in 10 years (with a mortgage that started at 8%)… We then transitioned to a new larger house almost mortgage free, all the while having only one person working in the later years.

        Good we were aggressive paying debt. Life has thrown us a curve ball and I will be forced to retire early. However with assets outside our oversized home (which we are going to downsize), we should not have any issues and can retire stress free (at least the money part of it) !!

  • Paul April 26, 2018, 5:16 pm

    I am probably quite frugal but don’t feel my lifestyle has been compromised and have tried to set a defined spending budget of around $2,000 a month since paying off my condo approx. 6 years ago. My expenses breakdown as follows each month and I’ll mention I live alone in downtown Toronto:

    Condo Fee: 451 Bank Fees: 8 Subscriptions (Paper/Netflix): 30
    Insurance: 213 Charity: 30 Cable/Internet/Phone: 180
    Property Tax: 150 – Total = $1,062

    That leaves me $938 a month or approx. $210 a week for food, entertainment, TTC etc. A typical week may be $100 on food and with the leftover I go to theatre, movies, shows and often purchase these items on ‘Flash Sales’ or Groupon. I also have Raptor season tickets but don’t even count them as part of the budget as I often sell enough tickets to cover the entire cost and still go to around 15 games a year.

    When I tell people about my $2,000 a month lifestyle in downtown Toronto they find it hard to believe until I break the numbers down for them like above. I’ve never really felt ‘deprived’ and feel as though I enjoy and do a lot of activities. I think saving/spending is like any other habit and after a while it simply becomes ‘routine’. I save/invest the rest of what I earn so at this point ‘saving/investing’ would be classed as my greatest expense. From speaking to a number of my colleagues ‘transit’ related expenses seem to be the killer with many have car payments, train fares etc. expenses which fortunately I don’t have.

  • Max April 26, 2018, 9:37 pm

    Similar amount of expenses, but the amounts in each group are way different. Property taxes are almost double. Utilities slightly higher. House maintenance slightly more (we did the roof a couple of years ago). Car maintenance was way lower (till last week when I got a 1100 repair). We have to pay for our phones, but I have gone cheap (no data). We have no summer camp (since kids are older), so that saves us $7600. I guess our “summer vacations” could fall into this area, but we typically spend 1/2 of that.

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