2019 Spending Recap for Our Family of 4

2019 Spending Recap for Our Family of 4

After tracking our spending down the penny in 2018, I gave myself a break so we could focus on paying off my student debts, getting our business debt well under control, and finishing our first investment build.

(We still rely on the magic of the the non-budget when it comes to managing our spending.)

However, it’s still very important to me that we’re honest with ourselves about where our money’s going.

With December widely regarded as the most expensive month on the calendar, tracking our spending in detail this month seemed like a good call. With these numbers, we can do some quick comparisons to 2018 to get an idea what we spent in all of 2019 as well as solidify our financial goals for 2020.

A few important notes:

The Experimental Investment Build

We’ve written quite a bit about our building project in Sedona, AZ. It’s going to be a vacation rental, family getaway, and maybe someday a retirement house.

The spending on this project has never been included in our household spending. It’s under “savings and investments”. We currently have about $275k of equity in that property and only a little bit of permanent brain damage from the building process.

The Renovation on Our Primary House

We included “home improvements” in our household spending in 2018, but we stopped as soon as it became clear that we were looking at this house as an investment experiment too.

We bought it in 2018 for $400k and have put a little under $30k into the renovation ($10k of which was a new heater and the property’s first-ever AC unit). It’s a great house in a beautiful location, but we found out very quickly that we want something smaller and single-story. We’ll let you know if it sells this spring/summer and if so what we walk away with.

You can see some before and after pics here.


Our biggest trip in 2019 was actually at the end of 2018 into the new year and was included in 2018’s spending. You can read about our family romp through Switzerland and all the associated spending here.

We already shared the financial deets of our flights to Hawaii in March and our family’s summer travels (including our oldest kid’s first solo international flight).

None of these trips featured any big-ticket spending (despite the premium seats), with the arguable exception of the vacation rental on Maui. We are very lucky to have a lot of amazing friends and family that let us crash with them when we travel.

We purposely spent Thanksgiving and Christmas closer to home this year. We did spend a pretty penny on a family ski trip over the holiday break (driving distance from our home) which you’ll see included below.

Six skiers with mountain background

December Spending

All numbers below are rounded up the nearest dollar and are honest and accurate to the best of our knowledge.

Note that we don’t include charitable donations in household spending. We are proud supporters of several local and international charities and we encourage you to give back in a way that is meaningful to you. Think of it as an awesome investment in all our futures.

Anyway here we go:

  • Mortgage, taxes, and insurance: $2,200
  • City utilities (trash, water): $70
  • Gas utilities: $70
  • Electric: $80
  • Childcare: $753
  • Car insurance (2 cars): $97
  • Gas (2 cars): $124
  • Cell service (2 phones): $51
  • Netflix: $12
  • Internet: $78
  • Health insurance: $611
  • Life insurance: $37
  • Disability insurance: $290
  • Christmas presents for the kids: $42
  • Other Christmas presents: $230
  • Christmas cards: $54
  • Entertainment/dining: $368
  • Grocery/pharmacy: $688
  • Travel (fancy ski trip): $2,000
  • Other/Miscellaneous: $297

That total is $8,152.

Our average spending in 2018 was $6,559 per month, with our December spending that year being $8,180 (mostly due to the trip to Switzerland).

It actually surprised me that December 2018 and 2019 we within $30 of each other. I thought they’d be close, but not that close – and I thought 2019 would be higher.

So let’s assume this December at $8,152 rang in ~$1,500 higher than our monthly average for 2019 (just like 2018; the end-of-year trips even had similar costs). I think this is a fair assumption, since it still leaves about $500 average for travel costs per month throughout the rest of the year (assuming all other costs stayed relatively even from January through November), and gives us $6,652 as our average monthly spending for 2019. It’s not elegant math, but it’s good enough for our purposes.

So if the above assumptions are reasonably accurate, our total household spending for 2019 was very similar to 2018: just shy of $80k for a family of 4 living a fabulous life in a nice location (Yes, I purposely avoided saying “high COL” as I have lost interest in the COL debate. Manage your money properly where you live or move somewhere else.)

Once again, it’s important to note that our spending includes a ton of unnecessary luxuries. December alone featured approximately $3,000 of things we clearly didn’t need. I say this both with profound gratitude for the life that I enjoy and with the realization that I could still enjoy life for a lot less.

Financial Goals for 2020

Our top three financial goals at this point are:

  1. To get that Sedona House paying for itself as a vacation rental,
  2. To net a profit on the sale of our primary home, and
  3. To pay off our out-of-state rental property (which currently has about $120k on the mortgage).

We’ll let you know how this all goes.

A belated Happy New Year to you all, and thanks so much for reading!

Christmas tree made of skis

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