Every January 1st I look forward to sitting down and looking at our personal budget. It's not something everyone does, but I think it provides some valuable information.
It’s always wise to review the past in order to make necessary adjustments as you move forward. However, the main purpose of budgeting is not to look back, but to help you make decisions in the moment and to look forward. Our family uses You Need a Budget (YNAB) to manage our family finances.
So what are we looking forward to in 2024? Our 2024 budget now includes monthly savings for a NY trip in 2025 and a trip to Europe in 3-4 years. Tiffany and I also increased our "his & hers fun money" accounts.
With that said, here are some reflections on our spending last year. We use these insights to set a realistic budget for 2024.
1) The last couple of years have all had some unique things that have occurred. For the below observations, I normalized the income and expenses year over year by subtracting out unusual events. For example, 2023 was the year of major purchases (car, camper, home) and in 2022 we sold our home. I certainly don't plan on repeating any of these events anytime soon, so I remove those events so that the data isn't skewed.
2) Housing: This expense was quite a bit higher in 2023 than previous years. We sold our home in late 2022 and moved into an apartment while waiting for our new home to be built. The rent we paid caused our housing expenses to skyrocket, not to mention the storage unit we had to have as well. Along with the new home came some furniture purchases and other items that went into this category. Electricity rates also continue to climb every year, causing a 19.4% increase in that category despite having several months of lower bills in the apartment.
3) Groceries increased 10% year over year (not bad considering we started using a meal service and have three boys ages 9, 11, and 13 who continue to eat more and more every day). Eating out went up 14%, but we still spend very little eating out. I continue to be content with our eating out costs ($47 per person per month). I don’t think there’s much we could do to get food costs down… we eat out only 3-4 times a month and buy all the kids snacks in bulk at Costco.
Advice: 10 out of 10 people spend more eating out than they think they do. In my experience, this is the main category people could cut in order to save money. Buying groceries is cheaper and usually healthier than eating out too.
4) Vehicle expenses (gas, tolls, insurance, repairs) went up 60%. Insurance jumped due to upgrading to a newer truck and camper. Tolls went up due to the kids switching to a new school that is farther away. Gas increased due to the switch in schools plus we took more camping trips in 2023.
Advice: Buy used cars, not new. Let someone else take that depreciation hit… if you do want a new car, hang on to it for 10+ years and you’ll probably be alright. Don't borrow money if possible. Check out this blog post or this video to learn how to avoid car debt.
5) Other observations: Medical went down 65%. I think there were a couple ER visits in 2022 so thankfully we made it through 2023 without much going on medically. Kid expenses dropped quite a bit. Our kids school is private, but the one they went to in 2022 was very inexpensive and the new one is completely paid for by the state of Florida thanks to this awesome scholarship (that anyone can get). Our miscellaneous category dropped 58%, which is great; I hate that category! I like to be able to get things into a more specific category if I can.
6) Overall spending was up less than 1% (0.97%) in 2023 vs 2022 (again, that's after I pulled out a few major, non recurring expenses to make the year to year comparison more usable for evaluating our everyday expenses). There hasn't been a year to year comparison in the last 11 years where our normal spending has stayed that consistent from year to year. Let's hope 2024 brings more of the same.
I enjoy helping individuals with tax preparation and tax planning as well as offering financial coaching to individuals (and businesses) looking to overcome challenges and reach their financial dreams. I also service businesses (including nonprofits and churches) by providing tax preparation and tax planning as well as consulting for accounting, bookkeeping, and other finance related questions. I live in Orlando, FL, but I serve clients all across the country. Contact us if you need assistance and take a look at the resource page.
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*The blog posts (as well as the YouTube channel) are my personal opinions and thoughts about a wide range of topics. They are not meant to apply to individuals specifically and should never be relied on as tax or investment advice. You should contact a professional for specific advice before taking action.
**This blog post was created with the assistance of artificial intelligence, edited by me, and expresses my personal opinions on the subject matter.