December Money Diary: A Financial Year in Review

 
 

Ivan here. Happy New Year! 

One of the most important things when it comes to personal finance is to avoid the temptation to lie to yourself. 

I think the world would be a much fairer place if we all just took a moment to evaluate our own shortcomings in an honest and productive way. As mentioned in our previous money diary, every dollar is not just a dollar. It’s a vote for something. And how we vote collectively determines what we value as a society. 

 
Every day choices.

Every day choices.

 

The future isn’t something that arrives, it’s created. So whatever it is we might complain about, chances are there’s something we can do about it today.


The Data - Financial Year in Review

 
 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we spent in 2016:

When you take away a refundable two month security deposit (under Savings, Education, and Investments) and a loan we made to family (under Life Happens), we actually spent $40,000 in 2016. Coincidentally, that’s the amount we want to save before we leave on our year long round the world trip in 2018

So how did we do? Well, when you spend $40k and can still manage to save more than 40% of your income, it seems pretty obvious we lead a very privileged life. This makes me uncomfortable for several reasons: 

  1. The median US household income is around $56,000. This means if we were the median family, on an after-tax basis we would be living paycheck to paycheck right now, despite the fact we have no debt or kids.
  2. Our fixed costs are too high. Rent and bills account for half our expenses when conservative spending calls for a third.
  3. Less than 10% of our spending went back into our community. With $0 and zero hours spent on charitable giving.
 
 

Looking forward to 2017, here’s what we’re committed to doing to improve:

  1. Cut down on big ticket purchases and dining out. We bought a lot of furniture this year when we moved to LA and we dined out more than we needed to.
  2. Buy local produce whenever possible. We were big Costco shoppers in 2016. While there’s nothing wrong with Costco per se (they treat their employees well) there’s something to be said about quality over quantity - especially when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables. We’ll be cooking more in 2017, and will source our ingredients from family run grocery stores and farmers markets
  3. Move out of our neighborhood. We pay a $200-300 a month premium just to live by the beach and we go there maybe once a week. Talk about waste. Jennie's company is also moving this year so we no longer benefit from the short commute. 
  4. Donate our time and money to charitable causes. A minimum of $1,000 a year and 1 hour a week (each) for charitable work. Organizations we’ve already committed to are Planned Parenthood, Center for Reproductive Rights, and the International Rescue Committee (for humanitarian and legal assistance to refugees). As someone from a finance background, I highly recommend browsing through the top charities on GiveWell.org, which focuses on underfunded charities delivering the highest return on your dollar.