Sunday, January 1, 2012

December 2011 post mortem

Basically, two steps forward and one step back.

I spent a lot in December. This started off with Christmas gifts and some home purchases and went south from there.
  • December spending
    • Total - $7788
    • Total without student loan prepayment - $5788
    • Mortgage - $2805
    • Home purchases - $532
    • Student loans - $2270
    • Groceries - $391
    • Restaurants - $240
    • Alcohol - $73
    • Bills / utilities - $407
    • Car - $313
    • Shopping - $424
    • Gym membership - $229
    • World of Warcraft subscription - $80
    • Movies - $24


Home purchases were the Nest, a new electric toothbrush, and a trip to Costco. I think the electric toothbrush was worth it. My girlfriend was using her old one for like five years. Rather than spend a ridiculous amount of money to buy new toothbrush heads for an old toothbrush, I decided to make the upgrade.

Student loans included my usual payment of $270, but I also made a $2000 prepayment on my Sallie Mae loan. This was basically the size of my year-end bonus, so I still have some cash to make another sizable prepayment in the new year.

Groceries are were a little high but otherwise in line with my expectations. I think we can do a lot better on groceries going forward. We had a lot of leftovers this month and built up our pantries substantially. I'm looking to reduce trips to the store in January. That should positively impact our bottom line.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I consider a restaurant budget of ~$200 to be in my best interest in the near term. This month it was mostly because of a fancy New Years Eve date that was very enjoyable. I included alcohol as a separate item this month. The $73 was spent on wine to bring to holiday parties, restocking my wine cabinet, and getting different flavored schnapps for mixing drinks at home.

Utilities were $119 for water, $95 for FiOS, $108 for electric, and $85 for gas. Water is a quarterly bill. We lowered our FiOS bill after the statement was issued, so our next bill will include a pro-rated credit. I'd like to see the Nest reduce our gas bill below $80 for the next few months, but that's just guesswork and wishful thinking for now.

I had to fill up my gas tank like four times this month on account of making multiple trips to NJ for the holidays. This is much more than I like spending on gas. Fortunately the holidays are over and I'm going to keep out-of-state car trips to a minimum in Q1 2012.

Oh shopping. This is a combination of Christmas gifts, discounted gift cards, and trips to the store for other holiday shopping. I'm not proud of this line item. It's what got me serious about coming up with a frugality muscle exercise routine for January — the topic of tomorrow's post.

Gym membership was a huge mistake, and the topic of a future post. In December we made our final monthly payment, so this is off our budget going forward.

Last is entertainment. I used to play World of Warcraft all the time, and I decided it's a good medium-term habit in terms of cost efficiency, so I signed up for 6 months. I'll reevaluate later to see if it's an expense I want to cut. Movies were three redbox rentals, Netflix streaming subscription, and a trip to the movie theater — only $11 since I had a coupon for a free ticket.


This was not a good month for Mustachianism. I feel like I took my eye off the ball. I mean, the numbers speak for themselves. I spent entirely too much this month. There's reason to believe a lot of the spending was transient, but that's not an excuse. Here is a small consolation: I still spent below my May-October average.

All I can do is try to improve next month. I'm glad to take the time to reflect, and to get myself back on course.

Happy new year everyone.


  1. have always felt that December is the most challenging month to stay smart financially. The rest of the year I seem to be my "frugal zone", but as soon as I step out of it, the month turns into a big free for all.
    I'm on a similar journey as you and enjoy reading your progress.
    You probably did better than if you hadn't started developing your frugality muscle.
    I too, play WoW. For me, the dollar per hour expense of the entertainment it provides is well worth it. (Yes I still have RL friends I spend time with, and yes, I can walk away from playing for weeks at a time so I'm pretty sure I'm not addicted).

    Great job so far!! Hope you keep it up!!

    January 4, 2012 9:47 AM

  2. Hiya Canadian Gwen,

    I feel the same way re: December but I'm afraid that's a cop-out for the true Mustachian. The past few weeks my main interest has been learning about investing; WoW hasn't been on my radar much. I guess that's a good thing?

    Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad to know there are others out there like me, working toward the same lofty-yet-attainable goals. It's cool hearing from you :)

  3. dude, your monthly expenses were exactly half of my entirely YEARLY expenditures!

    The good thing is you obviously have a really high income, so when you trim the fat you can have a ton of money build up fast.

    1. Madness! I commend you for your insanely low expenses. Do you have a paid-off house? I'm on track to do much better this month. Thanks for stopping by!