Our biggest discretionary spending is always our food budget.
Last year, our family of three spent $36,667.10, plus our mortgage, daycare, and insurance costs. While this averages out to just over $3,000 a month, this number fluctuates quite a bit depending on what expenses crop up. Namely, home maintenance and vet bills, and our older dog has had some serious health issues over the last two years.
Our biggest discretionary spending is always our food budget, and while it is two-thirds less than it used to be, we still spend a healthy amount on groceries and eating out (usually while on vacation). Second and third are pet expenses and vacations. We go out of town on weekend adventures often, usually camping or staying in Airbnbs, and then use travel rewards to reduce the cost when we do bigger trips like Hawaii and a road trip up the East Coast.
We have a roommate and bought our home in the bottom of the real-estate market, so our housing costs are quite low for a very expensive area. We charge him well under the going rate for rent, but he watches our animals when we go out of town, so it works out well for all of us. Our families watch our son three days a week, so our childcare costs are quite reasonable for our area, but again, still really expensive compared to most parts of the county.
We don't have car payments or any debts other than our mortgage, so our fixed costs are quite low for the Seattle area. This gives us more flexibility to spend on the discretionary items that are important to us while still maintaining a high (40-50%) savings rate.
My husband and I make median incomes for our area, which equates to the low six figures. Salaries are higher here, but so are the rest of our expenses, from childcare to housing to groceries. Otherwise, we make a very small amount of passive income from investments.
We spent $810 this week, plus just over $100 in the "giving" category, which I track separately.
We spent a total of $810.01 this week. I track giving separately from the rest of our spending, which this week was $50 to an ALS charity after finding out that an old teammate's father was diagnosed with the disease, and $72.53 to buying dinner for out-of-state friends who just had their baby. While this isn't "charity," per se, I separate out all of our giving and track it to encourage us to be more generous with our incomes.
On Sunday, my husband and I got out for a date.
To start out the day, the three of us headed over for breakfast with my family. My grandmother has lived with my parents since I was a baby, and my youngest brother was home from college on summer break. They live less than a half-hour drive away, so we visit them often.
After spending some time hanging outside in their yard enjoying the sunshine, my mother encouraged my husband and I to go for a mini date day. We took her up on the suggestion and made the half-hour walk to downtown, where we went to lunch at one of our favorite local restaurants. My husband had been hanging on to a gift card he'd gotten as a present, so we ended up not spending any money on the meal (including a good tip for our server).
After that, we went for a walk around the town for a bit and eventually ended up at a brewery down near the water. We don't often get time without kids around, so we take advantage of the adult time to go to 21+ spots. We grabbed a couple of beers and snacked on some of the free popcorn before walking back to my parents' house.
We drove home, worked in the garden a bit, and caught up on some chores. The weather is usually pretty great in August, so laundry gets hung up on the line on our back deck. I've had a clothes buying ban for myself for the last two and a half years (with a few hand me downs from friends), so line drying helps my clothes last longer. Dinner was a low-key meal of leftovers.
The weather was exceptionally nice on Monday, so we had a picnic dinner at the park .
Monday morning, I dropped my son off at preschool before heading into work. I keep a French press at work and make my coffee once I get there. Lunch was a simple meal of yogurt, granola, and fresh blueberries I picked from my garden.
Once my work day was over around 2 p.m., I picked up my son and we bought a mouse for our corn snake before heading home for the day. My husband got home a few hours later, and then we decided to take advantage of the beautiful 80-degree weather and head down to the beach park near our home.
We used to pick up takeout a couple times a week just because we felt too busy or tired to want to cook every night. This time, we intentionally made the decision to go to the Mongolian grill restaurant down the street from the park and walk the takeout to a picnic bench and enjoy the nice weather. Halfway through the month, this was our first dinner not at home. Now that we make it a less frequent occurrence, the meal feels special and not just something that happens during the week.
After eating, we walked around the boardwalk over the water and our son played in the water before we headed back home for the evening. My husband remarked that it felt like an extension of the weekend, which is an excellent way to start out the work week.
We had a slow start to Tuesday with coffee and donuts.
Tuesday morning my son and I rode in with my husband early, and he dropped us off at the coffee shop near his preschool. He and I then grabbed a donut, a coffee for me, and a hot chocolate for him and enjoyed a slow morning together. The coffee shop has a good stack of children's books, so we read them together before I sent him off to preschool for the day.
Once I dropped him at preschool, I walked the three miles to my work, half of it along a lovely gravel trail. Along the way, I snapped a few "Now Hiring" signs that I walked by for the Jobspotter app, earning myself $3.25 in Amazon credit. At my job that day, I had a working lunch, so I got a meal out of the meeting.
That evening, I made a casserole from potatoes, garlic, and carrots we had picked from the garden earlier in the week, along with some cheese and sausage from Costco. My son and his neighbor friends had accidentally picked way too many carrots, so this was a good way to use a lot of them up.
On Wednesday, we had dinner with my family.
To start out my day, I went for a 40-minute run with a friend after my mom picked up my son. My mother and grandmother watch him on Wednesdays, so he spends those days at their house. Since I have to pick him up in the afternoon and traffic tends to get pretty bad, we usually stay for dinner (my husband gets an evening to himself because traffic is terrible by the time he's off work and it's not worth the extra drive time).
I also got a tip from a friend that there was a particular deal that day for plane tickets to Iceland, where we are going for our 10-year anniversary. I hopped online and purchased our four plane tickets — for the three of us, and one for my husband's godfather who is coming along as babysitter. Thanks to the lower price and some credit-card travel rewards, we spent just $633.42 on the four plane tickets.
Thursday was a no-spend day and we had a low-key dinner with the neighbors — a regular occurrence.
There were leftovers from another work lunch in the office, so I ate that for lunch, as much as I would have rather grabbed something else to eat. The meal was free, and I helped to make sure that the leftover food didn't go to waste. For me, the sustainability part of it is even more important than the money savings.
After work, I checked in with my neighbors because we planned to have dinner together that night. We split the cost of a quarter of a cow with them from a local farm, and we decided to make meatloaf that night. We both grow potatoes, so we made mashed potatoes to go with it, rounded out with canned corn from Costco.
Last minute, we called out to a neighbor when she got home, and she joined us for the meal as well, bringing a fresh cucumber salad she made from cucumbers she had been given by yet another neighbor. We live in a wonderful, close-knit neighborhood, and these weeknight meals are a regular occurrence.
I had takeout for lunch on Friday and we got ready for a fishing trip.
Friday probably should have been a no-spend day for me, since the only spending I did was to pick up tofu spring rolls for lunch.
Before I buckled down on our spending, I would buy lunch at work four or five days a week. To break that habit, I then went six months where I packed my lunch every day. Now, to strike a more reasonable balance, I allow myself one lunch out a week, and Friday was that day. I walk to pick it up, so I enjoyed a few minutes out in the sunshine as well.
We had plans to go fishing with my dad Saturday morning, so we decided to go and stay at my parents' house that night so we could sleep in a little more before leaving on the boat at 7 a.m.
We don't usually spend quite so much time with my family, but I am definitely not disappointed when we do. My husband had bought some homemade tamales the previous week from a coworker's daughter, so we had them for dinner.
On Saturday we enjoyed salmon fishing and a neighborhood cook out.
First thing Saturday morning, we headed out to the marina and took off fishing in my dad's boat. A few hours later, we limited out with 14 salmon. My dad and his friends who went with us had been out the previous weeks during King salmon season and had plenty, so they urged us to take all of the fish.
We hadn't expected to take so many home, so we quickly put out an invitation to our friends and neighbors for a cook out that evening. My husband ran out to grab some teriyaki sauce, breadcrumbs, and cedar planks to prep the salmon dinner. He drove to the store instead of walking because my car was low on gas. He knows I hate filling up my gas tank, so he did it for me. It might be a little thing, but it's one I really appreciate.
We also borrowed some fish bone tweezers from my parents when we took the salmon home and they worked really well, so we bought some off Amazon for the future (and some more pill pockets for the medications we give our dog twice a day since we were running low).
We ended up with 20 people eating out on our driveway at a couple of folding tables after my husband and a neighbor barbecued and smoked the salmon four different ways. At the end of the evening, we still had some left, so each group left with a fillet (plus some heads of garlic out of my garden that I had just harvested, because I grew so much).
Weeks that end with neighbors, good conversation, and locally caught and harvested food are my very favorite. And we are so lucky that our life so often looks like that.