Spending Trends 2017
We use Mint to track our spending. We’ve been doing so since 2008 and so after 9 years, we’ve amassed a trove of data (Admittedly, so has Mint) that helps us analyze where and how often we spend our money. I usually tweet out certain tidbits but I thought I could share them on here for better perusal and sharing. Of course, I will not share exact dollar amounts we spent but only overall trends and at the most name merchants that we frequented more often than others.
Overall, we ended up spending quite a bit more compared to 2016. We frequented 332 distinct merchants in 2017 1.
Big Increase Categories
But first, paying to replace the aging roof out of our own pocket 2 accounted for nearly half of that increase. Also, we did start remodeling our bathroom so the ‘Home Improvement’ category was much to blame. But it’s an investment in your home so money well spent. Second, we noticed we spent more on eating out especially at fine dining places. Here are the top ten places we ate out at ordered by the amount we spent:
The top two are restaurants from Las Vegas where we spent our 10th wedding anniversary and Otoko is the high-end sushi restaurant in Austin where we went my 40th birthday dinner and so is Uchi. Only when you get to the Sichuan River, starts the list of places we went more than once. Interesting mix there - Chinese, Thai, BBQ, Pizza, and Indian. We ate out at 117 distinct locations in 2017. Eating out is something we enjoy especially in Austin that has a lot to offer.
Finally, the third category that contributed to the increase was ‘Travel’. We spent on vacations in Port Aransas & North Padre Island Beach, Yosemite National Park, and Las Vegas. All were experientially wonderful places to spend money on but we may scale back to two. Another minor increase was in the ‘Pets’ category. Not only do we have to spend on our travel and accommodation during vacations but also for dog sitters who tend to our dogs while we’re gone. That can add up quickly! Plus our poor Lucy was diagnosed with a malignant tumor and had to be operated on.
Big Decrease Categories
The biggest decline - nearly by 50% - came expectedly in the category of ‘Kids’ as we discontinued our son’s after-school care and instead reorganized our work schedules so that least one of us could be at home when the school bus arrives at 3:30pm. It’s a luxury that our workplaces accord us and we consider ourselves immensely lucky that way. Next year, that honor might belong to ‘Auto and Transport’ as I finally paid off my auto loan for the Prius in December. Hallelujah for debt reduction!
Other interesting facts on the ‘Groceries’ spending was that we seemed to have flipped our proclivity from Central Market to HEB (the former is a more upscale version of the latter hence more expensive). We still prefer fresh produce and coffee from Central Market but almost all the other generic groceries can be bought at HEB. However, our total grocery spending was almost the same as last year (difference of $24!) Our ‘meat’ portion of our groceries was nearly 20% of our total groceries which has been consistent across years. Talking about flipping merchants, we also spent more at the Regal Cinemas (now with stadium reclining Laz-Boy-type reserved seating) than at the more hipster and Austin-y Alamo Drafthouse. We invariably ordered something to eat or drink regardless of when we went at the Drafthouse.
We consider television and digital purchases as utilities so I’m glad that Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes rank way lower than our traditional utilities. Google Fiber replaced Time Warner this year for internet connectivity and experience has been largely good. The ‘House to House’ is our lawn service guys.
On the ‘Charity’ front, we increased our spending by nearly 25%. This is more of the reflection of the times we live in given the types of organizations we now donate to (ACLU, Mother Jones, etc.)
That’s about all I can share publicly without discussing actual amounts. We have our spending sliced-n-diced into 16 major categories and more than 50 sub-categories. We also have more than a dozen tags that we use to capture spending like meat as part of grocery shopping, or vacationing, or simply eating out.