Last year, I presented an outline of some of our annual recurring expenses, and looked how we did for the previous year. I thought that was a cool thing so here's our 2010 numbers compared to prior years.
There are a grouping of expenses that occur on a regular basis. I have attempted to group these together and ‘level' the cost of these expenses, similar to how many utility companies will try to get you on a single payment for the year. In my case though, I do this for about a dozen or so different things, and then make a single contribution towards this ‘leveled fund' that covers the expenses.
Here are the expenses (rounded to the nearest dollar):
Netflix (Video Rentals)
We stayed on the lowest tier plan which has worked out well for us. In fact, with all the busy times we have, plus with what we find on TV, we've discussed the possibility of dropping this altogether for now.
Cable TV and Internet
We kept everything the same. The higher costs were due to the typical rate increases that cable companies throw your way.
We kept clipping coupons and finding deals. The price of items went up this past year, plus Little Boy Beagle is a full time eater, so this wasn't too bad.
Costco (Household and Food)
We buy most of our cleaning supplies, and some food staples through Costco. I expect this number will continue to climb as we buy more and more baby stuff through there, as they have pretty good deals on select items. A good chunk of the expenses earlier in the year were for baby formula, which is expensive anywhere but a pretty good deal if your baby is cool with the Kirkland brand.
We had raised our deductible and dropped rental car coverage in mid-2009. Having the cost benefits associated with those last an entire year allowed us to actually drop our expense levels here. Yay!
Secretary of State + Roadside Assistance
This covers license registrations as well as our dues for AAA Roadside Assistance. Our costs went up this year as it was the first year I had to pay the full registration fee on a more expensive vehicle we had bought in late 2009. Unless they raise registration fees as a road funding option (something they have discussed), this should hopefully decrease, since our cars will get older and be worth less.
Gas prices went back up and we drove more. We took a few camping trips, driving based vacations, and visits to family that took a lot of gas. We also realized that in 2009 my wife drove a lot less in the summer because of just having had the baby.
Electric (Lighting, A/C, Power)
Last summer was warmer than normal so we ran the A/C more.
Natural Gas (Dryer, Water Heater, Furnace, Appliance Service Plan)
Last winter was relatively mild for a good portion, so even though rates went up slightly, we were able to temper our usage. This winter has been pretty cold so I'm expecting a jump this year.
Rates have been going up by double digits, so even though our costs are going up, our usage is actually declining. This fall, I invested in a second meter which will track our lawn watering usage and not charge us for the sewage portion (about 45% of the bill), so hopefully costs will stay the same or even go down despite a 14% rate increase that went into effect around this time.
Garbage and Recycling Collection
Our cities single hauler contract was in effect for the entire year, so we saw full benefit of the lower rates that the city got for residents. In addition, the level of our recycling gives us coupons that we've used to save for eating, buying household items, and lowering our grocery bill.
Cell Phone Service
We got smart phones and upgraded our plans. This figure includes not only the increase in cost per month but it also includes the cost we paid for the phones as well as a Square Trade warranty to cover each phone (over 60% cheaper than what the phone company wants you to pay)
I've always heard that older cats are expensive and this is true! Our cats 14 and 10, and both are now on special food diets and medicine to treat their particular ailments (the 14 year old has diminished kidney function and the 10 year old has chronic constipation), so the food and meds are more expensive. In addition, we needed some additional trips to the vet for the older one to regulate the right dosage of the medicine she went on to treat her kidney issues.
There are a few other categories that I track spending for, but for various reasons, I will just list them. In some cases, we haven't included these as spending categories for long enough to do a comparison, and in other cases I don't feel comfortable posting the details. I think that this provided a pretty good window into our spending in key categories.
Though we track spending on a month-to-month basis, I am finding that looking at it from a bigger time frame allows you to really see spending habits over time, and pinpoint where opportunities for significant savings might come into play.