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.
Since I've been trying to level the expenses, it means that I've been tracking them. So, I thought that I would compare these on an annual basis. Some will have three years data, some will have two. That's because I add and subtract different categories as they come up. When I look back at this next year, chances are you'll see some additional categories here.
Here are the expenses (I've rounded to the nearest dollar):
Netflix (Video Rentals)
We've dropped our plan a couple of times over the years to match the decline in our time dedicated to watching movies. I think that this will end up about the same in 2010 and trend up slightly, as we are anticipating bumping the plan back up a bit when they begin streaming movies to the Wii.
Cable TV and Internet
We canceled HBO in mid-2008. That accounted for the slight drop in 2008, and also for the bigger drop in 2009 as the full year of savings was realized. I believe that this cost will rise slightly as cable costs are expected to rise like they usually do.
I'm so proud to report that my wife is great with finding deals and clipping coupons. We actually were able to reduce our amount spent at the grocery store for food
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. Also, as our family grows, it will probably make sense to buy things in bulk that we wouldn't buy there now, so I would foresee this continuing to grow.
We saw a pretty big savings this past year as we made the decision to raise our deductible from $500 to $1,000 in the event of an accident. This would essentially mean that we'd have to go accident free for just under two years to save the difference. We also dropped rental car insurance. Previously, when we were both working, we wanted to make sure that we had this coverage. Now that my wife is staying at home, we feel that we could get by with one car in the event of an accident. I believe that this cost will drop a little in 2010 as we realize the full year savings, and then level off or rise with inflation. Here you can get a auto owners insurance quote.
Secretary of State + Roadside Assistance
This covers license registrations as well as our dues for AAA Roadside Assistance. Hopefully our costs stay about the same, as they did this past year.
This was a big drop for us, and it was for two reasons. First, we drove a lot less. My office, where I spend about 80% of my working days, is only about six miles round trip. My wife stopped working, so although we miss her income, our fill-ups went down a lot when her daily commute went away. I expect this number to increase in 2010 as gas costs are already higher, but hopefully we won't approach our 2008 spending in this category for a long, long time!
Electric (Lighting, A/C, Power)
These costs have gone up quite a bit but they were expected and tied in with A/C costs. First, my wife was home for the full day whereas previously we were able to drop the A/C during the day when both of us worked. Second, we ran the A/C more often in the summer months to keep the temperature regulated with the new baby.
Natural Gas (Dryer, Water Heater, Furnace, Appliance Service Plan)
These costs were relatively stable. I am projecting a slight uptick due to normal rate increases. I am hoping to offset some of this by continuing to look for ways to insulate and seal our home from the outside air. We also purchase our appliance service plan through the gas company, and I think the cost went up $2 per month mid-way through the year.
Our consumption actually went down, but rates generally go up double digits per year where we live. This year will be no exception as they've already announced that rates will go up at least 11.5%, probably more. I am actually hoping, however, to lower this cost in 2010 by investing in a second water meter. This would cost us about $500 – $600 to install, but will then provide us with a lower cost for the water that we use to water the grass. The reason for this is that it would back out the sewage costs for water that goes outside. Based on current rates and how much we use to water the grass in a year, I think that this would pay for itself in 24-36 months, so I'm in the process of getting quotes and preparing for the work in the spring.
Garbage & Recycling Collection
The city we live in went to a single hauler to pick up garbage and recycling. With this, they were able to negotiate a significantly lower rate for residents than any resident had been able to do individually. The costs are guaranteed for the next 18 months or thereabouts, so I believe the costs will be about the same this year (maybe a little bit lower since the new rates didn't kick in until March 1st).
Cell Phone Service
We got some promotional breaks in 2008 when we renewed our plan for two years. Hopefully, when our plan expires this year, we can get some good deals to keep our costs down or even lower them a bit. I'd be happy with spending in the neighborhood of what we spend now.
This is for the food and vet visits for our two cats. I'm projecting this number to increase as both of them get older and will most likely require more medical attention. One of the cats is on a special diet to deal with a medical condition he's had most of his life, so the food costs here are greater than they would be for most cats.
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. In any case, I'll list the categories:
Christmas Gift Fund
Health Care Out-Of-Pocket
Landscaping / Planting Flowers
New Cell Phones
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.