October has come and gone and we’ve only got two months of our challenge left! This month, we’ll look at our October spending and “new” purchases, as well as take a deep dive at the cost of me attending FinCon, the personal finance conference I spent 5 days at this month.

Spending Overview

We track our spending using a little tool I made called Thrifty. It’s in development right now, so I’m providing it for free. It’s pretty awesome and has helped us get a handle on our finances over the last 2 years. Check it out!

Here’s our spending summary from Thrifty for October 2017:

Overall spending $3768.20

I’m really proud of how we did this month - this was our lowest spending month since January and our fourth lowest in the last 2 years of tracking. Let’s dig into the details:

Category Amount Notes
Charity $50.00 We continued our regular contribution to The Hope Effect, one of our favorite charities. We missed writing out a check for our church this month, so we’ll give double in November.
Childcare $30.00 Outside of date night, we needed a sitter once this month - to watch our kids while we were at bible study
Clothing/Shoes $378.62 The girls have outgrown their old winter pajamas and staying toasty at night is a priority, so each got a new set. In addition, Jaime got two new pairs of tennis shoes and a pair of socks. Fun fact: if you have knee problems, you’re supposed to own two pairs of shoes and alternate which days you wear them. Finally, I made two epic trips to Old Navy in search of new leggings, which we talked about in Episode Four of Our Thrifty Life.
Date Night $56.89 We only had one date night this month (we normally plan two). We made a simple trip to the local pizza place for drinks and an appetizer (ok…two appetizers), keeping the cost down.
Eating Out $44.21 We use this for treats and convenience dinners. We’re improving as the months go on. We had 5 trips for treats to the gas station, one convenience dinner of take-and-bake from Papa Murphy’s and a bribe reward for the girls for being so well behaved during our trip to Old Navy and other errands.
Education $7.99 Our school held a fall festival as a fundraiser, so we let the kids buy some tickets to play games and get treats. In addition, we needed a new folder for one of our girls; it’s amazing how quickly paper folders fall apart in a kindergartener’s backpack :)
Entertainment $109.59 We bought each of our kids a new book at the school book fair this month. In addition, we got one movie from Redbox and bought 4 new hardcover books for Jaime to read while I was away at FinCon. We’ll donate these to the library once she’s done with them.
Fitness $35.84 We bought a new stability ball and a foam roller for Jaime to help with her sciatic nerve pain.
Gifts & Celebrations $13.67 We purchased candy for Halloween and tea lights for our jack-o-lanterns. In addition, we got a card for Jaime’s grandmother.
Groceries $719.01 I couldn’t be more excited about this. This was our lowest cost month for groceries in nearly 2 years (other than our road trip months)! We’re attributing our success here to using up what we had in our pantry, continuing with our meal plans, and with Chris shopping at a different store while Jaime’s been unable to move around with her nerve pain. We’re looking at trying out Aldi once Jaime starts feeling better to see if we can bring this down even more.
Healthcare $874.51 Health insurance, three regular office visits, and 5 chiropractic visits for Jaime. It’s an expensive month, but spending on our health is worth it!
Hobbies -$397.27 Unfortunately, the Spanish classes our kids were going to attend were canceled due to low attendance. That said, the refund of $450 is definitely helping keep this month’s costs down :) We purchased markers, a coloring book, and three activity books (one for each kid).
Home Updates $0.00 The rental life is treating us well here :)
Household Care $272.37 Deodorant, hair gel, furnace filter, water softener salt, toilet paper, overnight pull-ups, shampoo, conditioner, band-aids, floss, toothpaste, paper plates, hydrogen peroxide, Ziploc bags, scotch tape, Aleve, and new pillows. The new pillows were a suggestion from Jaime’s chiropractor to help ensure our necks are better aligned as we sleep. In addition, we are back into yard maintenance with the land we bought, so I got a used reel mower (the push kind that doesn’t use gas or electricity) off of Craigslist - I definitely got a workout in, but I’m glad we’re trying it out!
Kids’ Jobs $5.80 A new category! This month, I’m trying something new to help teach the kids about money and responsibility. Each of our kids has unpaid chores they are expected to do, but I’m giving them the option of an ‘extra’ chore (paid) that they can do when the opportunity arises. This may be a post or a video topic when we see how it is working :)
Pizza & Movie Night $37.36 Nice! We’ve dropped this down a ton by changing our habit - buying frozen pizzas instead of ordering out.
Services $27.12 Life insurance and a much-needed haircut for Chris.
Shelter $975.00 Rent
Thrifty $146.62 Hosting fees and source code storage for Thrifty this month. In addition, I went to FinCon and spent on groceries, beer, eating out, beer, transportation, and beer (yes, there was a small amount of drinking). You can see the full cost of going to the conference, at the end of this article.
Transportation $84.62 We were able to make it through the whole month on less than two tanks of gas - I’m optimistic that this number will continue to drop as our walking and biking habits keep us out of our car.
Travel $0.00 The only travel we had this month was for FinCon, which is a business expense so you can find it in the ‘Thrifty’ section
Utilities $293.56 Internet, water and sewer, gas and electric. We still had a gas and electric credit, so our cost was low. Next month will be our first month in the apartment with our normal budget billing for gas and electric.
Total $3768.20  

Did We Buy Anything New?

When we kicked off the year, we defined our boundaries:

Used, refurbished, reclaimed, are all fair game, but “new” is to be avoided wherever possible.

Food and household consumable items (baking soda & vinegar for cleaning, soap, art supplies, etc.) are allowed new for obvious reasons.

Other than this, we only have a short list of exceptions we allow:

  • Underwear
  • Socks and shoes
  • Photo prints (school pictures and for our road trip map)
  • Stainless steel baking sheet (though we’ll look for used options if we can find them)
  • Car maintenance parts (we know we need new tires next year)
  • Home remodeling

All I can say is that this challenge is hard :)

We had a great month on total spending amount, but a rough month when it came to buying new items. Here’s what we bought new (that wasn’t on the exception list):

  • 4 pairs of leggings (AKA really tight pants) - we tried shopping through online thrift stores for a few weeks, but none of the pairs shipped to our house worked, so we caved, went to old navy and got 4 pairs for $5 each
  • 7 new books - one for each kid (as a part of a school fundraiser) and 4 for Jaime to keep busy while I was off at FinCon. It was a hard lesson in the cost of books, as the 4 for Jaime were hardcover and the total was roughly $100. YOUCH! One of them couldn’t be found at the library but the others would have been fair game with some waiting.
  • Stability ball, foam roller, and two bed pillows - if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that spending money on your health is worth it. These purchases were all in direct response to Jaime’s sciatic nerve issues this month and we didn’t have the luxury of finding used options - these were all bought with a fair amount of urgency.

So, with a total of 15 new items this month, we had our “worst” month yet this year. That said, we still are a bit better than last year, when we purchased 16.

Through ten months of the year, we’ve purchased fifty things new that weren’t on the exception list:

  • In month one, we purchased replacement carbon monoxide detectors
  • In month four, we purchased a replacement power cord for my wife’s laptop and a costume for one of our kids as a birthday present
  • In month five, we purchased stainless steel straws and a dress/cover-up
  • In month six, we purchased a stuffed animal, recycled plastic food storage containers, and car games for our road trip
  • In month seven, we purchased four new dresses, four accessories, a pair of sunglasses, shorts, a shirt, replacement sand toys for our beach time on our road trip, and replacement ice packs.
  • In month eight, we purchased four new outfits and three toys
  • In month nine, we purchased four card games, one puzzle, one car sticker, and three reusable snack bags
  • In month ten, we purchased 4 pairs of pants, 7 books, a stability ball, a foam roller, and two bed pillows.

We’re not hitting our goal of zero, but we’ve purchased less than half of the new items we did last year: from January through October of last year, we had purchased 121 items!

FinCon Spending Breakdown

One of the big events for me this month was my trip to FinCon - the personal finance conference for money nerds like me :)

I got to meet some incredible people, from the seasoned vets I’ve looked up to for years (a few: Mad FIentist, Cait Flanders, and J. Money) to brand new bloggers just getting their start.

Between these ends of the spectrum were countless (seriously, there’s no way I could try to list them and get everyone) friends - old and new - that truly created the experience.

But for now, let’s talk about the money side of the conference. I thought it might be nice to see what attending a 5-day conference looks like and what I did to try to keep the costs to a more reasonable level.

My high-level strategy was to eliminate unnecessary costs (checked bag fees) and minimize the necessary ones (food, transportation, etc).

Here are the details (note: some of this spending was from earlier in the year so won’t reconcile with the total above).

Category Amount Notes
FinCon $289.00 I purchased the ticket in April when there were still early bird specials going on. I went with the basic pass, choosing to focus on networking on the floor rather than the special pro networking events.
Airfare $377.00 I booked in April (6 months before the conference). I had one layover on the way there and a direct flight home. I packed light (one backpack) to avoid baggage fees.
Airbnb $402.00 Originally, I was thinking of splitting a hotel room at the conference, but found an Airbnb that afforded me a kitchen and coffee maker so I could minimize eating out and buying coffee. I got a great place near the farmer’s market - about a 15-minute walk from the conference - and my host was awesome.
Lyft $42.71 Because Jaime wasn’t able to drive (with her sciatic nerve pain), I ended up taking Lyft to and from the airport in Madison
DART $5.00 In Dallas, I took the light rail from DFW to a stop next to the hotel. On the way home I did the same in reverse. This was a whole lot cheaper than taking a cab!
Groceries $7.00 My Airbnb host was kind enough to buy a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a bunch of bananas for me so I could make lunches (and dinner for Saturday) for myself and keep my cost down
Eating out (Wed.) $14.30 I chose to skip beer the first night so I could justify the cost of the entree. I was pretty lightheaded from low blood sugar at this point, so the calories were appreciated!
Eating out (Fri.) $25.00 I had a peanut butter sandwich before we went out so I could get an appetizer instead of an entree. That said, my two beers were expensive (but worth it)
Afternoon drink $8.50 Beer with a tip at the hotel bar one afternoon as we socialized
Closing party drink $9.00 Beer at the party was expensive!
Total $1179.51  

For the networking, mentoring (I had an amazing one-on-one session with Jessica Moorhouse, socializing, and fun from the trip, I’d say it was worth way more than $1180!

I came away from the conference with a much more solid sense of what I hope to accomplish with Keep Thrifty and you’ll see some exciting things coming up over the next few months. Stay tuned!

Check Out All the Updates

We’ve reached the end of our Nothing New Year Challenge. It’s been a wild ride and our life has drastically changed this year. Be sure to check out our Nothing New Year Wrap Up to see how we did.

Otherwise, if you want to read through the month-by-month updates, continue on to our Nothing New Year Month Eleven Update.

How did your spending this month go? Have you ever attended a professional conference? How did you manage the costs? If you were at FinCon, how did you keep the expense down?