Daily Life | 2021 (another pandemic) spending report

I can’t believe I am doing another annual spending report. I feel like I just did this, but this is just because 2021 just flew by in the blink of an eye.

As always, I pulled these data out of YNAB*  — You Need A Budget, the software I’ve been using for 6+ years (the pie-chart was done in Excel). It’s been helping me to really stay on top of our finances.

Looking at some of the spending reports that some of my blog friends have posted, I realize once again: not one financial situation is the same. Our financial situation is a little unusual as well, and without going into too much detail (I struggle with how ‘transparent’ I should be and how much detail is irrelevant), let’s just say that while we technically are a one-income household, we do have some financial assets outside of my paycheck that factor into our finances and allow us to allocate more money to retirement and investment accounts.

My type-A brain would like things to be a little bit more straightforward (because as it is, to max out my retirement savings at work, I am taking a smaller paycheck and we “dip” into our other assets more than I’d like for day-to-day expenses, but I think it makes fiscal sense to maximize the tax advantages that we get through my work-retirement account.

As a reminder: These are percentages based on money spent, not based on my (take-home) income. Not included are savings, retirement contributions, healthcare premiums, taxes, and everything else that is pre-deducted from my paycheck. 

Home (40% was 45% in 2020) — The spending for our (rental) home includes rent, utilities, household items, and rental insurance. Spending in this category was up, unfortunately, which had to do with a slight rent increase in August. Overall spending: ⬆︎

Groceries (21% was 22%  in 2020) and Dining Out (4% was 5% in 2020) — We had an increase in grocery spending (what with the inflation going on), but saved a few hundred dollars in our takeout category. Food is still a huge chunk of our budget. No surprise there.  Overall spending: ⬆︎

Shopping (9% was 3% in 2020) — we usually spend very little on just random shopping, but this increase in spending last year was due to the upgrading of our phones, which we paid outright. Overall spending: ⬆︎

Fitness (6% was 2% in 2020) — Well, in case you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard; I bit the bullet and bought a Peloton last summer, which fully accounts for the jump in fitness expenses and I am absolutely okay with it. It’s been the best purchase of the year. Overall spending: ⬆︎

Car Maintenance (4% was 3% in 2020) — Expenses in this category are for registration, car insurance, AAA membership, and miscellaneous car expenses (like oil changes, car wash, etc.). Spending was a little up last year due to how the insurance payments came out, but we didn’t have any out-of-the-ordinary expenses. Overall spending: ⬆︎

Cable/Internet (4% was 4% in 2020) — This category stayed pretty much the same in 2021, although we had a bit of an increase when I had to – once again – renegotiate our contract.  Overall spending: ⬆︎

Cellphone (3% was 2% in 2020) – Expenses were about the same. Overall spending: ➡︎

Healthcare (2% was 4% in 2020) —  Our medical spending, out-of-pocket and co-payments, was actually up by $150, mainly due to the fact that we saw the dentist twice last year (which we didn’t in 2020) and I had a little trip to the ER in November. Otherwise, we continued to wear masks, wash our hands, and did not have any unforeseen doctor visits (thankfully!!). Let’s keep it that way. Overall spending:  ⬆︎

Gifts (2% was 3% in 2020) — We spent about $350 less on gifts in 2021. This includes birthday, Christmas, and ‘just because’-gifts throughout the year. Overall spending: ⬇︎

Subscriptions (1% was 2% in 2020) – This includes YNAB, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Identity Guard Fraud protection. I also had to renew my blog domain. We spent about $95 less because I paid for my blog hosting service in advance in 2020. Overall spending: ⬇︎ 

Personal Care (1% was 1% in 2020) – This category includes all toiletry items, makeup, J’s beard trims, and haircuts. We spent about $50 more last year, probably because Jon actually went to the barber twice. I continue to cut my own hair.  Overall spending: ⬆︎

Travel (1% was 3% in 2020) — Well, let’s not talk about travel. While a whole lot of people resumed travel last year, Jon and I still stayed mostly put. I took a couple of day trips to see a friend, and then went down to SoCal for two nights in December, but overall we spent about $1100 less than for 2020 (and most of that spending in 2020 was for travel, we didn’t even take). I do hope to – and would happily – spend more on travel in 2022. Overall spending: ⬇︎

Clothing (<1 was <1% in 2020) – we’re not big spenders when it comes to clothing and even though we spent a little more last year than in 2020, it’s still a very small amount of our overall spending. My most exciting clothing purchase was a pair of Dr. Martens that I had been thinking about for years. Overall spending: ⬆︎

Donations (< 1% was <1% in 2020) – We almost doubled our donations in 2021, although it doesn’t really reflect in our spending pie. Overall spending: ⬆︎  

Transportation (<1% was 1% in 2020) – We spent about $100 more on gas last year than in 2020, but still moved our car very little. Overall spending: ⬆︎

Overall our regular spending in 2021 stayed about the same, even though the spending went up a little in most of the categories. Since the pie chart only represents percentages of overall spending, this can be a little misleading sometimes.
We had a few fluctuations here and there, but the two big-ticket items that made our 2021 more “expensive” were our iPhone upgrades (overdue) and the Peloton, and those were worthwhile purchases IMHO. We also continued to prioritize retirement savings/investments as part of our budget, and as you can see, a larger chunk of our money still goes to our home (not surprising in CA) and food. I continue to work on meal planning and shopping smart, but I don’t know how much more I can reign that in. 

Did you see some of the same trends in your spending in 2021? What was a spending category that surprised you? 

* This is not a sponsored post. I have not been compensated by YNAB for mentioning their product. I just share it for transparency’s sake. However, the post does contain an affiliate link. If you feel like you need a budget software in your life, download the fully-functioning trial version and give it a shot! If you like it, you can use this link to activate the software and we’ll both get a month free!

  1. I haven’t been keeping track for years like you have, but I definitely do have some trends. I spend far more on gifts and greeting cards than I thought and I would actually feel pretty good about our finances overall if we didn’t have pets. Ha! The “pets” category in our household is obscene.

    I would also be pretty happy if the “travel” category increased this year. Fingers crossed!

  2. This is so fascinating. We used to track our spending religiously and then the app we used went defunct??? (something like that; my husband was the one who did all the tracking) and we haven’t found something else. It’s great to see how many categories stayed the same, year over year.

  3. I love seeing what people spend money on and wish more people talked about budgeting! One of my favorite topics :) My spending was all over the place this year since we sold our house and moved states..I didn’t even try to track things because it was getting too stressful so I’ll be starting new in 2022!

  4. I haven’t been able to do year-over-year comparisons yet because Phil added his accounts to mint mid-year in 2020. So next year I can do year-over-year comparisons finally! Daycare spending went way up since Will started daycare, but that’s just the reality of life with 2 FT working parents and they earn their pay AND MORE! We didn’t spend any money on travel in 2020 but did at the end of 2021 when I paid for our plane tickets and rental car for our Feb 2022 AZ trip – which hopefully will happen if we can all stay healthy!

    But overall, our spending was pretty stable year-over-year, I think with the exception of the down payment for converting our fireplace to gas, buying patio furniture, and buying Paul’s big boy bed and Will’s crib. I’m content with how we spent our money overall. But it’s valuable to do a deep dive into it annually, in addition to monitoring it on mint which admittedly I did not do in 2021 like I did in years past… but Phil keeps an eye on it and I plan to look at it more in 2022. Last year was a weird year with me being on mat leave for the first 5 months and then when I went back to work, I wasn’t in the habit of checking mint regularly since I fell off that habit during mat leave! So it was more work to put the 2021 spending summary together as some things were miscategorized!

  5. I’m surprised your housing isn’t an even bigger part of your budget- from what I understand, it’s SUPER expensive in CA. Your two big purchases of 2021- the phones and the Peloton- were well worth it, I’m sure! I hope you get to increase that travel category this year… fingers crossed.

  6. I am always impressed with your spending reports and how different your spending habits are to mine! (So, like, you don’t spend hundreds of dollars on massages every month?! Haha.) Ever since I started closely tracking my budget, I’ve definitely been able to assess my spending habits, find patterns, and learn what my problem areas are.

  7. I haven’t kept track on our spending for years but definitely say that our order in and take-out category is of the charts. We are just so lazy when it comes to cooking. I would love to cook more but I refuse tomato two different dishes.

  8. You know that I love seeing how other people spend their money, because you’re right – we all adjust our spending in very different ways. I, too, spend a boatload of money on food. But as I’ve said before, I don’t eat out much at all. As in, maybe once a quarter? And then it’s takeout. And right now… I honestly can’t remember the last time I got takeout.

    Your peloton was the best investment ever for you.

    Also, thanks for reminding me of CA’s exorbitant housing costs. I keep thinking moving to the West coast is going to be in the cards for me and I’m just not sure I could make it work financially. Sigh. Tenure, first. Then, location decisions. :)

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