A Software Engineer's Path to Financial Independence and Early Retirement (FIRE)

Expense reports

January 2020 Expense Report

January Expense Report

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My blog is now 1 month old, which means that it’s time for my first expense report! The January 2020 Expense Report took me some more time than expected (very soon it’ll be time for the February 2020 Expense Report), because I was trying to find out the best way to organize this information. I am still not 100% satisfied with my structure, but hopefully it’ll improve with the future reports.


January 2020 Expenses
  1. Lower expenses than last year: Our total expenses were around $7,600, which is almost $1,500 less than our expenses one year (i.e. for January 2019). Let’s see if this trend continues for the rest of the year 🙂
  2. We have high fixed costs (80% of our expenses) that cannot be reduced easily:
    • Mortgage ($2,658.05) and Daycare ($1,660) account for 57% of our expenses. Unfortunately these 2 categories cannot be optimized more 🙁
    • Food, including groceries ($1,264.52) and restaurants ($392.76) is another 22% of our expenses. We have made the decision to eat healthy organic food, so this explains the high cost. However, this is a category that needs more monitoring.
    • Utilities ($237.36) and cell phone ($72 for 2 lines) add another 3.5%
  3. Eye care expenses (5% of total) were a mix
    • We saved money on glasses, because we bought them from Zenni Optical. Two pairs of glasses cost us less than $200, most of which was covered by insurance. The previous years we would pay at least $600 for one pair
    • We had additional expenses on the eye exam, because my optician was out-of-network, so my insurance did not cover the full cost. I need to find a different optician next year.
  4. Our personal expenses were 2% (< $180) of the total expenses: This includes all entertainment, education, personal care, coffee and children’s activities

Detailed breakdown

Mortgage$2,658This is a 15-year mortgage @3%
Daycare$1,660We love our daycare 🙂
Groceries$1,26540% from Costco, 40% Whole Foods, 20% from Aldi
Restaurants$393We went out 5 times this month
Eye care$384Next year I will find a new in-network optician and avoid paying out-of-pocket for the eye exam. This will reduce the expense by 50%.

Zenni Optical is great for glasses (2 pairs cost less than $200, most of which is covered by insurance)
Shopping$292We shopped almost exclusively from Amazon
Utilities$237Includes electric bill, internet, alarm
Healthcare$1822 visits for acupuncture
Gas$143We filled the tank 3 times, mostly from Costco
Entertainment$83Movies, touristic attractions
Cell phone$732 lines, unlimited plans
Education$39Attended an one-off seminar
Personal care$29Haircuts
Coffee$15Quite low. Let’s see if we’ll have one month this years, where this will go down to $0 (I doubt it 🙂 )
Children’s activities$12This was lower this month, because some of my son’s classes were cancelled

How to easily track your monthly expenses

This is the methodology that I use to monitor my monthly expenses. You can also do the same:

  1. Create a free online account at Personal Capital
  2. Link your accounts, so that you can track them in the Personal Capital dashboard
    • Bank accounts
    • Retirement accounts (401k, IRA, etc)
    • Credit cards
    • Investment accounts
  3. At the end of each month, view the list of your Expenses (also found if you go to Banking -> Cash Flow -> Expense)
    • Go through each line one by one
    • Check if the “Category” of the expense is correct. If not, then move it to the correct category. You can also create your own categories
    • When you are done, you can view the graphs with the aggregate data and compare your expenses with last month

We’d love to hear from you!

Any Suggestions - Write to Us

We’d be really happy to read your comments about thoughts or tips to reduce our monthly expenses 🙂

About Me

I am an engineer with 15+ years in the tech industry, including roles at Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. I've been a Software Engineer, Product Manager, and Technical Program Manager. I also have an MBA from Kellogg School of Management with Majors in Finance and Marketing.

What drives me? A passion for empowering engineers to achieve Financial Independence and Retire Early (FIRE). I reached FIRE, when I turned 40 years old. Whether it's through personal finance strategies or career insights, I'm here to guide you on this path. Have questions or need advice? Feel free to reach out!

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