The Big Stuff

I was listening to an episode of, “You Can Afford Anything,” by the amazing Paula Pant. She made the point that was good for me to hear:

Focus on your big four expenses.

  1. Housing
  2. Taxes
  3. Transportation
  4. Food

At the risk of re-hashing content from a previous post, let’s talk about those four things now.


In 2017, we spent $6,247.61 on groceries and household goods. (We also spent $1,833.78 on eating out and bars. But, that’s in the “fun” category and not the food category.)

For the first quarter of 2018, we’ve only spent $664.76 on groceries and household goods. If we multiply that by 4, that’s only $2,659.04. That’s less than half our spending for 2017. That’s pretty fantastic. Let’s see if we can keep that up. I’d be curious to see where we end up for the year. But, I’m confident we’re going to see a massive reduction in spending given the new goal of FI – and my current obsession with spending less on food.

I’ve been reviewing the local weekly ads for grocery stores. There are three stores walking distance from us. And each of them offers several loss leaders every week. If we can stick to mostly buying loss leaders, I’m confident we can keep our grocery budget small.


In 2017 we spent $4,127.47 on automobile expenses. That is not a small amount – our smallest of the big four. In an effort to carpool and simply drive less, this number should be somewhat smaller for 2018 – but I can’t imagine by much. Were we to move to a one-car household, we could better whittle that expense down – by as much as an estimated $700 between auto registration fees and auto insurance alone.


We spent $11,706 on combined state and Federal income for 2017. Taxes are going down in a major way for 2018 – as we’ll be maxing out every single tax-deferred account available:

  • Traditional IRAs
  • Traditional 401(k)s
  • Traditional 401(k) via profit-sharing contribution
  • Health Savings Account

This line item is going to shrink. I’m so excited about that.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do in the way of reducing payroll taxes. Although we contribute to an HSA, it’s not through a section 125 cafeteria plan. That means an extra $500 in taxes for no reason. #Sad.


And onto the big one: housing. This is the biggest opportunity for improvement. We spent 17,314.76 on housing-related expenses in 2017. That comes out to $1,442.89 each month.

I’ve been snooping around Craigslist a bit to see what sort of micro-apartment we can rent that will allow a little poop factory (read: our dog). There certainly is a lot of scammy stuff on Craigslist. (I’ve flagged more spammy posts than I’ve founded low-cost ones.) It will be interesting to see how legitimate some of these apartment-for-rent postings are once we actually start looking at various units.

The Big Four Wrap Up

It looks like the bigger the line item, the bigger potential for improvement; auto expenses may come down slightly for 2018. There should be some moderate savings with food expenses. Taxes will see a big decrease this year. As for housing, this is the wild card. There is a lot of possibility, but I’m still cautiously reigning in my excitement about decreasing this giant line item without better seeing what is out there.