How a Physician slashed her spending


We had an 85% savings rate in 2017, which beat our 63% savings rate in 2016! It wasn’t easy. At all.

I know—you’re asking how this was possible and how did we calculate this? And lastly, why would anyone want to save so much money in the first place? (#YOLO crowd, here’s looking at you!) 😉

First, the calculation. For various reasons, I don’t count taxes or donations as “spending.” So I calculate based on whatever money lands in our bank account (plus deposits from our paychecks into retirement accounts) minus whatever is spent.

Second: how’d we get our spending down? In 2016 I had this gut feeling a BIG financial change was coming for our family. To prepare, I started tracking our expenses. Wowser was that a painful eye-opener! My eyes practically bulged out of my sockets when I realized how much money was slipping through our fingers every month.

(Trail running in Iceland. Amazing, but costly. I had to figure out how to travel cheaper! More on that in later blogs.)

I started to read about frugality obsessively. My husband and I had already read Mr. Money Mustache’s blog years earlier—which eventually led to my husband selling his car and biking 25 miles round trip to and from work—including through tropical storms. In the middle of the night.

There was also my husband’s whole ten-foot-alligator-in-the-middle-of-the-night biking incident. Then there were his two near-death experiences when cars almost hit him when we had two kids in diapers (which resulted in two broken arms—each one a few months apart!) I finally declared enough and bought a second vehicle, for fear he’d die the next time a car got too close.

Yeah…not a big fan of Mr. Money Mustache’s bike-to-work advice.

So after I was done cursing Mr. Money Mustache—whose blog made my husband act like he had a brain tumor (his words, not mine)—I turned to the Frugalwoods blog. Towards the end of 2016, and all through 2017, I was able to steadily figure out what we cared to spend money on and what was an acceptable, yet cheaper, alternative. And believe it or not, what we should spend more money on (cue the “hire a house cleaner/buy more prepared food” advice to increase happiness advice).

After cutting our expenses, I realized we’d been on the proverbial hedonistic treadmill Mr. Money Mustache wrote about. I looked elsewhere for more advice and stumbled across Greg Karp’s book Living Rich by Spending Smart. I also studied Frugalwood blog and was able to chop our food bill in half each month. Yeah, I’m a foodie, and I had to figure out how to get that obsession under control.

So there you have it: to slash your spending, you first have to track it. There are many ways to do this: Personal Capital, Mint, YNAB, or you can be a dinosaur like me and use an excel spreadsheet.

And why did we want to save so much money?  What was the huge financial change that happened? That’s the subject of future blogs. Something about YOLO 😉

Do you track your spending? If so—how—and has it changed your spending habits?


14 thoughts on “How a Physician slashed her spending”

  1. I must be a dinosaur. I use Excel and have forever. It’s the most flexible. I found with pre made programs, you have to track it the way they want.

    You can’t maximize your spending if you don’t monitor your spending.
    When we got married we set up our budget to only live on half our income. This was during my internship. It paid off big time to save so much money.

    Looking forward to cruising with you before Fincon.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

    1. Glad I’m not the only one who uses excel. I also find it to be the most versatile out there (though there are great options for people who don’t like excel). We aimed to live off of one income our whole marriage and although it’s not always been the case, in the long run, it’s also paid dividends.
      Can’t wait to meet you! Reading one of your books is on my “to do” list! (I’m sitting next to a stack of 20 books right now that are also on my “to do” list. sigh. When I die, I’ll be surrounded by stacks of books…) 😉

  2. Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar app is free and we like it. I would use a pen and paper, but to get the hubby on board, an app that linked to our computer and his phone was required. We lived well below our means most of our marriage, but giving every single dollar a name really helped him especially with prioritizing for life over stuff. We paid off our car in Jan. and finally started putting a good percentage into retirement to supplement D’s pension plan AND have enough saved for a new roof in April!

  3. I do not pay interest on anything that doesn’t appreciate; Car? Pay cash, buy used, buy in the fall. House? Pick a safe but not snooty neighborhood so your kids have playmates close. I love bicycles but food costs more per mile than gasoline. Hobbies? I paid $140 for 12 arrows 8 years ago and they’re still flying about 5000 times a year. No cable or TV; we have library books and we talk to each other. No tobacco, no drugs, alcohol for religious occasions. Food? Rare is the restaurant that cooks as well as we do. I love to cook, my wife enjoys it and from time to time pitches in in the kitchen. But we’ve taken to skipping supper more often. My wife manages the money. She doesn’t have talent, training, or passion for it, but she does a really great job and now I’m working because I love it.

  4. Great post. When we started tracking our spending, the most shocking number was the category I call “kids’ activities.” I thought childcare was expensive when my kids were little, and couldn’t wait to get them into public school. Now that they are teenagers, though, we spend a shocking amount on all of their activities. I include in this category all of the donations we make to the school fundraisers, as well as what we spend on music lessons, band trips, sports, summer camps, boy scouts, etc. It came to over $25K last year!!! We have a smallish house, rarely eat out, buy clothes second hand (with the notable exception of things like cleats they out grow in a matter of weeks!), frequent the library, have a Tv antenna, no car loans, and run outside instead of having a gym membership. We take moderate vacations, renting airbnbs so we can cook, and have a reasonable savings rate.
    But I just can’t seem to cut the kids’ stuff. I have been anticipating the college costs, but maybe they won’t seem so bad when I’m not paying for all of the other things!

    1. I hear you! I had the same reaction when we started tracking. I read that book about spending smart (look in the educational material section of my blog for the exact book name – I think it’s by Karp?) and started looking for ways to save in the kids category. First, I started asking other moms for where to go for cheaper swim lessons and after reading that book about spending smart, I did their birthday parties differently (I wrote a blog about that, lol). As far as you go, you’re doing things in all the other categories correctly. For cleats I would visit the local thrift store every few weeks: ours has cleats galore. Also, visit the thrift store off season for kids stuff: I visit in the Spring for kids uniforms because there’s a run on them in the late summer around here. Also, consider home exchange (I also wrote a blog on that). It’s saved us a lot with home and car exchanges. Thanks for stopping by!

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