So far, it’s looking like we live the high life: lots of savings, building credit nicely, planning for the future, and even a pretty little motor vehicle. Of course, you might also think we’re homeless and starving because I haven’t gone into all of our other monthly expenses. Fret not–we do have a roof over our head and food in our bellies, but those things don’t come for free … unless you live in your office and eat nothing but donuts, but I try to limit myself to doing that just twice a week. Anyway, here’s a quick look at the red parts of our checkbook:
- Rent. Living in Montgomery County, Maryland is not cheap, but it’s easily one of the best all-around counties in America. Great education system, solid public transportation, and more entertainment avenues than one could experience in a lifetime. We’ll be waiting a few years to look into home-buying, so for now we rent a two-bedroom apartment with about 1000 square feet of space, nine foot ceilings, tons of amenities, and one of those gas fireplaces that I can’t figure out how to work. The management here is highly competent and dependable; all I have to do is think about a problem and I come home that day to see it fixed. Our monthly rent is $1495 which is actually a pretty decent price compared to some of the other apartments in the area.
- Utilities. We’re good on conserving water and electricity, so our bills here are probably a lot less than our neighbors. We take relatively quick showers, turn the water off while brushing our teeth, keep the heat around 67 during the winter and the A/C around 77 in the summer, and perform all sorts of other little energy-saving tricks that would put a smile on Captain Planet’s face. Our water bill’s around $10 a month, and gas and electricity total $60-70 in spring and fall but usually never more than $130 in summer and winter. Our home and cell phone and DSL internet run another $80 a month.
- Transportation. Back when we were living in Baltimore and I was commuting to Rockville on a daily basis, I went through a tank of premium gas every six days even with the 35 MPG the MINI provides. During the peak of gas prices this year, that amounted to about $160 of petrol a month. (I like saying “petrol.” It’s so British, like my car. Petrol petrol petrol.) Since we moved to Rockville, our gas usage has dropped to about $30 a month, and most of that is used in trips to see relatives on the other side of the state. The MINI is still under warranty for a couple of years, so gas is its only real expense for now. Of course, it’s depreciating in value as I type, and it’ll eventually need repairs after the warranty runs out, but that’ll be long after the monthly car payments come to an end.
- Food, or as Tegan calls it, yummies for the tummy. Tegan and I share the cooking responsibilities, though she always makes me a lunch to take to work with me. Between us, we know how to make enough different foods to keep life interesting, and we’re ever-so-slowly learning how to make new dishes. We go out to eat once every week or so, but we usually bring along a coupon or two and save a lot of money. We also like recreating some of the dishes made in restaurants to see the difference between the menu price and how much it costs to make at home. Our most recent example is sushi. A sushi meal for two with a menu price of $10-12 (and that’s not including drinks and tip) was easy enough to replicate with items purchased from the Safeway across the street; we spent about $5 and made enough sushi for roughly four meals for two. Of course, my sushi isn’t quite as pretty as restaurant sushi, but it tastes about the same, and I know all of the bad words in Japanese for all the times when I accidentally cut myself while making it. Oh, our usual monthly food bill (including the trips out) doesn’t exceed $300.
- Entertainment. Nick’s Dirty Little Secret #2: we don’t have cable television. We also don’t want it because we rarely watch TV as it is. There’s plenty of free entertainment on the internet, and when we do plop ourselves in front of the tube, it’s usually to play videogames or watch Japanese anime. Also keep in mind that we’re married, and there are lots of ways a married couple can have fun that don’t cost a whole lot. There’s rarely a month when we spend more than $100 on having fun.
- Tuition. I was fortunate enough to have a free ride through college thanks to the wonderful taxpayers of the state of Maryland, but Tegan’s trodding through part time and we’re paying her way ourselves. Figuring in some increases for Fall 2006, this will probably run us about $2,500 in 2006.
- Miscellaneous. We have a few assorted expenses that fall through the cracks of the other categories–clothing, gifts, donations to the Church and other charities, and my collection of chewing gum wads that look like former U.S. presidents. These don’t figure much into our budget, so you’ll rarely hear me talking about these items.
I just started keeping track of these expenses by category in Quicken, so it’ll be a while before I have any pertinent data to share. Once I do, you better believe I’ll be feeding you more pie charts and bar graphs than a high-strung timeshare salesman with a quota to meet. I know some of you need diagrams on a daily basis to survive, so here’s one about puppies: