My 2021 Budget Recap • What I Earned, Spent, and Saved in 2021

Image shows two strawberries in a white person's hand — Butch on a Budget - My 2021 Budget Year in Review

What a year.

If I’m being honest, most of 2021 is a blur to me. Between work, school, and the day-to-day chores, the days and weeks seemed to blend in together. And unlike the previous two years, there wasn’t a major personal milestone to provide a marker in the narrative of my life (like getting married in 2019 and buying our house in 2020).

2021 was challenging for the world, and I also found it personally challenging in ways I can’t fully put my finger on.

Work was hard and felt non-stop. It was still rewarding, and I’m proud of the work I did, but I found myself losing the sense of fun that I pride myself on carrying with me in my work.

While I remain an optimist and take care to nurture my hope for the future, I also experienced a significant eroding of my belief in people’s inherent goodness. My hope requires a bit more attentive nurturing right now.

Speaking of the future — my ideas for what I want mine to look like are shifting, but in a way that still feels nebulous and sticky, yet solidifying.

Overall, I know I’ve been incredibly lucky. Cassie and I’s partnership continues to grow in ways I’m so grateful for. I can’t imagine a better blessing than my family. I made more money than I ever have. I have a home that truly feels like a home. I’ve got big plans and I’m still learning a whole lot.

That’s enough self-indulgent reflection, time to get on to some numbers.

While I was hopeful we might fully combine our finances this past year, we haven’t quite gotten around to fully combining everything (though we do have joint checking and savings accounts and two family credit cards now!) and honestly, I’m not sure if we will this year either. I have high hopes for 2023 though.

All this to say, what follows is an outline of my expenses and not our total household.

My Income

My base salary this year was $44,300, but that got supplemented by some stipend work I was able to do, as well as some tuition reimbursements. I quit dog walking this year since I just didn’t have the time. I also did less freelance work this year, since I was working on extra projects through my full-time job on a stipend basis. However, I still managed to do one freelance project at the beginning of the year that I really enjoyed and may lead to future opportunities. And, of course, stimulus checks.

All in all, I saw $64,985 in inflow.

Here’s a rough outline of how that $64,985 broke down:

  • Full-Time Job Take-Home Pay: $41,180
  • Retirement Contribution Deductions (403b and 457b): $8,671
  • Rental Income: $8,150
  • Various Freelance Projects: $2,185
  • Stimulus Checks: $2,000
  • Other (dividends, cashback, interest, gifts, selling things, etc): $1,400

My Expenses

While my total expenses this year were, predictably, much lower than last year’s (we didn’t spend $14,000 on windows this year), it’s still a bit more than I was hoping for — especially considering it’s just my half of our household expenses.

However, we did put in a new AC and spent a good bit on yard projects, both of which are one-time (for a long time) expenses.

Also, because I was balancing work and school, I was willing to pay a little extra for some time-saving conveniences. Though I have to say, I’m looking forward to getting back to doing most of my own grocery shopping and cooking.

Here’s the full breakdown of my spending this past year below (with some explanatory notes for those who are interested (also remember this is just my half)):

Interest on Mortgage$1,738.84I don’t count payments towards the principal of the loan as an expense. Also, since we live in a duplex I count half the interest as rental expenses.
Property Taxes and Home Insurance$1,717.59These costs also come out of our mortgage payment. I also count half of the property taxes and home insurance as rental expenses.
Utilities $1,744.67Water, electric, wifi.
Pest Service$294.75Quarterly pest service and termite prevention.
Yard & Garden Supplies$993.95Supplies to build two large raised flower beds in the front yard, various landscaping supplies, and lots of garden stuff. Last year I lumped all these purchases into the home maintenance category but this year I separated it out.

This should be less next year.
Home Maintenance & Updates$4,180.39We planned and had saved up to replace our AC in May of this past year and also had them update some ductwork. This also includes supplies to do a stucco patch on a leak, replacing a final section of fence, and a few other minor things.

We don’t have any major updates planned for this upcoming year so I’m hoping this will be a good chunk less next year.
House Stuff$1,197.43A few small pieces of furniture, kitchen stuff, artwork, etc.
Car Insurance$879.77Need to look into lowering this next year.
Gas$366.67Gotta love a short commute!
Auto Maintenance $41.69
Groceries$3,836.53We used grocery delivery a good amount this year, so this also includes fees and tips. This will be a target for reducing next year.
Dining Out$1,542.65Would also like to see this go down next year.
Entertaining at Home$171.76Food and drinks for social gatherings.
Coffee Out$38.80
Subscriptions$978.89Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Costco Membership, Simplisafe, credit card annual fees, etc.
Fun Money!$1,002.35Tickets for events, board games, movie rentals, post-kickball beers, recreational supplies, etc.
Clothes and Shoes$1,210.71This was much more than usual, but I’m happy with everything that was bought, and lots of it was needed replacements – a rain jacket, a few good pairs of jeans, sports bras, shoes, etc. Plus just some new stuff that I liked.
Travel/Vacation$1,731.99Cabin trip in March, two trips to Pennsylvania, and a staycation. Also includes tickets we bought to Japan that we ended up not being able to use but have flight credit for that we’ll use on a future trip.
Dental Insurance$413.64I can get much cheaper dental insurance through work, but I really like my dentist (and am a baby when it comes to going to the dentist), and they don’t take my work’s insurance, so I purchase myself.
Health, vision, disability, life insurance$1,268.64
Health Spending$944.69Meds, an ergonomic setup for my desk (fancy keyboard and mouse), co-pays, a couple rapid tests, etc.
Work Expenses$725.70Parking, software, misc.
Christmas/Family Trip$384.70Ecuador! My parents paid for most of this trip as a Christmas present for the family.
Rental Costs$5,067.28New washer and dryer, landscaping, welcome basket/gift card, birthday gifts for the kids, the interest, property taxes, insurance, etc.
Grad School$1,937.60Student loan payments and a few textbooks. Ended up taking out more loans instead of paying in cash like I had planned. It just made more sense financially with the zero-interest loans right now.
Pets$284.61The vast majority of pet costs come out of Cassie’s accounts.
Dumb Fees$38.34
Misc. $822.55
Total Expenses:$37,072.18
Total Minus Rental Costs & Work Expenses:$31,279.20Closer to my actual living expenses for the year.

I have to say, overall I’m a little disappointed with how high my final numbers were this year, but it also makes sense.

Some categories I feel confident will be less next year include yard and garden supplies, home maintenance and updates (*knocks on wood*), house stuff, groceries, dining out, and clothes. However, I do expect increased spending on travel, grad school, and Christmas.

My Savings Rate

I had a savings rate of 43% this year — saving $27,912 of my $64,985 in income. My month with the lowest savings rate was May with -4% (that’s the month we bought the AC). The month I had the highest savings rate this year was September with 70%. I’m hoping next year’s annual rate will be over 50% and I’m pretty sure it will be.

My Net Worth

It’s hard to believe, but my net worth almost doubled this year! This was primarily driven by the gains in the stock market and the insane increase in my home’s value (both of which could decrease tomorrow).

Net Worth on Jan. 1, 2021: $49,222

Net Worth on Jan. 1, 2022: $95,311

2021 Net Worth Change: +$46,089

Breakdown of My Net Worth:

-$140,436Debt: “My half” of the mortgage, plus my student loans (around $12K at the moment), and credit card balances (set to autopay mid-month).
$45,632Invested (403b, 457b, Roth IRA, and taxable accounts)
$12,434High-interest savings account for emergency fund and long-term sinking funds
$6,681Checking account for monthly expenses and short-term sinking funds
$171,000Home Value: “My half.” This is a pretty conservative estimate — about $45K less than the Zillow estimate and taking out realtor fees.

Money Goals for 2022

  • Hit a 50% savings rate.
  • Lower both my grocery and dining out costs.
  • Invest more.

Life Goals for 2022

  • Stay grounded during moments of stress, and focus on brining the fun back into my work.
  • Be more intentional with my time. Less screens. More time outside and connecting with people.
  • Make my health a priority.

What are your money and life goals for 2022? I’d love to hear about them! Drop some inspiration in the comments for some good, high-tech public accountability.

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