Out of curiosity, I took a look at our ten largest purchases of 2014. I knew what the the top few expenses would be (vacations and a major home renovation), but the rest of the expenses escaped my memory after the money left my hand.
Looking at the top ten expenses is a good exercise to conduct each year. Our top ten add up to about half of our annual spending. I’m a big believer in making sure our expenditures bring a lot of value, and by looking at these top ten expenses, we can see whether we got good value in 2014.
Top Ten Expenses of 2014
|Home renovations - New siding and windows; roof repairs||$8,700|
|Carnival cruise – southern Caribbean||1,888|
|Property tax for house||1,432
|Canada summer road trip||1,316|
|Dentist – 2 crowns||772|
|4 new tires and alignment in Montreal||603|
|Dell Desktop Computer + graphics card||400|
|King size 13” mattress||367|
|6 weeks summer camp||318|
The most expensive purchase of the year was our home renovation project that included new siding, new windows, and a major roof repair (as discussed in the November and December monthly financial updates). At $8,700, it was very expensive compared to our $32,000 annual budget. However, the new siding and windows should last for a few decades at least. The roof repair will prevent water from leaking into our house and hopefully mean we don’t have to replace the whole roof for another five to ten years.
The next most expensive purchase was a week long cruise to the Caribbean. We had a lot of fun and the cost fit within our annual travel budget. At just under $1,900, the cruise was a very good value for what we received: transportation to three foreign countries, constant seaside views, three or four meals every day, and two clean rooms with comfortable beds each night. In other words, a few notches of luxury above our summer road trip to Canada.
Number three on the top ten list was our annual house property tax bill. This expense doesn’t really bring us any joy at all, but we’ll lose the house if we don’t pay it! At $1,432, it’s a lot cheaper than property taxes in high cost of living areas. The majority of that expense pays for our local schools, which we get a huge benefit from since we have two kids currently enrolled and a third will be in a few more years. A small part of the tax bill funds our wonderful city parks and recreation program, which we use fairly often as well.
Our summer road trip to Canada came in at number four on the list. We budgeted $4,300 for the planned five weeks of travel. After a few weeks of traveling and sightseeing, we were exhausted and decided to come back home. The hair that broke the camel’s back was a really dirty AirBnB apartment rental. In the end, we spent $1,316 for two and a half weeks of travel after factoring in some free hotels and credit card cash back we redeemed on the trip. We managed to see a lot of new places and visit some familiar spots on a very small budget.
Number five on the list was $786 spent on home insurance. This figure keeps going up every year and I plan to shop the policy around when it’s up for renewal in July. Like our property taxes, it doesn’t bring us a lot of fun. But knowing we won’t be out $150,000 or so if our house burns down or gets blown over by a tornado is reassuring.
Two dental crowns landed at number six on the top ten list. At $772 after insurance, these things make chewing a lot more fun. And that’s way cheaper than dental implants.
Four new tires and an alignment were number seven. We spent $603 for these auto maintenance items while in Canada after a disastrous tire failure on the trip north from New York City to Montreal. I knew we would need tires soon, but not that soon! Since we had to rush to get the tires replaced, we probably spent $100-200 more than the sale prices at home. The alternative was to have an inoperable car and temporarily postpone our vacation.
Number eight on the list was a brand new Dell desktop computer and graphics card at about $400 after rebate. This is my new blogging computer and has a powerful enough graphics card to make photo manipulation very quick and easy. I might get into videos in the future and it should be more than capable of video editing as well.
At number nine, a new king size mattress makes our sleep more comfortable each night. For $367, we picked up this Night Therapy 13″ Deluxe Euro Box Top mattress. We visited mattress stores and tried out a number of expensive name brand mattresses. We ended up researching and buying this very similar model for half or a third of the retail prices. After almost six months of ownership, it’s still a great purchase.
Rounding out the top ten is the $318 we spent on six weeks of summer camp for the kids. They have a lot of fun in the all day summer camps at our local community center. We might spend a little more this summer on themed summer camps for robotics, movie production or other technology-related themes.
Overall, I’m feeling pretty good about these top ten expenditures. There are fun expenses mixed in with necessary expenses to keep our house and car running smoothly. I don’t see any areas where we wasted our money or didn’t get a good deal on what we bought. We were fortunate to not have any real “emergencies” outside of our planned budget.
I keep very close track of all expenses using the free tools at Personal Capital. The online interface makes it really easy to review where our money is going each month and to review the top areas of spending over the course of a year. We don’t really stick to a budget each month, but by routinely reviewing our actual spending we can figure out whether we are spending too much or are able to spend even more if we want to.
Ten Tiniest Expenses of 2014
Just for fun, I took a look at our ten smallest purchases for the year. These ten purchases add up to $5.72. This might be the best $5.72 I have ever spent, although I’ve never looked at my bottom ten expenses before.
|Humble Bundle games||$0.01|
|3 MicroSim cards – T-Mobile||0.03|
|Food Lion groceries||0.06|
|8 GB MicroSD card – ebay||0.39|
|Passport photos from Walgreens||0.43|
|Lowe's 10% off coupon||0.99|
|Green onions from vegetable stand in Montreal||1.00|
|Massage from LAM||1.00|
A few items on here are things that are almost free like the Humble Bundle games. You can pay what you want for the indie computer or mobile games they offer. I’ll occasionally find a diamond in the rough in the games they have to offer. However, there are times when I’m glad I didn’t pay more than a penny.
The $0.39 MicroSD card went into my “new” Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone. I had a $5 off coupon for ebay and found something I needed for just over $5.
Our $0.43 in passport photos for the five of us saved us $74.57 compared to what the post office charges for the same photos. It took me maybe an hour or two to photograph everyone (including a one year old who is crazy) and then format the photos per US Department of State requirements. Pretty good ROI. And saving money on the passport photos helped offset the pain of paying hundreds of dollars for passports for our family.
The $1 we spent on green onions in Montreal was totally worth it. We bought them at a mini farmer’s market across the street from our AirBnB apartment. They were delicious when fried up with some steaks.
Mrs. Root of Good purchased a “massage from LAM” for $1. LAM stands for Lotion and Massage, our oldest daughter’s burgeoning spa and salon business. Her 2014 revenues climbed to around $3 and her gross margins are running consistently in the 95-100% range since she uses our lotion.
The most expensive cheapest purchase of 2014 was $1.07 at Dollar Tree. The extra seven cents on top of the dollar tell me it was a fully taxed non-food purchase. Maybe I picked up some batteries or envelopes or other office supplies? I can’t recall.
Take a look at your top purchases of 2014. Any surprises in there?
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