How My Monthly Budget Looks in 2011

Over the course of my experiment in low-income tax resistance, I have periodically run a budget check to make sure I’m living sustainably on this lower income. To do this, for a month I carry around a notebook with me and keep track of every time I spend money. Then I add in any other regular expenses and use the numbers to try to come up with an estimate of my rate of spending.

You can see my reports from past years in the following entries:

I’m overdue for another budget check. I was also curious as to how my spending has changed since I moved from living as a half of a couple in an apartment in San Francisco to living in a room in a house as a single guy in Berkeley.

So I started keeping my notebook. I think I may have jumped the gun. Several of my larger expenses were the sort of exceptional things that happen when you move in to a new place, and don’t probably represent typical spending patterns. That distorts the picture quite a bit. But, for what it’s worth, here’s what I found:

CategoryDaily expenseMonthly expense
Food (groceries)$11.69$355.84
Cat stuff$5.01$152.50
Food (eating out)$1.44$43.83
Commercial beer/wine$1.18$35.92
Utilities & internet$1.02$31.05
California sales tax$0.75$22.83

Among the reasons why I think is probably inflated relative to what my typical spending will be:

  • A $103.43 veterinary bill, plus some new-home pet supplies boosted the cat-related expenses a bunch. Ordinary, recurring expenses only amounted to $0.85/day (not the $5.01/day in the above chart).
  • A bike tune-up (it’s been mostly in mothballs for the last few years), some minor repairs, a card to give me bike locker access, and a bike light added $64.93 to my transportation costs — if you omit all of these one-time or rare expenses, the transportation line-item goes down to $0.79/day (from $2.96/day).
  • I had to stop brewing as I was househunting and boxing up my belongings, so when I finally got established, I started brewing with gusto so as to replenish my stock. But my first batch won’t actually be drinkable for another week or so. I also bought enough bottle-sanitizer to last me a couple of years. So my homebrewing costs are higher than typical.
  • I bought myself an expensive new toy: an $80 digital camera. A rare indulgence that I hope to use to fill this blog with nice pictures of the upcoming NWTRCC gathering. That’s about half of my “Miscellaneous” expenses right there.
  • I bought more groceries than typical, I think, because of using up the last supplies at the old place and needing to replenish and restock at the new place.

I may have to wait a few months and try again to see if I can get a more stable pulse.

That said, here’s how my current burn rate compares with past years (I’ve had to rejuggle the numbers a bit so that the categories remain the same from year to year):

monthly totals
Monthly total$1,055.79$1,719.56
Yearly total$12,670$20,635
Food (groceries)$159.60$355.84
Food (eating out)$33.73$43.83
Internet fees$15.47$20.98

Not included in any of the above totals were any business expenses (since I write these off against my business income), my health insurance premium (which, as a self-employed person, I can also write off), or any medical expenses that I paid for from my pre-tax Health Savings Account. , for the first time, I separated California state sales tax into its own line item in the results shown at the top of the page, just out of curiosity.

A $20,635/year burn rate is not sustainable given my current technique of staying below the tax line by keeping my adjustable gross income below $16,750. If I go ahead and factor out all the genuinely weird one-time expenses from , my spending is still a little high: $16,803/year. This just encourages me further to try this again later on in to see if things settle down as I expect, or if I need to adopt some more deliberate cost-cutting measures.

I decided to keep tallying my spending for to see how that would change things. Check out my Picket Line entry to see the results.