How My Monthly Budget Looks in 2008

In each year of my experiment with tax resistance I have, for one month, carried around a pen and a little notebook and have made note of every time I have spent money. I’ve then combined this with a record of my bill-paying from home and of any yearly expenses that didn’t come directly to my attention during the month in order to create an estimate of my budget.

In the Picket Line archives, you can see my results for , , , , and .

What I found this year is that, based on what I wrote down in my notebook in , I have to earn about $34.27 in potentially-taxable income each day in order to maintain my lifestyle:

CategoryDaily expense
Food (groceries)$5.84
Food (eating out)$0.48
Internet fees$0.61
Cat stuff$1.00

Here’s how this compares to years past (I’ve had to rejuggle the numbers a bit so that the categories remain the same from year to year):

monthly totals
Monthly total$1,016.27$1,012.97
Yearly total$12,195$12,156
Food (groceries)$146.89$177.75
Food (eating out)$42.62$14.73
Internet fees$12.18$18.69

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 can pay for from my pre-tax Health Savings Account.

The trouble with doing this accounting for only a single month and then trying to extrapolate to the whole year is that no month is a typical month. There are always some months in which big expenses come up, and other months in which garden harvests or freecycle booty or unexpected gifts reduce expenses. Some months, it seems like everything in the pantry needs re-stocking, other months I can coast on what we’ve got. Some months I brew a lot of beer, other months I drink a lot of beer I’ve already brewed. In I had a big veterinarian bill; this month no cat-related expenses at all (for this reason the “cat stuff” total I gave above is an estimate based on typical yearly expenses, not based on this month’s expenses).

My big-ticket discretionary spending items included a trip across the bay to see Ubu For President, a whitewater rafting trip (mostly paid for in a previous month, but some travel and meals expenses fell in this month), a pitcher of beer at Zeitgeist to help welcome a good friend back into town, a trip down the peninsula for a barbecue, snacks & a beer at a Giants game (we got the tickets free), having a couple of friends over for dinner, and a donation to support the next as-of-yet-unspecified project by the Yes Men. Big spender, eh? I splurged for more memory for my laptop, too, but that only came to a buck plus shipping on eBay.

Other than that, living was cheap. As I mentioned , my sweetie & I have signed up for one of those “Community-Supported Agriculture” programs, as part of that whole locavore less-petroleum-based agriculture craze. I also mentioned that this makes for a much more expensive bag of food than what I’d been used to getting from neighborhood markets. However, at , I see that my food bill hasn’t been dramatically bigger than usual. I was expecting more of a bump, since not only have we decided to shell out more money for our fancy local organic stuff, but food prices in general have been going up. It may be that our weekly flood of produce — supplemented this month in particular by our back-yard garden harvest — has encouraged me to cook less meat-centered meals, which are usually less-costly as well.

From the looks of things, I’m still living well within my means at a federal income tax-free income level (to do that with my current method I need to keep my non-deductible expenses under $16,000 per year). And I’ve got enough slack that I can consider things like, oh, some fancy cheeses to picnic with at the upcoming “Shakespeare in the Park,” or another south-of-the-border vacation.

Of course, that’s assuming I actually go out and earn that $16,000. I’ve been so busy working on my book projects this year that I haven’t managed to find a gig that pays the rent yet… and here it is, already.