How My Monthly Budget Looks in 2012

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:

Last month I tried to do this again. But it’s been a kind of strange month, and not representative in many ways. I’m not sure how well this extrapolation technique really works.

For example, my expenses for entertainment this month came to $156.11. In a more typical month, I might not spend anything at all on entertainment. I blame The Bard for much of that: a $35 ticket to see the CalShakes version of Hamlet with my housemates, a $20 donation to Shakespeare in the Park (Henry Ⅴ this year), and a $5 entrance to a Hamlet-themed short play production put on at a San Francisco pub. The rest of the amount came from a $50 donation to the folks organizing a memorial celebration for a good friend of ours who died this year, some used books I bought at an annual library book sale, and a trip to a comedy club to see a friend’s performance.

I also had more charitable donations this month than typical: $25 each to the Bradley Manning Support Fund and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (where a friend is running a Team In Training half marathon as a fundraiser). Really, with my tight budget, I should stick to donating my time instead of my money. These donations show up in “Miscellany” below.

I stopped brewing this month in preparation for a move (I’m moving from Berkeley to my old stomping grounds of San Luis Obispo this month), and so I have no homebrew-related expenses this month. Alas, one of my roommates went on a bit of a binge with the homebrew I’d brewed in previous months (and with some of my wine, too… grumble), and I was generous with the bottles at Shakespeare in the Park and elsewhere, so my expenses in the store-bought alcohol category are higher than typical too. Still, it is excessive to spend over $5 a day on booze, and I should have known better.

My upcoming move made me spend a bit more on travel and entertainment at events at which I could connect with friends whom I might not be seeing as much anymore. I also had some miscellaneous moving expenses — packing tape and the like.

CategoryDaily expenseMonthly expense
Food (groceries)$12.47$379.54
Cat stuff$2.82$85.70
Food (eating out)$0.35$10.62
Commercial beer/wine$5.26$160.06
Utilities & internet$0.93$20.76
California state taxes$1.39$42.42

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$1,128.45$1,612.89
Yearly total$13,541$19,355
Food (groceries)$181.40$379.54
Food (eating out)$34.85$10.62
Internet (hosting) fees$16.08$7.53

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. I started separating California state sales tax into its own line item, and I continued that this year, and combined that with my expected California income tax bill (I don’t resist my state tax, just as a matter of picking my battles).

A $19,355/year burn rate is not sustainable given my current technique of staying below the tax line by keeping my adjustable gross income below $17,250. If I go ahead and factor out all the genuinely weird one-time expenses from , my spending is still high: $18,083/year. This makes me think I should try this accounting experiment again later on after I get settled in San Luis Obispo. My rent will be a little lower there, and I expect my groceries will be cheaper too (I think I underestimated just how much of a premium I was paying to do most of my grocery shopping at Berkeley Bowl and the local Berkeley farmers markets). We’ll see if expenses settle down as I expect, or if I need to adopt some more deliberate cost-cutting measures.

From the Binghamton Press:

Red Tax Resistance

One press dispatch to an independent newspaper says 400 farmers have been arrested in South China for refusing to pay summer grain taxes. The communists blame the famine conditions on the weather. Press accounts say farmers were refusing to pay the grain taxes because they would not have enough rice left over to carry them through the year.