September Expenses

“Wait! What? No, that isn’t possible! $1120 for food this month! Surely we accidentally triple entered a Costco receipt!” I would love to say I was cool like a cucumber, but I wasn’t. I could feel my chest tighten. My breathing started to get shallow. “What happened?!” I looked at Mr. Mt with slight panic on my face.

There was no mistake. We actually spent over $1100 on food. But after a few minutes, the panic subsided. Here are the more clear headed thoughts that came later.

1. We use to spend that much EVERY month.

Yup. Every. Single. Month. We had gone from just having one biological child at home to having 3 new kids added to our family all at once. For those who have never raised kids and can’t quite wrap your mind around what that might look like. Let me explain. Going from 1 child to 4 will explode your life. I quit my job. The youngest had experienced a lot of trauma and for the first 6 months woke up every hour during the night crying hysterically. I was a zombie. They had 13 appointments a week, covering all 7 days. Raising any 4 kids is challenging, but there were appointments for therapies I didn’t even know existed. Perhaps it’s like bringing triplets home from the hospital. SO much love, so much joy, and totally exhausting.

So every month we spend $1200 a month on food. I did not have hours to spend in the kitchen chopping, prepping and creating food plans. Costco rostery chickens were my best friend.

It took time to learn how to cook affordably for a large family. It’s time well spent figuring it out. But it didn’t happen that first year. And that was ok. We have learned a lot and have come a long way in paring down our expenses. I’m glad we have moved past the $1200 food bill every month. We have cut out our grocery bill in half…. other than this month. =) ( I just checked October and it looks much lower so far!)

2. I wouldn’t have even noticed if I hadn’t been tracking our expenses.

I would have never known we spent so much on food, if we weren’t tracking our expenses.  Our expenses were SO low this month, I wouldn’t have know about the grocery bill. Our checking account actually went up a bit in September. Mr. Mt sweetly mentioned that perhaps we shouldn’t track our spending if it was going to stress me out. No! I love being able to see where each dollar went, because it helps me figure out if the money spent offered a good value or not. Tracking our spending has give me TONS of great data. I get to geek-out over spread sheets as we think through what this next season holds for us.

3. Low expenses give us flexibility

Spending that much on food had no negative impact on our month. In fact, our expenses were still crazy low. One of the reasons I love having low expense that we can spend really big some months and it have almost no effect. We can travel for 6 weeks, or build out our bathroom without blowing our monthly budget.  When I was growing up, money was always so tight. Every dollar was mentally spent before the paycheck was cashed. Any little unplanned for expense was painful. The $12 for school pictures was a hardship. My mom always made sure she could come up with the money, but I was scared each year it might not happen.  I was terrified I would be the only kid from my  class standing in line without a picture money envelope.

Having low expenses helps me feel rich. I can spend 2x as much money on food one month, and still buy the big picture package for my kids. Like it ain’t no thing. Just throwing dolla bills in the air. 😉

Other than spending a crazy amount of money on food, September was great. The kids settled back into school. We finished up our Moderate Minimalism efforts, and ended up buying one shelf to complete the task. Adding one shelf vs. a storage shed seemed like a reasonable trade off.

I received a refund check from our labor and delivery doctor, which is why our health care numbers are negative. Although my primary care doctor sent a bill a few weeks later that I still need to call about. There might be some weird connection, we shall see. If not, I’m glad they were on top of it, because I had no idea I over payed.

We went to a free Celtic festival and watched some Highland games, which was awesome. We even sprung for a $7 jumbo bag of kettle corn. My kids will love any event, if I buy them kettle corn. That’s the only reason they are happy to go to the farmers market. They will be eternally patient and well behaved while we stroll around if their little hands are full of the stuff. I probably look like I really have my crap together in public because the kids are so sweet, kind and well mannered. In reality I most likely have candy in my pocket I am slowly dolling out. It’s amazing how great they do in Costco for 3 gummie bears.

I hope you all had a great September!

Questions for discussion:

  1. Do you track your spending? Ever almost fallen over from an unexpectedly expensive month?
  2. Kettle corn: yeah or neigh?
  3. I’m thinking about doing a series on affordable meal options. Is that something you would like?
  4. Have you gone to Highland games before? They are kind of crazy right? I really like the “throw a small hay bale over a tall pole with pitchfork” event. Mr. Mt wanted to start training as his new hobby by the time we left.



Join my email community for the best stuff I write each week!


Sign up and grab your FREE copy! Get started planning your next Mini-Retirement.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Add to the conversation! Community is built in the comments section.

28 thoughts on “September Expenses

  1. “One of the reasons I love having low expense that we can spend really big some months and it have almost no effect.”

    Completely agree. I blew something like $750 on health and fitness stuff last month? No big deal because it’s not a typical month.

    1.) Just started. Last month was high. Meh.

    2.) Tasty, but don’t like when it gets stuck in my teeth.

    3.) YES PLEASE DO THIS. I can’t just eat turkey burgers every night forever.

    4.) No, but it sounds awesome. But I’ve always enjoy the Scottish. Were there bagpipes?

  2. I think the first month I figured out that the 3 of us were spending close to $800 a month on groceries, I was flabbergasted. We’re much better now…most of the time, mostly because if we need a second trip for milk during the week, we keep it pretty small instead of making it a regular trip (which is what we were doing) and we stopped going to BJs and cut back on Trader Joe’s, which never seemed to replace grocery store purchases.

    But…we still let some things creep up on us, like last November when all these Christmas treats started making it into the cart.

    • It’s so good to just know. Until I pulled up the numbers, I had no idea our groceries would be so high. It’s not that $1200 is a horrible number, but I know we can eat well for $600, so that extra $600 doesn’t offer much benefit. The food in September was NOT $600 better. An extra $600 goes a long way around here when used towards fun stuff. =)

  3. 1. Yep, we track them! I find there is always something unexpected, but having 10+ sinking funds that we put savings into each month really smooths out the big expenses.

    2. LOVE. love. any and all popcorn, I do not discriminate.

    3. 100%

    4. I have not!

    Did you figure out the cause of the high food expenses? Hopefully just a one time thing…but like you said, it doesn’t really matter!

    • I love popcorn too! I eat it as a meal at least once a week. Making awesome popcorn is a hidden talent of mine.

      The high bill was the combination of a few things to include: a big trip at the beginning of the month, and a big trip right at the end. Mr. Mt bought a few special ingredients for some new meals. Buying protein powder in bulk off Amazon. Stocking up on protein bars because they went of sale at Costco. And buying more meat as Mr. Mt is doing more weight training and we ran out of deer meat that month. (Yeah that hunting season started this weekend!) It was the perfect storm. =)

  4. “Low expenses give us flexibility.” This. So much this. Permanently lowering your spending baseline gives you the freedom to splurge or overspend from time to time without creating a stressful event or money problems. This is one of the main reasons that my wife and I worked to cut our monthly spending down. For now it gives us the money to go on cool vacations to interesting places. For the future it gives us the option to switch to a one income household or lower paying jobs when a kid enters the picture.

    • That is great. I am such a big fan of keeping fixed expenses low. Not being dependent on dual incomes is the ticket. Nice to have while it works, but awesome to be able to walk away from.

  5. “I love being able to see where each dollar went, because it helps me figure out if the money spent offered a good value or not.”

    We track expenses and have for several years. After I read Your Money or Your Life, I started evaluating how many hours of work it takes to pay for certain categories. That really puts things in perspective and has helped us spend more intentionally. We have some months where I am surprised by a category – it’s typically the “home improvement” category that gets me. Those DIY projects can add up and we always seem to underestimate the cost or need things we didn’t expect. But, you’re right, when expenses are low overall, it is much easier to handle.

    Oh, and yes to kettle corn! Yes to meal options (always looking for new ideas)! I’ve never been to Highland games but it sound like great fun!

  6. I bet you can still conjure up that feeling of dread when you worried about whether you’d have a picture money envelope. That’s the kind of thing that sticks with you. Good for you for getting to the point where you feel rich.

    1. We track every penny and we’re not usually surprised. And before the year starts we discuss the big ticket items and the months where we’ll incur those expenses.
    2. No popcorn for me at all. It’s too hard on the teeth.
    3. Yes, definitely!
    4. Never heard of them. But it sounds like fun.

    • Mr. Mt and I went out for breakfast this morning and ended up chatting about that very thing. I am working on a post about the way having more money has changed me. It’s been a slow transition, but so much for the better. Looking and feeling poor has always been a touchy spot for me, that often lead to overspending to compensate. But having so much flexibility in our budget has helped that SO much. Over the years, as my confidence has grown, I don’t need to prove myself as much to others. Be it with lots of Christmas gifts, a nice car, or new clothes.

  7. Woa big spender! My GF is using YNAB now as an experiment. We don’t track expenses but they’re always pretty low. I bet if we had a big family we’d be spending every bit as much on food as you Ms. Mt!

    • I tracked every single expense when we were working our way out of debt, but hadn’t for years now. I started again last December because we were taking this year off and have LOVED it.

  8. We track our spending since years now and are constantly trying to lower our spending. This month we are trying a more vegetarian diet (maybe meat once or twice a week) because we noticed that most of our grocery bill was spent on meat. Best of luck!

  9. Man, looking through my old picture album last week, I came across 3 years worth of school pictures that had “proof” stamped across them. No picture envelope money those years, lol.

    1. Yes, we track our spending, it was the biggest reason we were able to get it under control and have more to invest, sorta like your grocery spending before you learned how to reign it in.

    2. Meh, the kids love it, I can eat it, but I’d rather just have butter and salt.

    3. Yes on the affordable meals options! We do a lot of stuff from scratch at home already, but it’s easy to get into ruts, so new ideas are always welcome.

    4. Back in KY, there was a big regional Scottish highland games every spring and it was great. I would always rock the archery games with the long bow. Hitting someone in the head from 30 yards out is tough! 🙂

  10. Kettle corn ALWAYS! I haven’t had it in such a long time though. JuggerBaby is still too little to eat popcorn without probably choking, but ze also thinks that every food that Mama eats is food that ze should eat, so I’ve been abstaining from enjoying it for a while now. Time enough for that treat later.

    We spend an embarrassing amount of money on food for a small family, and I always consider how we could be doing better without compromising on quality. I used to trade healthy choices for cheap choices and I’m working hard to keep both the quality and the budget-friendly. My readers convinced me to start sharing some recipes so I’m planning to run a recipe every couple of weeks on Fridays but it’s half focused on affordability and half on meal prep when you don’t have much time or energy.

    • Affordable and easy are a winning combination! I am considering making it a guest post option. Where people could share one of their favorite meals, perhaps that reflects something about them or their blog. Photo, receipt, and a little bio. We shall see =), I have about 6 other things on my plate to tackle first. =)

  11. Kettle corn distracted me from thinking about the money part – I used to track every single penny. After 15 years of close recordkeeping, I’ve given myself a break and track in aggregate because we have built good enough habits that we’re not just throwing money out the window without a thought for where it’s going.

    I would still be doing that close tracking except time is tight, so I’d need something that does a better job of automatically tracking expenses than Mint does. I hear Personal Capital isn’t that much better either so for now, the monthly almost bird’s eye view will do.

    • Kettle corn always distracts me! I have been using good budget. I am going to do a big post in January explaining it. But it’s an app you can try for free. You put in each expense but you can do it from your phone. So we enter ours at check out or when we get back to the van. You can also set up reoccurring amounts, like for our cell phones or gym membership. If you just google it, you should be able to find it. I have used it for a year, and like it so far. =)

  12. I is nice having really low expenses. When we do spend extra money we are usually surprised that our overall spending is still looking awesome. We do not track everything, just overall spending, we might look at credit card statements if they seem high.

    I love to eat, and am always curious what other affordable meals people are cooking up 🙂

    • We just starting tracking this year because we are taking the year off and wanted more info when we decide what we might do next. I’ve loved it so far. Thanks for the meal feedback. I will need to put my thinking cap on!

  13. +1 for kettle corn. It would keep our kids quite as well. For now, we do not need it when we go somewhere and try not to promise sweets for good behaviour. Key word is try…! A pancake or icecream now and then is not uncommon
    When I go grocery shopping with them, they get a task for each corridor we pass.

    On budgetting: yes we do. I have a more high level approach and try to stay within overall budget.