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Our 2017 Spending: What a Dumpster Fire!

Man, what a year 2017 was, what a year indeed. We thought it had gone fairly well. Our new Lifestyle Change schedule was amazing, we bought the land to build our house on when we pull the plug in 2019, or 2020, and I got to go to my first ever FinCon! Plus, I got to the end of the year and had extra vacation and thought, “Man, it felt like I’ve already taken a lot of vacation!” There were lots of good feelings all around.

Then we tallied up our total spending for the year, and womp, womp, the rain clouds moved in and shut down our parade. While we had been having a great year from a lifestyle perspective, our spending had been going on a tear, kind of like the stock market.

Our 2017 Spending…

We both sensed it in January when we replaced our dishwasher and it cost an additional $300 in plumbing fixes that were discovered during installation. Mrs. SSC prophetically said, “I hope this isn’t “the year of spending…”” Well, it was. Where did our spending get derailed, how close were we to our FFLC (Fully Funded Lifestyle Change) budget, and how bad was it? Well, it wasn’t pretty that’s for sure.

Where Did We Go So Wrong?

For starters, our FFLC budget is a target of $55k per year once we leave the workforce. We don’t budget, as much as we track spending. However, tracking is great looking in the rear view mirror, but not so great for in the moment sort of “keeping things in check”. I think that could be one way we got off the rails, was by tracking rather than staying as vigilant about spending as we usually are. This could be predicated by us being so “close” to achieving our FFLC number and being able to leave the workforce that we might have gotten a little too comfortable or maybe just too lax with asking, “Is this a want or a need?”

It burns! Not enough control!!

I recall a few times during the year when we were like, “It’s a definite want, but I’m okay with that.” Maybe that was it. Feel free to let me know what you think it could be in the comments.

Homes are Assets! *sarcastic font*

Let’s start with the biggest category and that would be the house. Home maintenance, repairs, upkeep and more came in around $14.5k this year. Wait, that should read, “came in around $14.5k this year?!?!” What?! Oh yeah, it was rough. It started with the dishwasher ~$900 and that led to $300 worth of plumbing repairs that needed to be done, that were discovered during installation. Joy! That was followed by the fence replacement for ~$3k, 14 yr old carpet upstairs replaced for $5k, eradicating termites and spraying preventative stuff around the foundation was ~$2.5k. Also, I tore out an old side deck but underneath was all mud so we needed to put down sod, and also get our front beds mulched, trimmed and some maintenance on our sprinkler system which all added up to ~$2.2k. We also finally repainted upstairs and the master bath for $300 and about 15 hrs of our time. Each, not combined. This house is stupid big…

The Weed Eater Saga

Then our weed eater died. I spent a few hrs replacing the ignition coil, but then the carburetor had issues and I couldn’t get it going. After calling around I realized it wouldn’t be much more to get a new weed eater than to fix this one. So I shopped and found a good deal on one. That turned into a major fiasco. It showed up with the motor covering cracked due to poor packing, so I contacted customer service for a replacement and shipping label to return this one. Multiple emails and a full 3 weeks later I’d heard nothing so I called and waited for 50 minutes to find out my ticket never “officially” got started, so they started it. A week later they sent out a replacement, and when it showed up, I had not one, but 2 new weed eaters! Seriously, 2 in the same box!! Possibly 3 because neither they nor Fed Ex has contacted me to pick up or return the original damaged one. Long annoyance for the win?

Pets are Expensive!!

Next up in more kinds of overspending that could happen in FFLC is the pet category. We adopted not one, but two dogs this year! Yes, while we won’t be doing that every year, we are now a 3 dog household. Zoe was adopted early in the spring, and quickly got the nickname Money Pit. She had some stomach issues and after 2 visits to the vet (~$300 each) we found out it was hookworms. After she finished the medicine, and 2 more vet trips (~$300 each) we found out it wasn’t just hookworms, she has a poultry intolerance. So, switch to Costco brand dog food with beef and sweet potatoes and she’s as right as rain. It only took about $1200 to figure out… Aye, yi, yi… In December, Mrs. SSC decided I needed a therapy dog/snuggle buddy/best friend in the house, whatever you want to call it, so we started looking for another dog. Smaller, cuddlier (not like our two 60 lb cats we have now, lol) and a good family dog.

Seriously, they’re like 60 lb cats! lol

We found Jack, a beagle, red heeler mix that was a Harvey rescue. He was microchipped but the previous family didn’t want him back, so we got him. He’s been a dream. Loves to cuddle with me on the couch, or my chair, loves to see me when I get home, or even just back from a run. He loves the kids and is great with them and the Greyhounds. He fit in perfectly and has been amazing to have around.

So cute, and already knows “Sit”.

He also loves getting belly rubs. It’s his go to move.

We even finished the last mile of my #ARStreak run together. He did great, and we even kept up a  10:22 min/mile pace, which I’d say was awesome for the first time trying out running with him.  Still, that was another $400 between heartworm meds for a year, new crate that fit him, bed, adoption fee, etc… Well worth it in my opinion, but about $1600 or more in pet costs we hadn’t anticipated last year.

Canyon Lake Costs

Our Canyon Lake plan cost us approximately $60k to get up and running last year. The land was $55k before taxes, sellers fees, HOA dues, etc…, and our initial home design, tree survey, topo survey, and soils investigation cost another $2k.

The lot at Canyon Lake. We may get a lake view still…

We’re still designing the house, and while we’ve gotten the floor plan complete, we are still dealing with lights and electrical layouts. We also found out it will be about $100k over what we had initially estimated for cost. While this isn’t a deal breaker, it will mean we push back our date to 2020, maybe 2021. It just depends how much we buckle down and get back on the “baller saver” end of the spectrum.

Wait, There Were Also “Wins?”

There were some wins though. Our groceries were spot on all year, woohoo!! All the rest of our numbers panned out as expected, so that was pretty sweet as well. Even our tank adventure ended up only costing us $400 as the rest of the family came thru and pitched in. Yeah!!


All in all, 2017 was still a great year. Sure, monetarily it seemed like a dumpster fire but we learned a lot from it. One thing was that maybe this should be our P10 scenario and our previous years are more like a P90 scenario. If we can get our target number to reflect a P50, we should be good. Some years will suck and we’ll spend more, and some years, we’ll crush it and come in under. Either way, we know we need more of a cushion in some categories than we have built in now. Plus, we plan to stress test the FFLC budget this year, but I’ll talk about that in more detail in an upcoming post. If I had to sum up 2017 in a sentence, I’ll revert back to John Prine and say, “pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain, but actually, everything is just about the same.”

I hope your 2017 was better monetarily than ours, but I hope it was as great as ours felt. Any thoughts on what could have caused so many overages, or was it “life being life” and just a spendy year? I’d love to hear your take on it!

26 thoughts on “Our 2017 Spending: What a Dumpster Fire!

  1. Accidental FIRE

    Too bad, I have an extra weed eater after I moved my Mom out of her house into a condo. Probably gonna do a craigslist sale…

    Pets are indeed expensive, which is why I’ve been hesitant to get another after the loss of my last one. I’m sure I’ll eventually cave, but for now I have only fish and they fit the bill.

    And anyone who quotes John Prine in a blog post is a friend of mine 🙂

    1. Mr. SSC

      Oh nice! I think I might be selling one or 2 on craigslist if I don’t hear anything back from those guys in another few weeks.

      Pets take a lot. A lot of time, and have the potential to cost a lot of money at times too. Jack has been way worth it though as have the other dogs, but man, just other things for us to consider when making budget estimations.

      Nothing beats ome John Prine every now and again 🙂

  2. MrWow

    Sounds like a good time. Houses are a mess. There’s something to be said about being able to call the landlord and fix stuff.

    And pets. Well I’m allergic, so thats that.

    The rest sounds like it went pretty well.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Amazingly Mrs. SSC claims she has allergies to dogs yet still gets dogs. Some set her off way worse than others, and these and our last dogs don’t bug her much. She sure loved dogs, lol.

      The rest went pretty good, and the house stuff, well, sometimes it hits at once and other years are pretty quiet. Hopefully that’s next year.

  3. EZ Does It FI

    Good stuff! I really appreciate your transparency about the reality of life and not hiding all the costs as “not related to retirement lifestyle, so they don’t count- look, my family really lived on 27k this year” marketing!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Well, we actually did live only on $27k, the rest of that is extraneous spending, and “life related” so it doesn’t count, lol. We talked about making an April Fool’s day post like that, “we can retire now because we really only spend $22k/yr and I’m going to consult 3-4 days a week after retiring but that doesn’t count as work, because I’ll be retired!” lol

  4. Oldster

    Any robust plan has to be flexible. When I read this I see that you guys have a dynamic plan that has allowances for the unforeseeable. Stay on top of things and don’t be surprised of one of the years between now and your FFLC turns out to be way better than you thought it would be and advances your timeframe. Things tend to work out that way. It’s never a straight line up and out.

    1. Mr. SSC

      We do realize that the more unknown something is or can be the best way to estimate is to widen the boundaries you use for your assumptions. Hopefully this is more reflective of a high spend year, and not the norm. Since we have a few years of data prior to this, we know that this is an anomaly, at least since we’ve been tracking, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t necessarily be repeated once we aren’t working either.

      I’d like one of those quiet financial years, that would be nice.

  5. Mrs. COD

    Good to read the updates. We for sure had an expensive year as well, what with selling a house at a loss, buying a new house, moving, and several costly purchases related to the house (new mower for the giant yard, other tools, heat repair, new car that needed tires, etc… Plus, with Mr. COD’s change of jobs and my still being a SAHM, our income was way down! Woohoo…haha. Thankfully we are doing fine, and we look forward to higher earnings in a year or two!

    Love the new pup! What a cutie:)

    1. Mr. SSC

      Oh yeah, moving and buying/selling houses and all the accoutrments associated with that can add up quickly. Once you get your baseline set in KY, it will be easier to stay on track and get back in the swing of things with saving and life in general.

      Jack’s great, I’m a big fan.

  6. Jason

    Well, these expenses will lead to bigger and better things later. My wife is trying to convince me to get another dog. She is probably going to win and we will have a new member of the family within the month. More money out the door, but for our dog it is well worth it.

    1. Mr. SSC

      I’d agree that for our dogs it has been worth it. I cringe at thunderstorms now with Zoe (aka Moneypit) being thunderphobic and having to deal with that, but she still compensates for some minor shortcomings with her cuteness and friendly nature.

  7. Mr. Need2Save

    Our spending was pretty much on target for 2017. But I feel your pain (and joy!) regarding the pets. We just dropped around $900 at the vet last month on our dog.

    I’m definitely interested in seeing how your lake house progresses. We plan on renting for a while after downsizing from our current house. However, I would like to do a custom build at some point in the future.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Congrats on being on target with your spending! It’s nice when it works out that way. 🙂

      We had debated renting, but with 2 – 60lb dogs, and now a 3rd, it could be difficult finding a rental that would accept those sizes of pets. Like most things in our plan, it’s still a possibility if things change and we end up somewhere else for a few years.

  8. Frogdancer

    It must have been a ‘spendy’ year all around. I did my figures a few days ago and I think I’m still in shock. Admittedly, a few one-off expenses, but still…!

    1. Mr. SSC

      But still, indeed! It was definitely “the year of spending” on our end. Even discounting the one offs, we were above target on a number of things. It will get tracked much better this year for multiple reasons, but fingers crossed it’s not another year of “one off” expenses. For you too! 🙂

  9. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    Aww, Jack is such a cutie! Pets are indeed expensive, but dang it, are they worth it. 🙂 I say this as Zap is clawing at my hand, the little bugger.

    I feel like every year our spending is just out of control. 😛 Nothing ever goes to plan, especially when you own a home. I think our craziest unexpected expense was paying $700 when Mr. Picky Pincher’s phone suddenly stopped working, with zero reason. Ugh!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Yeah the pets are still worth it for sure. A lot of otehr areas we hit our targets, and then, even accounting for one offs, we were still above targets in other categories. We’ll track our 2018 spending to see how realistic our FFLC numbers are and whether we need to bump them up or tighten down, or what. It ought to be an interesting year. 🙂

      Phones, ugh… Mine went into a weird circle of death reboot glitch right before a work trip this weekend and i freaked for a few minutes before it got itself out of the death loop and rebooted, but I did have a mini heart attack waiting for it to correct itself.

  10. Mr. PIE

    I will echo what EZ Does it FI said.

    Transparency on real life numbers that can’t be boxed up into $35k per year expenses.

    As you know we made a choice to run two homes, two kids, two cats and two skis each for the family. No skis for the cats thank goodness…..

    The two homes thingy not for much longer though. Realizing the utter mess that a non paved driveway in the White Mountains causes, we embarked on Phase 1 of driveway replacement. Phase 2 will finish the work in the Spring and our bank balance will be about $12k lighter. Added to a $22k roof and siding item last year and we are throwing money at the NH home in the hope that such major items wont hit hard when we no longer have paychecks.

    Mrs PIE is running our numbers from last year using MINT and I’ll have some interesting data to pour over when I return from San Francisco… doubt a couple of surprises to make us rework / tweak the budget sheet for early retirement. But not show stoppers, she informs me…

    1. EZ Does It FI

      Yep- we definitely had our own strategic inefficiencies this year- mostly thanks to buying our retirement house in Colorado but not moving after falling in love with my latest role at work. However, whatever the spending shenanigans, I can unequivocally say “no regrets”! (Sometimes, you gotta know when to convert that money into life equity.)

      1. Mr. SSC

        We are debating building sooner and not moving out there immediately, or just building and then moving out there. The biggest hangup is outfitting the house with beds and stuff that we already have and not ending up with 2 of everything…. Not even counting the financial drain of utilities, insurance, etc… at 2 places instead of just one. We’ll see how it works out.

    2. Mr. SSC

      Yeah, we debated just doing a non-paved driveway, but I think that if we then go to pave or pour a concrete driveway when we have zero paycheck income, it may not ever happen because it would be such a big hit. Or it may ahve to happen in lieu of other things happening that year. So, if it sets us back another year or 2 to save more, and get big items like that associated with our house getting built, then I’m ok with that. It’s now about balancing comfort in the budget, and assumptions with spending and that sort of thing. I think after presenting to the FIRE MM group, we were planning on tweaking numbers, saving more or adjsuting some things anyway. We are definitely not hitting 2019 for pulling the plug. Most likely 2020 or even 2021 depending on how savings and spending go.

      No show stoppers here, but the new home build is a show delayer, lol. Good luck with your budget tweaks!

  11. Mr. Groovy

    Hey, Mr. SSC. Sorry 2017 was so spendy. But that’s unavoidable sometimes, especially when you own a home. I’m sure things will go better in 2018. And your building lot looks awesome by the way. Canyon Lake and Texas Hill Country are gorgeous. Cheers.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks and hopefully things go better in 2018. I remember 2016 being quiet on the home expense front, so hopefully we’re mostly caught up on big expenditures. It’s a good reminder of areas that can vary wildly year to year as far as spending targets go. 🙂

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