Back in December I set a goal to save half of my income in 2013. Seeing as we’ve just crossed the halfway point for the year I thought it would be a good time to check in and see just what kind of progress I’ve been making towards that goal. So in lieu of my normal investment updates today I’m checking in and letting you see the good and the bad of my saving/spending habits so far this year.
So without further ado…
My savings rate for 2013 (so far) is: 35.9%.
This is a long way off from my goal of 50%, and just shy of a 6% increase from where I was at the end of the year. I thought for sure I was making better progress than that, so let’s take a look at where I’m making progress and where I’m falling short.
Gas, Utilities & Phone. Three of the spending categories I was looking to cut back on the most, I have. I’m well under budget in each category. Saving on gas has been pretty easy, I haven’t taken nearly as many of the cross state road trips I usually take and I’ve been making it a point to drive a bit more conservatively on my daily commutes.
Saving on my utility bills has been a touch more challenging. I bought energy-saving power strips for my main energy suckers: the TV & related devices and my computer. The next step was simply to install cfl light bulbs all throughout the house. I doubt these simple upgrades have had a huge impact over the past 6 months, but long-term they should make a difference in my utility bills. What has made a difference so far this year is the temperature which we keep the house. During the winter we kept the house at 65 degrees while we were home and dropped it down to 63 while away at work and overnight. It actually sounds a lot worse than it was. I wear a hoodie around the house and have a blanket over me all winter regardless of the temperature. So dropping the heat down a few degrees didn’t affect my comfort level all that much, but my heating bills over the winter were noticeably lower! Now that summer is here, we’re trying to use the A/C only when absolutely necessary to try and continue the trend that’s been set to this point in the year.
I wrote just before the new year how I planned to save a bundle on my cell phone bill. I’m happy to report that my experience has been fantastic so far. I’ve spent $41 per month on my cell phone this year by switching to Straight Talk wireless, down from close to $90 that I previously spent with Verizon. I use my phone the same amount, if not more than ever, and have noticed no difference in service. If anything the service is better as I’ve had service in a few places where I used to have no bars.
If anyone comes to me asking how they can save more money, my first suggestion will be to ditch the phones with the 2 year contract and go prepaid. Its just the smarter choice!
Unfortunately the good progress ends there. I am at or very near budget in most other areas, but there are a few places where I’ve let myself go overboard and need to reel things in over the next six months.
Auto Insurance – I pay my car insurance in 6-month increments and its really not something I pay close attention to. That changed this past month when I noticed my insurance payment was nearly $50 more than what I had allotted for based on last years payments. My insurance company had the lowest rates 5 years ago when I joined, but I haven’t bothered to shop around since. You can get free insurance quotes just about everywhere these days so it really doesn’t pay to be lazy (like me) and not make sure you always have the lowest rate.
One of the things I wasn’t expecting to be way over budget on was clothing. I rarely shop for new clothes, but so far this year I’ve had to buy new shoes for a wedding, a few new dress shirts, new sneakers and some impulse buys when walking around the mall. Needless to say I’ve blown through my yearly clothing budget in the span of 6 months! I’m really going to have to watch myself and rely on my natural good looks to keep me stylish for the rest of the year.
Last but not least, my excessive eating out habit has reared its ugly head and I’ve gone over budget there as well. I am spending less on eating out than last year, but I wanted to make major cutbacks here for a number of reasons and I’ve let myself slack on it. Things were looking good, as I was below budget every month through April, but the last two months have gotten way out of control and ruined all the progress that had been made. Most of the time it’s out of boredom or habit rather than a real want to eat a meal out. I’m going to really focus on cutting back on eating out for the rest of the year and will have to force myself to really consider what better uses I could have for that money before wasting it on an unneeded meal at a restaurant.
It’s not looking good for my goal of saving half my income, but I’m not giving up hope just yet. I don’t have any major purchases or expenses on the horizon, and I know I have a lot of room left to cut back in my budget without having to live like hermit.
That said, my 36% savings rate makes me look like the Greek god of savings compared to the average American who saves less than 4% of their income annually. So I’m doing well compared to most people out there, just not as well as the lofty goal I’ve set for myself this year.
Readers: How are your savings goals looking at the half way point of the year? What are you doing to make sure you meet them by year end?