Credit Card Enlightenment: Hobbies Are Expensive!

Tennis Ball ShadowDecember is generally a higher expenditure month given the holidays and tempting sales galore.  I would ideally like to keep my personal credit card bill in the $1,000-$1,500 range, with $2,000 as the upper limit.  After $2,000, I feel like I’m wasting money because that just seems like an awful lot to spend on things beyond housing costs.

I decided to start tracking my monthly credit card expenses to mainly make sure there aren’t any egregious fees that I know nothing about.  For the past 10 years, all I’ve been doing is eyeballing the total amount, and if it was below a certain threshold, I would pay the bill and move on.

As my desire to save more money grows, it’s good to be a hawk-eye when it comes to my second biggest monthly expenditure.  Furthermore, as a personal finance blogger, why not make some content out of the figures and learn something in the process!  Those who seek early retirement might want to give this exercise a go as well.

DECEMBER 2011 CREDIT CARD STATEMENT

DECEMBER 2011 CREDIT CARD STATEMENT
Category Description Cost
Food Lunch $8.63
Food Farmer’s Market 13.96
Food Lunch $10.85
Food Breakfast $3.53
Food Groceries $112.94
Food Fruits at grocery store $14.96
Food Brunch for two $29
Food Lunch for two $31
Food Lunch $12.38
Food Lunch for two $22.33
Food Lunch $9.65
Hobby Two Tennis Racquets & shoes $549.39
Hobby Private internet domain renewal $12.17
Hobby / Business Tennis and food with client (reimbursable) $85
Hobby / Business Tennis and food with client (reimbursable) $65
Hobby / Business Tennis and food with client (reimbursable) $55
Insurance Insurance for car, home, personal prop etc $223
Merchandise BR casual shoes 40% off (will return) $75.90
Merchandise Tod’s work shoes 30% off, record amount $315
Merchandise Holiday gifts $365
Merchandise Working clothes on sale for myself $288
Misc Parking $1
Misc Walgreens shampoo, toothpaste, floss $11
Transportation Gas $67.88
Total $2,383
Total Net Of Reimbursements and Returns $2,052

EXPENDITURE HIGHLIGHTS 

Hobbies: Tennis is expensive.  The cost of $549.39 is around 25% of my total bill.  The two tennis racquet purchases are considered one-off since I play with the same tennis racquets for 3-5 years on average.  I need two because I play competitively and strings break during matches all the time.  In fact, I just broke two strings the other day while, which will cost about $80 to re-string since I can’t be bothered to string them myself.

Transportation: Given I take the bus to and from work every weekday, my gas bill is relatively small at $67.88, despite Moose’s V8 engine.  If I didn’t go up to Tahoe for a mini-snowboard vacation, I probably would have only spent about $10 bucks on gas.  The snow has finally arrived, so I plan to go up this week and twice a month on average for the next three months.

Shopping: I went a little nuts (for my standard), shopping for myself given places such as Barney’s and Banana Republic had 30-45% off sales.  I really didn’t spend money on anything I really wanted, just work shoes and clothes since they wear out e.g. socks, pants, shirts.

Food: From the 11 entries, it does seem like I eat out a lot.  However, given you can eat out around 90 times a month, eating out 12% of the time isn’t that bad is it?  $130 a month for groceries for two is pretty good.  You are only seeing a portion of my food bill since I’m constantly taking clients out for dinner and lunch as well on my corporate card.  Combining business with pleasure is actually a great way to save costs.  You’ve got to eat anyway, might as well build relationships with clients over a great meal.  If you love to golf, you might as well take a client out golfing as well.

PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE

I’d love to spend less money, but I’m not sure exactly where to cut.  It does look like I eat out a lot, but in the scheme of 30 days and 90 expendable meals, I don’t think my food expenditure is that much.  Professional cooks are infinitely better and quicker at preparing food than I can.

For January and upcoming months, I won’t be buying any personal gifts or clothes for myself.  Hence, the upcoming credit card bills should go down by an average of $500.  That said, I do plan a trip overseas and have budgeted about $1,000 for some tailored clothes.  I also bought a last minute airplane ticket for vacation, so actually, February looks like it’s getting up there as well!

In addition to my corporate card,  I also have an online business credit card which pays for other expenses such as internet and mobile charges.  If you haven’t thought about starting a business, there are definitely some benefits that help subsidize your normal living expenses e.g. food, travel, electronics.

I spent about $300 in cash this past December, or about $70 a week on random things such as parking, tennis balls, snacks, and taxis.  I try to carry as little cash as possible, since cash cannot be replaced and I get rewards points on my credit card.

Finally, I will continue to pay off the credit card bill in full and save 100% of every other paycheck, which equals a minimum of 50% savings of my after tax income for the year.  If there is a year-end bonus, I will save or invest at least 90% of the bonus as well.

STRONG RECOMMENDATION

Check Your Credit Score: Take a moment to check your free TransUnion credit score through GoFreeCredit.com, a company I trust. 30% of credit reports have errors, which could put a serious hamper on your refinancing or new loan borrowing abilities. I had a $8 late payment I didn’t even know I owed crush my score by 100 points come up during my last refinance. The average credit score for rejected mortgage borrowers has risen to 729 due to more stringent lending requirements. Do you know what your score is?

Updated 10/27/2014

Photo: Shot spot shadow, SD.

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

You can sign up to receive his articles via email or by RSS. Sam also sends out a private quarterly newsletter with information on where he's investing his money and more sensitive information.

Subscribe To Private Newsletter

Comments

  1. says

    I think this kind of post is interesting! But then again, I always anticipate the end of the month because I get to check how I did with my spending. I’d say that eating out is one of the easiest ways to cut back. If you made meals at home and ate leftovers (which is just as easy as eating out), you’d save tons.

    • says

      It would be such a shame to eat my horrible home cooking with hundreds of the best restaurants in the country all within a 7 mile radius! I think if I lived in Topeka, I could eat in a lot. Not in SF or Manhattan.

  2. says

    Ahh, business eats! I always look to take a business lunch or night out when I can.

    Don’t tell too many people the secret, Sam. If there’s anything I’ve learned and applied from this blog, it’s that networking is not something to be overlooked. Given the modest time investment – zero if you’re going to lunch anyway – and considering the costs, it’s an investment always worth the expense.

  3. says

    I typically put hardly anything on credit cards these days. I’ve been using my PerkStreet debit much more frequently since I find it’s easier to track my accounts when I’m not using credit. I just like to know how much cash I have available and not worry about debts that I owe on cards.

  4. says

    I enjoy reading how others are doing (helps me feel good or bad about myself, depending).

    December and January are always tough for me. In addition to holiday spending, I am more likely to buy that item I should have bought 6 months ago, so a lot of loose ends get tied up at once.

  5. says

    I enjoyed your post – mainly because I guess I’m a bit nosy and like to know how other people handle their lives and finances – after all – I might learn something from them!

    We are cash people ourselves. We use credit cards for trips, online purchases and unplanned stuff when we are out and about and don’t want to use cash… My December bill was about $200 and we pay off all cards with each statement so we never pay interest or fees.

    It sounds like you are doing great at saving if you are able to put away every other paycheck.

  6. David M says

    My credit card bill for December was about $4,000 but that is because I was on vacation for the whole month.

    We are ussually pretty frugal but we spent 3 nights in Singapore and the hotel was about $200 a night and 6 nights in Kuala Lumpur were the hotel was about $125 a night. We also stayed at an upscale resort for 3 days earlier in the month.

    My average credit card charges are probably about $1,200 a month – I charge everything possible – including all food shopping.

    • says

      Sounds like you had a lot of fun! Pics? Start a blog?

      KL is so cheap. Still $99 at the Ritz? Where did you stay in KL and what did you do? It’s one of my favorite cities. Roti Canai, chicken satay, and mee goreng!

  7. says

    I post my spending weekly on my Sunday Evening Post, so I like to see how other’s are spending their money. Though for me, it’s mostly a way to keep me accountable and keep track of where our money is going, though I do leave out bills and expenditures that are specifically saved for, like C’s classes and books.
    But if posting this information isn’t doing anything for you, then I would say stop doing it.

    • says

      I was hoping to get a bigger epiphany in this post, but all I realized was that tennis is not cheap, contrary to what I thought. $500+ is a lot! I’ll check out your Sunday evening posts as well.

      tx

  8. says

    When you move away from San Francisco the professional chefs may not be as good and as fast :)

    Eating out 12% of the time is definitely far from the worst but I’ve gotten to a point where most “professionally cooked” food is disappointing. And since I’ve switched to 4-6 small meals a day that involve a lot of fresh fruit I’ve noticed much lower costs for groceries, not to mention that cooking a couple of things can last all week. Mark Bittman’s books are full of great simple ideas.

    Other than that I’d love to get down to your level of spending in some categories!

  9. says

    I use my credit card almost exclusively for the frequent flier miles. My exceptions are Target (5% rebate) and Costco (rebate). As a teacher, I no longer have the opportunity to go out for lunch. My hobbies (bicycling) can add to the month’s expenses, however it is usually replacing bicycle gear or repairs/maintenance. My costs usually increase when we are going on amajor trip. This year, we are going to Venice, Italy to pick up a cruise. Airfare will be almost covered by the miles, but I have to pay for the taxes. I have to pay for the cruise in April. Depending on the timing, either April or May will be higher.
    My December bill was routine because my wife spread out the holiday shopping over a couple of months. Actually my January bill increased thank to a car repair ($200). I expect I will add more because I need a more comfortable desk chair since I spend so much time on the computer. So far everything is planned for,without any surprises!

  10. Michael says

    My personal credit card spending was much higher than usual last month, roughly $1000. I spent $468 on Christmas gifts for my wife and treated myself to a new winter coat from Banana Republic as well as a backpack by Tom Bihn. Clearly, I did my part to stimulate the economy. :)

    Clothing – $200
    Breakfast and Lunch – $100
    Entertainment – $24
    Tom Bihn Backpack – $250
    Mobile Phone – $70
    Gifts – $468
    Business (Non Reimbursed) – $15

    My wife an I track joint expenses separately from personal expenses and those came in around $912, which is fairly typical.

    Takeout – $43
    CableTV/Internet – $80
    Groceries – $239
    Gifts – $104
    Travel – $130
    Entertainment – $40
    Parking/Tolls/Gas – $200
    Household – $76

    We charge everything and pay off in full each month so we can accumulate points for travel rewards.

  11. says

    I’m totally nosy so I like seeing these types of posts. Also, they make me realize our restaurant/food budget is WAY! out of control. Brings me back down to reality.

  12. says

    My credit card in dec was a bit higher than normal because of a few things: car plates for the year, a suit for my wedding and a couple christmas gifts. There was also 2 short notice 1 way flights on there. Between the plane tickets, the plates and the suit, is about 55% of my total cc bill for december.
    And your farmers market takes credit card? way cool!

  13. says

    I just switched credit cards to the new Chase Sapphire card, from my bank 1% back card to earn the $625 in travel. However, one thing I didn’t think about (and I should have given that I work with metrics and financial reporting) was the extra difficulty of not seeing my credit card at the same time I do my online banking. The all-in-one financial review (at least for the majority of day-to-day expenses) does have some significant value and timesavings for me. I plan to switch back to my old credit card after I get the required spending limit. So yes, time and convenience are things I’m willing to pay for.

  14. says

    Our cc bill was pretty good in December. We didn’t buy too many things and we already had a family gather in November. Your food bill is pretty reasonable. $130/month on groceries is very little. I don’t think you can cut much there.

  15. says

    It all adds up quick. My last credit card bill was at a record low of only $350 but its going to be probably double that for Jan which is more of my norm. I’m not spending much on non essentials as I’m not shopping. I’m traveling but I already paid for most of my travel costs last year. I didn’t realize tennis can be such an expensive hobby. It’s excellent exercise so it’s good that your hobby is also good for your health!

  16. says

    I appreciate the fact that you share your monthly expenses. I think many sports related hobbies are expensive. Golf for instance. You can drop a quick $100 bucks for two people on green fees and a cart for a round of golf.

    My current hobbies are thrift stores. I still get my retail therapy but for a little less.

  17. Simple Rich Living says

    I charge everything possible on credit (for points) and the convenience of not having to go to the bank machine all the time. My average is probably between $700-$1200 depending on the month. December (and July and August) was definitely one of the more expensive months. My biggest category is usually (always) food…both eating and grocery.

  18. Marissa @ Thirty Six Months says

    “Professional cooks are infinitely better and quicker at preparing food than I can”
    My favourite line by far!

    I try to tell my parents and friends this all the time, but no one takes me seriously.

  19. says

    Wow, Sam, this is like the most information and detail about yourself that you have revealed.. ever!

    I like this type of post. It adds to the mystery of Sam, from Financial samurai.

    $130 in grocery bills is pretty good, considering it sounds like you buy organic and go to the farmers market regularly.

  20. says

    I’m interested in knowing more about your business lunches. I have two side businesses, one a blog I just started, and the other is coaching that I’ve been doing for a while. Now that I look back on last year, there were many meetings I had with friends/other coaches where there definitely were things discussed related to my business. Not sure if you play golf, but I’m assuming that can be counted too.

    I’m planning on seeing a CPA this year for my taxes but still very curious.. thanks!

  21. Hiro says

    thank you for another informative post. i use 1 credit card and track my expenses biweekly. Reading your blog (my top 3 favorites) helps me to benchmark myself to other personal financial gurus in which i can always have room for improvement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *