Credit Card Spending Gone Overboard!

Mediterranean CroatiaShoot, I’ve spent too much on my credit card at a time when I shouldn’t because I got less of a 2011 bonus than expected.  January’s statement reminds me how easy it is for people to spend freely only to feel regret one month later.

January saw the first huge storm that dumped 2.5 foot of powder in Lake Tahoe.  As a storm chaser, I just had to go last minute because there’s nothing quite like riding on 2+ feet of powder.  You’re floating on a cloud as you barrel down the shoot without a fear of crashing because everything is so soft.  I stayed at my place and spent around $150 on gas and another $100 on food for a couple nights.

I also took full advantage of a ridiculously low airfare by Hawaiian Airlines and booked a round-trip ticket for only $360 after taxes and fees just 7 days before departure!  Originally, I was going to go from Saturday to Saturday, but due to the storm up in Lake Tahoe, I decided to go from Tuesday to Saturday (Tahoe Sunday Monday).  It was quite surreal going from powder to the beach the very next day.

Of course, once in Hawaii, I met up with friends every other night for dinner and drinks.  The Korean BBQ and Hawaiian food are incredible there!  I guess things could have been worse since I didn’t have to pay for lodging for a week.

JANUARY 2012 CREDIT CARD STATEMENT


JANUARY 2012 CREDIT CARD STATEMENT
Category Description Cost
Alcohol Wine for a house party $32.54
Banking Refundable application fee for home refi $765
Dentist Deductible for work at Dentist $168
Dinner Dinner at Duke’s in Waikiki.  Great venue, but food sucks $57
Dinner Dinner at 12 Ave Grill, Honolulu (overpriced!) $93
Dinner Vietnamese food $23
Farmer’s Market Pumelos, vegan crepes, dried cherries $33
Gas Premium unleaded $62.90
Gas Premium unleaded $76
Groceries Don’t remember $8.38
Groceries Safeway $136.00
Haircut Haircut $18
Hardware Metal fences for trees to avoid dog poop $13
Hobby Tennis club $228
Insurance Home, auto, life, personal prop $228
iTunes iPhone Game, Sentinel 3! $1.99
Lunch Cambodian $9
Lunch Indonesian food for two $30
Lunch Vietnamese food $10.04
Lunch Old world Italian seafood for three (reimbursable client lunch) $199.98
Lunch Chinese food takeout for two $19.53
Lunch Assortment of sushi and veggies $8.83
Lunch French bakery $20.40
Lunch Cambodian food $8.63
Lunch Mexican food $10.53
Lunch In N’ Out Burger $3.45
Lunch Vacation lunch in Lake Tahoe $22
Lunch Filipino food for three in Honolulu $35
Lunch Korean BBQ for three in Honolulu $39.88
Snack French bakery $2.75
Software Tax software $70
Taxi Taxi home $50
Tennis Can of balls $3.91
Tennis Client tennis (reimbursable) $85
Travel Rountrip ticket to Hawaii $361
Travel Taxi to airport $54
Unknown Unknown, but probably lunch or taxi fare $51
Total $3,038.74

OBSERVATIONS

Typing up my credit card report makes me realize how much I love to eat all sorts of food!  I love South East Asian food and could eat Indonesian and Malaysian food every day, all day.  Cambodian/Thai food is also quite tasty, and a number of new such restaurants have popped up.

I can’t believe I’m refinancing just 4 months after I refinanced already!  I couldn’t pass up a 2.625% 5/1 rate with costs fully baked in.  I just had to pay the up front $765 application fee.

Moose’s gas bill is expensive due to my trip to Lake Tahoe.  Usually I spend about $50 a month, so this January I spent triple.

Finally, my minimum monthly recurring cost for tennis is around $200 due to club dues, food, tennis balls, and strings.  Things add up if I’m not careful, so I plan to demo a lot more new racquets to increase the longevity of my strings, and also have fun with new technology.

CONCLUSION

My January 2012 credit card spending makes me a little ill.  I realize I will get credited back about $1,000, but there always seems to be SOMETHING “one-off” that keeps popping up.  I need to get my CC bill down to about $1,200-$1,500 for me to feel comfortable again because spending $3,000 feels too much.

I will pay the bill in full as I have always done.  It’s time to ratchet down my spending and live more frugally.  I will still save 100% of every other paycheck, but it looks like for this year, the maximum after tax income I can save is around 60%, and not the 70-75% that I was shooting for.

FAVORITE CREDIT CARDS

Barclaycard® Ring MasterCard® – 1% Back on Balance Transfers – This great card has the lowest APR I’ve seen in the market today at 8% compared to the average credit card interest rate is 15%. You get 1% back on all balance transfers made in the first 60 days of opening an account and there is no annual fee or balance transfer fee. There’s a fantastic social community of Ring MasterCard holders once you join to interact with and save money.

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® – Hawaiian Airlines is hands down the best airlines in America. Their service is impeccable, they provide food, snacks, and drinks included in your air fare, and each seat comes with a USB charger. This Hawaiian Airlines card gives 35,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days, gives you one complimentary bag to check-in, and a one-time 50% off discount off your companion’s air fare! Round-trip ticket prices range from $450 – $1,200, so that’s a $225 – $600 savings right there to paradise! You also get $100 off a companion tick for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii and North America each year, 1 point for every $1 spent, and 5,000 annual bonus miles after $10,000 in annual spend. The annual fee is only $89. Oahu is my home state and it is the most beautiful place to vacation!

Regards,

Sam

Photo: Our cruise ship tendered at Korcula, Croatia 2014.  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.

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Comments

  1. David M says

    My credit card spending was high in January, about the same as your $3,000. However, Ineeded to spend $3,000 in 3 months to get 50,000 bonus points on a credit card – thus I’m not concerned about this amount.

    It includes – $800 for deep scaling and this was needed and I will take the $ from my Health Savings account. I donated $500 to charity. I purchased $300 in gift cards to 2 food stores that I will use now that I have gotten the bonus. Subtract these items and I’m at a comfortable $1,500.

    A the food of South East Asia! I just came back from Indonesia and Malaysia and have been to Thailand about 10 times and have been to Cambodia as well. The flights are expensive (about $1,500-$2,000 from the East Coast) but the cost of the food is about 10%-30% of what you would spend in Amercia. Maybe 40% if you eat at the real upscale hotels – money well spent.

    The best upscale meal I have ever had was last December as the Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpa – the dinner buffet for 2 with tax and tip was about $120. However, the atmosphere, food and service was world class.

    Best non-upscale meal in the world would be sindot (hot pot barbacue) in Udomxai Laos. The cost with 2 large Beer Lao (best beer in the world IMHO) and a large amount of delicious food – $10!!!!

  2. says

    My Jan spending was okay…There’s always a nice drop-off after December X-mas time. I will say this, beware the lifestyle creep. If your Jan was a one month anomaly, no biggie because you’re enjoying life. If you’re going to Tahoe and Hawaii every month…well first, take me with you! Second, that could be a costly indulgence!

  3. says

    Wow – a 5/1 rate of 2.625% is great.

    I’m curious – how do you account for the place on Tahoe? I assume you rent it to other people other times? Do you have it so that you have openings in the schedule?

    • says

      Yeah, when the mortgage officer called me just four months later, I was shocked!

      I get to use my place whenever I want and it’s in a rental program. Just got to call and book. Pretty easy!

  4. says

    When I want to cut spending drastically, I typically just make myself really busy. I never have time to want for anything when I’m busy, haha!

  5. Mike Hunt says

    That spending was a little high mister.

    My spending will be picking up as I’m doing a big trip back to the West Coast and have loaded the boat up with tons of online shopping- more than $3K worth for sure!

    -Mike

  6. says

    I would love a month where my credit card bill was 3k! :)

    Each month, I think I will be able to keep spending down. Then, something comes up. For instance, this month my mom’s car broke down and I had to cover an 800 dollar repair. Things like that happen all the time. Even dumb things like two of my kids outgrew their basketball shoes this month- there goes $150.

    It sounds like you had a fabulous January- the experiences would be worth every penny of that $3000!!

  7. says

    The easiest and most direct way to reduce your spending is to not use your credit cat. There is plenty of science showing that people who spend with plastic spend more in general and spend more on specific purchases compared to cash spenders. An internal study conducted by McDonalds proved this to be true at their own restaurants. Per check charges were higher for plastic vs. cash.

    Everyone who pays their credit card bills in full each month thinks they are the exception to the rule. It’s like living in Lake Wobegon where everyone is above average. Not the case. Plastic delays the discomfort of excess spending which makes the discomfort much easier to ignore. Time for a plastic fast to experiment for yourself?

    • says

      I loved the McDonald’s study. Very true. I think I will keep the plastic at home and just take out $1,000 in cash for the month of March and see what happens. If I can stick to that, then I will get to below $1,500 discretionary spending.

  8. says

    I was pleasantly surprised, my January bill was half of what it usually is. My December was a bit higher thanks to a car repair. A large part of your bill was lunches/dinners and vacation. My dining out is $150-200 per month and I can not go out for lunch. Around April, I have to pay for my July cruise. I have been planning that for 4 months already.

    In my case, the credit card bill is the result of careful planning and control of my expenses. All the effort goes on behind the scenes to keep the expenses in check.

  9. says

    January is not the problem for me, it’s this month. My misc expenses have been going through the roof. (My roof being much lower than yours.) Time to be more disciplined about my lunch and spending habits. Books are a killer. I saw In N Out on your list. It made me homesick…and hungry. None of my expenses will go my credit card beacuse I’m still working on paying those off.

  10. says

    It seems like every month for me there’s a “one-off” as well, which makes me think that it’s not a 1 off, it’s just something that I’m continuously failing to account for. As far as the food spending, I find it funny that you can get a seafood dinner for 3 for $200, and have Indonesian for 2 people for $30, and lunch for 1 a 3.50 from in-n-out. Nice to have work cover the big ticket items, eh?
    Glad that you were able to go to tahoe during the powder -i’ve done it once at it was “heavenly”

    • says

      Indeed! Got to treat the clients to what they want right? The seafood cioppino is the best at this one place called Taddich Grill.

      But, if the clients want to eat In N Out burger, I’m game too! ;)

  11. says

    It’s easy to run up the credit card if you’re not careful. That’s why so many people are in debt. Our January bill is not great either. I got a ticket for my mom’s flight to Thailand. It’s only fair because she helped us so much with the baby.
    I really like Heavenly too. It’s surreal to see that lake down there. We really miss in-n-out.

  12. says

    Wow. This is quite high even for a spender like me. But you had me at $18 haircut. Mine was $120 last month. Of course it is much more complex than yours and involves color. :)

  13. says

    Ugh! My January spending was nasty too.

    January ended up being my best income month ever, but I unconsciously made up for it by overspending it on eating out and misc spending. I guess I need to work on applying that extra income to the savings account throughout the month, rather than just once at the end of the month. :)

  14. says

    You are making me hungry!!

    It sounds like you are having a great time. I think that sometimes (but not with a lot of regularity) you have to just do spontaneous things like you did in January.

    We hold credit down because we like to pay as we go, so we use cash more than credit. Also, we plan out big trips and other expenses so that they are in the budget for the year – when we can, which is most of the time. Our normal credit card bills are less than $150 a month – usually less.

    It all boils down to your life choices – living within your desired budget or taking advantage of life’s opportunities. Moderation can be the key.

  15. says

    I’m glad to see that you’re sticking with posting the monthly credit card statement. I know you weren’t certain if it was doing you any good, but I personally love the little peak into other people’s lives.
    Our statements run from the 20th-20th, but this last statement wasn’t bad. It’s the next one that will be high, with $1,800 in adoption agency fees.
    I like using the credit card for the big one time expenses, even if we have the money in savings for it, because it lets me pay the expense right away but then plan for the actual payment when it makes the most sense based on that month’s cash flow. I try to do one transfer out of savings and one into savings each month.

  16. says

    I spend a lot of money on food on my credit card too. Cambodian food sounds good even though I’ve never tried it before. I’m doing better on my spending this year although I did spend several hundred dollars for my parents last month that I didn’t anticipate. At least the money went to a good cause!

  17. says

    We are foodies too! We live in an Australian city and there are some fabulous restaurants in our neighborhood. Since we’re snowballing $25,000 of debt this year (ouch!), we’ve had to indulge in other ways. First, we scout out lunch specials. We can often split a $7 Thai dish and have a weekday date. Second, we visit new food markets, both for our produce and for a meal. And third, we bought a foodie guide to our city and regularly visit new butchers, bakers, spice shops, and the like.

  18. says

    January was similar to every other month for me, although February turned out to be a bit higher than usual thanks to our booking a trip to Krabi over Songkran. Still not bad though, 5 nights and airfare just north of $600. Will still have the food bills while we are there of course, but breakfast is included, we’ll eat Thai for lunch (maybe $3 per person) so it is just dinner we’ll have to contend with.

    I love to eat too and the first thing I noticed about your list Sam was the number of times you had some sort of SE Asian food for lunch. You eat it almost as much as me and I live here for crying out loud! When you gonna make the jump?

  19. Leah says

    Ugh, January was awful for me too! My fiance and I decided that we’d go to a music festival in May, and the deal was that I’d pay for hotel if he’d pay for everything else. Due to crazy inflated prices, my hotel for 3 nights came to $800. THEN, in order to get the “good” ticket price, we both simultaneously waited in the online ticket queue and agreed that whoever got “in” first would buy. Well, that turned out to be me! So I ended up paying $1200 for this trip. It’s not all bad, because he paid me back for the tickets, and he’ll be paying for all expenses while we’re there, but looking at my credit card bill was not fun!

    I really believe that the cost will be worth it though, so I’m not too stressed out :)

  20. says

    Wow. Impressive spending! ;)

    I could have told you that you spend too much on dining out just based on your tweets! :)

    In your defense, it sounds like you have a pretty fun month. Tahoe and Hawaii?! Nice. Hawaii is one of my favorite places, but when you have to buy tickets for 3 it gets expensive fast. I’m looking forward to when our son is a bit older so we can travel more! We used to travel a lot before he arrived.

    According to Mint, we spent $1845 in January for a family of 3. That includes:

    – $289 flight to Reno for the man (annual male-bonding snowboarding trip)
    – $353 for home/car insurance 6-month renewal
    – $388 for groceries
    – $144 for car registration and emissions testing
    – $275 of tuition for our son’s school (last year of paying tuition!!)
    – $120 crossfit membership for me (this is my big luxury)
    – $60 on doctor visits
    – $216 of misc stuff (utilities, netflix, etc).

    Looks like we didn’t eat out at all in the month of January.

    • says

      Not dining out for an entire month is a Herculean feat! Temptations are all around us here in San Francisco. We, along with New York City are seriously spoiled with every time of food imaginable!

      I’m sure if I didn’t go out to eat once, I’d probably shed some more pounds quickly too! Hope Reno was fun! It’s dumping here in Tahoe!

  21. says

    That is some serious spending :D Although we didn’t get to hang out in Hawaii, I noticed we’ve gotten a little looser with our spending lately too – mostly dining out, due to a little extra income. We need to tighten up and get back on course too, good luck to you!

    • says

      No $20 haircut available where you are? I live in SF and there are tons of $18 haircuts! :)

      I figure, to look good is really about fitness, and then what God gave us in terms of looks. Hence, why spend so much on a haircut?

  22. says

    Ugh man, I started following my CC because of your initial post and while it is obviously good, I can’t seem to get it below $3200/month (this month was $3,600). RIDICULOUS. So to answer your question, my spending was terrible.

  23. MoneySmartGuides says

    You are correct – credit card spending can quickly spiral out of control if you aren’t careful. Back when I had issues with my spending, I would be in shock when the statement came. I would always question how I spent that much money. I’ve since tracked my spending and as a result know when I need to cool off for a bit.

  24. Kris says

    Shoot, I would’ve recommended staying away from 12th ave grill and hitting up Town instead (down the street). I’m just not a fan of it.
    I’m actually surprised you spent so little on food and cocktails considering you were on vacation! Maybe it’s just because we eat out a ton. And drink a lot. But maybe that’s just us…

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