Royally Frugal household still going strong- A much awaited update


Financial independence for us is the amazing thing which allows you to go with the flow of life. We are far from calling ourselves remotely FI but in resent months I have loved the freedom of not fretting about money or other issues around it while we concentrate on maximizing our careers. Last few months have been far too busy on the work front for us to be able to look closely into our investments or sit down and write a post. There are a few unfinished posts in different files scattered around on my system but it is high time we talk.

Last few months have been a real roller coaster for us particularly in terms of added responsibility at work, amazing vacation and us taking more steps towards a better lifestyle. The lifestyle we are aiming at is one which allows us to be forgetful about monitoring our investments. It does not mean we did not save, in fact last three months saw a good chunk of our income being saved as we try to reign in our expenses.

We had started this financial year with a goal to keep our monthly spending within 14k not including rent, home loan EMI or parental support. Below is our total monthly spending since June since we are almost at the end of September I am counting the total till 27th.

June- 19,391/- (includes 2,200 for bike tire replacement and 1,918 for Mr. S’ clothes.)

July- 15,049/- (no out of turn expense except paying ~600 to get 300/- vouchers for a retail brand through loyalty points)

August- 11,893/- (this is way too much for a month where we were vacationing for almost 10 days. Though it does include some gardening supplies)

September- 13,774/- ( We still have four days till the end of the month and I am hoping to keep it around 15k. This includes 499/- for Amazon Prime(affiliate), 255 for a headphone and 625 for a trimmer.)

We also bought a replacement for Mr. S’ phone which died in June using the offers in past one week. Amazon Prime was also a result of that well thought shopping spree. We believe at 499 a year it is a decent deal right now as it allows us to buy smaller products for no shipping and gives access to some content.

While we are on the topic of phone I would like to expand a bit on it. Mr S’ phone gave up charging in June and after sinking in some money into it we shifted to a hand me down from parents. It was over 2.5 years old and we both feel like it went out too early. My current phone was bought for 10k and is around 1.75 years old. With all the new models and technologies flooding the market right now I wonder at what rate people change their phones.  When did you last buy a cell phone and what is your usual update schedule?

Apart from shopping around a bit and repairing other items we also purged a decent amount of stuff from our house. We made some 80/- bucks out of it and my tiny apartment thanks me for it. We also sold our couch to a friend leading to a decent amount of space which gives me a lot of peace.

We have been working on cooking more at home and I have been trying to process some fresh produce for us to consume along the year. I am thankful that cooking makes me as happy as it does otherwise it would suck to cook every day. Past weekend I made some cucumber relish and apple jam which turned out amazing and some nankatai which burned since our oven is apparently hotter than the recipe guy’s. We have thankfully managed to keep our grocery bill in check and have barely had to throw away any food.

We have a lot of family time planned and in next few weeks and we plan to sleep in during Diwali holidays. We are also reigning in on our travels for the remaining months as we almost touched out yearly budget with previous vacations in the year.

In terms of our savings the market saw considerable highs last few months and is running on a downhill slope for past few days. I am hoping it will last long enough for us to capitalize on it with salary coming in soon. However we are still way ahead from where we started last year and I hope the next time I update that ticker on the right I can say we crushed the 10% mark.

That’s a lot of English about us, we would like to hear a lot more about you as well. We have been sloppy in responding but are so happy to read new comments coming in every few days.

Let us know how you have been doing past few months.

Expense Report May 2017- We met our goals

May marks the anniversary of the blog and I have to sadly admit we only shared a little of 20 posts in one year. As I have said ad nauseam, work has kept us pretty busy this past year and we aim to do much better. Our goal to get better covers our investment decisions, consistency, health and definitely our spending. We had stopped publishing expense reports because I thought who wants to know how much I spend on buying the essentials. We decided to start again as it allows me to write about us and also because we realized that spending was a major issue.

May was a month of realizations both financially and personally. As we polished the FY update we saw how much (more than our expectations) we had racked up. We also realized how long way we still have to go. Work kept on getting stressful and thankfully we found ways to get away from it though not always.

Past month we managed to squeeze in a quick pilgrimage with my parents and Mr. S’s parents are with us ready to go on their trip, as you read this. Spending time with our parents makes me realize again and again that one of my motives to retire early, is to give them more time when they will really need it.

Our spending was quite under control though we did eat out and finally saw a movie after June last year. We also managed to reduce our electricity consumption in April and paid just Rs.510 for it in May (not owning an AC helps a lot) . I am really hoping we are able to reduce it even further and a number in late 300s would be sweet melody. We live in probably the highest per unit rate city and seeing a reducing bill feels great.

We have been trying to reduce a lot of stuff that we have and we did sell a decent mount of both steel and plastic wares for a small amount. More than the money we got out of them, we managed to free up some space in our tiny apartment. Next action was to sell some of the big living room furniture and replace it with a futon. Futon will allow us to retain our bed when an elderly (parents mostly) visit us and we hand over the higher bed to them.

So let’s see how we actually did

How we track our spending: We started with Andromoney to keep tabs on our spending but it was tiring, even though it was accurate and gave us detailed breakups. These days however we use a simple google spreadsheet and it works fine for us except I miss those charts.

Grocery (We usually order online through Big Basket (affiliate link) or else we buy in bulk from the super mart nearby. Small purchases are from nearby market.) – 4147.42

Eating out (Includes what we paid the lunch lady in office) – 4483.96

Entertainment (includes house parties and movies)- 569.72

Utilities (includes internet, gas, electricity. We currently don’t pay for water separately)-1310

Side Gig expenses (money to run the blog and freelancing tools)-949.9

Other household stuff (DIY kitchen hanger of sorts and cleaning brushes) – 487

Bike maintenance and petrol (as you would remember we don’t own a car) – 450

Personal grooming (haircut for both and hair removal for one) – 690

Gifts- 809

Total expenses= 13,897/-

This is the first time we have not only met our target but also surpassed it. We managed to run quite a tight ship here, but we have to admit a lot of fluff could have been cut (including the enormous expense on eating out). Our biggest goal this past month was to buy fewer groceries which seems to have paid off a lot. We would usually buy a lot of variety and then rarely consume all of them before they run out.

In May we ate lot more vegetables than we usually do and a lot of that was through fried rice, burrito bowls, tacos and the likes. That meant a lot of fresh produce was eaten and a very small amount was wasted.

We did cook quite a bit at home but relied on rotis from one or the other lunch ladies. That did cut our expense down but not by a huge margin. I am hoping I start making decent enough chapatis to cut the expense down further.

We have managed to identify some sweet deals around on food we like to eat. There is one place which sells sushi on 1+1 on a weekday and another which has unlimited pizza on Fridays. Our movie tickets were also discounted using an offer on VISA cards.

Like everyone we still make excuses for everything from how we would not be spending on gifts every month or how we don’t get our hair cut every month. However we know with our expense records last year there is something or the other that crops up every few weeks. If we want to make the retirement budget reflect where we are realistically we need to have some factor of safety built in.

We are again aiming for a budget of 14K in expenses beyond rent and EMI for June. We have family visiting us right now and have eaten up a considerable amount of the budget in these 5 days. Add to that a strike which has inflated fresh produce prices immensely.

How did you  and your expenses fare last month?

Expense Report July 2016

August is here and it has been the rainiest start to august I have ever had. If the locals are to be believed we should be expecting all monsoons to be exactly like this as long as we are in the expensive town. All said and done July was a month of great relief and revelations. It was also a month which saw us realizing we actually need far less than we thought.

In July we decided to get through the month without going out to eat. It turned out to be transformational for us, especially me. Small expenses of 10-20 Rs were something I never really gave a thought to. You’d be surprised how much daily 100/- add up to in a year. Forget about what it does to your health when you eat out frequently it was costing us over 5K in eating out. That’s more than what some people save every month and definitely way more than the actual food we were buying.

Not spending anything in a day is weird and actually not an easy thing to reconcile your mind to. When we would think about what we needed to buy and came up with nothing it was a weird feeling. We have had days where we spent nothing a big fat 0 out of our pockets and those days are very different from what we have been used to in past 5+ years of being married.

Now getting back to the expenses for the month of July a big chunk of our expenses was preventive health check-up. Thankfully we are not suffering any major illness but both of us are highly deficient in vitamins. You know what that means- further expense of buying supplements. Thankfully we have reliable online sources where we can buy these otherwise we would have been running even higher numbers.

This month also continued in the tradition of breaking things- our food processor is now running on only one jar and we need to find replacement jars or will eventually have to buy one. For those wondering we use it extensively and whip out a lot of things which others buy in the condiment and other jars. We expect to get some free coupons around October which will go into this in case we do have to get a new one.

Expense details

Getting back to our spending in June we ended up with a grand total of 17381/-

Medical-Physical Checkup- 4100 (23%)*

Grocery – 2595.26 (14%)

Medication(vitamins)- 1760.5(10%)

Socializing/hosting- 1455 (8%)

Paid lunch – 1365 (7%)

Electricity bill- 1275 (7%)

Bike maintenance- 1010 (5%)

Business expenses – 848.5 (4%)

Internet – 700 (4%)

Cleaning supplies & other miscellaneous – 681 (4%)

Petrol- 500 (3%)

Eating out- 522 (3%)**

Helmet- 350(2%)

Taxi- 135 (1%)

Parking- 40 (0%)

Haircut- 40 (0%)***

* Without this expense it actually comes out to be a pretty decent month in terms of our expenses. actually taking away the medical checkup, vitamins bought and one time helmet expense we ended the month at  11170.4/-

While the number above looks pretty good we actually failed our aggressive goal of keeping our expenses below 10K for the month. There were a few slips along the path like the Rs 522 you see in front of eating out should have been 0. We are taking better actions to make sure that we carry breakfast every day. Also the Lunch lady suddenly feels very expensive and we would have both been very happy without paying 1365/- for our lunches. We are trying to at least reduce the cost by half by packing our lunch as much as we can. Assured lunch makes sure that we do not end up spending 200+ at one of the cheap places nearby.

** Though there is no excuse for the behavior this head shows but in our defense practicality and sensibility is more important than saving money. After a particular long evening hunting for some household supplies we were far too hungry and a burger seemed like a great idea. August we have taken the ban off and still I am not really happy eating out, not just for the cost it amounts to but I like my own food better.

*** Yes you read that right, Mr. S spent a fairly small amount to get his mane tamed. For me the best part is that even in the expensive city we live in this is  very much possible. We did go to a big salon in the mall few months back and he likes both the results equally.

For August my goal is to keep the expenses under 12K and to be true the expensive start we have had to the month makes me skeptical. We are quite well stocked with all essentials including milk and I am hoping for quite a few zero expense days.

Expense Report June 2016

It’s another day left before we call and end to June( you would be reading it around 5th July anyways), but I am realty distracted and writing expense report for the month seems like a good thing to do. This month like the previous one was full of unexpected expenses and more than that a lot of mental stress due to illness in the family. For some reason, one or the other in our parents has been battling health issues since February. Right now it feels as if we have been worrying about one family member or the other all through 2016

Though our regular expenses did not go way high or low a lot of travel expenses were added to this month something to the tune of 6K+. We keep our travel accounts separate and they do not come out of our salary, instead they are earned as we freelance.

Another major thing that happened this month was a friend who crashed at our place for a few weeks and it was something which gave both of us a window into how people end up broke after earning a decent sum. It also helped us understand that we are probably not suited to be this chummy with most people especially the ones who are wasteful and narrow minded.

This month’s expenses include an afternoon of beer and snacks spent with a visiting friend at home. We chose to skip going out and instead entertain our friend in the comfort of our home which turned out to be a big blessing. The entire thing cost us way cheaper than ordering couple of beers each for the three of us. Still a major part of our household expenses ended up being eating out. Coupled with a few off days of our lunch lady to getting hungry in between meal times we managed to spend over 30% of our monthly bills in eating out.

Apart from our regular grocery bills which were higher than they normally would be since we bought a good haul of organics our next big expense was paying for the packed lunches we are getting delivered at office. Not the famous dabbawalahs of Mumbai but a lady who cooks up great food.

Our electricity bills have been larger than normal especially for our level of consumption. We have a fridge and WiFi router running all day long and (when it is just us) a fan and a light. We shifted to gas for cooking this month as I mentioned in May expense report and I can only hope that this will help us to reduce our energy expense. For some reason I have a nagging feeling that we have some rouge connections that are billed to us. June and July should give us a better idea. Bill for June is high as well but that will be covered in the July expenses.

This was also the month we stocked up on essentials including milk (should last us through better part of July) oats, flour, rice and daal. These would last us for a considerable amount of time and coupled with some good fresh vegetables they should result in good eating times.

We are prepping for an uber frugal month which should help us in reducing our expenses drastically. My hopes are really high that we will not just crush the 14K target we had given ourselves till June instead we might end up with an insanely low figure which can shock us.

Getting back to our spending in June we ended up with a grand total of 14,795/-

Eating out- 5004 (34%)

Grocery – 3486.88 (13%)

Business expenses – 1592 (3%)*

Paid lunch – 980 (6%) **

Social activities – 1076 (7%)

Electricity bill- 895 (6%)

Internet – 700 (4%)

Petrol- 500 (3%)

Cleaning supplies & others – 258 (2%)

Taxi- 170 (1%)***

Parking- 30 (0%)

* Business expenses were a bit higher since this is when we renew one of our domains and google app subscription.

** We have started subscribing to lunch provided by a local lady. This might not seem frugal but the certainty of getting lunch at office makes sure that we do not eat out as much as we used to when we did not pack lunch for various reasons. Also she makes great rotis which I have so far failed to emulate.

*** Mr. S was off a few days and I had to tackle the short commute in auto rickshaw. It is certainly walkable but rains and the unmentionably dirty roads did not allow me to walk.

We feel we were more or less at our goal. A major chunk of our eating out budget was with a friend who had earlier offered to pay for the entire meal. We did not want to put her in that position and decided to pay over 1000/- for it.

We also stocked up on milk for the entire month of July which cost us 600/- for ~12 l of UHT milk- along with the staples I talked about earlier. So I guess my natural talent of making excuses is trying to say that if we hadn’t paid next month’s groceries this month we would have met our goal of 14K this time.

For next month our focus is on getting our eating out budget to 0. Mr.S says it might not be possible but I am taking that as a challenge. To be clear whatever we spend on our travels is not included in the amount above, it will form a part of total expenses at the year end but it is definitely not a regular expense.

Expense Report-May 2016 : The month of bad news and sudden expenses

May was a weird month, it showed us we don’t need all the money we had reserved for our day to day expenses and what more it showed us that problems rarely come alone. This month was full of us worrying about our dear ones including a few hospital visits regular update over phones. Overall it was one of the better months where we found our rhythm and I believe we made huge progress in educating ourselves what we don’t need to buy.

The Family troubles

We faced dual troubles on both sides of the family it was all health related issues spanning 3 generations on Mr. S side and a few friction issues on mine. We had resigned to a bad news (at least not-so-good news) every few days. Thankfully we made it through the month without any loss or major setback.

The unexpected expenses

While we were visiting Mr. S to be with the ailing one by one the appliances simply collapsed. Water purifier stopped letting out water and a few hours later the refrigerator stopped cooling any water we had.

The result a new fridge was bought and repair and inspection charges were paid for both the appliances. Both us and the parents believe that second hand and used stuff is a good way to go about things. Still this time we decided to invest in a new fridge which we know will probably last us upwards or 5 years. The one which died on us was used equipment bought last year as both of our families made the move. It was simply not reliable and we believe it was a bad decision on our part to have someone else look at it and finalize the deal. On the other hand our own fridge which has been running for last 5 years is as reliable as it was when we bought it and errors on too cold side instead of no cool.

This expense was pretty much expected we got a gas connection finally. Till now we had been using induction cooker and it simply did not cut it for daily cooking with our lifestyle. This was one of the bigger expenses this month.

induction expenses
Now retired induction cooker which tested my patience more than enough.

To make space for our four burner gas stove we had to finally find space for our microwave. Right now we have it sitting on top of a cardboard box but we knew it would not last. Cut to an ingenious solution which we believe will solve the storage problem we have once and for all. I’ll get back with a pic of our arrangement once we have the table delivered and set up. Combined with the gas connection above this probably cost us a quarter of our total expenditure.

The case of not buying

We realized this month that we don’t need a lot of stuff, not even perishables. We would easily rake up 1000/- every time we stepped in a grocery store. now we are at loss of things to buy. One of the reasons this has happened is because we decided to not buy anything till it is required or we finish our existing stock. Case in point: vegetables and fruits, which we would end up throwing in trash since they would wilt or simply for gross. No doubt a lot of it was wasted because we simply went out instead of cooking it was also mainly because we would buy too much. Today we struggle to get to a total where our parking would be free. This has been a boon, but we are still struggling with how less we actually need. Hopefully we will be able to take advantage of this and reduce our monthly expenses.

Eating out

This was the biggest expense we had this month. I did not cook with all of the drama going around us and we ended up spending 200-300 every day for lunch. Thankfully we did not go out for dinner as much. We have finally decided to accept our shortcomings and pay a tiffin service to feed both of us at a fraction of the cost. I do plan on writing in detail about our choice in near future.

So how much did we actually spend without rent – 22289/-

Here’s the breakup of our expenses

Eating out- 8,159 (35%)

Gas connection-3140 (14%)*

Grocery – 2995.35 (13%)

Furniture- 2856 (12%)

Social activities – 1138 (5%)

Electricity bill- 1007.92 (4%)

Business expenses – 845.68 (3%)

Internet – 700 (3%)

Bike maintenance- 470 (2%)

Hair Cut and others – 510 (2%)

Taxi- 398 (2%)**

Parking- 80 (0%)

Total Expenses without onetime costs= 15905.95

The above figure makes it clear that we spent over half of our monthly expenses on eating out which is simply shameful. Part of this was fueled by overwhelming work and personal circumstances resulting in two very tired people. We raked up the amount during lunch and are definitely not proud of it. We have decided on a few remedial actions (makes us sound some big deals huh!) the results of which we will know by the end of June.


* This was a really welcome break from hours spent in front of induction waiting for one thing to cook so that I can get on with another. Boiling milk had never been so frustrating and don’t even ask me about rotis.

** This was a part of our travel expenses and is a onetime thing. I entered the detail and did not want to redo the calcs.

Feature photo credit: Expenses via photopin (license)