So I added up some rough totals of how much money I spent in the first quarter of 2006, January to March. What makes these numbers even more depressing is that I didn’t come back to the United States until the beginning of February!
- Real Pay: $5,561.95
- TSP (Retirement): $1,925.25
- Social Security: $377.31
- Medicare: $88.23
- Taxes Withheld: $210.11
- Bills (Total): $10,526.40
- ATM: $470.19
- ATM Fees: $6.25
- Credit Card: $7,089.99
- Tax Payment: $3,117.00
- Cellphone: $295.80
- Vonage: $156.99
- Cable/Internet: $319.41
- Gas: $118.62
- Restaurants: $596.59
- Groceries: $286.75
- Movies: $29.00
- Clothes: $294.91
These are scary numbers for about two months of damage. I DID actually rack up some bills in January as I prepared to come home, but that mainly included my Vonage one-time set-up fee and my new computer ($2,600).
The most annoying number to me is the cellphone bill. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cellphone bill that didn’t nail me on extra charges. That amount that they tell you it will cost when you get your plan? Yeah, that’s a pretty arbitrary number. This bill, like the Vonage and cable/internet bills, includes the one-time installation fees. Clearly it is in your best interest to keep these services stable — you are punished when you join, and punished when you leave. And bitched up while you’re stuck with them. In my case, the cellphone bill reflects long-distance charges to Montreal. You know, because I SHOULD be charged for calling a city that’s SO far away from the U.S. I mean, it’s in another country right? That warrants a fee!
Vonage is great because the price you sign up for is the price you pay. Over the rest of the year, the costs for Vonage will stay low.
Cable and internet are a scam. You know it, I know it. But I need internet and I enjoy the cable. I can’t go back to dialup. I can’t wait for the day that content is sent over the internet entirely. With metro wifi areas, these ISPs will be cut out almost entirely.
Restaurants and groceries were my biggest surprise. But I think that’s the way it is for most people. Damage would have been worse but some of those expenses rolled over into April. Clearly I need to eat out less. However, this quarter reflects a couple visits to Montreal, experiences which I will not apologize for! =P I think I can lower my grocery bill but mainly it comes down to eating more responsibly.
My gas fillups were not so bad, since I was gone for most of the quarter. That and the fact that I live where I work means that the amount of gasoline my car consumes is very low.
Overall I realize that the absurdity of my bills for this quarter ($10k??) is explainable. I returned from Iraq and thus celebrated a bit. I bought some new clothes and electronics. I went to Montreal twice to visit my exquisite girlfriend after missing her a lot in Iraq. The new computer, a same-day plane ticket, and my taxes (which I will get the money back for later since the amount was a result of the Army paying off my mom’s college loans) account for the big expenses. I am not really a big spender in terms of my income, however I do spend a lot considering I’m economically single with little responsibility.
One thing that’s important to keep in mind when looking at expenses is that there’s never a time when you don’t have exceptional circumstances. That is, you’re always going to have some one-time expensive thing you needed to buy. So assuming that you won’t have to pay off that burden in the future is wrong. Something always comes up.
You never seem to end up paying the minimum in expenses.
I still put all of my non-income money into retirement. And I put some extra deployment money into a new trading account. I didn’t contribute to my Roth IRA however. I don’t see this as a huge problem because they are phasing out the maximum requirements in the future, approximately at the time in which I will be employed (hopefully) rather gainfully.