Without 2017 Money Review, we cannot start 2018!


I use Personal Capital to review my overall asset but I have my own excel spreadsheet to manage our family finance.

My 2017 Personal Capital chart looked like this…

The big dip in the middle happened only because I cashed out some big chunk to deposit them into two new saving accounts with Chase. This was to receive $200 bonus on each account we opened. Overall, I have no complaints. The market definitely helped our retirement accounts. This makes me worried that the growth is only temporary and we will see a huge drop near future. But we always need to remember that we are investing for our long-term goal, RETIREMENT!

My basic rule of thumb for our retirement accounts or any long-term investments for that matter is “Dollar Cost Averaging.” Although our portfolio is stock heavy and aggressive, I am a financial chicken. I am afraid to see the big drop like the one we saw during the recession back in 2008. But Dollar Cost Averaging minimizes the risk, in theory, which helps me to relax a bit and invest comfortably. So far, this is working for me.

Now Let’s See Ray’s 2017 Family Finance!

I compared 2017 monthly average for each category from 2016.

Let’s start with the Total Expense vs. Total Income.

The income I record to calculate is our take-home income, after tax & 401k. The calculation shown below is 2017 minus 2016. For example, the “Saving” shown below is Total Monthly Average Income minus Total Monthly Average Expenses. So, this means that we saved $157.07 LESS monthly in 2017 than we did in 2016 (monthly average). That means we had $1884.84 ($157.07 * 12 months) more left over cash in 2016 (compared to 2017) after all of the expenses.

In 2017, my husband could not work for 3 months due to his shoulder surgery. It affected our income quite a bit. Also, I changed my job at the beginning of the year. The job was a pay cut so that was a factor as well. Since then, I changed my job again and now my income is back to where it was before.

Let’s see what expenses affected the total.

Mortgage & SID/LID

Here, you can see our mortgage payment is higher in 2017. This is because we started adding $500 extra towards the principle. Some people may think that we would be better off investing the money. Considering the market, that is probably true. However, we love the idea of “mortgage free” life. By adding $500 extra towards the principle, we can pay it off in about 6 years. I can’t wait!

You can also see something called “SID/LID.” They stand for “Special Improvement District” and “Local Improvement District.” The installation of the streets, street lighting, sewer plumbing and etc can be billed to the builder, then to the home buyer. When the owner of the house sells the house, the SID/LID also transfers to the new owner of the house. Our community has this system. Since we are not willing to sell our house, we decided to pay this off in 2016. No more SID/LID payment for 2017!

We love taking trips.

I think we live modestly but I have to admit that our travel budget is normally higher than I would like it to be. This year, however, the monthly average was $239.35 lower than 2016.

In 2016, we visited Ecuador and Mexico. So our vacation cost was high. The Ecuador trip was one of the most memorable one and I sure need to talk about the trip in the future!  Anyway, that was 2016. Due to my career changes, we did not travel as much as we wanted to. A big trip we had was my husband’s parents’ 55th anniversary trip to Mexico. I am so thankful that this was their treat. We had a one-week road trip at the end of the year which costed us less than $1000! Our Orbitz credit card made this possible!

Overall, I like that —————————we spent less on Vacations/Trip in 2017. Since I am from Japan, visiting my family costs us a lot. I am  not sure when we will be visiting Japan again but if we do this year our travel budget will probably go up again for 2018.

Car Maintenance

I drive 2010 Prius which has over 100,000 miles on. My Prius is our main car and we use the car to go EVERYWHERE! My husband drives 2005 Honda Element. His car also has put over 120,000 miles on. In 2017, the car maintenance cost went up but our cars are still running just fine. Prius is surprisingly low on maintenance cost. That car is wonderful! We would like to keep our cars as long as possible.


This is a tough one. We lost our baby this year. Towards the end of her life, she had to be kept in an oxygen room in ICU. Her staying in ICU for her final week with us was so hard. I knew she wanted to come home and she probably wondered why we could see her only twice a day. We hoped for the best but her condition did not improve and got worse in the end and she went to the rainbow bridge. I still miss her way too much.

Due to her medical bill, the 2017 pet cost went up significantly. But we don’t care how much it costed for this category. This is why we save. We chose not to buy insurance on them because it seemed to break even through out their life span. Yes, it was expensive but we save for them as well.


House Maintenance

We had to replace the garage door opener and we also had a small AC issue. That was it. House maintenance can be expensive but so far it is not too bad for us.

There you have it!

I selected categories that affected our 2017 expenses. Other expenses were surprisingly close to what they were in 2016. Our frugal lifestyle make most of them pretty consistent. At the same time, it can be challenging to find some other ways to cut our living cost.

My goal for 2018 is to make more money, hopefully via my blog 🙂 and be financially responsible. I will also try to be creative and find different ways to save more!