Taking the Dollar Challenge

Participants in The Dollar Challenge share where they spend every cent of a dollar for an average month, according to the following categories: housing, transportation, food, insurance, personal care, entertainment, savings, and other. I think it will be interesting to see the differences in spending, so am joining in.

Hopefully I don’t throw things off too much though, because both my monthly income and expenses fluctuate wildly. I looked back over the past year of income and expenses, and there weren’t two months in a row that were remotely similar. To flatten things out a little — since the data is supposed to be for an average month that I just don’t have — I averaged out the expenses and income for July-September and so am using those numbers as the basis for what’s shown below. Here’s where I spend my dollar:

Housing: 15.2 cents

15.2 cents out of every dollar went toward housing — which is our higher, “new” normal since we’re working on getting our mortgage paid off. That portion includes the mortgage itself, property taxes, pest control, water, and yard cleanup — with the vast majority being the mortgage itself.

Transportation: 1.7 cents

This is just gas for my car + a little bit toward my son’s truck. I did not have any car repairs during those three months, or need to do any maintenance.

Food: 4.4 cents

Mmm, food. This is groceries and eating out. I’ve cut back significantly on eating out so it’s a smaller portion of my dollar than it used to be.

Insurance: 2.5 cents

This includes car insurance for my car & my son’s truck, life insurance, and the health & dental insurance premiums deducted from my paycheck.

Personal care: 4.9 cents

Apparently I’m a big believer in personal care, because 4.9 cents out of my dollar went to things like haircuts, massages, a health club membership, clothes, and medication. Medication is the only one I absolutely get every month though.

Entertainment: 3.2 cents

I’m surprised this number wasn’t higher, but there really isn’t an “average” amount that I spend on entertainment, since that includes traveling in my mind — and my trips vary greatly in cost from year to year. So I guess this average will have to do.

Entertainment includes Netflix, going to see movies in the theatre (+ snacks for those movies), travel, hobbies, gardening, going to concerts and plays, and DSL (since I couldn’t quite figure out which category that belonged in, and “Other” was pretty full.)

Savings: 19.6 cents

And this one came back lower than I’d expected, but I’ve cut back a bit here in order to send more to the mortgage. This is basically just contributing to my 401K and my Roth 401K.

Other: 48.5 cents

48.5 cents of every dollar going to “Other” ought to tell you why I have my own spending categories broken down much, much smaller than the ones given for this challenge.

“Other” for me includes the categories of household items, gifts, a small allowance for my son, school expenses, business expenses, quarterly estimated taxes, taxes deducted from my paycheck, and our pets. By far the biggest expenses in the other category are the taxes, followed by business expenses and school expenses.

So what about you? How does your dollar break down?