Moving to Michigan

Why we’re heading back east after a few years of living in Oregon, and how we’re doing it


After a little over three-and-a-half years of living in Portland, Oregon, Abagail and I are moving to Michigan in less than a month. We’ve been planning on moving out of Portland to live in a smaller city that’s a little bit slower and has a lower cost of living. We weren’t quite sure where or when we wanted to move until earlier this year.

Our lease is up at our current place at the end of April 2019, so we could either renew or move. We thought why the heck not just move sooner rather than later if we know that’s what we want to do? So we’re moving to Michigan at the end of April.

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Systematically Reducing Expenses Through Budgeting

Reviewing our spending in 2018 and pinpointing how we can easily save more money in 2019

Once you’ve got your budget and have been using it for a few months, you’ll be able to see where your money is actually going. This insight is incredibly powerful and allows you to put your budget to use in a real way that will help you save money.

My wife and I have found that through reviewing our spending over the course of six months or a year, we’re better able to tell how we can reduce our spending day-to-day in certain categories based on our tendencies. It allows us to make behavior changes based on real data, not just feelings. We’re by no means perfect. Not even close. Which means we can keep trying to do better.

Abagail and I identified the following spending categories at the beginning of 2019 based on our 2018 spending as easy places we could cut back without impacting our quality of life. We wanted to reduce spending in categories where the change would be significant: at least $100 or more. Here’s what we cut back on and how it’s been going.

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Tips for Budgeting Successfully

Practical advice on how to approach budgeting and stick with it

Budgeting can be a bit daunting at first, especially if you’ve operated without one for a long time. But the more you do it, the better it gets. It eventually becomes empowering. Regardless of what tool or technique you use for budgeting, here are some practical ways to make budgeting easier.

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The Great Grocery Experiment

Analyzing a month of grocery receipts to determine how to spend less

One of our highest recurring expenses is groceries. Our average monthly spending on groceries in 2018 was $985.47 ($227.42 per week).

I have no clue how that compares to others, but seems like a lot. In an effort to better understand where our grocery money was actually going, we saved all of our receipts for a month and analyzed them. We learned a ton about where our money was going and how we could save more.

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Budget Dates

The most romantic activity of all

Abagail and I combined our finances not long after getting married. It made sense on emotional and mathematical levels. We’re working together as partners, and it’s our money. Not my money and her money. Our money. Also, if we combine our investments, chances are they’ll grow even faster.

As part of combining our finances, we started budgeting together. We call the time we intentionally sit down and talk about our money a budget date. We have one each week. Usually on Friday nights because every other Friday is payday. We pull up good ole YNAB after dinner and review where we’re at.

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Frugality for Beginners

Getting started with spending less

Frugality gets a bad reputation. Like any practice, it can be taken to a comical extreme. But I think there is a lot of merit to trying to live a more frugal life.

The first handful of synonyms in the thesaurus for frugality are: thrifty, economical, careful, cautious, prudent, provident, unwasteful. That last one in particular stands out to me. Not wasting. That’s a very noble quality. Not wasting money or food or resources in general.

So let’s shift our perspective on frugality. Let’s run with it being an admirable way to approach living a healthy and balanced life. How does one even be frugal, particularly in respect to finances?

It’s simple: buy less stuff you don’t need.

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Shaking off the tiny recurring expenses that are

Eels. Stuck onto you and leaching money from your life. They’re everywhere, especially in the age of online services.

Eels are recurring expenses, usually monthly, that are so low that you might even forget you’re paying for them (which is what those businesses want). Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, iCloud, Amazon Prime, Dropbox, etc. Services where you pay for access but don’t own anything. You’re expected to pay in perpetuity.

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