- Mike Monfredi works as a forensic scientist and his wife Monica works as a dentist. They own and operate a dental practice and earn a combined six-figure income.
- They’re also paying off $US140,000 in student debt and preparing to welcome their second child.
- For Business Insider’s “Real Money” series, Mike shares how they spent their money during a recent week, which ended with a much-anticipated vacation in Maui.
- Want to share a week of your spending? Email [email protected].
Spending money intentionally is something my wife and I aspire to regularly.
We’re young business owners (30 and 32 years old) who own our home and have a 3-year-old daughter with another on the way. For years, we haven’t had the luxury of spending frivolously. …But we’re making progress.
Personally, my current job duties include running our family’s dental practice, working a different full-time job as a forensic scientist, and running my blog,MikedUp Blog. Busy doesn’t begin to describe my typical day.
And I know what you’re probably thinking – his highest budgeted category must be for energy drinks, Starbucks runs, and anxiety-related therapy visits…
But since we purchased our business about 16 months ago, subsequently relocated the office about 8 months ago, and have had some time for daily tasks and habits to settle out, my stress is currently at a healthy level. I do have an obsession with coffee, though – more on how that affects the budget below.
Our main financial obstacles now consist of us finding balance between digging out from a mountain of debt (student loans, business, and mortgage), while saving and investing for the long-term, and still trying to live our best life in the present moment (where’s that guidebook?).
The good news is that we’re starting to gain some financial momentum, and as our business has grown in the last 18 months, we’re breathing a little easier during our monthly budget talk.
Because of the progress, my wife and I decided to book an 8-night Maui vacation. Call it a combination of celebration for our hard work and one last getaway before our new baby arrives. We’d been to Maui before, but this would be the first trip with our daughter and we were thrilled to bring her along.
But before I get to my spending week, here’s a peek at what our “normal” monthly spending looks like.
Our income tends to range between $US9,000 and $US11,000, depending on the month, so we’ve budgeted to make sure that our total expenses (including savings) are below the $US9,000 low-end for income. I should also note that any business-related expenses are not reported in these data.
Housing is our most expensive category with a total of $US2,130, plus utilities, while student loans are not far behind at $US1,966.
We bought our house 3.5 years ago and had the option to purchase either a smaller and less expensive home or we could’ve literally gone for broke as we “qualified” for a much more expensive mortgage. We chose to land in the middle and couldn’t be happier with our decision. Our home is close to parks, pools, a downtown area, and hiking/biking trails that connect everything. In the summer, you can’t keep our daughter inside – and we wouldn’t change it.
The student loan payment is relatively high when compared with many of our peers, but honestly, we’re happy to have it at that level. The loans currently represent what we have left to pay on Monica’s 4-year dental school program. Three years ago we refinanced and consolidated the total (near $US225,000 at the time) to a 10-year fixed loan at 5.2% interest, which was much better than the 6%-8% range we had been paying.
Up until two months ago we had been driving 11- and 10-year-old cars, but a recent incident sent us back to the car market for the first time in a while. We did something I vowed never to do again in buying a new car, but our plans to pay off this loan early and drive our new Outback for another decade made us comfortable with the choice.
Aside from food/toiletries and the money that currently heads to our savings account (emergency fund), we have only one other expense over $US500 – our monthly payment for childcare. This category will more than double when the new baby is born, but with the way we align values in our family, we’re happy to pay a premium here.
Some other categories like travel, medical, and miscellaneous, which includes gifts and my gym membership aren’t necessarily paid each month, but the annual payments (or large sum payments) break down to about these monthly costs. We have an automatic transfer setup into a separate account for these planned expenses – pretty much like an escrow account would hold taxes and insurance for your home… we just manage this escrow account.
This week we spent $US919.33 — roughly 10% of our monthly income.
This week started like a normal workweek for our family and then come Friday, we took off for our 8-night tropical celebration/getaway. And surprise-surprise, our biggest spending days were Friday and Saturday as we travelled and got into our routine in Maui.
On Monday, my daughter and I bought groceries for the short week at home and we started preparing for our upcoming trip.
We were amp’d up for this vacation coming up on Friday but my wife and I still had four work days left for the week and we had to act like responsible adults until that much-anticipated Thursday afternoon.
One of my mantras is to never miss a Monday workout, and because we had been away visiting family the weekend before we also needed to make a grocery store trip. So I took advantage of our location and ran the 1.3 miles to my daughter’s school to pick her up and then we walked together back home.
After our walk, we drove to the nearby store to pick up a couple of rotisserie chickens, some salad, and frozen ravioli ($US47.63) that would make up our dinner for the night and a few lunches for the week ahead.
We’re big fans of batch meal prepping for both the cost and time savings, and with all the packing and organising we had ahead of us, it was nice to only have to cook once rather than nightly.
On Tuesday, we went back to the store to pick up the one thing I had forgotten the day before… milk.
Tuesday was a pretty boring spending day (which is typically great for the budget). We literally bought milk ($US2), headed back home, and played outside for a little while before having dinner together and tackling the pile of laundry left over from Monday.
One of the most dangerous spending times for us in the past had been heading to the grocery store without a plan. But after years of spending unintentionally, we made a rule that we’d only purchase what we had written on our grocery list. No exceptions. If you forgot to write it down, you instantly became better at focusing on your list for next week.
That practice, in addition to a few other changes we made to our shopping experience helped us cut our monthly grocery spending in half. And so on days like this one, heading into that strategically packed store and coming out with only one item wasn’t incredibly hard to do. It’s a practiced habit.
On Wednesday, I took advantage of the free gym at work — one of the many perks of my day job.
I’m a bit of a physical fitness nut and I remember the first day I found out we had this gym available to us like it was my favourite Christmas morning. Since then, I’ll try to pack my workout gear at least once a week to use this space rather than the gym we pay to use near our home, which doesn’t have the variety of updated equipment.
Wednesday also sparked a revolution because of the rotisserie chicken, salad, and ravioli that we had been eating for the past 2.5 days. To suppress the militia, we used one of our favourite weapons – pizza ($US13.98)!
During the pizza pickup I also filled Monica’s car up with gas ($US43.49) and used our 20 cents off per gallon of accumulated rewards.
Then with a pizza-infused positive morale, we hunkered down and turned a former pile of unfolded laundry into somewhat neatly packed luggage for the upcoming trip.
We were headed out of town for about a week and a half, and we wanted to have the lions-share of packing done at least a day in advance because we knew that Thursday would have some prescheduled events in store…
On Thursday, we took my daughter to her first dance class, celebrated our last day of work, and checked in for our flight on Friday.
After work on Thursday we were officially “on vacation” but it didn’t quite feel like it yet. It was a mad dash to get my daughter to dance class, cut the grass, find something for dinner, and eventually get our luggage and the car seat we’d be taking on vacation ready and loaded into our car.
But with all the frantic prepping, we didn’t have a ton of time to spend much money, which is nice. I checked us in for the flight the next day and spent $US50 on our two checked bags, then filled my car up with gas ($US34.23).
For dinner, we had no interest in spending extra cash, so we used a frugal tactic I love to save some money: we scoured the cupboards to see which leftover ingredients we could combine. The verdict? Some rice and beans with frozen fish that I had honestly forgotten about and was pretty excited to find.
On Friday, we took off on our 16-hour trip to Maui.
In spite of packing a ton of snacks for the flight and for the week ahead, we managed to spend a collective $US53 on airport food and (non-alcoholic) drinks. I suppose 16 hours of travel can have that effect.
But all of the travel and months of hard work leading up to this day (and the nine that came afterward) were all worth it. For the first time in a while, we were able to wake up when we wanted, spend some great quality time with family, and have fun doing whatever we chose to do in that tropical paradise. You’ll see that our monthly budget includes a relatively large travel component so that we can be financially ready for our next trip sometime soon.
After finishing our dinner at the beachside grill in our hotel ($US63), I had a minute to check our accounts and see that the gas bill for our house ($US79) and a discounted payment for our daughter’s school ($US265) had posted as well.
Our normal bi-weekly expense for childcare is $US530, but the school offers a free vacation week once a year so we took full advantage.
On Saturday, I bought early morning groceries for the week and then we rode the waves.
In my experience, travelling from east to west is incredible. You can wake up at 4 a.m. (local time) to buy groceries, for example, and your body thinks you slept in until 10 a.m. because of the six-hour time change.
When we take vacations, we love to buy enough groceries to make our own breakfasts and lunches so that we can both save money and eat healthier than we otherwise would if we ate out every meal. On Saturday, I managed to spend $US182.48 on the store trip, which ended up lasting us most of the week. I was quickly reminded that prices are higher in Maui than they are in Columbus, Ohio.
On my way back up to the hotel room, I stopped for coffee ($US13.54). After putting the groceries away, we headed out to our favourite beach for sand castle construction, wave riding, and snorkelling adventures. We played hard, had a blast, and spent no extra money in the middle of the day – a perfect combination.
Walking home from the beach, we stopped for dinner at Leilani’s ($US49) in Whaler’s Village, one of our favourite restaurants in Maui.
On Sunday, we went to church, built a sandcastle …and rode more waves.
We managed to find out that walking a couple of miles along the beach, riding waves, and otherwise staying active all day while my wife was 21 weeks pregnant was a little too much activity. She actually spent most of the day resting up in the room (but rebounded well for Monday).
On the way back from church, my daughter and I walked to a local shop to pick up our only purchased item for the day – lip balm with SPF ($US2).
For the rest of the morning and early afternoon, my daughter and I spent the day at the beach building sandcastles, snorkelling, and, of course, riding more waves.
We used all free and local materials for the castle and we ended up eating dinner from what we bought in groceries on Saturday, so it was a pretty inexpensive day. I love beach vacations for many reasons, one of which is that after travel and lodging expenses, you don’t have to spend much money to have a great and exciting trip.
Our trip continued from this point and only became more enjoyable. We had the fortunate opportunity to reconnect as a family, make some amazing memories, and live fulfilled in the present.
The trip reminded us that there can be tremendous benefits to sacrifice and hard work – as long as you have a sound financial plan, and you follow it.
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