Our 2018 Household Spending: How We’ve Been Saving Money on Our Child Since Day One

Hello there, i t’s hard to believe March is already here and we’re just finishing up our 2018 spending report. 

What else can I say?

We’ve been very busy with other priorities, some of which are a lot of fun, such as spending time with our little girl.

Speaking of our little girl, a few months ago we asked you to vote in a poll to choose an online name for her. We finally have a name for her!

A name for our baby girl!

These were the names that made it to the list, including your suggestions:

Chica Libre 
Chiquita Enchumbao 
Chica Y (with first name initial) 
FIRE Chica
FI Girl 
Girl on Fire, Chica de Fuego 
Niña Enchumbao 

And this is how your votes stacked up:

Based on the voting with had a tie with Chica Libre and Chiquita Enchumbao. What name did we decide on?

Drum roll…………

We chose Chica Libre!

And here’s why: Chica Libre best represents her situation: a girl born into a family with financial freedom. It’s also shorter, and it’s a name she can grow up with and use if she so desires. We might have an entrepreneur on our hands.

Thank you for helping us choose her online name. If she doesn’t like it, we’ll blame it on the internet community. Hahaha…

Now, back to our spending topic…

2018 Spending

So this is our fifth year of sharing our spending on this blog, and regardless of how we spend our money, we end up spending roughly the same amount each year. The good news is that our investments will cover our projected lifestyle expenses in early retirement.

We can’t go around spending money like we’re rich, and even if we could, I doubt I’d be any happier.

To be honest, I don’t give money as much thought as I used to. I’d look and study our numbers very carefully before we reached our financial goals: the FIRE number and the house fund. But now that we’ve won, why waste time complicating the subject when the simple path to FI has already gotten us to the promised land?

I also don’t tinker with our investments too much. We did nothing differently when the market fell in the fourth quarter of 2018. We chose an allocation a few years ago and have stuck to it, so we don’t lose sleep over financial headlines.

We invest whenever we have money available, regardless of market conditions, and it has served us well for over a decade.

However, someone is always sounding the alarm. Imagine if we had listened to the experts who said, “SELL NOW, BEFORE YOU LOSE MORE!” GET OUT OF THE MARKET! GO HEAVY IN CASH!

When it comes to investing, we stay the course. There’s no need to rock the boat unless our goals are changing.

But, returning to the spending side of the equation, is there any “frivolous” spending we want to do before we retire?

Yes, absolutely! I’m not sure if it’s frivolous, but we’re going to splurge on a nice karaoke system and a few musical instruments so that we can create and enjoy more music in our early retirement.

I really need some congas and bongos in my life, people. I always tell Tatiana that I’d put in a few extra days/weeks just for this! LOL

That is, after all, what the FI lifestyle is all about. Spend your money on things that truly make you happy. Allow FI to be the catalyst for your true happiness.

A new method of generating our spending report

For several years, our spending reports were highly customized. We used to categorize our spending into three categories: essential, discretionary, and gifts/donations. However, that used to take a significant amount of time for me to prepare—time that I no longer have.

There’s life before and after Chica Libre was born. I feel like I’m robbing her of our time together if I participate in other activities while also working a 9-to-5 and working on our rental property.

If I want to keep writing, I need to simplify the process even more. To make things easier, we’re now using Mint’s main categories. Readers who use Mint will, I believe, easily relate to this new report.

Most of our expenses are discretionary

When it comes to essential spending, these unavoidable core expenses are very low.

With a paid-off car, a rental property, no debt, and funds to purchase our future home, we have a low “overhead.” This is the ideal state for someone who plans to retire at the age of 65.

Most of our expenses are discretionary and can be slashed in half or even eliminated in bad times. Entertainment, restaurants and travel are easy things that we can cut out of our budget if we need to. These are expenses that we’d be able to reduce if and when our portfolio is down in early retirement.

We had a great 2018 on a financial and personal level. We continued to save for our goals and the spending was pretty normal for our lifestyle. And now, without any further ado, let’s see where our money went in 2018.

2018 expenses by category

Food & Dining$10,933$911
Gifts & Donations$7,528$627
Health & Fitness$2,784$232
Bills & Utilities$2,280$190
Auto & Transport$2,259$188
Personal Care$864$72
Education (a book)$75$6
Fees & Charges$0$0


Most noteworthy is that we rent a place near our job which makes our commute an easy 5-minute drive. Home spending includes $13,800 in rent. The rest is mostly home supplies.

Health & Fitness

It seem like we spent a lot than in previous years in health care but this total includes delivery of Chica Libre. Since we have work-sponsored health insurance and had a nice amount accumulated in the rewards program that helped to soften the blow.

We also spent $600 on a doula and I’m so glad a good friend recommended this. She was super helpful as Tatiana was in labor for over 30 hours. If you live in Pennsylvania and need a doula, we highly recommend this one. Get in touch with us.

Food & Dining

A big win for us in this category was the alcohol spending. This is our lowest in many years of tracking our numbers. We spent $616 in alcohol last year. Nothing like a pregnant partner to curb in the spending. 🙂

Our food spending for 2018
This yummy pho hit the spot in Asheville, NC.

Bills & Utilities

We still pay $70 a month for two cell phone plans with Cricket. Fortunately, we didn’t have to replace any phones last year. I’m really happy with my Samsung Galaxy S8 and hope it will last a few more years. I don’t miss the annoying “You’re running out of space” memory issues with my previous iPhone.

Auto & Transport

We own a ’07 Camry which has been paid off for years. We commute to the same workplace, so one car is all we need. Our insurance is lower this year since we only pay for liability.

2018 auto spending


We didn’t fly last year, but still managed to take a road trip to Virginia and North Carolina and a year-end trip to Florida. We’d have spent a lot on hotels, but saved a lot with the travel rewards and points we used.

Our travel hacking efforts yielded $2,794 for 2018. As a result, we ended up spending less than $1k on travel. Thanks, Tatiana!

Here are some pictures of our travels.

Shugoweh is a 300-pound sculpture by artist Jim Respess at the Elmwood Park Art Walk in Roanoke, VA.
We checked out downtown Lancaster, PA during a best friend’s wedding weekend trip.
Tatiana taking a walk on Christmas eve at a North Port, FL shopping plaza. We did everything but shop. LOL


We enjoy going to concerts, but with Chica Libre still in her first months of life, it’s a little challenging to spend the night out. We did, however, managed to check out two Latin artists in concert: Ricardo Montaner (while she was still in the belly) and Draco Rosa (when she was about 4 months old).


If you deduct the delivery expenses, we ended up with a surplus of $873 on our child spending. Not to mention that we got a $2,000 child tax credit this year.

How did we end up with a surplus on our first year? Children are supposed to be expensive.

First, we used a lot of second hand items, such as clothing and baby equipment. Thanks to the generosity of our friends and family, we saved money on items that are barely used due to how fast babies grow. We also got a lot of gift cards from our baby showers.

Another thing is that we’re not spending money on disposable diapers. We’re using cloth diapers, which can save you hundreds of dollars a year. They are also better for Chica Libre because they help to avoid rashes, and for the environment. Triple threat!

And… we’re also potty training her!

Potty training a newborn? No way…

Tatiana started potty training Chica Libre since the first day she got home from the hospital. We didn’t think this could be possible, until we read the book: The Diaper-Free Baby. You can also get this book from the library, like we did!

(The following are affiliate links, which means we get a tiny percentage if you buy something. This doesn’t affect your price and it won’t get us to early retirement any faster.)

Chica Libre is now almost seven months old and goes in the potty every morning and throughout the day. This saves a ton of money because sometimes she’d go for an entire day or night with just one diaper! It’s awesome because every time she poops in the potty, that’s one less mess we, or Tatiana, has to deal with. 🙂

Free cloth diapers! Anyone?

We also were able to get some free diapers for the first three months. We applied through TRF, The Rebecca Foundation, a non-profit organization that loans out cloth diapers with local chapters across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. They approved applicants regardless of income because they had a lot in inventory.

However, this organization recently dissolved due to management issues. There are other organizations like it, so you need to check locally for the ones in your area. Sometimes they ask for a small donation to help offset the costs incurred by the volunteers.

If you want to try cloth diapers here are some valuable tips:

  1. As far as washing the cloth diapers, we wash them ourselves. We learned that you just have to use a detergent with a certain enzyme to ensure they wash well. So we bought Biokleen powder detergent, since we wanted something toxin-free. We also add baking soda, as a natural alternative to other products, to soften the water. If the color turns beige after using for a while, you can dry them out in the sun and they turn bright white.
  2. You have to do two wash cycles, but we save time and money by adding dirty baby clothes/blankets in the second cycle. As long as the baby is not eating solids, you don’t have to rinse off the diapers. The first wash cycle takes care of it since all the waste is water-soluble.
  3. Monthly diaper maintenance costs, including detergent and baking soda, is about $10/mo for us. You’d need to include electricity for washing and drying. The washer and dryer usage is included in our rent price.
  4. If you plan to try out cloth diapers, keep in mind that they are bulkier, so your baby will need bigger clothing sizes, especially bottoms. Our chunky monkey looks extra cute with the added belly though. 🙂

So far we’ve spent about $195 which consists of:

  • $102 in registry gifts, made up of different diaper kinds, diaper covers and small size prefolds/inserts.
  • We make do with only three diaper covers, which help prevent leaks. Two from GroVia and the water-resistant wool pants. The GroVia is made from synthetic material, so we prefer to use the wool pants with the large prefolds.

  • $92.89 is the additional money we spent on bigger size prefolds. In total, we have about 24 small ones, 12 medium ones and 6 large prefolds. As Chica Libre grew and went on the potty more often, we didn’t need as many prefolds in the large sizes. See the following links for what we got and recommend:

One of these:

Two of these:

One of these:

These purchases were covered with Amazon gift cards from friends and family so we essentially haven’t spent any out-of-pocket money on these. 

Since Chica Libre already goes on the potty or toilet when we cue her in time, we don’t need to have too many diapers on hand. So we don’t expect to spend too much more. Possibly, we might get a few bigger inserts as she grows and a bigger diaper cover, if need be.

This can seem overwhelming to parents new to cloth diapers, so feel free to ask us questions in the comments section or send us an email. Happy parenting!

What’s not included in the spending report

  • Income tax is not included here even though it’s an expense that we’ll be watching closely in early retirement.
  • We also exclude blog expenses even though they’re minor and we don’t break even. This is just a hobby for now.
  • We don’t have any debt, so there’s no interest payments to show for any balances.

Final thoughts

That wraps up our 2018 spending post. This one was so much easier to put together than in previous years. I’ve got to keep reminding myself to keep things simple.

You can check our previous spending posts here: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.

2019 spending will look very different from previous years with a few surprises. Maybe it’s the year that I get my congas? 😉 We’ll have to wait and see…


After dedicating 13 years of his career to Vanguard, José retired from the corporate world at the young age of 44. During his tenure at Vanguard, he expertly coordinated the production of both electronic and print educational materials for 401(k) participants. Now, he relishes in his early retirement, cherishing time spent with his family, indulging in his favorite hobbies, seeking out new experiences, and savoring meals in the comfort of his own backyard.

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5 years ago

Thanks! Let’s move to FIRE to the conga beat!!! 🙂

5 years ago

This is awesome guys! What a great way to bring a baby into this world! I love that you are so close to retirement, but still realistic on what makes you happy _congas! lol

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