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

Hello homo sapiens! It’s hard to believe that March is already here and we’re barely getting our 2018 spending report out. What can I say? We’ve been pretty busy with other priorities and some of them are way too much fun, like spending time with our little girl.

And speaking of our little girl, a few months ago we put out a poll to choose an online name for her and asked you to vote on it. Well… we now 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 went with Chica Libre!

And here’s why: Chica Libre best represents her situation: a girl born in a household with freedom, financial freedom that is. It’s also shorter and it’s a name that she can grow up with and do something with, if she so desires. I mean, we could have an entrepreneur in our hands. 😉

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

Now, back to our spending topic…

2018 Spending

So this is our fifth year of sharing our spending on this blog and no matter how we spend our money, we end up spending pretty much a consistent amount every year. And the great news is that our investments will more than cover our projected lifestyle spending in early retirement. Obviously we can’t go around spending money like we’re rich and, even if we could, I don’t think I’d be much happier.

Honestly, I don’t think about money as much as I used to. Before we reached our financial goals: the FIRE number and the house fund, I’d look and study our numbers very closely. But, now that we’ve won this game, why bother spending extra time complicating the subject when the easy path to FI already got us to the promised land?

I also don’t tinker too much with our investments. When the market went south during the last quarter of 2018, we did nothing differently. We already picked an allocation a couple of years ago, so we stuck to it, and don’t lose any sleep due to financial headlines. We invest when we have money available without worrying about what the market is doing and it’s served us well, for over a decade now.

However, there’s always someone sounding off the alarms. Imagine if we’d have listened to the pundits that were saying: SELL NOW, BEFORE YOU LOSE MORE! GET OUT OF THE MARKET! GO HEAVY IN CASH!

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

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

Yes, indeed! I don’t know if I would call it frivolous, but we’re going to splurge on a nice karaoke set up and a few musical instruments, so that we can create and enjoy more music in early retirement. Folks, I really want some congas and bongos in my life. I always tell Tatiana that I’d work a few more days/weeks just for this! LOL

At the end of the day, that’s what an FI lifestyle is all about. Spend on what makes you truly happy. Let FI be the fuel to your true happiness.

A new way of producing our spending report

For the past few years, our spending reports were extremely customized. We used to divide our expenses into three buckets: Essential, Discretionary and Gift/Donations. However that used to take me a lot of time to prepare–time which I no longer have to spare.

There’s life before and after Chica Libre was born. (Wow, now I don’t have to call her baby or our little girl anymore.) 🙂 I feel like I’m robbing her of our time together if I engage in other activities, while also having to work a 9-to-5 and doing some improvements on our rental property.

If I want to continue blogging, I need to streamline the process even more. To make this process simpler, we’re now taking the main categories from Mint. I think that readers who also use Mint will be able to easily relate to this new report.

Most of our expenses are discretionary

Not all spending is created equal. Our essential expenses, or core expenses that are mostly unavoidable, are very low.

We have a small “overhead” with a paid off car, a rental property, no debt and funds to buy our future home. This is the dream state of someone waiting to retire at 65. And if all of that isn’t enough to say that we’re ready to retire: we have our Freedom Fund!

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…


José worked at Vanguard for 12 years, helping create electronic and print educational materials for 401(k) participants. He retired at 44 from corporate America and loves to spend time with his wife and daughter, discovering new adventures or just sharing a meal in their backyard.

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

  1. 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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