2019 vs 2020 Spending: COVID Impacts

I finally got around to analyzing our spending habits from 2020, the Year of COVID, to the previous year. Trends that I expected to show actually showed. There were some surprises however! Lets dig through the numbers.


Note: I track all of our spending via YNAB. If you haven't checked them out before, I strongly encourage you to do so!


Total 2020 Spending By Category

Let's start by taking a look at how much was spent across all of the major spending categories I have in YNAB.


As you can see we spend A LOT on our house. This is what it looks like to live in a HCOL area. The Living Expenses category is also a sizable chunk of spending. This warrants a more detailed breakdown.



As you can see most of this section is spent on Household Supplies / Personal Supplies / Groceries - pretty much all of the stuff that hits the checkout at Safeway / Walmart / Target. This is another view of what having a family of 5 in a HCOL looks like by the way. Could we do more to reduce these amounts? Of course, but we do not strive to be extremely frugal. We save where we can, are mindful of our spending most of the time, but don't overthink it.



Spending: 2019 vs. 2020

Now lets take a look at how our spending from 2020 compares to our spending from 2019.


The House Mortgage & Insurance category jumped up as halfway through 2019 we moved from a HCOL of living area to a REALLY HCOL area and bought a new house. These areas are not cheap to live in.



Let's dig in a bit more to the movement across all categories.


You can see the sizable dollar amount jump in our mortgage, which was expected due to the move. I was surprised to see the jump in our "Quality of Life Goals" section by that much. The bulk of this spending has been on vacations. The reason it jumped up so much in 2020 is we ended up taking 3 separate vacations. Each of these vacations were to really nice short term rental properties, usually with pools, hot tubs, entertainment rooms etc. In years past we would go to an area and spend money on entertainment in the area itself, more so than the property we were staying at. With COVID the strategy was to spend the money on a really nice house and shelter in place there as we new we would not be venturing out much.


Now let's look at the percentage changes across categories.


I've already touched on the increase in Quality of Life Goals as well as House Mortgage & Insurance. Next up on the list is Pet Expenses. When COVID hit we decided to adopt a puppy. We already had an older dog as well, so our pet population doubled in size. We tend to spoil the hell out of our animals as well, so generally we spare no expense on them.


I was surprised to see the drop in our giving. That's a combination of gifts to family and friends, as well as charitable donations. I really do not have much of a narrative as to why there was such a large decrease in that category.


Auto expenses dropped significantly! Obviously not driving much due to COVID has been really kind to this category. I don't miss those hours spent in the car commuting that's for sure.


Our Just for Fun spending absolutely fell off the map this past year. That's what happens we you don't go out to restaurants, sporting events, concerts, movies, etc. I am looking forward to being able to spend more in this category again - hopefully soon. We're itching for entertainment outside of the 4 walls of our house.


Oh, one more thing to call out. Yes our spending on Kids has dropped off a lot. This mostly driven by the fact that they are not able to play sports or other activities that cost money. We still spend plenty on them, those expenses just show up in the other categories.



Looking Ahead

It is nearly impossible to predict what will transpire throughout 2021. I know my commute will not start back up again until late Summer at the earliest. I also don't see us spending much on restaurants and other entertainment options outside of the house. We only have 1 vacation planned at this point and am not sure what else we will do beyond that.


One thing is for sure though, whatever we end up doing will be tracked in YNAB and will show up in our 2020 vs 2021 spending analysis this time next year.




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  • Personal Capital: My go to place for tracking all things Net Worth.

  • YNAB: My go to place for managing my spending and budget.

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  • M1 Finance: I use them for my dividend stock investments.

  • SoFi Invest: This is where I make individual stock investments.

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