Exposed! My utterly extravagant spending in 2017

It's budget reconciliation time

It’s budget reconciliation time

For far too long I’ve been spending with wanton abandon and not even caring enough to add up the numbers. How could I be setting such a terrible example to all the millions of readers who don’t make their way to my blog. This is going to to change. Starting from now there will be an annual post where I air the dirty laundry of my multitude of credit card receipts.

So now to go and break tradition with seemingly every other blog post I read lately, I’ll actually get straight to the point and just pop the numbers out. None of this read my life story before you get to the delicious recipe, or navigate past all the annoying subscription popups before I actually get to see a number on the page. No, just no!

My spending is right here:


2017 spending

Buckle up, it’s been a big year!

Still with me? Okay then I’ll get into a few stories.


We must be idiots. We spend the majority of our money just so we can sleep inside a glorified prison cell with a view that never changes, and bills that never stop coming. Well when I say we I mean people who can say no to million dollar cars and rather drive jap econo boxes, otherwise like many South Africans, they probably spend more on their car than a place to live.

I’m quite happy to personally not own any of these miserable excuses for investments that have in real currency terms actually decreased in value every year since 2007, with a small exception in the Republic of the Atlantic Seaboard. My wife though does, but she got lucky. She bought before the boom in an unpopular area that was walking distance to the office, and has now become quite popular.

Since getting married, we decided she can keep her walking commute as I have a fantastic bicycle to get to work on, making me her tenant. For a place to live I think I get quite a good deal. It’s a beautiful apartment, with space to park my car and bicycles. I have two friendly dogs to play with, not too much of a challenge to get to work, and I get to sleep with the landlord. But it’s still by far my biggest monthly expense.

In future I plan to beat the system. I’ll be going totally nomadic where I actually have some control over what my living costs will be. Depending on when I actually pull the plug, and how good a negotiator I am, that could be a camper-van, small sailboat or luxury catamaran.


Where am I?

Where am I? Hard to believe, but this is Rome.

I’m very lucky because I get to travel for work quite a lot. Almost exclusively overseas, though usually to places most South Africans don’t pencil onto their bucket lists.

Last year was one of the quieter years for me, but I still had business trips to Kenya, Switzerland, Mozambique (twice), Italy and the Republic of Congo. Oh and I also had one to Cape Town which is my favourite local destination.

You’d imagine that someone who has to travel that much for his job would just want to stay in SA for his holidays but no, I had to add another 5 countries to that list: Chile, Argentina, England, Germany and Portugal. You know because five countries in a year would be so inferior on the imaginary Jones’ travel scorecard.

Of course I had fantastically good reasons for traveling, and they were all once in a lifetime opportunities as they always are, but in total I blew through over R54 000 on foreign trips, more than R30 000 higher than I budget for. If you’re keen to read more on the trips head on over to my death spiral blog post and to the 2017 lessons learnt post. You can also find a bunch of pictures on our travel instagram.


Yes I spend a lot on groceries, it’s Tim Noakes’ fault. Actually not because I was banting for years before he told me it was called banting. Happily though he’s made it easy to get actually edible bread and convenient microwave meals that won’t add inches to my waistline. I’m sure he’s also the reason that I now have to pay R25 for an avo, madness!


I’m quite lucky that my son goes to the best government primary school in Johannesburg according to some voting criteria I know nothing about. But I must agree, as government schools go they really seem to have their act together, and the fees are pretty good too. The total above even includes the optional R9600 per year for aftercare.


This isn’t an area you can really skimp on. When the kid or wife is sick, they go to the doctor. When the husband is sick he comes up with reasons why he doesn’t need the doctor and gets into trouble with wife. We have an international medical insurance through my job, so this total includes my R1040 premium share as well as the 20% share we have to pay for doctors and medicines. There’s also a few trips to Clicks and Dischem bundled in here.


I love my car. It never lets me down, and feels like a faithful golden retriever. Sure it’s not that fast, and looks a little scruffy, but it’s my friend. Happily I often do more than 900km on a tank, with a few liters to spare, and when it comes time to service I don’t need to prep with vaseline when making the payment. The total costs here include a few Uber trips too, usually when on holiday.

Eating out and takeouts

I overdid this towards the end of last year. There are more than a few convenience meal purchases, and far too many trips to Andiccios for the best cauliflower base pizza north of the Vaal. I will be stronger in 2018 I promise. Well maybe from tomorrow, apparently her sexiness is bringing home pizza this evening, and I didn’t even half try to argue.


Don’t say I’m not generous. Ignore what everyone says, when someone invites you to a wedding, they’d like to be able to fold the gift inside their wallet. It’s almost like a direct money transfer from the father of the bride to the guy who’s sleeping with his daughter, and you’re the proxy making it happen.

I had one wedding gift, a few gifts for the lady of the house, and of course for the boy who’s now 11. That meant he also got his first bank account, which I kindly stocked with a handful of notes. It’s with Capitec too, so he’s loving his first taste of compound interest. I also tried spoiling myself with a birthday present at the end of last year, but since it seems the post office has “lost” it, I might have to get a refund.


All the financial gurus will tell you that you shouldn’t use credit cards so you can feel yourself spending money, and they’re all wrong. Cash is just an easy way to hide the fact that you’ve got an Starbucks latte problem or that you’ve spent a fortune on hookers and cocaine. It’s time to patch together that cut up credit card and instead shred your cash. Not literally of course, and a debit card makes a very safe substitute for a credit card.

The key here is accountability. If I only spent cash there’s not a hope in hell I’d be able to tally up my spending numbers, and I’m willing to bet it’s the same case for you.


I suppose this could have come under the health section, but it’s possible to stay healthy without the gym. I upgraded to a multi club membership briefly last year, found out it was a mistake and then downgraded again. I also had a huge twitter fight with Virgin Active who thought they could up the prices as they felt like. I won.


When I was in London a truly astoundingly large group of ex-South Africans invited me to watch the sevens rugby at Twickenham. Even though I’m not a rugby fan it was tons of fun and great catching up with everyone. My son loves going to the fun company, mainly to challenge the arm wrestling machine, so we went a few times. He also seems to like winning tickets so he can use them to buy weird Chinese toys. I’ve told him often that it would be far better value for money if I just bought him those with cash, but he disagreed.

There are also a few trips to the planetarium which I think is probably the best value for money kids outing in Joburg. If anyone can think of a way a dad and child can have more fun for under R85 please let me know. Aside from that we went to the zoo a couple of times, and also to the movies every now and then.


What to say when they try put your insurance up

They gave me a 6% increase

Clothing and shoes

I’m not big into clothes. I try to run a one in one out policy with the things I wear, and the one out is usually worn out. I have a growing boy though, so he needs new shoes or soccer boots at least once a year. School clothes too, but thanks to that Steinhoff subsidiary Pep they’re actually quite cheap.

Bicycle stuff

Last year I serviced my front fork which was rather pricy, and as usual I went through plenty of brake pads. This category has gotten of to a bad start in 2018, as after 18000+ perfect kilometers my electric bike has developed an annoying judder on pull off. It’s either the motor which is hopefully repairable, or the controller which is replaceable. Both will cost me a couple of thousand I’m imagining, but I’ll make that back after under 1000km of use.

Bank Charges

Like I said in the last post, I found a way to get negative bank fees through a combination of Capitec and Virgin Money. Now all I have to do is hope that Viceroy is wrong and that Capitec continues to be the great bank I’m finding them to be.

Update: Investments

One of the forum members Graham pointed out in the comments that I don’t have any investments listed here. That’s because I don’t consider investments to be spending. I did put R33 000 into both my and my sons tax free savings accounts. He’s loving watching it grow, with it sitting on over R100 000 already! The rest of my investments went offshore into the Vanguard FTSE All-World UCITS ETF as discussed in this blog post.

2018 budget

I’m going to try and trim my spending back by around 10% in 2018 to see if I can keep it to R20k or less. Also since hearing all the horror stories from the many colleagues who are soon to be out of work, I’ve tried to estimate what my barebones budget would be just in case my job vanished and my side income dried up completely.

2018 BudgetHere’s my thinking on the barebones budget. There’s not much I can do about rent now, so that has to stay. I could definitely cut back on groceries by removing luxuries and substituting for cheaper options, eggs vs meat etc. My dividends and sideline income covers my budget, but this is a worst case scenario where the sideline income goes too, so no more holidays for me.

Medical would go up, I’d take the cheapest hospital plan for my son and I, my wife would need to pay for her own, sorry hon. I’d cut my driving in half, instead using my free time to cycle nearly everywhere. That would be great exercise, and by adding in some bodyweight type exercises I could lose the gym membership.

Without needing to work I’d cut way back on clothing. I have plenty casual clothes to last me for ages. Kid still has many years to grow though. I could cut aftercare, but at just R800 a month it would free up a lot of time for trying to find ways to get some more money in.

How was your 2017 spending?

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Do you have any great spending tricks to help save money? Use the comments section below to let me know.

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18 Responses to Exposed! My utterly extravagant spending in 2017

  1. Hey Patrick, cool post!
    Just curious, no electricity, rates and taxes? Or is that included in your Rent and Household?
    Also no cellphone and internet?

  2. patrickza says:

    Hey Stealthy, yeah those were included in rent etc. I get a work cellphone at the moment, but when I didn’t all I had was a once off R500 data sim purchase from Telkom. That gave me 1GB per month for a year, so basically R42.67 a month. I barely ever make a voice call, so when I need to I can do that on whatsapp or one of the other apps.

  3. grahamcr says:

    Patrick – I see no discretionary saving in the budget nor a contribution to a pension/provident fund

  4. patrickza says:

    Hi Graham, I didn’t list any investments, as I don’t consider that spending. I did put R33k each into my and my sons TFSA, the rest of my income all went offshore into the vanguard world index. I don’t personally have an RA as I’m taxed internationally, so it wouldn’t provide my with a tax break.

  5. grahamcr says:

    Fair comment

  6. Ros Brodie says:

    I’m all in with Discovery – so I pay the usual monthly credit card fees, plus an annual Discovery Miles membership fee. But I “make that up”, as it were, by putting everything on the card (paid off in full each month, of course!) and therefore earning Miles. So my credit card fees plus miles membership came to R1080, but I earned 18371 miles, which equates to R1837. I haven’t actually used the miles, though, because I’m saving them for flight upgrades. So do I

  7. Mylky says:

    I see you are using 22seven (by those categories). I’m always so surprised when ppl tell me they have no idea where their money went when free apps like that exist. As an aside, you’ve just motivated me to export my info to excel and compare my annual spending as well. I usually just look at it month to month, and try to budget zero – based so if I overspend in one category I lower the budget in another, but the risk of that is that I actually have no idea how I’ve done compared to my annual goals and so don’t have the info to plan for the year ahead. Gonna jump on that asap!

  8. patrickza says:

    I must be honest, I’m far too lazy to actually track my spending manually. Without that app I’d be lost. From your other comments I seem to remember that you’re a really low spender overall. I’m curious if you’ll actually get any value for the time you spend budgeting!

  9. Mylky says:

    You’re right, I’m a low “spender” but unfortunately the way my family’s finances are set up (I’m single and live alone, but I’m the only person in my immediate family who has a full time job and steady income), I have more outflow than pure spending which necessitates even stricter budgeting. Every other week there’s some kind of “emergency” and someone either needs money or needs something that costs money. I try to a) say no when it’s just pure tomfoolery and poor planning on their side, b) budget for family expenses and c) build a separate emergency fund for my familial obligations but it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference as my ‘spend’ still seems to fluctuate wildly from month to month. So that’s one big category that messes up my others. Add to that non-recurring major expenses (moving for work this year for example) and it would really help to get a sense of averages so I can better plan in future.

  10. Mylky says:

    I must add that it’s probably a cultural thing (Black tax) as I’ve read many a blog where individuals plan to do amazing things with their incomes while their parents/siblings struggle and it’s acknowledged with barely more than a shrug. I tried to adopt that mindset and I just couldn’t, it’s a completely foreign concept.

  11. Diesel says:

    Hi Patrick. Thanks for this. Having just returned to South Africa, I am very interested in diving into the FI community here.

    Quick one, for your R20k monthly expenses budget, is this “your portion” of the household expenses or is this the “entire household” expenses?

    The reason I ask is that you are getting extremely good value on (1) schooling + aftercare at a decent government primary school, (2) travel even though work would have covered your airfare , (3) groceries for 3 people and (4) insurance (car, personal liability and household) if this amount covers all the 3 of you, or is it just your portion and your wife contributes her portion? If she is contributing too, what does the total household budget look like?

    Also, I assume you are getting a favourable tax efficient below market “rental rate” from your wife as the landlord but then as MMM says, we should all strive for a paid off property plus our 25 x living expenses.

    Thanks for the insightful localised content


  12. patrickza says:

    Hey Diesel, welcome back to SA. The R20k for the year is my portion in some cases but 100% in others:
    1) I do pay 100% of the schooling and aftercare though, that’s just what government schools charge here.
    2) The travel listed is all personal, so I don’t include any of my work trips here as they’re covered completely by the office.
    3) I pay most but not all of the food groceries. On average I can feed us for R150 a meal.
    4) I only have car insurance, it’s comprehensive though and yeah it’s really really cheap. It helps that I drive a cheap car (probably worth R45k) and have a R4.5k excess.

    It’s hard to say what the total household budget would look like as my wife doesn’t really economise in the way I do. She’s getting better, and even outsaved me last year, but she’s a superstar in her field and quite likes working so doesn’t see the need to be able to retire very young. Strangely even though I now rent from her, my living costs were far lower when I owned my own townhouse. It was walking istance from work with very low rates and taxes.

    I’m not sure having a paid off property is a necessity though. I would much rather aim for 33X with no property (3% drawdown) than a 25X with property.

    Thanks for reading!

  13. Diesel says:

    Thanks for the answer. Keep up the great content!

    Hopefully one day we will soon have a meet up like one in the link below for like minded people in SA to get together to share ideas on how to enjoy the journey on the path to FI

  14. Bevan Jones says:

    Hi Patrick, enjoyable post as usual. I live in Hogsback now so am quite lucky in several ways:-
    – Firstly, we have 10 acres of income producing forest, spring water stream etc. Purchased for R900k. It’s even got a house and cottage plus 100,000 litres of water storage. We’ve got oak and cedar wood, plenty acorns to make acorn flour and biscuits, porcini mushrooms etc.
    – Then, I avoid gym fees by instead picking up a chainsaw, chopping wood, doing things around the homestead
    – We make around 70% of our own food. I recently bought some food from Woolworths in JHB and almost had a heart-attack, not from the chemicals and preservatives, but from the price!
    – We belong to a weekly milk club so pay on average R5 per litre of fresh cow’s milk. But I can’t say anymore as 1st rule of milk club is…..
    – We walk or ride mountain bikes or horses most places, cutting dramatically down on fuel
    – Our biggest expense is school and hostel fees, as not much education opportunities on the mountain

    If you or anyone else wants to visit we are at

  15. patrickza says:

    Wow that sounds really great. It’s actually my wife’s dream to one day have small farm where we can live mostly self sufficiently and have plenty of animals. I love mountain biking so it would work for me too. Do you have solar or is it grid connected? My one worry in rural SA is security concerns, has that been an issue at all?

    We don’t often get to that area, but I’ll definitely make a stop there if we’re anywhere close.

  16. Bevan Jones says:

    Security, like most places in SA, can be an issue. As Kofi Annan once said, “absolute poverty anywhere is a threat to security everywhere”. Hogsback is near Alice, which was the de-facto capital of the Ciskei, so lots of rural poverty. Then again, rural folk are much more used to surviving with little and the crime is far less. Besides, my partner and I are pretty good with pangas, shotguns and snakes. She often forgets to close the house and car doors at night. Maybe she’s just testing to see if someone will try something.

    Mountain Biking is excellent here – usually they have the Lord of the Chain Rings here, with Hogsback being known as the place the young Tolkien got his inspiration from. In terms of power I’m currently looking into a Trompe (to get compressed air) combined with a Tesla Turbine (for powergen), as we have a lot of water and gravity. Hogsback is renowned as being one of the places with the most amount of waterfalls per square kilometer in the world, or so I once read. Of course we’re grid connected but we’re working on getting the entire village to go off-grid. Biggest issue for us is dirt roads and potholes and maintaining them. As Nhlanhla has recently pointed out, most municipalities in SA are going bust so the sooner villages become completely self-sustaining the better.

    The homesteading movement is growing around the world, and lately is catching on quite fast in SA as people start to abandon the cities. You should read Scott Nearing’s “The Good Life” as well as John Seymour’s books on establishing your own small-holding. The big issue is of course how to make money going forward. But once you’re living virtually cost-free that becomes less onerous. I write, trade and do some research for clients. My partner grows and makes food products, gives lessons on sustainability, soil, grey-water and energy systems etc. Plus we run a Celtic styled retreat centre. That is more than enough to keep anyone busy.

  17. Joe says:

    Do enlighten us on the groceries? R150 for a meal – how does that tie up to R3500 per month?
    Ours is way higher (for 2 people) – would be interested to know how you keep the monthly down to so low for 3 people…

  18. patrickza says:

    Hey Joe, I buy most but not all the groceries. Also note I intermittent fast, so I only eat one large meal a day.

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