In pursuit of financial independence and personal fulfillment

A visual look at where all of my money goes

Have you ever thought about where your money ended up, cradle to grave? Not just the money that shows up in your checking account every pay period, but all the employer benefits, the taxes, and the random birthday checks?

I was inspired to create a money map after seeing The Luxe Strategist’s take on the concept (which she borrowed from Budget on a Stick and Apathy Ends). I liked how they showed how money flowed from account to account, but I wanted to put a twist on mine. (Update: I also created a money map in the same format as those above.) I thought it would be interesting to look at where all of my money went for the past 18 months.

I used a block data visualization method because I really liked the way that helped present information like this:

Where am I spending my money?

As usual, I owe you some explanations on the data. (Click the image to get the full-size view.)

You can’t see the grid lines I used to build this to scale, but there are 400 equally sized rectangles, each representing 0.25% of my overall cash and compensation from January 2016 through July 2017. There’s a square at the bottom of the image showing the size of each block.

This isn’t representative of my household spending because it doesn’t include my wife’s income and expenses. This is just income from my job and random income like presents, selling things, an inheritance, etc.

For instance, the mortgage money actually represents less than half the mortgage cost because my wife pays more of the house and utilities while I pay more college, dining, and vehicle costs.

She pays half the daycare costs, and we’ve been drawing down a 529 account to pay for college housing costs. (Which is why those costs aren’t about equal, when you know from my previous post that college and daycare cost basically the same.)

The Misc. expenses and Everything else categories are very closely related. Misc. expenses is represented on my budget as a line item, while Everything else is basically credit card spending that didn’t fit into the other categories. That could be gifts, charity, home improvement, housewares, etc. It wasn’t worth the effort to tease them apart for the sake of shifting a few colored boxes.

Organization and abnormalities

I’ve tried to group things in the same vicinity. For instance, taxes are along the left side. Benefits such as health insurance, miscellaneous insurances (life, accidental death and dismemberment, disability), and other benefits are grouped. My retirement and savings accounts are grouped. Those all take up most of the left side of the image.

The right half is where my discretionary spending sits. I grouped my spending categories into larger categories for the purposes of this graphic, otherwise there would be a lot of small blocks. For instance, anything to do with cars got shoved into one block, even though in Excel I have separate lines for insurance, car repairs, gas, etc.

The amount shown as sitting in checking is my floating cash reserve for paying bills. It’s not savings; it’s just not yet spent.

I should also note that the past 18 months has been a strange time financially. A number of things have happened that are not typical.

  • We bought a house and sold our old one.
  • I got a new (used) car and paid it off in 9 months.
  • We have children in both college and daycare.
  • My grandmother died and I got a small inheritance.

Those are all big, abnormal financial happenings — at least in my life. I expect if I go through this same exercise in two years I’ll have fewer blocks and the savings side of the graphic will bleed more into the right.

Any big surprises?

Do you see anything surprising here?

I’ll tell you one thing that always blows my mind is the amount of healthcare insurance paid for by my employer vs. me. Not to get too political, but I think a huge problem with the current healthcare “debate” is that most people think of the cost of healthcare as only their part of the premium. So when they look at the cost of coverage on the exchanges, it looks astronomical and people freak out. I actually ran through the exchange last year to see how much it would cost me for similar coverage to what I get now. Turns out it was extremely close. I’m very grateful to work for a place that picks up so much of that cost as part of my total compensation.

I was also surprised by the Social Security tax compared with the state income tax. I would have thought the income tax would be higher than that.

What do you think about this visualization? Is it interesting? Helpful? Did I just waste a dozen hours of my life and five minutes of yours? Let me know in the comments!



  1. The Luxe Strategist

    I love it! And thanks for the shout-out. Glad doing this helped inspire some gratitude re: healthcare costs.

    I also found it interesting how you and your wife split up expenses? At first I was really confused about why your car payment was more than the mortgage!

    How do you find out how much your employer is paying for your health insurance? I get direct deposit so have never looked at a paystub.

    • I Dream of FIRE

      Thanks! The split expenses thing works well for us. We lived together before we got married, so it made more sense to do it that way.

      If you look on your electronic paystub you should see something showing how much your employer paid for your benefits. I highly recommend everyone check it out to fully appreciate their total compensation. Benefits are usually between 15 and 30 percent of the cost of an employee!

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