February 28, 2017
There are times when I look at my bank account and I ask myself where all my money went. I keep track of my expenses in Quicken, but I never delved into analyzing my spending habits.
Me being a weirdo and love to self-analyze, that’s when I decided to challenge myself: for the month of March, I am giving myself a $500 budget to spend for groceries, gas, and fun money. Rent, utilities, and Internet are not included in the $500. This way I would have a better understanding of the habits and emotions behind how and when I spend money. I arbitrarily chose $500 because I think that will cover all my costs without giving me too much fun money to spend. The results from this month’s experiment can serve as a baseline for the future.
Initial thoughts on my current spending habits:
- My groceries and eating out budget probably has always been the highest, and I expect that to be the same for March. Off the top of my head, I think I spend $150/month on groceries, which is a little too much for my liking.
- I usually shop at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or Wegmans because they are conveniently located on my commute home from work.
- I could do better at thinking about what I want to cook during the week and make a groceries list before shopping instead of trying to wing it.
- I usually eat out 2-4 times/week, and usually at moderately priced places.
- My spending guilty pleasures are skincare items and lipsticks, and anything from Target or Amazon.
- I tend not to buy things that don’t spark joy in me at first glance.
- If it’s a big purchase, I usually wait for one month or longer to make sure it’s something I really want.
I’m a little nervous about what happens…
March 2017 Expenses
- Gas and tolls = $118.03
- Transportation (bus, Uber, Lyft) = $129.17
- Groceries = $156.65
- NatureBox = $19.95
- Eating out = $426.62
- Household items (necessary) = $15
- Other shopping = $336
- Gym = $21.95
- Spotify = $9.99
- Student loans = $59.42
- GRAND TOTAL = $1,292.78
Sure, I failed… hard. My ego hurts because I did fail to stay within my $500 budget. Ugh.
My thoughts and findings from March:
- I was more aware every time I had to spend money. Instead of thinking, “I’ll have money in the future to pay it off”, I thought more in terms of “I need” vs. “I want” vs. “I got suckered into it”. The items I bought in addition to FabFitFun fall under the “I want but didn’t need” category, and the Mary Kay skincare items fall under “I got suckered into it”.
- I watched a YouTube video of this beauty guru coupon shopping for makeup at CVS, which made me look into the CVS ExtraCare Rewards (kind of like extra money).
- I fall into the #treatyoself camp, but how much is too much treat yoself?
- I wasn’t depriving myself of anything in order to fit within the budget. Some examples:
- I prefer fresh veggies over frozen veggies. The few times I did go grocery shopping, I went to Stop & Shop or Asian supermarkets because they were cheaper without sacrificing too much quality. This was an easy behavioral change for me.
- I love trying out new restaurants and bars, so I wasn’t going to sacrifice that. I did cut down the amount of times I ate out, but still had opportunities to try new restaurants.
- I visited California this month, so I spent more than I normally would on food, transportation to and from the airport, etc. I did get bored one day and go shopping at The Body Shop though. Extreme boredom does not bode well for my wallet if there are places to shop nearby.
- Transportation category probably increases more during the winter because I am willing to spend the money if it saves me from being cold for too long. If this is the case, then it should get cheaper during the warmer months.
Some materials that guide my personal financial philosophy:
- Stoicism and How Can it Turn your Life to Solid Gold: After reading this article, I realized that I was practicing stoicism to a small degree. Like many things in life, it’s all about mindset and how you look at things. Instead of seeing (and complaining) about how if you had more money all your problems would be solved, reframe your thinking. Do a little experiment like I did this month and you’ll see you probably have more than you thought.
- The podcast So Money with Farnoosh Torabi: The first personal finance podcast I subscribed to. Farnoosh approaches the topic of personal finance with such ease, and it’s what got me thinking about personal finance a lot more.
I’m going to do this financial diet again for April with a $650 budget. Let’s see how it goes!
Some things to remember before going into April:
- Categories to lower spending on: transportation, eating out, and other shopping. I’m going to try to stay under $75 for transportation, $200 for eating out, and lower other shopping as much as possible.
- I only eat NatureBox every 2 months and FabFitFun every quarter, so I won’t have those expenses in April.
There are a lot of people these days who are ashamed to talk about money, whether it is about salaries, expenses, savings, and more. It definitely is one of those topics considered taboo, but I don’t think it should be. If we all share our thoughts and practices, think about how much better everybody would be in their personal financial lives! Tell me your thoughts by leaving a comment below & hit the like button if you enjoyed this post!