I wanted to do something a little different this month. I have never been one to share the deep, dark secrets of my spending, salary, or net worth. I love talking about personal finance and I am more than happy to share ballpark figures. In fact, I believe that is really important in the interest of transparency. I want my readers to know how and why I am achieving my financial goals, and you only get a good sense of that if you know roughly how much is coming in the door every month and how much of it I am saving.
But the nitty gritty details? The dollars and cents of weekday pub nights or gifts for my family or my extravagant vacations? I haven’t really shared much of it.
But after a year of tracking every cent of my spending, I have realized that I do not actually review and reflect on my numbers enough. I am really good at plugging the numbers into a spreadsheet every time I grab groceries on the way home or put gas in the car. But then all those numbers disappear into a longggg spreadsheet and I don’t necessarily go back and review how much I am spending on food, or gas, or the dreaded “Miscellaneous” category every month.
I pretty much just take a look at the grand total of spending each month and make sure it doesn’t exceed what I earn. What I have realized is that I am leaving a lot of room for improvement on the table, though.
For example, I know I spend a ridiculous amount on food each month – but I don’t really keep track of the total from month to month, or try new strategies to bring the cost down and see if those strategies are working for me.
Without looking – or being forced to look – at those big monthly bottom line numbers, how can I improve my spending and saving habits?
So without further ado, I am going to share my monthly breakdown of savings and expenses by category in 2018 in the hopes that it will keep me more accountable and self-aware of where my money is really going.
Let’s start with the good. I am happy with my savings and debt repayment this month. It could be better (it could always be better), but I always put $205 per month toward my pension to get the employer match. With a generous match and the stock market on an absolute tear, my retirement fund is growing like a weed.
Beyond my usual retirement contributions, student loan repayment is taking priority right now, although I did not make a huge payment this month. January, usually a quiet month of hibernating at home when it’s -30C outside, has become a fairly expensive time of year. Birthdays of some VIPs in my life fall in late January and early February. So I made a smaller loan payment in January to leave a good buffer this month for higher than usual gift, gas, and entertainment expenses.
Okay now for the tough part: my spending.
|Food||$589||Whoa! I knew I spent a lot on food…but whoa.|
|Car||$215||Gas, parking, maintenance|
|Health||$212||Ouch, I just ordered a year’s supply of contact lenses.|
|Insurance||$189||Car, disability, and tenant insurance|
|Entertainment||$125||Netflix, books, movies, alcohol, coffee, covers, etc.|
|Gifts||$74||Gift for sister’s birthday, plus baby and retirement gifts for colleagues|
|Miscellaneous||$39||Official transcripts; Go Daddy renewal.|
|Charity||$30||Monthly donations to two charities.|
|Household||$19||Fabric steamer for my clothes. BEST MONEY I HAVE EVER SPENT.|
|Laundry & Dry Cleaning||$10|
This is probably pretty close to a normal month for me. Although my spending on food, gifts, and entertainment was high, I didn’t do really any recreational shopping and I did not buy any items like clothing or electronics.
Miracle of all miracles – I didn’t spend a dime on Uber this month. Even with a car, this is an average $40/month expense for me. I have only had a vehicle for a few months, but the car expenses seem right on for this month.
I am horrified to admit this, but another part of my budget that is nuts: miscellaneous. This makes me so frustrated, because like, what even goes in this category? Who knows but my average expenditure in this category in 2017 was $196 per month! What?
In true miscellaneous fashion, this category in 2017 contained some big ticket items like a PO Box renewal and a new tattoo, alongside many smaller line items. I am quite proud of having reasonable miscellaneous costs in January, and I will be prioritizing this as a goal in 2018 to watch out for seemingly random discretionary things.
Okay we need to talk about my food budget (OR LACK THEREOF, MY GOD).
Yea I paid nearly $600 to feed my gluttonous self this month. It’s a lot. So let’s break this down a little more:
$365 – groceries
I went grocery shopping 13 times in January. 13 times! Since I apparently enter a grocery store nearly every other day, it’s not too surprising that I overspend on groceries. It’s easy to head to the store with all the best intentions of just grabbing some greens for your salad for dinner, and then leave with some chocolate, tea, avocado, and blue cheese. And a bottle of wine.
Looking back at my spending, 9 out of these 13 visits were less than $20. So it typically was to grab some snacks for TV night with my girlfriends, or to pick up some milk and bread for the next morning.
All of this means I need to do a wayyyy better job planning out my shopping. My goal for February is to spend $275 on groceries. I aim to build in one bigger, regular shop each week that rings in at $50. I have actually scheduled this into my calendar, because I hate grocery shopping so much. This definitely contributes to my increased spending because I am way more inclined to run to the grocery store across the street to pick up a few things rather than do a big shop.
If I can stick to $50/week, this still leaves some wiggle room to grab some snacks or stock up on small things during the week as well.
$224 – dining out
-$75 to treat my friend on her birthday
-$40 to order Vietnamese on New Year’s Day
-$30 for brunch with a friend
-$30 to hit the pub on Sunday to catch the NFL game
-The remaining $49 was to grab a handful of meals out during the week.
I know this number may seem appalling to many a personal finance blogger but I am actually okay with this for my restaurant budget. I went out for a meal about once a week, and then grabbed something to go a few times throughout the month.
It is kind of scary to post these numbers online and but I am looking forward to posting these monthly. If you have any great posts about slashing food budgets, please please share! What does your monthly spending look like?