I’ve counted, and re-counted, and eyed my spreadsheet up and down and upside down. That didn’t help matters much.
That’s right, I’ve spent a whole month now looking at my spending habits, analyzing the path that money takes from the point it enters my bank account until … well, usually it winds up in someone else’s hands with a swift swipe of a magnetic stripe.
The initial part of this project was looking back at a full month of spending, to get an idea of where my money was going. The ship was leaking. I clearly had holes that had sprung up here and there, and found that I spent roughly $200 more than I took in. How the heck did that happen? There’s absolutely no excuse for it. I don’t earn a sky-high salary, but it should really be enough to do better than that.
So I set about finding those leaks and corking them, and writing about it. Areas I identified were eating out, the at-least-daily latte, alcohol (a glass of wine in the evening adds up), groceries, unwatched cable TV, and cash. The trouble with cash was that I had no record of where it went! Just … poof. Gone.
The changes I made hurt at first, a little. I know that I could save a whole lot of money if I went gung-ho and cut out ALL extras. But really, people. Is that necessary? Is that even a sustainable plan for me? Chris, one of my best friends, recently lost weight, re-made her body essentially, and became one amazing runner. Did she cut out desserts entirely to do this? Of course not. She even allowed herself a bite of real, good, dark chocolate every day. It helped her to stick to her plan. That’s the way to do it, in my opinion, whether you’re wanting to tighten your physical belt or your financial one. So no, I did not eliminate the morning coffee and Cameron’s hot chocolate on the way to work. I just switched most days to drip instead of fancy for myself. I let myself buy lunch now and then. And in time I got used to the changes.
Except for the ones I didn’t get used to, where I reverted to my old behaviour. Yeah. I’m talking about buying my lunch.
I also must confess, I still haven’t cut cable TV. I’m digging in my heels about that one, and I’m not sure why. But there’s a good $40 further I could save at least.
Okay okay, enough rambling. How did I do? Did my small changes add up?
Of course they did.
Now, at first glance there was a massive, huge, enormous (by my standards) improvement. But when you take into account that my raise went through, and the government decided it owed me some more money … it becomes a little less stunning. I reduced my spending by well over $200. While this isn’t quite the breathtaking figure I’d hoped for, it’s still nothing to sneeze at.
I can’t ignore that extra money in the bank account, the part that came from the raise and tax credit or whatever that was. It’s still pretty cool. What will I do with it? Celebrate? Decide that I don’t have to work so hard to save money? Buy stuff?
I’ve already done the sensible thing. It went onto my credit card, to take that debt down a notch. Not the immediate, instant gratification that a new physical object might have given me, but surely a more long-term one. It’s nice to see those numbers of what I owe go down. Yes, I could have put the money into a savings account, but when you look at the interest numbers? It’s in my best interest to pay off that credit card debt sooner rather than later.
Now for the future … what now? I’m on a roll! Will I keep updating friends and total strangers as to the status of my bank account and credit card debt? Not for the next month, I think. I’ll probably start fresh when we get back from our holidays in mid-august, with a monthly post. After all, I have some areas I could still improve. That cable bill, the lunches, and the still-too-frequent lattes. Oh, and groceries. While I’ll still splurge and buy yummy pricier stuff, there are lots of ways I can cut back in the grocery store. I still toss out an embarrassing quantity of food. But I’ll keep posting now and then for sure about my finances for certain.
It keeps me accountable, that some total strangers in France and Belgium know when I slip up.
I’d also like to show that it isn’t that hard to make small changes to spending habits, and that those small changes add up. They can add up to material goods, sure, but best off all they can add up to reduction of debt. Then eventually I’ll be able to tame the interest monster to work for me instead of gobbling up my money.