Author Topic: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.  (Read 8808 times)

EconDiva

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I made it to April 30th and through 30 DAYS of recording every.single.thing. I spent money on this month!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

I have never done this before in my life.  I tried it two other times, but fell off in the second week both times.  This time I stuck to it, recording every purchase in a little notebook daily. 

Well, I just tallied up everything, and boy has this been an eye opening experience for me.  I knew I had been wasting a lot of money, but WOW.  This wasn't a good month spending-wise because I was way behind on electric bills and had a large one with fees to pay, plus I put a credit on that bill.  I also paid double on my cell phone bill to have a credit for next month.  I had to make a trip to the cleaners to get a bunch of slacks hemmed and cleaned I bought a few months ago. 

The things I learned by doing this include:

-Not planning properly is costing me a lot of money.  I've had times where I've been running late to work and when that happens, I have to take a cab to the train to make it on time. $$$ down the drain.  On one day this month, I missed the train altogether and had to use a Zipcar, which was a whopping $80 for one day (I don't own a car).

-I'm still eating too much of my money.  To be honest, this month wasn't 'too' bad; I've had months where I did just total up restaurant spending and it would be well over $300!  I'm cooking a lot more and eating out less (ironically I just got invited to go out to eat this Saturday :/  It's hard...I gotta get smarter with this!)

-The little things really REALLY add up.....>>>fast>>>.  And convenience costs.  There is a 7 Eleven attached to the building I live in.  So if I'm craving a grapefruit juice, just ran out of milk, or just want a snack, I'm there.  I spent over $80 in that place in just one month.  I had NO CLUE I was giving that place so much money.

I had mixed feelings about posting this but just wanted to share to inspire any one else who might be dealing with the frustration of feeling like your finances are 'out of control'.  I wasn't raised to be financially savvy and never really learned how to budget.  Often times I would spend freely and without much consideration to the consequences wasted money was having on my potential to accumulate money.  I honestly feel like this is the first step to gaining control of my finances.  My first goal was to get a new job/raise; I did that twice in the past two years.  I'm still not where I want to be income-wise, but I'm a work in progress and am now focusing on maximizing my current income by adhering to a real budget for the first time in life.

I said I would significantly increase my savings (short term and retirement) with the new job this year, and in order to do that, I had to do this first.  Lastly, now that I've done it, I plan to continue doing this until I can establish a better pattern in my budgeting practices.

Anyways, I digress.  Feel free to face punch, comment, ask questions, etc.



EconDiva

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2014, 01:12:10 PM »
Also attaching a screenshot of the Excel sheet.


MDM

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2014, 01:18:31 PM »
Face punch for putting the magnifying glass on yourself?  I think not - congratulations instead!

Now, if after tracking spending for a year your habits haven't changed....

If you can afford $80 for a month at 7-11, get a financial package (e.g., Google "Quicken vs Mint vs YNAB" and decide from there).  Link the software to a no-fee-but-gives-rewards credit card you use for most purchases and your tracking will be much easier.  Just don't spend overmuch because it's on credit.

Keep up the good work on tracking!

nereo

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2014, 01:21:22 PM »
congrats on getting through the month.  Now that you see where your spending soft-spots are you can optimize your life and reap the rewards.

If you want to get **really** neurotic you can do what i've done a few times and try to do a cost analysis for almost everything you do.  You don't own a car so that's not an issue but I would calculate how much a given meal cost me to make, and if I built a bookshelf I'd document the cost of hte wood and glue and screws.

It's not a technique you can do for very long - I couldn't do it for an entire month - but it did help me visualize just how in cost two cooked-at-home meals could be, and I quickly found more ways of cutting hundreds off my monthly budget.  In the end though I had to find a happy middle-ground.

elaine amj

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2014, 01:30:51 PM »
Congratulations!!!

I was telling my husband this week we need to do a better job tracking. We finally looked this week and I was horrified how much we have been spending. We used to average $1000 a month on general spending (everything goes on our CCs) and now it's more like $2500-$3000 a month now that we've become a 2-income family! It was eye-opening.

Your diligent tracking is going to really help you see where you can save money - so good for you. I liked the suggestion of Mint. I took a look and that may work for us.

Villanelle

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2014, 01:33:10 PM »
The overpaying bills so you have a credit is strange and nonsensical to me.  Why would you do that?

As for going out when invited, depending on the nature of the invite, can you eat before hand and then just have an tea?  Or at the very least, eat a bit before and then just order a soup or small appetizer?  Or better still, make a counter offer.  "I'm really watching my spending right now and trying to avoid restaurants.  Any chance you want to meet a X free museum instead?"  That only works in some situations, not for large group invites, but it's something to keep in mind.

EconDiva

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2014, 01:36:42 PM »
The overpaying bills so you have a credit is strange and nonsensical to me.  Why would you do that?

As for going out when invited, depending on the nature of the invite, can you eat before hand and then just have an tea?  Or at the very least, eat a bit before and then just order a soup or small appetizer?  Or better still, make a counter offer.  "I'm really watching my spending right now and trying to avoid restaurants.  Any chance you want to meet a X free museum instead?"  That only works in some situations, not for large group invites, but it's something to keep in mind.

As far as overpaying bills, that is actually a thing I rarely ever do.  This month it was done because I have a new job and had to make some adjustments that had to do with my new pay dates and the billing cycles/payment due dates for certain bills.

homeymomma

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2014, 01:42:19 PM »
Good job! I used to track our spending manually, which was a great exercise in self-awareness, but you may eventually want to look into mint.com. It might help you keep your resolution because it does most of it for you (don't worry, it's very secure). Assuming you use cards for everything, it works great.

Good luck on trimming the fat! I was also raised to be completely financially illiterate, and embracing financial responsibility has been incredibly freeing, as well as allowing us to dream up much bigger life goals.

MrsSmitty

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2014, 01:43:33 PM »
Nicely done! I started tracking my spending in a spreadsheet very similar to yours on 1/1/2009. I've tracked every penny in and out ever since. The one new years resolution I've ever stuck with but now I'm addicted to it. I love seeing that money move around and seeing how much I have left at the end of the month. It helped me realize I was just treading water and really buckle down. I've taken my net worth from -$32K to $270k over the last 5.5 years.

I usually avoid cash to make it easier to track things. I use my debit card or credit card for everything instead. Then I just sign in online every few days to check my purchases and log them. Much easier than trying to keep track of receipts or remember where that other $3 went. I switched from a spreadsheet to Buxfer.com last year when I combined finances with my husband (great tool, I highly recommend it).

Keep it up!

brandino29

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2014, 01:49:13 PM »
Whoaa...$791 on an electric bill?!?  Is that right?  And what's up with the $220 cell phone bill? 

Chuck

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2014, 01:50:00 PM »
791 dollars for electricity?

Please tell me about your server farm.

NewStachian

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2014, 01:52:36 PM »
I want to echo everyone else here by saying congratulations on tracking your spending for a whole month. I'm even more impressed that you failed at doing it twice and still had the energy to try it a third time and succeed. It may not seem like that big a deal, but it's seriously awesome.

One thing I was a bit confused by was "credit card" for $100. Was that a payment? Interest accrual? a purchase? Here's a quick way I handle credit cards and tracking my spending:

Once you build up a large enough float in your checking account and have no credit card debt, the process is amazingly simple. The way I track my monthly spending is by using the same credit card for all my purchases. My card pays off my full balance each month so I don't pay any interest, and I click 1 button and it downloads all my spending for as much as 120 days (or in this case just a month's worth). I, then, parse the data in my spreadsheet and it takes me 5 minutes per month to track all my spending. I throw my monthly spending into another tab in my spreadsheet and I've got a bar graph of my most recent spending, and a re-calculated average spending that feeds back into my budget and shows me how well I'm doing.

That may sound really complicated, but the crazy thing is... you're about 90% of the way to my plan above by simply diligently tracking your monthly spending. If you make this a habit and do it next month as well, you'll probably think "hm... I can make this process a lot more efficient." From there, there's nowhere to go but up, and you will be blown away by the progress you're making. Keep it up and don't be afraid to lean on the people in this forum for more help as your financial habits get more complex. The crazy thing is we love helping people here!

Edit: Yea, what's up with the electricity bill? I've got a 2,000 square foot house with 3 residents and we're at $50/month in a very high priced electricity market.

brandino29

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2014, 01:52:51 PM »
By the way, congratulations on the tracking.  Definitely tough work that takes determination and patience. 

I've tried it many times different ways myself, Excel, Mint, and You Need a Budget.  For me, I've found Mint is the easiest but probably just because I've used it the longest and have all of my accounts tied to it.  I liked YNAB but just found I would often accidentally forget to input a purchase on the spot and then I'd have to go back and add it, and most of my bills are on autopay so I had to manually add those as well which I don't have to do for Mint. 


1967mama

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2014, 02:03:26 PM »
Well done! I will let the others do the face punching! Haha!

I started doing this for the first time ever in January 2014, and have now made it to the end of April 2014, with a full set of of records of our spending for the year, so far. It ain't pretty, but a plan is a basis for change.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and make some improvements in a few of the areas that have really jumped out at you as overspendy.

Recording for May would be really interesting for you now, because you will be able to see where you were able to slash expenses!


payitoff

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2014, 02:06:12 PM »
Hurray for April 5! more to come your way!

daverobev

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2014, 02:10:08 PM »
Fascinating! I'm on the other end of the scale.. When I worked in an office, I used to hate going down to the local cafe to buy lunch.. Probably did it 3 times a month, if that. And I would usually talk myself out of getting a drink, and never buy anything else.

Zipcar because you missed the train... Painful. Still, probably cheaper than owning a car.

Really interesting. I'm in the "how can people spend so much!" crowd, while you're in the "how can someone live on $12k a year!" crowd. Very cool to see your day to day breakdown.

EconDiva

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2014, 02:31:01 PM »
791 dollars for electricity?

Please tell me about your server farm.

Lol.  It's for several months worth.  Used to be covered with the rent and now tenants pay; I also put a credit on the bill.

EconDiva

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #17 on: April 30, 2014, 02:32:08 PM »
Good job! I used to track our spending manually, which was a great exercise in self-awareness, but you may eventually want to look into mint.com. It might help you keep your resolution because it does most of it for you (don't worry, it's very secure). Assuming you use cards for everything, it works great.

Good luck on trimming the fat! I was also raised to be completely financially illiterate, and embracing financial responsibility has been incredibly freeing, as well as allowing us to dream up much bigger life goals.

I actually have a mint.com account. I just haven't used it in forever.  I think I may do this for another month of two...?

And then switch to mint, but only record purchases not made on my debit/credit cards.

EconDiva

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2014, 02:32:48 PM »
Whoaa...$791 on an electric bill?!?  Is that right?  And what's up with the $220 cell phone bill?

Cell bill was for two months.  I paid this month and next month in advance.

EconDiva

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2014, 02:36:09 PM »
Hurray for April 5! more to come your way!

Hell yeah!  Now that I have my monthly Metra train card, I will have a lot more days like that!! :D

EconDiva

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #20 on: April 30, 2014, 02:52:42 PM »
For any ladies that can relate....

I just wanted to throw in there that I did not spend one penny purchasing any clothing item, shoes, accessories, or hair or nail visits the entire month, which is 'kinda a big deal' for me! :P

Clover

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #21 on: April 30, 2014, 03:17:00 PM »
I can relate.  I started tracking in January and am amazed by how much waste we allow in our budget.  You said the little things add up, I can relate to that too.  Congrats on taking the first step.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #22 on: April 30, 2014, 03:24:29 PM »
What a great first step!  My wife and I found ourselves in a similar situation--once we started tracking our expenses, it really showed us  where we were wasting money, and made it a whole lot easier to live within our means.

sunnyca

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #23 on: April 30, 2014, 03:31:15 PM »
For any ladies that can relate....

I just wanted to throw in there that I did not spend one penny purchasing any clothing item, shoes, accessories, or hair or nail visits the entire month, which is 'kinda a big deal' for me! :P

I can relate to this- I have a weakness for shoes.  Congrats on tracking your spending so diligently for the month!

Ottawa

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #24 on: April 30, 2014, 05:08:46 PM »
Also attaching a screenshot of the Excel sheet.

Like others have said - congratulations !

And now the face punches
1) cafeteria - jab - save $30
2) 7-11 - jab - save $85
3) electricity - need more info-kWH per month please
4) cellphone - uppercut - look at ipdaley's tech guide save $175
5) groceries - if this is for one- left hook - target $300
6) taxi!@* - right hook - this should be zero
7) restaurants - feign a jab - $50 max please

Savings  = $725 minimum.

Now- get a cold compress ;-)

MayDay

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #25 on: April 30, 2014, 06:04:58 PM »
Do you normally walk to the metra?  If you are late could you bike instead to save time and money over a cab?

warfreak2

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #26 on: April 30, 2014, 06:07:26 PM »
Do you normally walk to the metra?  If you are late could you bike instead to save time and money over a cab?
In terms of the amount of planning required, that sounds like more work than just not being late.

ChicagoGirl

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #27 on: April 30, 2014, 06:33:45 PM »
Keep it up with tracking your spending, it proves to be very educational over time. 

Since you mentioned spending on 'girl stuff' clothes, make-up, haircuts, mani/pedi, etc. I would suggest making those categories on your spreadsheet also.  When I first started tracking, I had just one column for ALL of that 'girl stuff' lumped together, later it proved to be more useful when I specifically broke down how much I spent in each of those categories. Guess what...since I did that I no longer get mani/pedi's, cut back on make-up, toilettries and so on.  Once I saw exactly how much I spent in those categories I made changes...quickly!   

I hope you stick with tracking your spending, good luck. Tracking my own spending has changed my life for the better.

EconDiva

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #28 on: April 30, 2014, 06:42:33 PM »
Do you normally walk to the metra?  If you are late could you bike instead to save time and money over a cab?

I walk to the El. Take that train north two stops. Then walk another 4 blocks to the Metra.
(Then ride the Metra for an hour. Then take a shuttle from the Metra to my job.)

ch12

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Re: Wow. The results of my first time tracking spending for a month.
« Reply #29 on: April 30, 2014, 07:00:15 PM »
For any ladies that can relate....

I just wanted to throw in there that I did not spend one penny purchasing any clothing item, shoes, accessories, or hair or nail visits the entire month, which is 'kinda a big deal' for me! :P

I can relate to this- I have a weakness for shoes.  Congrats on tracking your spending so diligently for the month!

It's a huge deal - congrats! Some people have already facepunched you, but I just applaud laying yourself bare. Getting your monthly Metra card is great. Because you've prepaid a bunch of things, you can view this as one of your spendiest months.
Do you normally walk to the metra?  If you are late could you bike instead to save time and money over a cab?

I walk to the El. Take that train north two stops. Then walk another 4 blocks to the Metra.
(Then ride the Metra for an hour. Then take a shuttle from the Metra to my job.)


Jacob over at ERE works in Chicago. http://earlyretirementextreme.com/update-2-look-ma-no-car.html
I'm pretty sure his rent isn't so high, but to each her own.

Even though I'm one of the people who's totally fine on much less, I live 2.5 hours away in Madison. Almost everything (besides Internet :() costs around 80% of what you seem to be paying. You are doing extraordinarily well. Having lived in DC, I know that my lifestyle would cost $2900/month there.