Money tracking – March

As I mentioned in my latest post, I did a No Spending challenge in March, and I’m pleased to say that it went really well. I was not expecting to spend zero money (there were some expenses I couldn’t avoid, such as my phone bill, as well as things I deemed as necessities, such as groceries); my goal was to spend as little as possible, mainly relying on the fact that I could get free food from work and I wanted to see it if I could live off it and how long I would last.

Here’s the verdict:

  • Groceries
    I spent $84.79 on groceries, however I forgot to separate actual food from things like soap or dishwashing liquid. Things I missed from my diet that I couldn’t get for free at work included milk, nutritional yeast, bananas and oats.
  • Coffee/eating out
    I spent $97.80 in meals out, $23.50 of which was coffee (well done, me). I’d like to point out that, with the exception of one dinner for our anniversary, I would have been happy to avoid eating out altogether. However, I do live with another person who was not happy to be dragged into my No Spending challenge. Let’s just say if I had been by myself I would have spent $56 in meals out.
  • Op shops
    I did not set foot into an op shop until the CubaDupa weekend. I decided to cut myself some slack for this festival as I freaking love CubaDupa and I didn’t want to punish myself too much. Let me just mention, I had been on the hunt for a desk lamp and a mid-season jacket, and I managed to find them both second hand for a very good deal. I thought it would make more sense to just get them despite my challenge rather than wait and spend more money on them/never find them again the following month. So I ended up getting a super cool lamp at a garage sale for $5 and an amazing vintage corduroy jacket for $49. I’m not mad at all.
  • Other shopping
    I had been thinking about getting more reusable menstrual pads as my mooncup has been feeling a bit uncomfortable lately. I got my period a few days ago so I had a look online to see if I could find some deals on pads. This is where I bought the pads I’ve been using and I noticed some where on offer so I got myself some more. Since it was 31st March I didn’t see a difference in waiting one day for my challenge to end.
  • Health
    I did very well for the whole month of March until I got tonsillitis last week and only decided I need antibiotics the day before Easter, when my GP was obviously closed, so I had to go to A&E and ended up spending $104 for a visit. I would have happily avoided that (and tonsillitis).
  • I didn’t spend anything on sport or experiences, and I spent the usual on my phone ($19) and transport ($40 – this I could probably cut down if I didn’t live so freaking high uphill).

As much as I’m happy with how I’ve done, I can’t deny that there have been some challenges:

  • On March 12th, I ran out coffee. I was very sad that I couldn’t use my two-person plunger that I’d been having every day to replace my Starbucks fix, however I did not repurchase any coffee just to see what would happen. And I survived. I also slept better.
  • I missed breakfast food. I get lots of greens and bread at work, and I have been known for having unconventional meals first thing in the morning (cold pizza, anyone?), but I do love a big bowl of oats or muesli for breakfast. I tried going without for a while until I gave in and bought some.
  • I guess the biggest obstacle of all was doing this challenge with someone who didn’t want to do this challenge. Giac had to put up with me pointing out how much we were spending as opposed to how much we could have been saving up for a whole month. And although he did an amazing job at supporting me, at times I had to give in and pay for stuff. Which is fair enough.

Conclusions:

I’ve picked up lots of shifts in March, ending up earning more than I’ve ever had since I started working. I’m not going to talk numbers, so let’s just say last month I’ve spent 43.43% of what I’ve earned.
Since I’ve confirmed that I can limit my expenses, I’m going to continue my challenge in April, however with a few tweaks. Because I found that completely depriving myself of things like coffee or a treat from time to time, in spite of giving me an immediate sense of pride and satisfaction, also makes me feel miserable in the long run, I’ve decided to give myself a budget. I think I’m going to try with $25on coffee max. I’m going to cut Giac some slack and maybe eat out once a week. I guess I could grant myself one treat (which is probably going to be a book).
Also there are a few expenses that I know are going to come up in April (we are signing up to a half marathon and I would also like to get a swimming pool pass, plus I want to get more involved with CoLiberate and prioritise my mental health), but that’s all good.
March was meant to challenge myself and understand what’s important; April will be focused on taking care of that.

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Money tracking – February

Money-wise, February has been shit. I spent way more than I was expecting in spite of my best efforts, which demonstrates that I’m REALLY BAD at money tracking.
Before I draw my conclusions, let’s analyse this catastrophe in more details.

  • Groceries
    This baffles me: somehow I managed to spend more in groceries than I have in January. How is this possible? I get free food from work! I’m thinking I fell into the 20% discount trap I have at work and treated myself with a few goodies too many. I’ll need to keep an eye on this.
  • Coffee/eating out
    In February I funnelled nearly $160 in eating out, of which only $40 were coffee though. My aim was to spend less than $50 in coffee so that’s an achievement. And to be completely honest $120 for eating out in a month in Wellington is not that bad. However, this is the category that would be the easiest for me to improve on, so I’ll throw all the blame on Giac and say he’s the one forcing me to have dinner out once a week.
  • Op shops
    This is a hard one for me because I tend to justify op shopping thinking it’s second hand shopping and so it’s ok. But it’s not if you’re trying to save money. I spent $29 in op shops last month, which mainly consisted in an AMAZING coffee plunger which yes I’d been wanting for months but no I didn’t really need. *tut tut*
  • Other shopping
    And here comes the hot potato. “Other shopping” last month included: some stuff from Amazon and iHerb, two pairs of shoes, a new editing software, A MACBOOK AIR and a plane ticket to go back home in September. In my defence, these are not purchases I have to save up for every month (thank fuck), and yes my old shoes had holes, and yes I did say that I would get myself a new computer when I got a job. BUT. Fuck.
  • I have also added a new category called “Experiences” as it’s festival season in New Zealand and I have purchased a bunch of Fringe tickets. I also went to see the Rubens and to a session at CoLiberate which will be reviewed in a separate post (it was AWESOME).
  • Then here are the things that went as predicted (let’s cut this short as the more I write the more I have the urge to start breathing into a paper bag): I’ve spent the same as last month on transport and phone contract, and I haven’t spent anything on health and sport.

And now, conclusions!
Despite managing to spend zero dollars for a total of six days in the past month, I still spent – in scientific terms – a shitload of money.
Now, I have been working my ass off in February and I will even more in March, so it’s not that I can’t afford all this. Also I don’t want to punish myself too much: I finally got a job that pays well after two fucking years of basically not having a job at all, so there’s nothing wrong in treating myself a little. However, I am learning that shopping considerably raises my anxiety levels. After I bought the shoes the other day, I had a panic attack in the car and had to stop to hyperventilate on the side of the road. The truth is that I am on the stingy side after all, and spending money  – even on things I need – fills me with shame and guilt.
So after seeing the numbers in February and acknowledging how spending money makes me feel, In March I’m challenging myself to spend no money at all.
I am allowing myself some extra food that I might need in case what I get from work is not enough, as well as some home necessities (i.e. soap), but that’s it. Other things I think I “need” will have to wait. (Oh well and I’ll have to pay for my phone. And transport.)
It’s already day two and I’m doing great. Yesterday I worked all day and today I haven’t left the house. I guess if I keep it up (i.e. work like crazy and spend the rest of the time locked in my apartment) I should be fine.
Wish me luck, and you’ll hear from me soon.

Money tracking – January

Now that I finally have a stable income I’ve started to track my expenses. This is something I’ve never been good at: if I had a penny for every time I’ve created a money-in, money-out Excel spreadsheet… Well, who knows – I’m clearly shit at this.
But this time round I’m quite enjoying making sure I know where my money goes. I’m using Excel and colour coding which makes me uncomfortably happy for some reason. I’ve divided my expenses in the following categories:

  • Groceries
  • Eating out (this includes coffee)
  • Op shops
  • Other shops/online shopping
  • Health/doctor
  • Sport
  • Transports
  • Phone

And this is what has happened in January + my goals for February:

  • I’ve spent almost $70 in coffee in 17 days.
    I did know I have a problem. There are very few things I enjoy more than having coffee in the morning in a cosy café (and I’m sorry but making my own coffee at home is just not the same). Now that I have a job I feel entitled to treat myself more, however I believe that dilapidating my savings in caffeine would be rather silly. So my goal for February is NOT to not spend any money on coffee, but – ideally – to spend less than $50 in coffee.
  • I would also like to stop eating out as much as we have in January. I don’t know what got to us but we had dinner out A LOT since we came back, and I haven’t been organised at all with bringing my own meals at work so I’ve been splurging way too much on food.
  • I’m going to try and not spend ANY money in op shops in February. I don’t really need anything (except for a plant pot and a couple of frames, but my plant is dying anyway and frames can wait).
  • As for online shopping, I’ve actually just spend $100 on iHerb and Amazon for a few things that I’ve been looking for for aaaaages. Glob. But hopefully I’m done for the month now.
  • I did go to the doctor once in January which you have to pay for here, but hopefully I shouldn’t have any health-related expenses this month!
  • Sport: my main expense has been my basketball registration, but now that that’s out of the way I should not be spending anything else until next season. I might go to some more Circus Fit classes but they are quite cheap. Also, just to be on the safe side, I’ve quit the gym.
  • The grocery category is my biggest achievement: I’ve only spend around $100 on groceries in January (that’s not a lot at all in New Zealand) and that’s because I started working in this amazing organic supermarket where I can get food for free! Every day I’m working, at the end of the day I can grab any leftovers/veggies/bread/food that doesn’t look good enough to be displayed but it’s still totally fine to consume. And since I’m working a lot, I have a lot of free food. Success!
  • As for phone and transports, I imagine I will be spending the same as last month but these are recurring expenses that I’m ok with.

I haven’t included things like rent or bills because Giac covers the most of them which I’m aware makes me very fortunate, so I can aim at putting as much of my earnings as I can in the savings.
I’m rather satisfied with managing a whole month of money tracking (hashtag adulting), let’s see if I can keep it up and if February works out as I’ve planned!