Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tracking My Spending

With graduate school on the horizon and a steady income available, I have been making a conscious effort to save money. Starting at the end of October, I have been tracking my spending, writing down every time I spend any money and what I spend it on. Just the act of having to write down every time I spend anything at all is good incentive not to spend! My goal has been to put $500 into my savings account every month, and I achieved that in November, but only put in $370 in December. I tried to curb my spending for the holidays and I know I could have done better, but all the events of the holidays, gifts, plus food for a family of four (five if Matt was around) for 3 days added up. I feel pretty good about how I managed, but wish I could have made my $500 goal in spite of it. I’m not particularly concerned about my grocery costs, I feel pretty good about those, but here is the breakdown for bills, leisure (eating out, candy, coffee, movies, etc.), and spending on Christmas gifts/events:

November leisure spending: $66.83

December leisure spending: $174.06

Christmas gifts/events: $123.32

My average rent/utility bills per month: $740.00

I can account for some of the increase in my December spending by the fact that I had a couple doctor/dentist appointments in December with copays, and a chunk of $40 to Deck Family Farm when I stocked up on their free range sausage and other pastured meat at the last farmer’s market of the year.

I have definitely cut down on buying things like coffee and candy, but I still succumb sometimes when I need a pick-me-up. I try to remind myself that it’s ok to treat myself once in awhile, and that the fact that I’m only doing it once or twice a month is making a huge difference. I feel that it’s not a sin to indulge if it’s done infrequently and if you don’t spend on a whim. I try to really think about what I want and if it is worth it, or is there something else I want to spend that money on. I love seeing the difference it makes, when I really do have money to spare at the end of the month and can transfer it into my savings. I’ve been living paycheck to paycheck since I got laid off a year ago, so it’s really nice to continue to live that way to control my spending, but know that I have a reserve if I need it.

My rent and bills each month add up to almost an entire paycheck for me (I am paid every two weeks), so my goal is usually to set aside the majority of the other paycheck into savings and spend the rest on groceries. If I think of it in those terms and plan ahead and keep good track of my accounts via online banking so I’m always aware of how much I have available, I feel in good control of my finances. I have not yet set a budget, as writing down my spending makes me think twice about what I’m paying for and has already helped me cut down drastically on my spending. I don’t feel trapped and have found a lot of good ways to be innovative and make things last longer, and do things with my time that don’t involve spending.

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