I've tracked our expenses since January of this year, even though I didn't implement any kind of money plan until this month. The red cells are the times when we went over the budget that I set for August. I can't complain about overpaying on my student loan, though.
The first block of categories is the "necessary" stuff. The second block is obviously the stuff we would instantly cut completely if one of us lost our job. I forgot the total for the second block -- it's a bit over $666. The green column is the average for the year so far. We had the best month we've had all year, spending a total of $2433.47 on expenses that aren't our mortgage or our condo fee. I'm still horrified, as I used to live on $1000 a month (including rent!) when I lived in Philadelphia. But this is DC, DC, DC and it's as bad as New York sometimes.
But I'll hang onto the success. It left me wondering what went differently from other months and helped us to stay under budget?
- I watched our purchases like a hawk this month. Unfortunately, this also kept me very stressed. So next month I will total up purchases at the end of each week, but not look at anything money-related in between.
- We actively focused on staying home and entertaining ourselves there. We know that if we go out to do a single activity, say, go to a movie, it ends up turning into more than that. Dinner and a movie. Dinner, a movie, and ice cream for me. Dinner, a movie, and a swing by the grocery store for junk food on the way back. You get the picture.
- We actively tried to cook more at home.
- I focused on making money this month instead of spending it. I put a lot of energy into selling things on ebay. I earmarked all of those profits for my student loan so there was no temptation to spend the money. Ebaying stuff was an activity that took the place of some other spendy activities I might have done, like going to the bookstore.
- I looked at each purchase in terms of how many items I would have to sell on ebay to pay for it. I haven't made much money on ebay and it's been a lot of work. Am I going to go toss the $8 I just made selling a beanie baby on lunch out? No, I'm going to keep it and put it towards my student loan.
- We did not buy physical objects that couldn't be consumed, except for one item. I had some old, ugly jewelry Grandmom had given me melted down into a wedding band. My hands swell horribly in the summer heat and I can't wear the one the Chief Engineer gave me at our wedding for a good 2-3 months out of the year. When the ring disappears each year, people ask questions. I don't like it, so I wanted something I could wear in the summer. It was $75 for the labor -- but the jeweler asked me to do some artwork for his store, and I expect to make about $75 off the piece. It'll work out in the end!
Next month will be much more difficult as I know we have over $500 in medical expenses alone next month. I'll plan for that in the next post.
What would you change about my spending habits? Happily looking for suggestions.