September Spending

Just for fun this month I decided to track my spending.  I used to obsessively track it, back when we had no money, but we needed to back then and there was less to track!  The one thing I didn’t track was my partner’s spending from his own funds, though I did track his spending from our joint spending.

Sept 1:  $22 dinner out (back-to-school night), $25 Gas, $2500 Mortgage, $XXXX credit card bills from August, $520 utility bill (ouch!)

Sept 3:  $129.84 Grocery

Sept 6:  $8 gas, $5 vitamin B12, $3 Starbucks (hour to kill between kindergarten and Laser appointment)

Sept 9:  $15  dinner and dessert

Sept 10:  $135 Grocery, $1400 auto insurance

Sept 14:  $15 birthday party gift

Sept 15:  $23 gas

Sept 17:  $52 Target (mostly groceries, but also some bowls to replace recently broken ones).  Also, I want a paycheck.  Want want want.

Sept 21:  $15 Allegra

Sept 24:  $179 Grocery, $85 Grocery (store going out of business sale)

Sept 27th:  $20 gas, $30  Indian food, $14 other utility bill

Sept 30th:  $7 lunch out

That doesn’t count the things that auto-bill to the credit card, specifically cellphone and Netflix.  The cellphone bill has an error in it this month, grrrr.  And we called to try to get it fixed and they said they would call back.  They’re not going to call back.

Usually we eat out more frequently (generally 2x/week), but we’ve been crazy busy with work.  It’s funny how when we’re busy, we eat out more because we don’t have time to cook, but when we’re super busy we don’t have time to eat out.  Usually we also go into the city at least once a month and that can get pricey, but not this month.

If I’d been limiting to no spend days:

Purchases would have been pushed off or hurried even if that would have made them less convenient.  We would have bought the birthday party gift and the gas on the same day instead of when it was convenient (because we were going by Target or a gas station).  Of the Sept 6th purchases, the gas would have been pushed off (I didn’t really need it, but had an hour to kill) and I could have I could have gotten the B12 at the next grocery store run instead of a CVS.

Some purchases might not have been made.  The fam might not have had dinner and a dessert on Sept 9th (I was at a conference dinner).  I could have waited in my car with the a/c on instead of at Starbucks, or driven home and right back, though that might have cost more than $3 in gas.  Or I could have window shopped instead of getting work done.  We also could have used stuff from the gift closet for the birthday kid, but we didn’t have anything that matched his particular personality, so it would have been lame for him.

If we’d been limiting money instead:

That birthday party gift would not have been bought and our grocery bills would have been much lower.  We spent about $100 on cheese alone this month.  And I get a lot of no sugar/no artificial sweeteners/organic yummy stuff that costs 3x what the conventional counterpart does that I could probably make do without.  We would have pushed off getting replacement bowls as well and the fam would have eaten leftovers while I enjoyed a fancy conference dinner.  Also no Indian food.  Depending on how much money we were limiting to, we might have skipped trips to the grocery store or just gotten bread, milk, and bananas though we could not do that indefinitely– eventually we would have to restock.  (We have a pretty sizable pantry.)

It’s been an interesting exercise– an interesting thought experiment.  Happily we *don’t* need to limit our spending (yet).  I think a dollar limit would be better for us than counting no spending days.

24 Responses to “September Spending”

  1. Molly Says:

    I’m a ‘tracker’. It’s like working out for me- I gotta do it. Right now I’m shifting everything over to Mint because Quicken keeps corrupting my files. You can finally track cash on Mint which before had been a deal breaker for me.

  2. Coquo ergo sum Says:

    $1400 in auto insurance? Is that monthly, or do you prepay 6 months or a year? If it’s monthly, what do you drive in to work? The Batmobile?

  3. Linda Says:

    My “grocery” expenses were crazy high in September, too. (I love/hate those alerts that Mint sends about exceeding my budget.) But when I think about what I bought at the grocery store, it wasn’t all groceries. I had to restock on several toiletries and more costly personal care items that coincidentally ran out at the same time: toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, vitamins, and toilet paper. I also bought two gallons of vinegar for all the bread and butter pickles I was making, a large tin of olive oil ($22 right there) since I was nearly out, and two big bags of sugar for all the baking I’ve been doing. Then there was the liquor. Yeah, I drank a lot of wine last month and had to restock a few bar essentials like vermouth and whiskey. September was a wild month and October is starting out crazy, too.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      mmmm pickles!

      Yeah, our groceries also include toiletries (and kitty supplies) and we also ran out of olive oil this month. October, of course, started with a trip into the city… but we’ve stopped tracking. :)

  4. Jacq Says:

    You waited for a laser appointment but didn’t pay for one? ;-)
    Your spending pattern is very much like mine except the grocery is way lower and more frequent for me. And I buy booze and pay library fines regularly. And it costs $50 to fill my gas tank. :-(
    You’re a natural “necessities buyer” for the most part. I think most people that do well with no-spending rules aren’t that way.

  5. Leigh Says:

    I still obsessively track my spending even though I don’t “need” to because I believe data is power and it would be difficult to forecast my spending if I wasn’t tracking it every month. There’s one thing that I don’t track though and that’s cash – it gets tracked when I do ATM withdrawals as Entertainment aka fun money. I mostly track because it reduces my spending, even though I don’t really limit myself.

    I agree with you on the no spend days. I buy my lunches at work, so I often don’t spend any money on weekends. It’s curious when I’m entering my receipts into my tool, but I don’t encourage myself to not spend money on specific days.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know why, but we tend to spend about the same amount every month no matter what… or it will average out over two consecutive months– one with over-average spending and the other with under-average.

  6. Kellen Says:

    In theory, you’re totally right about no-spend days. It seems like you have a good plan too, which helps. I needed to tell myself it’s a “no spend day” last Tuesday – I took the day off work and all of a sudden started thinking of all these things I’ve been “needing” for awhile, but was too busy to go and buy (new set of sheets, new socks, acrylic ink for my printmaking…) Pretty much I needed a couple of things, but was about to go and try to buy all the stuff I *might* need that I could think of, since I finally had time to do it. I decided to make it a no spend day, except for my grocery store run, and I can get the sheets and socks later when I have an actual PLAN to go and buy them one day.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Hm… we tend to buy everything we’ve been putting off in one fell swoop. I’m ok with not having a plan if it’s something we’ve been needing and we see it offered at a reasonable price. Especially things like linens.

  7. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    Just for fun this month I decided to track my spending.

    How do you handle such intense pleasure without going completely bonkers?

  8. Debbie M Says:

    I also kept track of spending last month like I wanted to. Yea!

    Food – 87.25 (24.72 protein, 18.38 dairy, 13.72 grain, 13.06 produce, 1.13 empty calories, 8.99 other (vanilla beans), 20.49 restaurants)
    Toiletries – 7.25
    Exercise – 6.97 (exercise video)
    Shelter – 422 (savings – 26 flood insurance, 50 homeowner’s insurance, 330 property tax; 16 Groupon for Angie’s list)
    Utilities – 326.04 (269.69 electricity/water/trash/etc. + 18.55 natural gas + 37.80 landline)
    Transportation – 142.21 (savings – 60 next car, 62 car insurance; 20.21 petrol)
    Medical/health – 464.41 (insurance)
    Intellectual – 44.65 (Netflix, a movie for two, and replacing my lost ID I use for the campus library)
    Social – 60 (ballroom dance classes)
    Creative – 0
    Spiritual – 272 (donations)
    Career – 0
    Retirement – 644.11 (IRA, pension)

    My employer pays for most of my insurance and my roommate pays part of the housing and utilities shown above plus internet service and a bunch of restaurant food. Mmm. (I paid for his movies and dance lessons, so we do share.)

    Oh, and my cheese expenditure breakdown is only $4.38 (feta cheese for Mediterranean dip, only half gone)–I still had plenty of sharp cheddar from an earlier Costco visit.

    I was trying to live cheaply this month and I did spend about $60 less than budgeted on food (there was plenty in the pantry) and $150 less than budgeted on fun (clothes, gifts, supplies, tools, entertainment)–no birthdays, no amazing sales.

    No-spend days would not do me much good. I would spend less on days when I didn’t bring my lunch to work but at the expense of feeling hungry all day, losing productivity, and probably getting a headache. My main new strategy lately is to try to repair things that break rather than replacing them. My main old strategy is to get things used when possible, comparison shop, and do the research needed to get durable/reliable versions of things.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      WooT!

      DH buys vanilla beans in bulk. Our pantry smells AMAZING. They’re actually not so expensive bought in bulk online compared to the crazy cost at the grocery store. And the vanilla he made replenishes with new vodka added.

      Fixing broken things also provides such a sense of satisfaction when it works out. From putting on a snapped button to replacing the motor in the dishwaher. Especially when the thing you’re fixing was nice to start with… I think earlier we had more junk and when it broke it was nice to replace.

      • Debbie M Says:

        That $9 was for 7 vanilla beans, enough for two one-pound-peanut-butter-jar sized batches of vanilla extract plus some vanilla sugar. I didn’t want to get too much.

        Weirdly, my favorite broken thing to fix so far? Sewing up holes in the toes of socks (just closing them and sewing them rather than darning them) basically works!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I just walk around with holes in my sock toes. This drives my in-laws nuts. Seriously nuts. But we only ever see each other on vacation and I figure I can be allowed holey socks on vacation.

        DH buys vanilla beans by the pound. We gave away a bunch of vanilla extract last Christmas as gifts and as host(ess) presents at parties when we were guests. He used brown beer or rootbeer bottles, colorful stoppers, and wrote on them with gold and silver ink so they’re all purty. It was also a lot of fun to figure out what to do with all that extra vanilla! Vanilla makes a lot of super yummy things. Mmmm vanilla.

      • Debbie M Says:

        When the holes get too big, my toes can jam through them and they get uncomfortable. Also, I have some friends who have no-shoe households and I prefer them admiring my weirdo socks without getting distracted by the holes.

        Great gift idea. I never thought of drink bottles as a way to get dark bottles. I have found a couple of good brown bottles from vitamins, though.

        Speaking of mmm, vanilla, it was a happy, happy day when I heard you could repel mosquitoes by wearing vanilla extract. Sadly, this does not actually work, at least not for me.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        but it smells nice!


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