In the last year I’ve been in the best financial situation I’ve ever been in. I’ve got a great job, with excellent benefits (I don’t pay for health insurance and starting in October I’ll have a 401k) and I’ve been able to pay off my car in full, and put money aside for savings. Something I’ve never been able to do before. I was able to fly to Buenos Aires, and bring plenty of spending money. I’ve had a big motivation for saving money over the last year and I thought I was doing a really great job! I saved a ton, spent some for my flight and to pay off my car but still have a bit left over.
But after doing some research on the possibility of relocating to Europe next year, its going to require a LOT of money for me to do so. And even though I have a pretty good plan ahead and should be able to do it by next fall. I realized I need to take it up a notch.
I really needed to take a look at my bank account. Break it down. Look exactly where my money is going. I’m really good about knowing my bills, how much I spend each month on my required expenses and incorporating a general idea of what I spend on groceries, gas, bills. But I never looked at how much I spend on other things.
Going out to lunch, shopping, even how much I ACTUALLY spend on groceries.
My name is Angela. I have a shopping problem.
Not just a little shopping problem. Like a big one. And to think I’m a savvy shopper. I’m able to get designer clothes for super great prices and have a full closet with nice things. But even though I get things at a great price…I’m getting those great prices way too often. I don’t give myself a shopping budget. I typically tell myself…Ok I’m going to the Rack! I’m only going to spend $70! And I feel successful when I only spend $60…but then I go to the Rack 4 times over the month…with the same “budget” Its not working.
I on average spend almost $700 a month on clothes, things for my apartment and other things (like subscription boxes). $700 people! Thats almost my entire rent!
I’ve been spending a lot of time (and clearly a lot of money) the last few weeks reading style blogs and have come across quite a few that list their budgets and what they spend each month. I got inspired! And I decided to challenge myself and do the same. But I needed to have a full grasp on my finances and see where my money was going.
I printed off the last 3 months of my bank statements/credit card and grabbed a handful of highlighters. Luckily for me I almost NEVER carry cash. There have been a few occasions when I made withdrawls because I was buying furniture off Craigslist so I needed the cash. So my statements aren’t 100% accurate, because I have no idea where that cash went because I of course can’t remember.
But I broke down my statement into 5 categories:
- Food/Entertainment: Between lunch with the office and my apartment being convienently located across the street from a Dunkin Donuts…I tend to spend quite a bit of money of eating out.
- Shopping: Clearly my weakness. I was truly ashamed of how much I spend on shopping. This was basically anything from subscription boxes, clothing, and stuff for my apartment.
- Beauty: I don’t really spend a lot on getting my nails done or my hair done. But its there on occasion.
- Groceries: I decided to add this as a category to see how much I really spend. I always added $200 in groceries to my list of bills automatically. Now I really know what I spend… This also includes prescriptions. I go to Walgreens alot
- Gas/Transportation: I also always incorporated this into my bills ($100 for my Ventra card and $40 for gas since I rarely drive) but its also a good thing to know what I’m actually spending between cabs, gas and my Ventra card.
After lots of highlighting, adding up and averaging…I came to some really shocking conclusions. I’m hoping that posting my averages and developing my budget on the blog will hold me accountable for my bad habits. Here are my averages:
- Food/Entertainment: $147.29
- Shopping: $682.24
- Groceries: $291.17
- Gas/Transportation: $175.24
- Beauty: $85.50
Between my shopping, food and entertainment and my groceries. I was astonished. I spend way more on groceries than I thought I did. And my shopping is just down right out of control. The one thing I knew I was doing was eating out too much and that is the one thing I’m working on actively.
Now that I know what I’m actually spending (not my oh I hope this is what I’m spending and my absolutely stupid idea of a shopping budget…only spend $xx when I go four times a week) I’m going to ACTUALLY create a budget.
I desperately need a budget. If I’m going to meet my goals by next fall I need to have $10,000 in savings. And enough money to buy a plane ticket for myself and two small dogs. Plus $$ to ship my belongings. Not to mention I will have vet bills that I’ll need to pay for and a lot of freaking debt. Thanks to student loans and a lot of bad health in the last 10 years, my debt has more zeros than I care to admit. Plus with grad school I’m just tacking on the big bucks. Not the small to medium bucks…the really big ones. Being smart sure is sexy but it is definitely not cheap.
I’m kind of lost as to where to start with a budget. But I do know for one that I need to cut my shopping in half, at least. So that is my first official step. Starting TODAY. Here’s my little statement, and I hope someone keeps me accountable.
I, Angela, will from now on limit my clothing/accessory/home decor/random crap I probably dont need shopping to $250 a month.
So how the hell am I going to do it. I have no clue. Well kinda a clue. I’m compiling a list of clothing/home items that I feel I need to complete my wardrobe (i.e. some brown boots and some black boots for fall, a tan blazer, a chair for my desk etc). Luckily I’m a pretty awesome bargin shopper so I’m confident I can find the things I want/need for reasonably priced. Its just limiting my little shopping trips and keeping track of exactly how much I spend. My sister recommended I check out Mint.com and use that to keep track as well.
I’m also putting away my credit card. I racked up a big bill, but I’m trying to pay it down quickly. So baby is getting locked up tight, for extreme emergencies only. Not when I want ice cream at midnight. Eventually I’d like to use my card to pay my smaller bills (cell phone, electric, car insurance) and pay it off each month just for the rewards. But I’ve got to pay it off first. Luckily one of my store credit cards I’ve been paying off in full every month because it has such a small balance.
In addition to cutting back my shopping dramatically, I also am going to cut back my food/entertainment. I really do not need to be spending $150 a month on crap food. Ideally I’m going to allow myself one lunch a week out with the office and the rest I’m bringing in my lunch. Absolutely zero Starbucks and Dunkin since I have a coffee maker at home and in the office. That should cut my Food/Entertainment down to $40-50. When it comes to going out with my friends, that is luckily easy. I stopped drinking so I automatically save tons of money there.
Between just those two things I should be saving approximately $530 a month based on my averages.
That is a lot of money that I can put right into my savings. Or pay off old medical bills that haunt me and eventually start paying towards my student loans. With that money I could have paid off one small loan in 5 months.
So what do you care? Well hopefully I’m going to be able to share with you my learning journey of cutting back, saving up and find some useful tips and tricks along the way. I’m a list maker, so I’ll be sure to create some lists and tools to use as well. I already created a Finance Checklist, which has all my monthly bills that I can check off each time they’re paid. I hope to create some sort of spreadsheet that will allow me to easily track my spending a little better than the banking app on my phone. Because clearly that has not worked at all.
What tips and tricks do you have for maintaining a budget??