Well, the results are in and they’re… Well, not surprising, but not completely what I was expecting either.
Let me just start by saying that this was a terrible month to start tracking spending. I had several unexpected charges get racked up — a plumber visit, a dental cleaning, a dental filling, a prescription that got a three-month instead of one-month fill (almost $80 difference), etc — that vastly skewed how much I spend in a month.
At any rate, let’s take a look, shall we?
Unsurprisingly, I bought takeout about once a week for a total of just under $45. Not great, not terrible. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for me to cut down on that, both for diet and for budgetary reasons.
Another $27 was a birthday dinner for a friend. This type of expense almost never crops up. In fact, the last time I went out for a friend’s birthday was nearly six months ago.
So the total for dining out was $71.91. It could definitely have been worse, but it could also have been better. Of course, next month I won’t have the birthday dinner, so that will automatically take the bill down to under $50. I’d like to shoot for $40, though, to see if I can start to kick this takeout habit.
Going out was tremendously expensive at $216.45. This would be horrifying — okay, it is horrifying — but I don’t think it’s going to be nearly as bad most months.
First of all, I don’t normally go on that many dates, but this month happened to have two that required Ubering downtown for a total of just over $42. Pricey, yes, but I knew I’d be drinking. So it was the responsible travel method for someone like me who metabolizes alcohol at an unpredictable rate.
The guy from those dates and I now seem to mainly hang out at home and watch movies or whatnot. So those aren’t expenses I expect to repeat next month.
But that still leaves $174 in frivolity, which is far too much.
Embarrassingly, a fair chunk of that was a single night out on the town. We went to a bar that had $13-14 drinks and expensive food and unfortunately I ended up indulging in both. Aaaand I learned my lesson when the bill came.
We’ll be doing game nights for the foreseeable future. And on the rare occasions that we do go out drinking, I’m limiting myself to three drinks and no food, drunk munchies or no drunk munchies.
Beyond that, there was trivia spending and house parties.
Trivia spending wasn’t quite as bad as I thought, coming in around $39.42 for four nights of trivia (plus one night where bar cash covered my tab). That’s not bad, but I think I can do better. This coming month, I want to eat before I leave the house and just order something small (read: cheap) when we go test our brains.
I went to a couple of house parties this month. But I live so close to the party house that I was able to get a ride home once and a ride both to and from the party the other time. So I only spent $10.91 on Uber getting to two different parties.
I can’t expect that luck to hold next month, so I’m going to drive to every second house party that’s held. That should help keep the costs down, but I still expect to spend about $22 next month on Uber.
To sum up… I went out a lot this month, so it’s no surprise that the bill was high. But that high? Eesh. Definitely not something I want to repeat.
Again, I don’t expect a couple of these expenses to recur — especially if we stick to game nights — so I feel confident I can get this amount under $100. Preferably less, but let’s start with smaller changes, eh?
I spent significantly more on food than expected. Specifically, the food bill came in at just under $290. But I’m not worried.
First of all, almost $80 of that was a shipment of my protein bars that I forgot to delay (I still had three boxes left from the first shipment of the month). So $290 is hardly representative of normal monthly food costs.
Still, $210 seems high for one person, right?
Well, another $37 of that was game night fare, and I plan to buy fewer snacks at future game nights. (Last time people brought a plethora of food with them.) So in the future that amount will probably go down to closer to $10 per game night.
That means I’m spending around $170 a month on my usual food. That’s a little higher than the $150 I was estimating, but not by a lot. All in all, I’m not going to worry too much about this category. I should cut down on buying this spicy hummus that I like, which would help the bill, but by and large I don’t see a lot of wiggle room here unless I start cooking. Which isn’t in the near future for sure.
Beauty was $61.99. There were the normal $52 of personal services plus a foot file. I know $52 is a fair amount to spend on beauty every month, but beauty is one of my indulgences and I plan to keep these costs for now.
Next month, I’ll be getting a cut and color, which means that the spending for this category will be about $110. Ouch. But again, worth it to me.
This is the category for things purchased from the drugstore: contact lens solution, lotion, Claritin, sunscreen etc. I had to stock up on several things this month, so it was high at $116.57.
Now that I’m stocked up, I expect spending to be significantly less next month. Specifically, I’ll shoot for $30 next month.
This category was pricey and certainly not representative of a normal month. I had $258.82 of prescriptions (most months it’s $68), plus another $249 in dental bills (a cleaning and a filling), plus my health insurance at $375.50. For a total of $883.32.
Next month, it should be back down to the normal $443.50 (or technically $406.50 since I have a three-month supply of one medication).
These were $319.55, which is about $50 higher than usual. That’s because I’d forgotten to pay the previous month’s city services bill, so I had to make a $100.14 payment instead of the usual $50ish.
Next month, I estimate it’ll be around $270.
I’ve been doing great on not driving all that much, so I only filled up once this month for $32.49. And that’s despite a 40-mile drive out to Chandler for a date!
That’s a little lower than I usually spend — normally I fill up every three weeks — so I’ll expect to spend about double ($65) next month.
I only paid for Hulu and Netflix this month, for a total of $20.60. Given how much TV I watch (a probably unhealthy amount, but chronic fatigue means you’re home a lot), that’s quite the bargain.
I did six loads of laundry. I put aside $2.50 a load toward a new washer or dryer, so $15 went into the Washer/Dryer fund.
Out of weekly spending, I put aside $25.08 in savings from coupons and sales.
This catch-all category included a lot of one-off expenses:
- $50 in dry cleaning (I got stains on my comforter twice in a single month, sigh)
- $26 for the sealant and brush to help me repaint the dining table
- $27ish in Uber rides from/to the car tinting place
- $209 for the car tinting
- $94 for a three-pack of Groupon massages
- $142ish for a plumber
- $30 for a three-month website subscription that I probably won’t renew
- $161 for my passport
Plus some recurring expenses or more commonly occurring ones like $68 for the two Banfield pet plans, $52 for my life insurance, $10 at the thrift store, etc.
In all it was a painful $821.23. The only saving grace is that $654.93 of that were expenses I don’t expect to see again. So I think a more reasonable expectation of this category in the future would be $200, but only time will tell.
All in all
All told, I spent $2,872.48 this month. That doesn’t include my mortgage, retirement contributions, taxes or any money from my paycheck that I put into the various savings/sinking funds (taxes, car insurance fund, car fund, vacation fund, etc.).
So yeah, $2,872.48… That’s a lot of money. Certainly more than in a normal month, so I’m trying not to let myself be too discouraged. But it doesn’t help that a depressing $1,442.12 went onto the credit card this month.
Of course, I put everything on the card for the rewards. So what I mean by “went onto the card” is that it’s a charge that wasn’t paid off by my weekly credit card payments. In other words, it’s what needs to get paid off next month when I get my paycheck.
That’s a high credit card bill for me, which means I won’t have as much left over to put into the SEP or savings next month. That’s a bummer but there’s not much I can do but try to buckle down more next month (and hope fewer unexpected expenses come up).
So did doing this tracking teach me?
First of all, I hate tracking. It’s a pain. But not quite as bad as I thought it’d be, so that’s something.
Secondly, I definitely need to avoid nights out on the town with friends — or at least severely limit how much I allow myself to order. Easier said than done, once you’re under the influence of alcohol. So it’s probably best for me to avoid nights out on the town with friends for a while. Or to drive to the events so I can’t drink.
Third, I’m not spending that much more on the basics than expected. Notice I said “the basics” so I’m not including all the irregular expenses.
But the question remains how often irregular expenses are going to crop up and goose my spending levels. So I need to track spending and keep spending diaries going for the foreseeable future until I get a better sense of how often I’m going above and beyond expected expenses.
Fourth, I really don’t handle an onslaught of unexpected expenses well. I felt a little sick totting up the numbers, even though I knew a lot of the money had to be spent.
After all, I need to be able to see out of my car windows (the tint was bubbling up). I need to keep up my oral hygiene and to take care of any cavities before they require more serious intervention. I need a toilet with a handle on it. And so on and so forth.
Alas, logic doesn’t help when you’re staring at hundreds and hundreds of dollars of charges.
Fifth (and finally), despite spending more than I wanted, I learned that I’m doing okay financially. A lot better than when Tim was in my life. Back then, a $1,400 credit card bill was considered an average — or even good — month. So it’s important to remind myself that I’m still head and shoulders above where I was just six months ago. (Yep, it’s been six months since the divorce. I can barely believe it either.)
Still, I can live on less — obviously, since a lot of those charges were irregular/unexpected expenses. Of course, how much less (and still have me lead an enjoyable life) remains to be seen. It’ll require more tracking for sure.
Despite having some budget numbers in mind, I’m going to continue with the weekly spending for at least one more month. That is, setting aside $280 a week to cover all of that week’s (and hopefully a few extra days’) expenses.
It’s easier for me mentally because I think I’d get stressed out watching funds dwindle from each category. So I want to see if continuing a weekly lump sum will work and, if so, what that lump sum should actually be. But I figure there’s a good chance I’ll end up having to switch to a categorized budget in August.
How did your spending go last month?
Personal care: $116.57