For those of you who aren’t familiar with my financial set-up, I give myself a set amount of money ($280), and this has to last me at least a week. Generally, it lasts me around nine days. But I’ve had some seven-day weeks recently, which has me worried.
A nasty couple of days
In my defense, a couple of weeks back half of my funds were eaten up over the weekend: a $73 medication, $14 for Netflix, and $50 for my cut and color at the beauty school. Plus on the less frugal side I indulged in $9 of takeout and Ubered to a party ($10).
After that… Well, I spent $25 on paint and wood filler for the dining set, so I guess I can’t say I was circumspect with money. But I tried to keep other extraneous spending down, and I spent only another $16 over the course of the next four days.
Under normal circumstances, the week probably still would have stretched to eight or nine days. But I went out for drinks and dancing with a friend on Friday (which is when I lost my card).
I suppose I could have cancelled on the dancing (dancing without drinks means dancing doesn’t happen). But the evening had been planned for a couple of weeks, and I only get to see this friend once every four to six weeks. So it wasn’t an option in my mind.
Between the Uber to the club ($20) and drinks ($16), I had only $15 left by the end of the night. That wasn’t enough to cover a few things I needed from Walgreens the following day — and you don’t want to put off buying deodorant in Arizona in May — so I consider my financial week to have been just seven days.
Cause for concern
I don’t like that I’ve now had two seven-day financial weeks in the past couple of months. The funds should be stretching longer than that.
My rationalizing side argues that a) some weeks I last 10 or once even 11 days and b) all expenses are coming out of the funds, even pricey medications and recurring charges like $31 for each of the two Banfield pet plans. (I’m covering Pandora for one year post-divorce.)
Still, the money should last longer. I’d like to have 10-day weeks be the norm, which means trimming unnecessary spending.
A few small steps
One thing I can do is to stop getting full meals at trivia locations. Instead, I can stick to a side of fries or something else that’s a little cheaper. That way I’m still supporting the restaurant, but also my budget.
I also need to nix the $9 takeout. I’ve been getting that on average once a week (sometimes twice, sometimes none), so that needs to go. My waistline will thank me too, even if the stuff isn’t as greasy and fat-laden as regular fast food.
And then there’s the house parties. Each time I go to one of the parties, it’s $10-20 in Uber fares (depending on if I can get a lift home). That’s not great.
So I need to consider staying sober for at least one out of every two parties, which would allow me to drive to the event. It wouldn’t be the worst thing for my liver either.
Those changes will save me around $80 a month. Not bad. Still not as good as one of my friends, though.
My frugal friend
I recently found out that this friend budgets $300 a paycheck for her expenses. I don’t know how that works.
She has a 10-mile commute, which means she’s probably filling up the tank at least three times a month, whereas I only fill up twice a month (about $30 of savings for me). She’s vegan, which means her food costs more than mine. So even splitting the cost with her partner, I can’t imagine she’s paying less than I am.
I know she doesn’t have pet plans ($62 a month for me) or medications ($60 to $130 depending on the month). She also doesn’t include utilities, whereas I pay my $40-50 city services bill out of weekly funds.
And she doesn’t dye her hair, whereas I pay $50 every other month. Plus she skips a couple of personal miscellaneous services that add up to about $55 a month. Which is a painful amount as I write it out, but as long as my budget is relatively healthy, they’re an indulgence I’ll keep up.
It might sound like I’ve puzzled out how she’s spending so much less. But nope. Even with all that, she’s still spending somewhere around $100-150 less a month than I am. And I’m not sure how she’s doing it.
A new plan
To that end, I’m thinking of taking a page out of The Luxe Strategist‘s book keeping a spending diary. This could help me see where my money is going on a weekly basis. It shouldn’t be too hard since I’m already (finally) going to be tracking my monthly spending. It’ll just be writing down the charge in two places instead of one.
Once I get a better feeling for where the money is going, I can get a better picture of how much I’m spending on non-necessities.
After doing this for a week or two, I’m guessing I’ll get more circumspect about spending because I won’t want to have to write it down. It’ll be interesting to see how much I spend when I’m being a little more careful.
And once I have a feel for that, I can finally adjust how much I keep out for my weekly funds. I know what I keep out now is too much, but it feels like expenses vary so much that I can’t settle on a good number.
If I can start keeping a weekly journal, then I can get a better feel for how much I spend every seven days, which will help me trim how much I keep out for general spending. Which means more money into the savings account or IRA each month.
So that’s the game plan moving forward: track expenses and keep a spending diary.
Anyone else had a financial reality check recently? Anyone else thinking about a spending diary?