Money tracking - August
It’s the end of August and this is probably going to be my last money review for this year. I’m off to Europe next month (in 21 days whoo!!) and I’m considering writing a blog post on how I try to keep my trip as cheap as possible but also I want to have a good time and not stress too much about how much money I spend. (Plus let’s be real, my wanderings include London and San Fran, good luck being low-cost there.)
Anyway, this is the first time I manage to track my money consistently, which I’m very impressed about. Even if I skipped reporting it for a couple of months, I’ve been keeping track of every single penny I spent, I have been working out my spending trends, and I reckon I've got it figured out by now.
But before I tell you what I've learned, let me point out the reasons why I've been so anal about money tracking.
- Being frugal
I really enjoy living simply, and I LOVE how empowered I feel when I manage to not buy stuff.
I want to know exactly where my money goes. I believe that every purchase we make is a vote for the kind of world we want.
Quite an obvious one, but I want to make sure I have some funds set aside for future projects that might require a little bit of extra money, such as travelling or building my own Earthship (heck yeah).
- Quality over quantity
I've been sticking to this practice ever since I embraced the Zero Waste lifestyle. High quality items tend to be a bit pricey, but not buying superfluous stuff allows me to put money aside to then invest in durable, dependable pieces and to support ethical and sustainable brands that I want to endorse.
And now, after eight month of money tracking, here are my conclusions.
On average, I spend half of what I earn
And I don't earn very much. But every month I calculate how much I'm making and subtract how much I'm spending, and what's left goes in my "Saved" column, if that makes sense.
(Please notice I'm not including rent and utilities in my budget, because I’m lucky enough to share my living space with another human who takes care of those expenses. Said human also earns four times more than I do, so that's just plain fair.)
I mostly spend money on groceries and coffee
Honestly there's not much else on my list. Some Snapper top-ups, my monthly phone bill, a few op shop trips here and there, but mostly it's the bare necessities, which I'm happy with.
I need to treat myself
As much as I enjoy my No Spending challenges, restricting myself makes me feel deprived and I end up craving stuff I don’t need. But if I allow myself a little treat from time to time (nothing fancy, it can be anything from peanut butter to a second-hand book) I satisfy those cravings and still stay within my budget.
I thrive more when I’m poor
If I have money, I’ll spend it. But if I don’t have it, I'll be way more mindful about where and when it goes. Being broke also makes me a lot more resourceful in terms of finding alternative solutions when I need something, reusing and repurposing items I own already, or just trying to go without and realising I don't really need that much after all.
- The less I worry about money, the less I spend
I seem to have developed an internal system that subconsciously tells me when it's ok to spend money and when it's ok to not. I just naturally gravitate to only channelling my money to things that are important to me (fresh food, good coffee, a book from time to time), whereas areas were I would have squandered in the past have simply faded out of my radar. When I look at my spreadsheet, it's clear that I'm doing best when I sill track my expenses but I just don't stress too much about it.
- There are still aspects I can improve on
In the last couple of months I've added a column labelled "Avoidable" in my spreadsheet, to highlight expenses that didn't really need to be there. It's not much, but I can still cut down on a few things.
So the biggest lesson I'm taking away from this is that I really need to chill. The more rules I set for myself, the more I stress about them, and the more I’m likely to break them. But if I don’t worry too much I’m actually somehow more aware and responsible of my spendings.
I am also very fortunate to be in a position where I'm keeping an eye on my spendings because I like doing it, now because I need to do it - and I am incredibly grateful for that.