Small Expenses Do Add Up

One of my financial resolutions for the year was to track my spending for one month. I chose January in order to start the year off with a bang. Recording my purchases wasn’t really that challenging. It helps that I’m something of a miser, and therefore don’t really spend much money to begin with.

For my records, I only tracked money I personally spent. I didn’t track the bills my husband paid or his spending. He probably does more day-to-day spending than I do and does much more business travel than I do.

I normally carry a small notebook with me, so I designated two pages for tracking spending. I recorded the date, store, general purchase category, amount, and whether it was cash or charge. I didn’t break my numbers down further, so there might be non-food expenses in the grocery expenses if I bought them at the grocery store (items like cleaning products.)

Books: .94 (plus $25 gift card)
Groceries: 393.90
Dining Out: 23.59
Post Office: 5.69
Fuel: 55.68
Charity: 4.90
Clothing: 90.32
Travel: 11.32
Home Office: 70.08
Laundry: 10
Household: 34.29

Total spending: $700.71

Of that, $580.76 was charged. I’d say that $104.11 was discretionary spending, the rest were necessities.

The stores I visited were Borders, Ralph’s, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, El Torito, Exxon, Staples, Amazon, Target, USPS, a disabled homeless man outside the post office, Shell, Shoe Warehouse, Rite Aid, CVS, airport restaurant.

Over the course of the month I was comforted by the fact that I don’t have much wasteful spending, but I also spent more than I thought I did. If I were looking for places to cut my budget, it would have to be in the $104 of discretionary spending. Over the course of the year, that would amount to over $1200, which is not a small number. I could also try to trim away at food expenses, although $100 a week to eat good, healthy food isn’t excessive. It works out to about $2.77 person/meal. I’ve already cut back my driving as much as possible.

In all, I’m fairly happy with my spending levels. Recording my spending didn’t really alter my habits because I don’t overspend to begin with, but I see how it could make some people reconsider purchases. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it for one month just to get a better idea of where and how you really spend.

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