This is the third post in a series where we're following one of our team members here at The Dime as she takes a hard look at her spending habits—acknowledging, at times, some truths about herself that might be difficult to swallow. The silver lining: she (and we) will pick up some personal strategies along the way to help lay the groundwork for money management success.
Hello, dear readers of The Dime!
Welcome to another installment in my attempt at becoming a responsible, money-managing adult. If you haven’t been following along, please step inside my time machine, and check out my prior posts (see links above).
During the first month of this experiment, I wrote down every dollar I spent, vowing not to change my “normal” spending habits so I could really get a clear picture of where my money was going. That was an eye-opening experience to say the least, because when I tallied everything up, I saw the extent of my frivolous spending (full disclosure: this is about to get personal).
At final count, between coffee and going out for brunch or drinks with friends, I found that I was spending about $250 per month. OK, so it’s not necessarily that bad—and my summertime does tend to be a lot heavier on the hanging out—but, it doesn’t exactly fit my idea of what I would prefer to spend on these types of activities year-round.
So for the next month, I tried to steer away from my “normal” and be much more cognizant of my spending. Shocker: it worked! Every time I thought I wanted something, the very idea of writing it down and being held accountable for it made me think twice. However, I don’t know if this exercise always had the effect I wanted, either. On one hand, I ended up going to a thrift store and picking up a French press so I could start making my own coffee for work. This has proved to be a good change, since instead of spending about $50 a month at the local coffee shop, I’ve spent $4 on the French press, and about $12 on a bag coffee beans (hey, every little bit counts!). On the other hand, I’ve started becoming kind of paranoid about spending. I didn’t want to write things down, so instead of, say, going to brunch with friends, I’d end up not go out at all. Needless to say, I need to figure out my balance.
But, my REAL eye-opener was something that never occurred to me. I don’t know how or why this happened, but I found that I was spending nearly $500 on GIFTS. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS! This isn’t meant to be a brag, but I do tend to be a pretty generous person. It’s the way I’ve been my whole life. Why save $5 for myself when I can give it to someone who needs it? Are you having a fundraiser? I’m your gal! Is there a charity that needs me? Of course there is, just take my money! When I saw that number, though, I realized that I really needed to—you guessed it—figure out my balance.
My next step in this project is to figure out what my spending limits are for my many, many categories. How much do I WANT to spend on going out with friends? Can I convince my friends that brunch isn’t always necessary to have fun, and that we can also get together for more affordable—or even free—activities? I won’t stop being generous, but what are ways I can be helpful to society without being hurtful to my own bottom line?
Balance. I need it.