Before I decided to do this thing, I consulted my fiance first. He and I are in this (money, life, lovin’, etc.) together, so all of the things I do about our finances impacts the both of us. I told him, “I need to work on how I spend my money.” He agreed. “I think I need an allowance or something.” He shrugged.
That’s as good as a “do what you need to do” as I needed to kick-start this stupidly necessary idea!
It isn’t that I spend tons of money on designer clothes. It isn’t that I crave jewelry or own 20 pairs of shoes. I don’t have a tote full of makeup or purses that I don’t use. But, I do spend money without thinking about it at all. Case and point: it’s common for me to go into a store to buy one thing, and it snowballs into me buying that one thing plus four other things that caught my eye. They could be little nothings, but after a while, a lot of nothings turn into a big something. And, if anyone were to ask me how much I spent in a random trip to Whole Foods or how much my new dye-free fragrance-free humane dish soap cost, I wouldn’t have an answer. I don’t look at prices – I just buy.
The same thing goes with food. I love food. I loved my local grass-fed meat and egg CSA, even though it cost me over $700. I love dining out so much that I used my credit cards for about $5,000 on eating in and eating out in 2013 ($1,500 of which was spent on an online food delivery service).
This is even worse when it comes to online shopping. Based on the fact that I spent over $1900 on Amazon.com in 2013, I treat online shopping as if it’s not real. Just because I use my credit cards doesn’t mean it’s pretend money! It’s real, and it means I spent one and a half month’s rent on Amazon.com for things like coconut flour, dairy-free chocolate chips, festive holiday leggings, and two different types of screen protectors for my tablet (to name a few). Did I need any of that? Not. at. all.
So, what’s a girl to do? I need my two credit cards, as I use them for auto-payments for insurance, utilities, internet, and other necessities. I need them for big purchases like plane tickets to visit family. I have to buy gas once in a while, people! Plus, my guy and I want to buy a house, and my credit rating needs to stay good (which it is, thank you very much!) so the purchases must continue!
The things I need to nip in the bud are those impulse buys: the online shopping sprees, the food delivery because I don’t feel like cooking, the Starbucks trips in the morning (although I’m well aware that my office has free and unlimited fresh-brewed Starbucks coffee), lunch buffets during the week when I can easily eat leftovers instead, and the trips to CVS to pick up Advil which turn into buying nail polish and candy and fun printed leggings. Based on my expenditures in 2013 on these things, I could save myself $10,000 by cutting out this crap! (Mind you – this number only represents what I spent on these things using my credit or debit cards; I have no idea how much cash I additionally spent on these things!)
So, after my chit-chat with my fiance, I decided to treat myself like I’d treat a teenager: I’m going on a strict cash-only allowance. The exceptions will be the necessities and special stuff:
- Travel. I have family all over the world with whom I like to visit. I have to spend money on that when it comes up.
- Gas. As much as I’d like to sell my car, I can’t. I hate driving and avoid it at all costs, but it has to be done.
- Gift-giving. I will try my hardest to DIY as many gifts as possible; however, if someone wants something specific for Christmas, they’ll probably get it. I can’t exactly knit a video game, and not everyone loves a nice pair of hand-made gloves. 😦
- The necessities: rent, utilities, insurance, car maintenance, Netflix (this may not seem like a necessity to you, but we ditched cable TV years ago and this is our only source of entertainment in our home), internet, cell phones, etc.
- Groceries. My fiance’s financial contribution is grocery-shopping. When we go to Costco every couple of months, and on our monthly (or bi-monthly) trips, he foots the bill. In the event that I want to buy something for myself, however, and it doesn’t warrant a full grocery trip, it will come out of my allowance.
- Wedding stuff. We’re getting married at the end of May, so the check-writing and credit card-swiping is in full-effect. The wedding budget is my father’s budget, not mine, so all wedding expenditures get paid to me by my father and won’t be affected by my allowance, or vice-versa.
- Received gifts. Any gift cards, cash, etc. that I’m given for special occasions I can spend, but will obviously have to do so wisely!
- Medical: copays, prescriptions, etc. aren’t a part of this at all.
So, here’s the big question: what will my allowance be? For now, I’m going to do a weekly budget. Once I get good at it, I may challenge myself in a few months by having a bi-monthly budget, then maybe even a monthly budget if I’m feeling ballsy! Here’s how I’m determining my allowance:
In the past year, I’ve spent roughly $10,000 on unnecessary crap. I want to try to cut that by about 60%, meaning I will spend no more than $4,000 in 2014 on unnecessary crap. $4000 divided by 52 weeks equals $76/week. That still sounds like a lot of crap, so I will round this down to $60/week. I may regret that, but that’s my choice:
$60.00 / week
Honestly, even looking at it now, $60 a week seems really high; however, I looked up some statistics online, and on average, consumers in the United States spend over $350 per month on restaurants, alcohol, and clothes shopping. That’s almost $100 per week, so although $60 seems like a lot right now, I’m going to assume it really isn’t (and once I get this going, I’ll probably realize that quickly).
Here’s the fine print:
- If I spend less than my $60 allowance every week, the leftovers will go into a mason jar I will hide in my apartment. If I ever need to spend more than my $60, I can take some from the jar.
- If I sell any unnecessary things (clothes, etc.) on Craigslist, Ebay, etc. the profits go into my jar and can be used as needed.
- Over the holidays, my fiance and I got lots of gift cards to places like Starbucks, Amazon, movie theatres, and department stores. If I need jeans, I’ll spend my Express gift card. If we want to go to the movies, I’ll use my gift card. But, once those run out, I’m obviously down to cash, so I know I need to spend wisely.
- If my fiance wants to treat me, he’s allowed to. I am the primary income for our household, but he has his own money, too, and he can do with it what he pleases. He’s much better at spending money wisely than I ever have, so if he thinks he can afford to treat me to a drink, I won’t stop him.
The second bullet point is a big one for me. The way I’m able to hold onto a lot of my regrettable impulse buys is by scattering the “evidence” around my apartment, never to be seen again. Out of sight, out of mind… except for the fact that I definitely know that I can’t exactly hide from these demons. I need to make amends with myself and come clean! If that means selling the tight little tiger-print dress that I haven’t fit in in 4 years, so be it – I could use the $5 I get for it, and someone else who does fit into it will get more use out of it than I would. I’m not only out to cut the crap that I buy, but also to cut the crap that I’ve previously bought.
So… that’s it. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be cutting financial corners in my life. $60 per week may seem like no big deal and probably screams “first-world problems!” or “middle-class problems!” to lots of people, but for me, this is big. I plan to use this blog to keep myself accountable for my spending choices, as well as to share the difficulties I have and the successes, too. Any fun, easy ways I discover to save or earn money (like DIYing gifts, free activities to do around Boston, or cooking a meal that can feed us for a month) will be shared, too.
I hope this makes sense, and that I don’t sound like a crazy person! And, most importantly, I hope I can actually do this.
Happy New Year!