Spending too damn much money
I spend too damn much money!
I use GnuCash to track my income and expense meticulously, fully categorized, right down to tax distribution with tax as an expense. I keep open a multi-column view with a number of lovely charts and graphs, including:
- Income/Expense chart for the year, by month
- Expenses over time for the year, by month
- Month’s expense and income pie charts
- This and last quarter’s total expense and income pie charts
- Tax distribution
- Current and month’s end graphs of my un-pledged assets (i.e. money I have minus my credit card bills)
- Asset distribution between liquid assets and investments
- Stock portfolio distribution
At a glance, I know what I did this month, last month, and the past two quarters with my money, including where my money came from; where it went; and who taxed me for what. This allows me to quickly determine where I need to reduce my spending, how I can maintain my assets, and what I can do with my money. For the curious, my multi-column view looks like the screenshots below.
You probably noticed my personal spending cuts into my wallet quite a bit; I recently started learning to play the guitar, and have taken up amp electronics and such, so I have to scale that back quite a bit. That needs to come under control this month; I bought a new guitar, which will show up on my spending tomorrow, and take a bite out of me! Adjusting my budget for this and for my actual food and gas spending last month, I think I’ll come out with $600 more at the end of the month than I started with.
I projected food and gas budget last month as $200 each; in actuality, food came to $285 and gas came to $251. I have adjusted my projections accordingly; however, to correct this I need to reduce spending by $136 somewhere. Food actually makes a good target, because you can spend quite a lot on food for no reason. Fast food becomes extremely costly, as well as snacks and other vending machine goods–vending machines here give 15 cent cup noodles for $1.50!
Soda makes the easiest target here by far. I need to drink something once in a while or I’ll die, so I constantly hit the vending machines, maybe 5 or 6 times a day for cans. The soda vending machines charge $1.25 for 20oz bottles, or 75 cents for 12oz cans, 6.25 cents an ounce and (for 6 cans) $4.50 out of my pocket a day! Call that a good $22.5 a week, or $90 a month!
A 64-ounce jug of tea from the local convenience store costs $1.72 with the jacked up sales tax (2.69 cents/oz), and keeps me going. At $6 for a 24 case in bulk, cans of the same soda cost 25 cents each (2 cents/oz); $8 cases cost 33 cents each (2.75 cents/oz); and supermarket specials run two 12 packs for $5, 21 cents each (1.75/oz). Jugs of tea will put me in the $8.60/week or $34.40/month range; while two-for-five twelve packs of coke and sprite will get me $1.26/day, $6.30/week, $25.20/month! And of course making my own stuff from drink mixes sets me at about $8/month.
What about actual food? It costs $5 for a meal at McDonalds, or $3.50 to get a burger out of a vending machine from work, $2 for a hotdog. $10/day for four 5-day work weeks in a month puts me at my $200 budget; obviously with $4.50 going to soda, I’m spending more than $5.50 on actual food per day. Sometimes I hit Wendy’s or McDonalds on the way in, setting me back $5-$8! I use the snack shop to break up a $10, picking up $1.50 or so of Slim Jims or candy a day so I have money for sodas and $2.50 of vending machine food; or so I’d like to think, but I buy more like $3 of stuff from that shop when I go there, including $1 of candy, $1 of potato chips, and a couple 35 cent snack cakes!
The snack shop has to go. It costs me, and makes me gain weight! A 35 cent Tastycake I’ll do, but no more binging. I can also pack my own lunch, since a good Italian sandwhich should run me about a dollar on deli meat. Alternately, I could spend $1-$2 a day on McDonalds, Burger King, or Wendy’s dollar menu. I can safely assume $3/day like this, $15/week, totaling out to $60/month. The harshest reduction involves two 15 cent cup noodles a day, $1.50/week or $6/mo.
With these new projections, I can reduce my food spending to about $100/month, down $185 and exceeding my target budget by $49; with drink mix and ramen I could do $14/mo but screw that. These projections also fall slightly short, due to the need to eat on days when I don’t work. This month I also budgeted $1000 of leisure spending to buy a guitar and amp upgrades; next month, that budget should stay under $200 as a solid restriction, and hopefully under $100 if I don’t see anything I really want. If all goes well, my $600 profit projection for this month may land more around $800; and next month, closer to $1600.