September is over and so is my first month's budget experiment. How did it go?
--I spent $99 on groceries. I originally budgeted $80 a month for regular groceries, since I don't eat much and I don't eat anything expensive. There's a produce shop around the corner that I have been visiting for fresh things to cook with. But I think the cooking has led to more money spent, on ingredients to make things instead of buying more simple things.
But look! My third try making cookies finally resulted in yumminess!
--At Costco I spent a mere $68. I used a debit card for that (at the end of the month).
--I spent too much on "fun" stuff out with friends: a total of $52 on a restaurant, bowling, a potluck dinner, a cab share, a snack for book club.
--Temping around the city, I needed to get around and thus spent $40 on metro cards. (For one week and a half, I am proud to exclaim that I spent zero dollars on transportation, because I biked to a temp job! A savings of $31.50!! Plus free exercise and fresh air! Win-win situation for sure. This means that metro card money will stretch into next month a little.)
--$10: I bought a swimcap to use the pool at our new gym (right now the husband is covering my share of the fees. Once I have a little more income I will pay for part of it.)
--I had to buy a read-aloud book for my class, and I couldn't help treating myself to a new MadLibs (it was on clearance!)(We hope to have some people over soon and that can make for some extra fun downtime!). That was $15 at the bookstore.
This past weekend we went to Target. I made myself a list of a few essentials that I needed, and I was able to stick to that list. But I also bought a blanket for $20. (We have a new bed and need more bedding for the colder weather. The husband bought a comforter too.) So the trip, including parking, cost me $55. Yikes.
(At one point I took out another $20 in cash because I thought I would need it for an outing, but then I decided not to go. That money still got spent, though.)
Grand total for the month: $340.
Overall, I did a fair job. At the beginning of the month I was a little more cavalier with money, spending more out with friends. That's the biggest spending piece that was "unnecessary." So in the future I need to find a way to reconcile fun with my very limited budget. I'm not looking forward to that. I hope that a few friends will understand and I can still have a good time. :)
Transportation was a huge cost and my budget didn't take that into account. I was still in summer mode or paycheck mode. The $25 I budgeted was for gas, which is actually very generous since I rarely drive and so only fill up every other month or so. All this year I got monthly metrocards at work pre-tax. Of course now I buy pay-per-ride metrocards out of pocket. I don't know why I forgot to take that into consideration. Next month's transportation budget will have to be $50 at least.
Groceries, like I said, was only okay. I didn't buy impulse fun food things, but that baking stuff meant that I bought three pounds of butter over the course of a couple weeks, at four dollars each. That's twelve dollars that seems a little extraneous. If I were smart and motivated, planning out meals and ingredients would be a good idea. I need to think harder about using what we already have, too, instead of always buying more. Like the frozen strawberries for smoothies. I like buying fresh ingredients at the produce shop, and so far it seems pretty cheap too (I bought two jalapeno peppers for our second salsa attempt--they cost eighteen cents!) in addition to being smart economically and environmentally.
Target and the bookstore were pretty much necessities, and unfortunately that kind of spending won't go away. I will try to spread out what I need over more time though, if that's possible.
Now for the emotional report...
On the one hand, it's been easy not to spend money on more things. I could easily have spent a lot more on going-out food/drinks/activities. I shouldn't have spent all that I did, but I did have a good time with friends. But in forgoing clothing, or more things at Target, I found myself thinking, "Oh, I'll just buy that next time." Which is dangerous and completely misses the point of the whole challenge by making it a temporary lark. I will probably not have any more money next time than I do right now! Oh god, this is so depressing.
BUT. It's a good learning tool in that it's easy to say no, to cut back, to ride a bike if it's nearby and the weather is good. Now that the weather has turned chilly, the bike will not be a viable option for much longer. With the looming holiday season, I'm already planning out homemade/handmade gifts.
Overall, I will have to revise my budget a little bit to make it more realistic, and I will also have to adjust a few ideas and habits. I don't think this is something I can keep up long term, but I think I'll do it again for October. I do like how using cash keeps me honest, and keeping track of every single thing keeps me thinking about what I'm spending. I can Just Say No!
...most of the time. :)