A blog about spending wisely in your twenties, with advice on everything from cooking to saving money on gas; how to teach yourself to save money instead of spending it, traveling without breaking the bank, and much more.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Monthly Trade-Off: Extreme Frugality in One Area, Overspending in Another

Every month, after most of my bills are paid, the groceries are bought and the last thing that I must pay for before the month ends is a tank of gas, I start reviewing my income and spending. It seems that every month I manage to scrimp and save in one area while I spend more in another. In April, I spent very little on food, but a ton on leisure and entertainment. In May so far, I've spent very little on leisure, more on food than usual, and quite a bit on travel (a weekend in San Diego for Fiance's birthday.)

I already save about 10% of my wages, and by month's end I've usually got some extra income that I can also throw into savings - I'm doing very well in that regard. If I exercised some serious self-discipline, I could easily be saving another two to three hundred a month. Most of my friends consider my ability to hang on to my money something of a feat, but I still look at my ledgers at the end of the month and think "Damn! I really shouldn't have spent $X on Y!"

At the end of the day where I spend and where I save in any given month comes down to a value judgement. In May it was "Do I want beers out at the bar & a bunch of new books or do I want to spend a nice weekend with my boyfriend in San Diego?" I chose San Diego, which turned out to be a great idea. In June, I'll be paying for my share of Fiance & I's plane tickets to North Carolina. I'm a displaced Southerner who hasn't been home in four years, so obviously my $266 round trip ticket is well worth drastically curbing my spending in another area.

As the trip to Carolina, the wedding, and eventually married life come closer, I'm sure I'll need to start exercising the willpower to be mega-frugal in more than one category at a time. So here's my game plan:

(1) Leave my debit and credit cards at home. I already leave my credit card at home most of the time, but unless I need to buy gas I really don't need to bring my debit card to work with me. Sometimes the Starbucks across the parking lot calls my name a little too loudly, especially on my morning shifts.

(2) Make sure I'm setting aside time to pre-cook meals and snacks. For the most part I'm pretty good about this, but this summer I'll be in one pretty intense 4 hours four days a week class, an online class, working full time, and planning a wedding. I won't be able to just throw something together when I feel like it. Also, I'm likely to be pretty stressed out. When I'm stressed I either stop eating altogether, or I overeat. If I've got healthy food readily available, I'll be less likely to cave and make a beeline for Chick-fil-a.

(3) Write notes to myself. For example "If you spend $30, you have to cross out one wedding guest!" or "You need this for RENT!" I'm so disciplined most of the time that I generally have $5-$25 to burn if I feel like it. I can sometimes be flippant about spending a little here and there. Most of the time I fight the urge off, but sometimes I fail. Hopefully having visual reminders in my purse, checkbook, and taped to my debit/credit cards will help.

(4) Keep Fiance in the Loop. The fact that he & I are fairly minimalist frugal mostly-vegetarians bodes well for our marriage. The more in the loop I keep him, the more he can help out by saying, "Ummm, honey are you sure you need ANOTHER wedding planning book?"

(5) Stay home more often. Just walking out of the door and starting up the car is spending money. If I stay home I can cook, keep my room organized, post to BurnFive, do surveys, tons of productive stuff- most of which will save or bring in money, as opposed to spending it.

Hopefully in June I'll be able to keep all unnecessary spending to a minimum, instead of just some of it.

No comments: