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Two Months of Less (In Theory)

1 Jun

May was my second month of attempting to spend less money, based on the book I read called The Year of Less.  It was a difficult month in many ways.  One of those ways was my spending.  There were expenses that came up this month that I really had no control over and it was super frustrating to watch my bank balance go down, down, down as the month went on.

One huge expense I had, which wasn’t expected, was an entire set of new tires.  I got my first flat tire ever.  20+ years of driving without ever having a flat is good if you ask me but I couldn’t have gone a lifetime without having one and not ever complained.

I was extremely fortunate because where I finally realized I had a flat someone saw me and came out to help me immediately.  Such a nice person and I didn’t even know them.  It makes me remember there are still nice people in this world.  It’s easy to forget these days.

Another expense I had was buying plants/trees/potting soil and planter boxes for my house.  I’ve been wanting some fig trees for a few years now and I finally found some at Home Depot.  I LOVE figs so I’ll be really happy if these trees produce edible fruit.  We also got some squash, mint, lettuce, and other plants given to us so I wanted to be able to plant them.

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Lastly, I had a huge ordeal which turned out to be a fairly large expense when I borrowed a pressure washer to clean off my house and it didn’t work.  I was so set on getting it done that I went and bought one myself. I didn’t buy the most expensive but I wanted to get one good enough to really get the job done and I think I did accomplish that.

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As you read through my percentages keep in mind that last month was a real fluke because my tax refunds were factored in.  This month there was nothing extra and this will be close to my “normal” earnings for each month.

Ok, so here’s where I spent my money (in percentages):

  • Mortgage 27.24%
  • Car 14.24%
  • Home 10.35%
  • Investments 5.3%
  • Extra House Payment 5.3%
  • Savings 5.3%
  • Food 4.02%
  • Entertainment 3.57%
  • Eating Out 2.85%
  • Medication 2.61%
  • Water/Sewer/Garbage 2.45%
  • Fuel 2.02%
  • Natural Gas 1.79%
  • Beauty 1.71%
  • Gifts 1.46%
  • Dog/Vet 1.45%
  • Gym 1.41%
  • Internet Service 1.39%
  • Car Insurance 1.35%
  • Phone 1.12%
  • Electricity 0.8%
  • Yarn 0.74%
  • Knitting 0.71%
  • Clothes 0.4%
  • Crafts 0.36%
  • Work 0.1%

June is going to present it’s own challenges as I’m going to be going on vacation!  I can’t wait to go and I’m not going to try to spend a ton but I’m also going to ensure I do the things I really want to do and have a good time while I’m there.  After all, I do not get vacations very often.

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One Month of Less – April 2018

2 May

As you know, if you’ve read my post/review of The Year of Less by Cait Flanders, that I read the book and thought it was an amazing idea.  So how did I do during my first month of attempting to buy less?  Lets take a look.

One thing that really skewed my numbers this month (not that you have anything to compare it to) was that I got my tax refund back which I did enter in my Spending Tracker app as income.  I promptly transferred both refunds into my savings account, at least for now.  I seriously thought on how to handle my refund and figured I had at least two smart options.  One option would be to leave it in my account until the end of the month and divide it into my normal three categories (savings, investments, and extra house payment) for my “leftover” money.  The second option, which I chose, was to just throw it all into savings for now.  So, my savings percentage is crazy high for April…not that I’m complaining.  It definitely helped to replenish what I spent on my upcoming vacation and more so that was nice.

Ok, so here’s where I spent my money (in percentages):

  • Savings 53.36%
  • Mortgage 14.46%
  • Extra House Payment 7.55%
  • Investments 7.55%
  • Food 2.64%
  • Eating Out 2.42%
  • Crafts 1.84%
  • Yarn 1.35%
  • Water/Sewer/Garbage 1.31%
  • Dog/Vet 1.25%
  • Work 1.00%
  • Internet Service 0.74%
  • Car Insurance 0.71%
  • Knitting 0.61%
  • Natural Gas 0.59%
  • Gym 0.59%
  • Fuel 0.58%
  • Phone 0.58%
  • Electricity 0.43%
  • Home 0.12%
  • Contacts 0.10%
  • Medication 0.09%
  • Fitbit 0.07%
  • Coffee 0.06%

I’m super happy about the fact that I saved and/or invested a total of 68.46% of my “income” for April but I know that this number is not achievable for me every month.  Too bad I don’t get tax returns every month.  That would be amazing.

Ok, so you’ve heard the good, lets take a look at some of the less than good.  As you can see, I spent just about as much money eating out as I did on buying food to prepare at home.  I have been much better about eating and cooking at home than eating out this past month but I think I can do better.  

Another thing that I tend to struggle with is the amount of money I spend on my crafty hobbies.  I will say that being crafty is what helps me stay sane and I enjoy it so it’s never going to go away, but I did spend more than I normally would have on supplies in April.  Part of that is due to the fact that I started a new hobby/craft in April and that was learning how to spin fiber into yarn.  So, I obviously needed some supplies which included a drop spindle and some fiber for spinning.  I did go a bit overboard with fiber and am realizing I’m having a hard time taking a step back from buying all the pretty things after letting myself get a bit out of hand.  I really need to stop and spin what I have and decide if it’s something I want to keep doing before I go and buy a bunch, and see if I’m any good at it.  There’s not much sense in keeping spinning if I’m making something I can’t use to knit/crochet with.  In the back of my mind I’m already thinking about the fact that I want to buy a spinning wheel but that is a decision for another day.  They run easily $1,000 and that doesn’t include all of the accessories I would need.  Sounds like my tax refund will come in handy if that’s what I decide to do in the future.

Another thing I have not done at all is to get rid of belongings.  Is it bad that I think if I just don’t buy more I’ll be ok?  I know deep down that this isn’t right but I just don’t feel up to the task of going through all of my crap…yet.  It will happen I’m sure.  One thing I need to go through, like last week, is the kitchen cupboard that has all of my cookware in it.  I open the doors and pots and pans literally jump out at me and it drives me crazy.  

So my goals for May are to still save as much as possible and to rein in my spending on crafting because I have a lot of supplies already.

Have you started your journey to less?  What steps did you take in April to change the way you spend money?

In case you missed it here is a link to my review of The Year of Less and also my post about the Spending Tracker I use.

How I Track My Spending

16 Apr

Hello readers!  I’ve been wanting to type this up ever since I did my review on The Year of Less but I just haven’t taken the time to do it.

I personally started tracking every penny I spent in January of 2017.  Actually I started before that but I was entering everything into my home computer in Excel and I was lucky to get to it once a week, it was a pain in the butt and definitely didn’t show me a real-time picture of my finances.

Knowing that tracking my spending only once a week or so was not going to cut it for me I set out to find a good spending tracker app.  I read a lot of reviews and people were recommending the App Mint, because it does a lot of the work for you.  I’ve tried Mint years ago and didn’t have much luck.  My accounts were difficult to sync, and I don’t honestly love an app that will connect to all of my bank/credit accounts.  It’s too invasive.

I ended up downloading an app called Spending Tracker for iOS (yes I do use an iPhone) but it appears to also be available on Android devices as well.  The icon looks like a little brown wallet.

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There is both a free and a paid for version of this app.  I was happy to use the free version for the whole first year I used it and then finally upgraded in January to the paid version because I knew I was going to continue to use this app nearly every day (sometimes more than once day) for a long time to come.  The free version worked great for me, I just had to deal with an ad every so often.

What I love about this app is that it goes with me wherever I am because I always have my phone.  When I’m in the checkout line I enter my expense immediately and I get a real-time insight to my current monthly balance.  I do have auto-pays set up on some bills which means I do have to check my bank balances and enter those when I see them come in but this has been by far the easiest way I have ever kept track of my money.

Here’s an example of what you would see when you open the app with data entered in (no this is not my data).  You can click on the February link and change your options to “Weekly”, “Monthly”, and “Yearly” which is a great option.  Personally I have mine set up for monthly because I get paid monthly.

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If you want to see the details of every transaction you’ve entered you click the “Transactions” button and it takes you to everything you’ve entered.  You can edit these entries if you need to.

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And this is what it looks like to actually enter a transaction.  It literally takes seconds to do which is why it’s so easy to do it right when you’re in the check-out line at the store.  I especially like that you can enter your own personal notes which has been helpful when buying gifts so I can know which gift it was and who it was for.

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At the end of every month I take my leftover balance and divide it three ways (because this works for me).  I take 1/3rd and place it into my savings, 1/3rd into investments, and 1/3rd towards an extra house payment.  The nice thing is that I made these as actual entries into the Spending app so I can see my percentages (turn your device sideways and it shows you percentages in either a pie graph or a bar graph) for the month.

This tool has been so valuable to me.  It has made me stop in my tracks when I’ve been ready to buy something because it is much more impactful to see the balance go down right before your eyes and to stop and think if this is really a purchase you want to make or not.

I suppose I should say that I am in no way endorsed by the company who has made this app, I just know I like using it and it works!  I hope this tool will help you to reach your financial goals too!

The Year of Less

1 Apr

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You guys….I’m back and I actually have a book to review!  It’s been so long since I’ve blogged or even read a book.  There have been a few but not many that have wanted me to change my life.

The book is actually called The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store and it’s written by Cait Flanders.

I don’t know if I have ever had a book make such an impact on me personally.  This isn’t the first time in my life that I’ve gotten rid of things I didn’t need or even attempted to spend less money, but it definitely is a different way of looking at this same topic.  When Marie Kondo came out with her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up I read it and dove right in to changing things.  I got rid of a lot of clothes and other things in my home too.  The problem with this is that you are supposed to keep things that bring you “joy”.  What does that even mean?  I ended up keeping things I shouldn’t have and getting rid of, just a few, things I shouldn’t have.  All-in-all it was a good thing though.

For my life right now I, unfortunately, have to keep some things in my life that don’t bring me joy because they are necessary for work.  My work wardrobe isn’t joyful, but at this point in time it’s not supposed to be.  Things are oversized and baggy but that’s what I need them to be.  The Year of Less has a much more practical approach: have you used the item in the last six months to a year? Do you plan on using it soon?  If the answer is no then you probably don’t need it.

I also really like Cait’s approach to current “needs”.  If you feel you need something today think about if you also needed it yesterday.  If you need it today but didn’t need it yesterday wait for a month and see if you still need it, then think about buying it.

She also has a practical approach to “stockpiling” which is huge for me.  I’ve been much better in the past few years but I used to purchase lots of lotions or other body care products because they were on sale if you purchased several.  I still have lotion from god knows when that I haven’t even touched.  I guess I’ve had it in the back of my mind that if I didn’t have these things available and I NEEDED them then I wouldn’t be able to get them.  News Flash: everything is available all of the time.  In this day and age where Amazon Prime gets here in two days and I have a store less than five minutes away there is no such thing as an emergency I can’t fix at the touch of a button or a quick drive.  There is no reason to have a bunch of back-ups on hand.  From here forward I will be using what I have and replacing it only when and if I am about to run out and have no other alternatives.

Cait makes it a point to track all of her spending and has goals on the percentage she wants to save each month.  I already track all of my spending, which I’ve been doing for the past year using an app for my iPhone called Spending.  It’s an awesome app that shows you percentages and categorizes your spending into as many categories as you could possibly want.  It also allows you to make notes about each purchase if you want to.  I’ve been doing this for over a year and managed to pay my car off a couple years early by applying every penny I had leftover each month to my car payment.  Now I split my monthly leftovers into thirds and apply one third each to savings, my house payment, and investments.  That being said I know I could be doing better.

I’m ready for some simple, mindful living!