So I tracked my spending pretty diligently from mid-August until the end of December (my end of December was the 25th because my months currently start on payday while I try to get a month ahead on my bills). I haven’t shared my findings in a single post yet, mainly because for the first 6 weeks I was tweaking my tracking. The last three months, I’ve been more consistent. Here’s what the last quarter of 2016 looked like.
What did I do well?
You can see my tracking from August to September in my weekly tracking series starting with August 15th.
Savings: There’s savings on there! 6 months ago, I could barely pay my bills never mind put anything away. Now I have small emergency & giving funds. I also have a travel fund that I paid into August through September and depleted the last couple of months. I also have money in a Bank of America account that I want to use to mitigate against a strong dollar and of course my meagre Moneybox investments too.
Debt: I initially had 20 personal creditors but by the time I started this blog I was down to 17 people and. I’d hoped to pay them all off but things haven’t worked out as I wanted. I paid or wrote off £6 067.97 of ‘personal’ and ‘corporate’ debt in the last 5 months. This leaves me at £20 883.10 or roughly two thirds of my May 2016 WTF balance. I also haven’t borrowed money since July. This is a first in about 6 years. Woohoo!
Food/Groceries: This one is a little difficult to quantify since I only placed groceries or take out that I ate by myself here. Relative to my hardcore spendthrift days though, I did pretty well. I used to eat out about 80-90% of the time. December was difficult with Christmas parties, leaving dos and what nots but in October and November, I only ate out about 10-20% of the time. The only things I could do better are: buy more in bulk, utilise my freezer and shop the sales.
Income: I side-hustled like a (small time) boss last year. You don’t see it in the charts but I earnt £401.19 in October, £274.81 in November and £584.08 in December. That’s 14% of my regular income without which I would have been unable to afford Edinburgh . If I were to earn 14% more in side hustles next year, I would have exceeded my expectations of additional income by around 50%.
What could I do better?
Socialising: I love spending time with people. Fostering relationships and foodie experiences are the most important aspects of my life. Sometimes I do well by making gourmet burgers at home instead of eating out or hosting frugal wine and cheese tasting evenings. More often than not I’m eating unnecessary McDonald’s burgers (boxing day shopping) or buying rounds at the pub after football. While I’m in debt, I really need to get better at lowering these expenses.
Transport: I spent between £100 and £170 on getting around. I walked some, took buses, trains and the tube mostly. I took a lot of Ubers in December, which is why the total is closer to £170 than my targeted £132. If I cycled, I could bring this down very realistically to around £10 a week or £50 a month. Sure, my bike currently needs a bit of work but I need to get that work done so that I can pay down debt with the savings.
Dating: I’m seeing a student who happens to be relatively spendthrift too. I’m generous to a fault and splash out on dates and gifts quite a bit. I’ve reined things in quite significantly – in 2015 I treated my ex to a £200 celebratory sushi experience and also paid £132 for a surprise hotel stay in London while I was living in a dive – but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Whilst December is more in line with my pre-lightbulb moment spending, I’d like to stick to October’s £80 or lower going forward.
Everything else: My bills are pretty high for someone in debt. I know this. However, I live with my best mate in a lovely neighbourhood with mostly flat roads and entertainment, a park behind my street in a house that I can entertain people in many different ways. Our current contract runs till 2018 after which I’d like to make some compromises. I also need to support someone dear to me, pay to fix my bike, buy new crockery amongst other things that I class as miscellaneous. The only solution to this is to side hustle so that I don’t impact on other goals.
I didn’t have the year I planned. I started off 2016 with head in the sand. I had a lot of debt but I tried to get through life on a wing and a prayer. In May, my stupidity caught up with me and I crashed spectacularly. I had to sublet my room for 5 weeks and let my closest friends know how badly I’d behaved financially. This saw the beginning of a turnaround. However, even though I wanted to be better with money, I didn’t know how. I was still taking Ubers and eating out when I had no business doing either. In August I stumbled upon The Frugalwoods and Mr Money Mustache blogs and realised that I couldn’t be better with my money if I didn’t know what I was doing with it. So I started to track my spending and had a whoa! moment.
I was leaking money with my canteen & social lunches, my post football pub visits, and other little sums that I hadn’t realised I could be utilising differently. I paid debt off first and assigned jobs to every single dollar at the start of the week. I created a network of interest earning savings accounts. I dipped my toes in the world of investing. So, I’ve got better but there is still room for improvement. My next post will talk about 2017. I have some big goals and I’m going to have to write them down so that I can track them.