How I did with my finances this month

This past month, I focused on two things: limiting my spending and limiting my spending.

It was tough. It was crazy. It was really good.

As I previously outlined, I set aside $300 spending money for myself.

Here’s a pretty pie chart to showcase how I spent my money in January:

James on Jessie Spending Pie Chart

My misc. items include paying for tickets to a show we’re going to this month. It also includes a night’s worth of babysitter fees as well as spending $4.81 on electrical outlet covers.

I figured my food spending habits would be higher, so I was impressed with the numbers. I only spent $60 on food this month.

Gifts were higher this month as it included four birthdays, which included materials for a party.

So where’d I end up with the $300? I still have $11 in my wallet. Although I’m pretty sure a fly just escaped it.

Here’s a recap of how the month went down:

THE GOOD

1. I educated myself. I learned a lot this month about finances as I added a number of financial blogs to my blog reader (I use the Feedly app). I also read through Personal Finance for Dummies.  I learned about emotional spending as well as researched ways to decrease our grocery bills. This is also the first month in a while in which we’ve actually stayed within our grocery budget. New favourite blogs: Money Saving MomClub Thrifty and The Simple Dollar.

2. I set myself up not to fail. This month, I adopted the budgeting approach from You Need a Budget. I got myself to use spending money from money earned two months ago so that I can better plan my spending. It allowed me to know how much money I have for the month, rather than living paycheque to paycheque and waiting for money to come in.

3. I talked about finances. I used to avoid any financial talks with my husband. Instead, I’d quietly try to work out my inability to follow a budget and hope it’d work out. This month? Toby heard about nothing but finances. Nearly every night I spoke about my successes, my struggles and my pride in taking control of my money. It was nice to bounce ideas off him and check in with good reports.

4. I had MONEY left in my account! So here’s the big one: I only used my debit card for grocery store purchases and cash for everything else. As a result, my online banking records look like a clean, crisp linen rather than a dirty, mashed up tablecloth thrown into a closet. This approach left me with several hundred dollars in my account. Imagine that. I didn’t overspend and, as a result, had money leftover. Shocker.

5. I know I can do it. I didn’t struggle with limiting my spending money this month. Rather, I struggled with the idea that I knew I had to limit my spending. I often worried about reverting back to my ‘old ways’ (as if it was so long ago), and the effort would be entirely erased. But, with $11 still in my wallet, I learned I can actually go through with it.

THE BAD

1. One word: withdrawal. At about one week into this program, I went through some fugly spending withdrawal. I continued to think about the things I wanted to buy. By the time the end of the month arrived, I reviewed the things I thought I would have purchased with my spending money and came away with NONE of those items. But, I gotta say, I enjoyed my time away from stores and constantly dealing with buyer’s remorse.

2. Taking it out on others. In constantly talking with my husband about my finances, I often chatted with him about our family finances and whether we are on track. It was good in that it forced us to better communicate about money. The bad part was when I started to project that financial stress on him. After grilling him one afternoon about our grocery money, I suddenly came to a realization: this was about me and my spending. His spending habits are much healthier. I swallowed my pride and apologized for projecting that stress onto him. I then ate four chocolate chip cookies.

3. Guilt. Knowing that I have the ability to track my spending, I’ve dealt with a lot of guilt this past month. Guilt about messing up my spending in the past and guilt about not being further ahead in my future financial goals.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. Stop Making Excuses about your spending. There’s a real big difference between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’. As soon as I eliminated the excuses, I felt in control.

2. Check Your Online Banking. Checking in often to track spending and looking ahead at future purchases makes everyone feel better.

3. Write it down. I loved sitting down each night before bed and scribbling down that day’s purchases onto a notepad. Better yet, I loved it when I got to write, “No Spend Day”.

4. Make it a habit. Apparently it takes three months to build a habit. So I’ve still got more practice time to hammer out before I can write my financial book.

5. Don’t write a financial book.

NEXT STEPS:

1. Cancel Bell Television Subscription for good. Monthly savings: $75

2. Research other banking opportunities. It looks like PC Financial provides the best option with a no-fee chequing and savings accounts. Monthly savings: Approximately $30/month

3. Continue to track my spending. This month, I’m down to only $200 spending money, based on my extra income earned. I’m already down $5.35 after getting an Egg McMuffin and coffee following a late night out Saturday night. Don’t judge me.

4. Eat Fewer Egg McMuffins.

All in all, it was a really good month. I obsessively thought about money, but I loved having a different approach to how and why I thought about it. I still have a long way to go but I really do feel like I’m heading on a path that will instill good habits and a healthy bank account.

Lastly, thanks for all your support and insight over this past month! It’s really hard to talk about money, but it’s nice to know that everyone has dealt with their struggles and the shared stories taught me a lot about how to find ways to have a better relationship with my dollah bills.  I’ll continue to check in about my financial focus.

So what do I have lined up for February’s Focus? It was initially to organize my house and myself, but I’ve already changed those plans. This month’s focus includes 12 pounds, bad hips and snowballs. Man, that’s random. I’ll blog about it this week and share this month’s focus with you!

 

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