Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cutting The Majority

Since turning my Spending Diet into a Spending Fast, I've made quite a bit of progress. I did learn that I pay more per month in medical bills than I thought. A co-pay here and there really can add up, and I should have been paying attention more closely. That aside, I've also made some strides in changing the trajectory of my finances. I have avoided excessive spending in the following ways:
  • I gave my nephew a birthday gift that I already owned. He wanted the game of Twister, and I had actually purchased it for myself a few months ago. It was in my closet, still unopened. I made his birthday card using existing scrapbook supplies. That was easy!
  • I purchased groceries using coupons and a $20 voucher I purchased last month for half price. I'm still using up produce from my CSA, and my freezer and pantry are very well-stocked, so I only bought a few things: tomatoes, peanut butter, almond milk, hummus.
  • I have dined with the beau several times this month, but he has always generously picked up the tab. He knows about my spending fast and doesn't pressure me to pay when we go out, but I am starting to feel bad and don't want to seem like a mooch. I paid for my share of dinner one night. I also bought lunch while out with a friend I hadn't seen in a while. Otherwise, I have not purchased any other beverages or meals at restaurants or coffee shops.
  • I have not purchased any clothing, accessories, or luxury items. I did pay $25 for a haircut... my first in four months.
  • I have minimized my driving by not going out to restaurants or bars or entertainment venues, so I've only had to fill my tank once this month.
I calculated my average monthly spending in these categories: mortgage, energy, water/sewer, internet, cell phone, car insurance, gym membership, credit card payment, groceries, gas, entertainment, clothing, house repairs, medical bills, tithe, and miscellaneous. I did this by adding up the total spending for each of the past four months, then combining the total and then dividing by four.

I have been on budget for this month's fixed expenses (mortgage, energy, water/sewer, internet, cell phone, car insurance, gym membership, credit card, tithe). I have spent $126.56 less on groceries. I have spent $100.17 less on gasoline. I've only shelled $16 all month on dining expenses. For entertainment, I've maintained my Netflix account but nixed any other spending in that category. I have spent zero on house items, clothing, and accessories (and donated over $700 worth of items to Goodwill!). My medical bills have decreased by half. My miscellaneous spending (a gift for a baby shower and a haircut) totaled $57.

When comparing my November spending to the average of the previous four months, I have cut my expenses by 51%. Yep, you read that right... I spent less than half of what I normally do... cutting the majority of my expenses. And I didn't even have to cut out my Netflix or internet or gym membership. It was that simple. It seems so wasteful, in hindsight. I didn't need to spend money on any of those things I used to, all while believing I was being fiscally responsible. Just goes to show the belt can almost always get a little tighter.

My spending fast has been so successful that I plan to continue it into December. It will be a welcome challenge to navigate the national holiday spending frenzy in a minimalist way.

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