Thanks for the comments on the last post, they've been very helpful (especially Ben, who I guess moonlights as a financial advisor in his spare time? You sure seem to know a lot!).
I figured for some background that'd be helpful for anyone who wants to give me more excellent advice -- and for the fact it'd probably be helpful to me to lay it out written down -- I'd post about where I throw my money.
This is going to be a little embarrassing because it'll reveal how little I know about finances/money and what a spendthrift I am, but I figure being humble and stupid is better than being ignorant and stupid.
This post basically sponsored by Mint.com, where I've been tracking expenses for the past 2 years.
Monthly fixed expenses:
- $200 -- 401k: My employer matches 3% of my yearly salary of this. Otherwise, I put $200 a month into it. Is that enough? Should I do more? I HAVE NO IDEA. I guess I should up this, actually, because I'm not fully meeting their match. Anyways this is automatically deducted before I even get my paycheck so it doesn't really count against my fixed expenses but I thought I'd include it.
- $1700 -- rent
- $51 -- cell plan
- $59 -- gym
- $50 -- utilities (This is really just an average. In the winter my electricity was almost nil [I actually never turned the heat on] but in the summer it goes up a bit)
- $500 -- therapy (This is also an average; some months it's less, some more, depending on when/if I can go. This is also one of my biggest discretionary spending areas, and one of the most worth it, though I'm considering phasing it out in 2014 since I feel like a pretty normal lady and way less crazy than I was 3 years ago)
- $750 -- general savings (and I'm not great about this account. I've definitely dipped into it to cover vacations, etc)
- $5 -- blog. Yes, it costs me $5 to bring you this finely designed & engineered web page every month.
Total fixed costs: $3115 (that's taking out the 401k contribution since that's deducted automatically pre-paycheck).
This gives me nearly $2,000 left in take-home pay to play around with on a monthly basis, all of which seems to go... somewhere? I'd like to be better about these funds, put more of them towards savings, and cut back where I can. Let's take a look at my discretionary spending, averaged over the last 12 months. These are ranked by where I spent the most money to the least.
Category #1: Food & Dining: Oof, this is a tough one. I do spend a lot bars and dining out, but I don't feel I do it excessively, and am not sure how to cut back and have a normal/fulfilling social life. I guess it's just a matter of being brutal about it.
- Average spend per month: $876
- Groceries: average of $300 a month (WTF. This is not normal, is it?)
- Dining out: average of $250 a month
- "Fast food" - like little lunchtime stuff at Potbelly's or wherever: average of $100 a month
- Booze: average of $199 a month (both stuff at bars and bottles of wine to take home, etc)
Clearly I gotta get that grocery spend down. I can identify the problem there: I love to cook fancy, special recipes and often stop by grocery stores to pick up speciality ingredients, so that one meal can often end up costing me $50. Not the way it should really be going with cooked-at-home meals...
Category #2: Health & Fitness: I put therapy under this category but am taking it out since I put it in my fixed costs. This leaves...
- Gym - $59 - not changing anytime soon, I love Balance Gym and think that's gotta be one of the cheapest rates you can get in DC
- Doctor - About $300 in the last year, or $24 a month. This normally isn't a thing except my boobs cause me a lot of problems. My mom had breast cancer in her 40s so I get mammograms and often have to go get cysts removed and that cost me $250 last time, WTF? Did my insurance not cover that? Unclear.
- Fricking CVS. Guys, I seem to spend almost $90 a month at CVS. What am I buying there? I like to think of myself as low-maintenance but maybe I'm not since I'm apparently buying like $50 drugstore shampoo or something. But there are so many basic household items I need from there, from dish soap to toilet paper to face wash to mascara. How do I cut back on the black hole that is my CVS spending? ALSO VITAMINS ARE EXPENSIVE.
Category #3: Travel. I spent $4,777 on travel in the last 12 months. *agape emoji face* A lot of this was because of my trip to Hong Kong, which, worth it, but still. I do tend to take a lot of shorter trips that require lots of airfare, which really ramps up the cost of everything. Ugh, but I love traveling. Maybe it's time to take some local trips, using a borrowed car, and camping in a field, or something.
Category #4: Uncategorized, officially. But I can guarantee you that this is almost all ATM withdrawls. And it's an average of nearly $440 a month. I can also guarantee you that most of this goes to booze and restaurants.
I don't really know what is the common wisdom on cash withdrawals. Should I be doing credit only? Should I withdraw a set amount at the start of the month and parcel it out in my wallet on a week by week basis?
Category #5: Shopping. This is about $281 a month. It's not bad and is going down. I've stopped buying new clothes the last few months, on the premise that I actually don't need them, no matter how pretty they are.
- Clothes: $150 a month
- Random shit on amazon or paypal (not books) -- this is probably gifts for weddings/birthdays, etc: $100 a month
- Books: $12 a month
Category #6: Other. Public transporation falls here, as do any fees, Uber rides, miscellania, manicures, hair cuts, whatever. This is an average of $520 a month. What is this money?! I spend about $30 a month on Metro, I'd guess, but the other stuff is a black hole of mystery that Mint doesn't see fit to portion out into a handy pie chart for me.
Ugh, actually this was tough to lay out and read over. No wonder I can't save money. I'm spending way too much, and I just don't know why/how. But it's helpful. Here's where I think I need to make initial cuts -- any and all advice welcome.
Groceries: This is crazyballs. It's compounded by the fact that I shop almost exclusively at Whole Foods and Yes Organic, not exactly the cheapest stores around. But they ARE the closest to where I live and the most convenient. But should I trek to Harris Teeter or Safeway? Is it worth the trips? What should a 'normal' grocery bill for one person per month be?
CVS: Basically, I can never enter a CVS again. But where would I buy my toothpaste, shampoo, face wash, TP, etc? This stuff seems to add up in a way that I can't comprehend and I know I'm not buying high-cost products there.
Dining out: Ideally this would be automatically reduced if I cut back on my vacations, because basically my favorite thing to do when out on vacation is dine at local spots. But, even just being in DC, it adds up super quick. One dinner out a week and you could be up to $250, which I feel like is kind of an excessive amount. I guess just don't dine out ever, or just once a month?
Booze: I guess never go to bars again. Seriously how do people in this town get drunk with their friends and save any money?
Travel: I have to face facts -- I just can't travel the way I'm used to and save money. Travel is an experience I really value, but I'm going to have to put a pause on it, at least for the next 12-18 months.
Rent: See previous post. Is it worth the hassle to find a cheaper place to live (that, to be honest, may only be chepaer by $500-$600 if I want to keep some location/quality of life aspects), or should I just try to drastically cut the above categories?
So, there's them facts laid bare. Any ideas for cost-cutting measures would be excellent. And so I don't feel like SUCH a doofus, I want you all to know I HAVE ZERO DEBT. Nada. Nothing. Paid off my student loans and don't carry any credit card debt. Take that, America!