Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Saving Cash - November in Review

As most of your know, we spent two weeks of November trying not to spend any money. In the end, we did buy gas for the cars, and one $6 splurge of snacks at the grocery store. But I think that's all we spent, aside from regularly scheduled bills. I didn't think we had a massive rebound spending after those two weeks were up, but... are we really saving cash?

Well, let me first say that we are currently tracking all our spending on Money and at Mint.com. I would highly recommend that you find ONE software and stick with it. It's really ridiculous to try to use two different programs to do the same thing. We paid for Money, but Mint is free. We still haven't set every little detail up on either one, but we're working on it. We know it's hard to evaluate your spending and to set goals for the future if you don't know where your money is going today. We found some discrepancies for the month of November in the two money-tracking systems, but after a little work, they ended up showing us a similar picture. (I can't believe this, but I can't for the life of me find where I saved our Money file from November 30 on my computer.) So here's the update as we see it on Mint.

We have a category which is called Food and Dining. It can then be broken down by store or restaurant. In October, when we were living normally, we spent $1738 in this category. In November, we spent $956. So in November, we saved $782 in this area! Obviously, food is one of our biggest variable expenditures, whether it is in the form of groceries or eating out. The fact that we stopped spending money for two weeks certainly helped.

So breaking it down a little more:
October grocery spending was - $894
November grocery spending was - $756

This $140 savings wasn't as extreme as I would have liked to see. Initially, I was very disappointed, and wondered why we spent so much in November. But then I considered all the extra shopping and stocking up on frozen meat and fish that we did in Pennsylvania at Wegman's grocery store, and I felt much better. We have around a month's meat and fish in our freezer now, and it may last even longer. Then I examined our spending even more, and found about $160 of the $756 was special for Thanksgiving. We bought several nice bottles of wine to share at dinner with the 13 people there, and also some good French and Spanish cheeses, with yummy crackers too. If we had planned ahead, we may have been able to get better deals, but we spent what we spent. Now we'll have to plan better for Christmas. I think it's easy to say that we splurged for a special occasion, but it seems there is always a holiday, birthday, company, or some other "special event" that we could use to try to justify frequent splurges. So we'll work on that!

What about dining out?
October - $844 (includes restaurants, coffee shops, snacks, etc)
November - $200 (now that's much better - but we want to get it even lower!)

What about shopping in general? This includes shoes, clothing, books, electronics and software.
October - $1171
November - $224
Wow. I hadn't realized that we spent so much in October. I know we were buying some needed clothes in October, but what about the rest of it? This is certainly something to carefully examine in the next few weeks.

And entertainment, including DVDs, movies, music, magazines, books, the arts?
October - $253
November - $100

Lastly - personal care (includes hair cuts, massages, manicures, pedicures, makeup, skin care)
October - $313
November - $0

I could break it down even more, but for the blog, I have admitted our greatest short-comings, and the areas that everyone probably wants to look at when trying to save cash. Let me tell you, even though my blog doesn't have an enormous readership, it's still quite humbling to admit all this!

So in the end, did stopping our spending for two weeks help?

Yes! It definitely did.

First, it helped us by saving cash for those two weeks. And then it made us want to spend even less in the weeks that followed. At the end of the month, this "experiment" may have saved us around $2200. And although this month would be an extremely difficult time of year to stop spending money, I would recommend it at some point for anyone who wants to save money in the short-term, and reevaluate spending patterns in the longer term.


Dr. Mom said...

You did great in November. It really is hard to spend less during the holidays, particularly when you entertain! I blew our weekly budget and then some just shopping for Thanksgiving! You may want to check out Restaurant.com especially when they have a deal going (often 50-80% off) for gift certificates for dining. Sometimes there are some great restaurants in your area that you can try with these coupons that you would never have tried before. Being in the DC area, I bet there are a ton.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! - I am an ex-Washingtonian living in Singapore, and have been watching the spending implosion in the US with amazement! You are making great strides in the right direction and hopefully more Americans will follow your example. Live within our means, save for tomorrow, proactively plan a better world for our children. Isn't that what it is all about?

Katy, Planet Perspectives said...

I completely agree with you - Friend in Singapore! It is tempting sometimes when things are going well financially to not prepare for the future. We have seen recently that America (and the world) can't continue to spend like we have been, and as Americans, many of us need to make changes in how we spend, and how we save. We will keep trying to do the best for our family and to help others in need.