What happens when someone who’s “good at money” tracks their spending the old school way? With a pen and paper and not using an automated system like Mint?
Inspired by the Man Repeller and Refinery29 money diaries, I thought it’d be fun to see what happens when I track my spending for a weekend. Although I’m conscious about my overall spending, I’m at a point where I don’t feel the need to review purchases line by line. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for surprises.
Who’s the lucky duck who had a FOUR-day weekend instead of the usual three for Labor Day? ME. So today’s money diary is double the weekend days and double the fun. Because I actually bought clothes this time and clothes = fun.
Usually for the long weekend my husband and I travel to visit family, but since we had our wedding a few months ago (where we saw everyone) we decided to skip the trip this year. Plus, we’re doing our honeymoon to New Zealand at the end of the year, and I’m fully anticipating tossing money around on that trip like there’s no tomorrow. I’m all about skipping the smaller trips in favor of the epic ones, so a quiet, New York City weekend felt right.
Friday – A Day in Dumbo
A day off on a weekday means sleeping in until whenever you feel like it. I had breakfast at home: coffee and toast with an egg on top. $0
A day off on a weekday also means the possibilities are endless. How I decide what we do in the city is usually based on how many people/tourists will be where I want to go. That’s why I hardly ever shop in person anymore, because I like to shop in peace. So on Fridays when I don’t work I love to take advantage of the timing by doing something touristy. We originally planned on going to a museum, but the weather was totally wrong for it: perfectly clear and sunny with a hint of coolness that says fall’s about to be up in your face. Better to save a museum visit for a crappy day. So instead we plan to walk around Dumbo. In case you’re not familiar with Dumbo, it’s the very first neighborhood you hit once you cross over the Brooklyn Bridge. It has that old school, industrial feel with warehouses and factories that have turned into expensive apartments, trendy shops and restaurants.
First up is lunch. There’s an archway under the Manhattan Bridge where they have events and food vendors. I don’t want to spend a ton of money on a full lunch so I grab a snack: tuna onigiri. $4
Then we hit up my favorite vintage shop in the city, Front General Store. They have an amazing selection of true vintage denim, T-shirts and leather jackets—basically any kind of Americana. I love to browse here because it’s wonderfully curated (like, no 70’s polyester dresses), but I haven’t been in the mindset to actually buy anything yet. $0
We walk to Powerhouse Arena bookstore because my husband is a huge bookworm. I browse a couple fashion books for fun, but I never buy books because I’d rather wait to get them at the library. $0
A couple posts back I suggested using a planner to track your spending, and I tried and failed to order the one I mentioned because the Spring website was acting crazy. Then I went to the actual Shinola website to order the planner but got deterred by the $2.95 shipping charge, because who likes paying for shipping? Well, we discovered there’s a brand-new Shinola store in a converted factory right in Dumbo! They had the exact planner I was looking for, and while I was checking it out, a saleslady came up and asked me if I wanted to monogram it. “How much does that cost?” I asked, because I’m very classy like that. “It’s free,” she replies. Oh, did you say my favorite word, ‘free’? I couldn’t have handed over the planner fast enough. $28.31
My husband makes avocado baos for dinner. It’s a recipe he copied from one of our favorite restaurants, Talde. You guys, it’s super easy, and you should try it, too. You use steamed buns, panko-fried avocado slices, cucumber, cilantro, and a little bit of hoisin sauce or sriracha mayo. $3.23 (half of grocery store ingredients)
I accidentally deleted the pics I took so here’s one from the restaurant:
Friday Total: $35.54
Saturday – Sewing Is My Life
Breakfast is coffee and Honey Nut Cheerios. $0
It’s raining out and I have to get cracking on one of my 2017 goals, so most of my day is spent prepping things for my sewing project. Today is ironing, pinning and cutting out all the pieces, which are honestly my least-favorite parts of sewing. Next weekend, the actual sewing! $0
For lunch I ate some leftover pesto pasta from the fridge, plus a banana. $0
My husband asks me if I want some wine for the week. Our budget looks good, so I say sure, why not? $16.33
For dinner my husband makes peanut-soy sesame noodles using the cilantro from the previous night’s dinner. $0
Saturday Total: $16.33
Sunday – Where I Succumb to Labor Day Sales
First thing I do when I wake up is check social media and e-mail. Breakfast is coffee in bed and later an English muffin with butter and jam. $0
I check out The Real Real for like, the 10th time this week. There’s a pair of black sandals I’ve been looking at for the past few weeks now, and they’re on the list as a staple missing from my wardrobe. I keep checking to see if someone bought them and if there’s a sale. Finally, they’re 50% off so I add them to the cart. I also see a plaid shirt I like that’s so tempting to buy. It’s only $45 and also on my list. But it’s a size too big, and I’ve been burned by thinking I can get away with “oversized” clothes too many times. I just buy the sandals. $74.45
At this point I’m very well aware that I have only about $75 left to spend on clothes to meet my goals this year.
La Garçonne, one of my favorite online stores, is offering 20% off all sale items. As I’m browsing I see a pair of jeans that I could stock up on for 40% off. Amazing deal…but I don’t need them right now so I pass. But then I find a Comme des Garçons striped T-shirt that’s just my speed. I don’t have any striped knit tees, and they’re such classic. The shirt is final sale. But that’s OK because I have an Amex card that will reimburse me if it doesn’t work out. I also know I’m going to go over the $1,000 shopping budget this year. But that’s OK, because I’m going to solve that problem later. Add to cart, purchase, knowingly blow the budget. $120.20
I’ve been so busy lately so I’ve slacked on keeping up with the household supplies. We have no more cleaning supplies for the kitchen countertops or the stove and those are looking pretty grungy. Since we can’t wait to order them, my husband goes out to pick up some supplies. $5.83 (my half of the cost)
For dinner, my husband decide it’s date night so we’re eating out. Since we have a reservation at a restaurant next weekend we check the budget to see if we can swing a night out tonight. We have the money, but we’ll watch the budget every few days. I get the splurgy omakase, but I never ever splurge on sushi, so today I’m following the age-old mantra: everything in moderation. $44.10 (my half of dinner)
My husband and I make a list of groceries I need to pick up from Trader Joe’s tomorrow.
Sunday Total: $244.58
Monday – Reclaiming My Clothing Budget
I’m in a rush this morning because last night I told myself I’d go to Trader Joe’s by 10am. No time for a real breakfast so I just drink coffee. $0
At Trader Joe’s I pick up frozen chicken mushroom stirfry, peanuts, penne pasta, two bags of pita chips, coffee, olive oil, garlic, grated parmesan cheese, nectarines, bananas, plus two salad kits for lunch for the week. $21.75 (my half of the groceries)
Ugh, when I get back from food shopping my husband asks me where the eggs and jam are. He’s met with a blank stare. Those weren’t on my list. Because I forgot to add them. So my husband goes out to the expensive grocery stores in my neighborhood and drops $26.82 on just a handful of ingredients: 2 jars of tomato sauce, Tate’s cookies, shallots, eggs, apples, jam, and blueberries. Sigh. $13.41 (my half of the groceries)
For lunch I eat a Thai sweet chili veggie burger from Trader Joe’s and add on some scallions and cilantro I found in the fridge. Plus a nectarine I picked up from that earlier food run. $0
Remember how I said I was going to solve that overspending problem? Well, I pulled out a handful of clothes in my closet that I’m planning on selling and spent an hour taking pictures of everything. I should make a few hundred dollars to reclaim my budget and get it back under $1,000 no problem. I’ll report back on the results! $0, but potential ka-ching.
My husband is in the fall mood, so he buys canned pumpkin to bake pumpkin bread. This will serve as breakfast for the week so my husband won’t have to buy it out. $0.99
For dinner my husband makes pasta with ground beef, peppers and marinara sauce. He makes a big enough of a batch so we both have leftovers for lunch the next day. YAY. $0
Monday Total: $36.15
Total Weekend Spending: $332.60
I could have saved us some money by doing all of our grocery shopping from Trader Joe’s. If my husband and I had planned and communicated better we wouldn’t have had to pick up more expensive groceries from our neighborhood mom and pop shop. I made a list but I forgot to write everything down. Next time I’ll have to show him the list first and make sure I have it all, because it kind of kills me to overpay on groceries.
1. If you want to buy something and it’s over budget, saying ‘no’ to the purchase isn’t your only option.
Think of other things you can do:
- Is there another budget category you can cut? So if spending money on drinks is not a priority for you, consider reducing your budget to make room for the categories you DO care about.
- Is there an alternative you can buy instead? Like a cheaper version or one that’s used?
- Can you sell some of your existing stuff to make the money to buy it? (This is one I do a lot.)
I’m not saying you should justify overspending, but just know that there are other options if you really want something that’s over budget.
2. Make big dinners so you have leftovers ready to go for work lunches.
3. The no-fail way to save money? Make stuff.
When I’m focused on creating something, like a sewing project, not spending money is effortless. Have you ever noticed that when you’re super busy at work you don’t spend money? And how those spending sprees happen when you’re bored? So if you’re looking for a hack to save money, work on a project or find a hobby.
How did your weekend go? Any frugal fails or wins?