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.
Long time, no money diary. It’s unusually cold here on the East Coast, and mid-last week everyone was talking about the Bomb Cyclone. With the snow and cold continuing into the weekend, here is today’s money diary theme: Hibernation, Travel Deals, and Cooking with Luxe. Spoiler alert: Sunday’s where all the action is.
It’s 5:30 pm, my coworkers are long gone, but I’m not ready to leave work yet. You see, it’s cold outside. The kind of cold I haven’t experienced the whole seven years that I’ve lived in New York City. Even though the subway is a three-minute walk, my irrational brain dreads the cold so much I sit at my desk, working on the blog and messing around on Twitter. All of a sudden I look up and it’s 8pm. Well, that got out of control fast.
When I get home my husband has saved a dinner plate for me: a burger with a side of potato chips and sliced cucumbers.
We’ve also officially run out of paper towels, and I’ve made no moves to buy more just yet. I feel like we’ve gotten overly reliant on paper towels for even the smallest messes, so I want to test out doing without for a bit.
Friday Total: $0
My husband makes waffles topped with strawberries. No coffee for me because I don’t drink it anymore.
I just got Dining In, the cookbook I ordered last week. You know I rarely buy books, so when I do actually buy one, I can’t wait to check it out. I spend the morning browsing through the recipes, picking out the first recipe I want to make. Alison’s recipes are exactly the types of dishes I’d order at a restaurant, and I love the idea of recreating the dining out experience at home. Elevated dining while I’m in my sweats? YES. Since I’m not an amazing cook, I decide to start with something easy: The Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Bucatini, with a few modifications. Time to go grocery shopping.
Subway to Trader Joe’s. I buy the anchovies and a red onion for the recipe. Instead of making the sauce from scratch like the recipe tells you too, I buy a tomato sauce base instead. Homemade sauce would have taken three and a half hours, and I was going to be hungry in about two hours, soooooo, premade sauce it is. I also bought lunch ingredients for the week, plus some staples to have in the freezer for when we’re lazy and hungry. $48.48
I lug the groceries onto the subway, and make my way to the Italian deli for the fresh pasta. The pasta is $3.99, but when I get to the counter I see that there’s a credit card minimum. So I grab two more boxes of pasta to make the minimum. I almost never carry cash around, ever, because cash is too hard to track. When I get home, I tell my husband the story, and he taunts me, “That will teach you about carrying a little cash around.” Womp womp. $12.97
The finished product, which we paired with white wine bought earlier in the week.
We try out an episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime and are instantly hooked!
SATURDAY TOTAL: $61.45
In the morning, my husband rolls over and tells me he’s been up for hours with a stomach virus. Approved foods for stomach viruses are Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast (BRAT). I go out to get a bagel for his breakfast, then I make myself some toast with a fried egg on top. $1.15
Since my husband is sick, I’m picking up his son from a sleepover in Manhattan. I don’t do well with cold and had no intentions of leaving the house today. But now that I’m going out anyway, I decide I might as well make a Soho pitstop to return some clothes at Aerie and REI.
After I pick up my husband’s son, we hop on the subway to Soho. But before returning the clothes, I want to shop at Muji and CB2 first. I have some specific things in mind that I want to pick up.
Muji is a such a fun, yet dangerous (to me) place to browse. In case you’ve never been, Muji is like IKEA, but the Japanese version. There’s nothing there that I don’t want to buy, but I have a purpose in mind: I want to get a refillable bottle to use as a bathroom soap dispenser. Our current one has a broken cap. And I want the new one to be pretty–duh. I love the minimalist yet elegant designs of Muji products. I pick up a green bottle for $4.50. But then my mind starts wandering: should I buy more bottles for shampoo and conditioner? I decide to just get the soap dispenser for now. Then I see an employee giving out free samples of something. It’s sweet potato cake—the texture’s kind of like pound cake, but made out of thin layers. And it’s delicious. “Where can I buy these?” I ask him. Impulse purchase alert! I grab one by the cash register. $8.40
Oh, and can I say that in just two days I’m in LOVE with the new soap dispenser? The green color matches well in our bathroom, and the pump is so smooth. It literally makes me happy every time I walk into the bathroom and see it.
Next up, CB2. The other night I drank white wine from a cocktail glass, because all of our wine glasses broke. The horror, I know. But wine glasses don’t cost much and make you feel a little more fancy. CB2 usually has designs I like for reasonable prices, so that’s my go-to spot to pick up new wine glasses. I find two vintage-y ones for $4.50 each. $9.80
Take the subway home. For lunch I eat the pasta leftovers from the night before, and I make toast for my husband.
So, we’re not borrowing anyone’s car anymore. I check car rental costs for the upcoming long weekend holidays this year: Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. I have no idea if we’re traveling anywhere for those holidays, but I’ve discovered that the key to saving money on car rentals in the city is planning ahead. If I randomly check far ahead, I can find prices for $50 or less per day, rather than waiting until I have a concrete plan and paying $80+ per day. It costs me absolutely nothing to reserve the cars in advance, so I make reservations for all three holidays to lock in prices. If I see a better price later, or don’t need the reservation, I’ll just cancel.
We have very little food in the house, plus my husband is sick, so all signs are pointing to ordering takeout tonight. I make rice for my husband to help soothe his stomach, then order Japanese takeout for his son. Since I went shopping today, I don’t feel like spending money on takeout for myself, so I’m going to cobble something together with what I have around the house.
Halfway motivated by the cold weather, and halfway motivated by a deal, I buy a plane ticket to Los Angeles for next month. Earlier in the week, I was talking to my friend who lives there, and on a whim, I decided to check Google Flights for ticket prices. The price was right, so I pulled the trigger. I’ve been meaning to go to LA to see my friend and her son for the longest time, and thanks to a good deal, it’s finally happening. I have a $300 travel credit from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, so this flight should pay for itself. $237
Time to figure out what to make for dinner. We have rice, eggs, onions, fish cake cubes, and sesame seeds. So if I just buy a green, like spinach, and a handful of shiitake mushrooms I can make myself a veggie bowl, inspired by Korean bibimbap. I also have some gochujang sauce leftover from some takeout a while ago I can use.
And because I’m in an inspired mood, I note that we have all the ingredients to make ginger molasses cookies. I’ve made them a couple times in the past, but was never happy with the recipes I tried. I hit up the grocery store across the street to get the veggies for dinner and butter for the cookies. Again, there’s a $10 credit card minimum, so I grab an extra item I know I’ll use (soup), since I don’t have enough cash. $13.96
I make enough of the veggie bowl for leftovers the next night.
And below are the cookies. They might not look that awesome, but they tasted really good! My best batch yet. They’re thin and buttery, almost like those Tate’s cookies. I used this recipe from The Vanilla Bean Blog.
Sunday Total: $270.31
Total Weekend Spending: $331.76
- It always sucks to have to buy more items, because I never carry enough cash around. I don’t think I’ll end up changing this much, because using a credit card still makes it easier for me to track my spending.
- Some of the staples I had to buy at my neighborhood grocery store were expensive, so I could do a better job taking inventory whenever I’m going to a cheaper grocery store.
- Car rental prices in the city are always a source of stress, so I’m happy I at least set myself up with the best options I can.
- Yay for not eating out and for buying lunch ingredients for the week.
What are your frugal fails and wins lately? Do you have inexpensive ways you jazz up your home? Any favorite spots to hit up in LA?