My Life… In a Clear Plastic Bag

$7.52 Convenience store (cat food, litter, bread)
$6.00 TTC Fare (too cold, forgot Sorels at friends)
$15.43  Cab (Wanted to celebrate, couldn’t wait to get to bar)
$5.00 Cover at bar (Where I went to celebrate)
$1.94 Tea (BBP meeting)
$1.94 Tea (BBP meeting)
$16.20 Go Train to Burlington (Family)
$1.94 Tea (BBP meeting)
$8.75 Rua Vang (Take-out Pho)
$46.85 Baby’s R Us (Important baby shower)

What are you reading? A snapshot of my life. These are the first 10 receipts I pulled out of my “clear plastic receipt bag” – clever name, no? I bring this clear plastic receipt bag with me everywhere. The bag stores the receipts from every swipe of my credit card, debit card or ATM transaction.

Two weeks of life

I did this once before during the summer after university. I lived of $100/week (a vast improvement) while 100% of my paycheck paid off my student loan. In retrospect, $100 was not bad at all; however, I lived at home and didn’t have to pay of anything but clothes and entertainment- sweet deal.

I kept track of my receipts because I constantly felt like I blew through the $100 each weekend and wanted to know where it was going. I took up with Quicken and began tracking my daily expenses.

I learned very quickly that tracking daily expenses does the same thing to me as counting calories. I become obsessive. Instead of counting the dollars, I count the pennies. Instead of feeling happy that I was on track, I feel guilty that I didn’t do more. Additionally, I lied – to myself naturally.

Tracking my daily expenses is like filling out a nutritional journal that I eventually hand in to a nutritionist for analysis. If I know she’s going to be judging my carb, sugar, alcohol and pizza (yes, a category all to itself) intake, I curb my behaviour. “No, I don’t usually eat 4 Timbits at the office, I’ll leave that out of the journal.” Thing is, I probably do eat 4 Timbits at the office and I’m completely unaware of it. It’s the same with money. I end up curbing my spending habits because I know I’m going to have to tally it later and start the guilt parade.

Though my spending may be “under control” while I’m doing the daily tracking, what happens when I stop tracking? I still have no idea where I spend my money when I’m not on my best behaviour.

This time, I’m taking my own advice (those Barter Babes who have received this little tidbit will know).

Track, but don’t tally.

Shove every receipt possible into a bag and don’t count it until it’s all over. I carry my clear plastic receipt bag in my purse and every time I get a receipt I throw it in there WITHOUT LOOKING AT IT. I don’t look at it then, I don’t look at it that night and I won’t look at it until the tracking period (a month) is over. Why? Because I currently have absolutely no clue how badly I’m doing on a weekly basis. I’m not curbing my behaviour because I don’t have to come home and face the numbers today or tomorrow.

I have to learn how to live off $35/week. To do this, I need to figure out is how much I spend “naturally” or “happily” each week – even when I think I’m being thrifty. Once I know this number, I will be able to see just how far off I am from where I want to be. This information is so useful for budgeting because you can really see where you prioritize your spending.

I have a feeling that transportation is my main spending pot. However, I don’t know this yet. I will keep on taking the TTC and Go Train for the entire month even if it goes on credit because I need to know what I’m spending and WHY.

Once I tally up, I’ll do the following:

Step 1 – How much do I need to cut each month?

What I have each month? $151.60 ($35X52/12) MINUS What I spend each month (from tally) = What I need to cut

Remember: Your monthly budget is: (weekly budget X 52 weeks / 12 months). Many people just multiply their weekly budget by 4 for the month, but some months have 5 weeks so you have to account for that.

Step 2 – Sort expenses into 4 categories:
A. Unwilling to give up
B. Willing to give up
C. Willing to compromise/get high value from it (makes you happy)
D. Willing to compromise/get low value from it

Step 3 – Tally monthly savings from cutting all Category B.

If that doesn’t equal the amount I need to cut from Step 1…. I keep going.

Step 4 – With Category D, what needs to happen to these expenses for me to meet my budget?

Hopefully I can meet my monthly target by getting rid of Category B and making cuts in Category D. If not, I have to go to C and if I’m still too tight, I will need to start assessing Category A. I hope not, Category A cuts suck!

Wish me luck. Two weeks to go.

Until Next Time…

Barter On Babes.

This entry was posted in Barter Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>