Thursday, June 02, 2011

May Savings: Year of the Deal

Tracking My Spending

May was the worst possible month to start tracking my spending in. (Mainly because I spent a lot.) I still don't know how to dissect or use the information yet, so I'm going to continue tracking my spending over the next month or two before I start creating a budget.

As for May, here's a couple of examples of areas I spent way too much (although sometimes justified):

  • Transportation: $249.59

  • This makes me cringe. I paid $75 to have my bike fixed, but then the weather was so crummy that I took the streetcar for 90% of the month. I took a taxi one night because it was pouring out. I also drove an AutoShare car out to the airport to meet my brother (who was on a layover) for lunch.

  • Entertainment: $179.45

  • Since it rained all month, I went to the movies three times. This is going to be a hard expense to cut down on.

  • Fitness: $112.99

  • New running shoes. My toes were literally popping out the side of my old ones, which I purchased for $30.00 at Payless three years ago.


    I've started to track my income and file away my invoices in some sort of logical manner. Yay me!

    But I still don't have a handle on how to manage the ebb and flow of incoming money. It seems like I keep getting paid for projects in big chunks, followed by periods of time where I don't have any income. (For instance, I just got paid this month for work I did in February, but I anticipate that I won't have any paycheques again until July or August.)

    Debt Repayment

    I have no idea how to track my debt repayment vs. the amount of debt I accumulate in a money. (For instance, new credit card charges as opposed to what I pay off. And how does interest factor in? So many questions!) To further complicate matters, there's currently a constant flow of money between Chloé and I (for Peru trip bookings), and Jay and I (I do most of the shopping and he pays me back half).

    I seriously need help. If, by some miracle, I'm selected as Moneyville's blogger, this is the first thing I'll be consulting with an expert to figure out.

    Free Stuff

    Chloé suggested that rather than just tracking everything I spend, I should also record all the free stuff I get. Here's everything I got for free in May:
    • Purex laundry detergent sample (ordered online)
    • Ticket to the Railway Children (through media connections)
    • $20 Metro gift certificate (redeemed Airmiles)
    • 6 cupcakes (Groupon rewards) 
    • Wine and appetizer from College Street Bar (through media connections) 
    • Vector cereal (free with coupon)
    • Wine and appetizer at Enoteca Sociale (through media connections)
    • Poutine and milkshake at Stampede Bison Grill (through media connections)
    • $100 at Shoppers (bonus redemption weekend) 
    • John Frieda shampoo sample (Facebook fanpage)
    • Express Abs class (30 minutes) at FlirtyGirlFitness
    • Crystal Light samples (Facebook fanpage)
    • Free lunch at Boston Pizza for driving Chloé to a secret mission

    It was also my birthday month. I was spoiled this year! (This dress was a gift). 

    Year of the Deal: May Savings

    Grocery Purchases: $329.49
    Pharmacy Purchases: $118.97
    Total Spent: $448.46

    Coupons Used: $187.02
    2011 Total Coupon Savings to Date: $321.97

    Our use of coupons this month was amazing! Although costs in general were high, on one grocery shop we used more than $40.00 in coupons. (The manager actually came over to watch. "We've got some extreme couponing going on over here," he said. It was mildly embarrassing.) We redeemed Airmiles this month, as well as our Shoppers Optimum Points on a bonus weekend.

    My pharmacy purchases look high, but it actually reflects that I bought all my allergy medication for the summer. We've also now got enough personal care and cleaning products to last us for the next six months. I love Shoppers, but I'm going to try a ban this month to compensate for the very expensive month of May.

    Unemployment/Work Update

    Um, can I just skip this part? It's a constant cycle of pitch and pray.


    1. A few tips for you:
      The easiest way to start making a monthly budget is to make a list of all your fixed expenses. Rent, phone, utilities, transit, etc. won't fluctuate much from month to month, so you can easily estimate how much money you'll need to cover those. Then add in the additional expenses that do fluctuate (like groceries), but do your best to make a liberal guess as to how much you spend in a month on those (round up).

      Once you've figured out how much you need to or an afford to pay towards your credit card debt, make sure to include that as an expense as well.

    2. Ken Purcell1:09 PM

      As far as cutting down on your entertainment expenses, Jess, I suggest Netflix. It's $8 a month, and you can stream an unlimited amount of videos to your computer. Their library has thousands of movies and a multitude of shows. My own entertainment expenses were reduced by over half when I grabbed Netflix.

    3. Thanks for your advice guys!

      Fixed expenses: In my university days, I had a fixed budget that I lived by because all my costs were pretty standard. So was my income. But right now, I literally don't have one fixed expense a month. Seriously. (Except maybe my phone bill, but even that varies between $70 and $100 a month.) It's kind of crazy, but true.

      That's why creating a budget now is such a struggle. My income isn't fixed and my expenses aren't fixed.

      Netflix: I'm already on that bandwagon! We got Netflix in January. Personally, I love the documentaries. (I just watched 'Dear Zachary: A Letter to a son about his father' the other night. I highly recommend it.) Jay and I are obsessed with movies. I probably watch at least two per week, while Jay a minimum of 7 to 10. (No exaggeration.) This explains the high theatre costs!

      Cutting down on going to the theatre shouldn't be an issue--it's just the cost of "entertainment" in general. Going out to eat is my main vice.

    4. Do you have regulated utilities in ON? I would second your bro's advice by saying that if you don't, having fixed utils is a good way to be able to estimate and control your energy costs.

      I think we also get used to living with things that we don't need. I remember a Jess that once upon a time did not have a TV. Then it was just a very small TV. How big is the TV now? You were once a person that didn't need a TV. For a girl from cold lake to decide she doesn't need a car and can ride a bike, to me, that's pretty phenomenal. Anything new you purchase...well any time I'm going to purchase something other than groceries, I ask 'do I need this' and the answer is generally no.

      Fitness is not something you can compromise on in my opinion. Sometimes your running shoes, if jogging, are your ONLY protective equipment to keep your lower body joints and back from being ruined. But $118 at the pharmacy? Transportation in a big city...can't beat that one. You're nowhere near me on that though. $668 payment + $276 insurance + $200/mo gas. That was all because of one bad decision to purchase a car that led me to overextension. But at least I have a car out of it. It would freak me out to think that if I went to the movies four more times in may, it would equal my car payment.

      As an employment free individual like yourself, my recommendation is to start a spreadsheet, and total your expenses and income each month. Even if it is a rough estimate. Ever since I started doing this I've thought a LOT more about making purchases when I do have a little income. In spite of the shoppers deals or what have you, I still think monthly steps are the best way to go. Sure you don't have to buy cleaner for a year, but it makes it difficult to track your monthly expenses when you suddenly spent $200 on bulk groceries, but then only $95 the next month. That doesn't give you a really accurate picture.


      This thing is also great. Used to use it all the time when I still worked there.

    6. Thanks for your advice!

      Maybe I should explain further why I don't have fixed expenses: I am fortunate enough to be living (temporarily) rent free courtesy of my partner, Jay. (Once I have regular income again, this will change, of course. We agreed I'm only a freeloader until September. I compensate for this by taking on more of the household chores.)

      Jay owns our condo and utilities are included in the maintenance fees. He also deals with paying our Netflix and Internet, which are the only other two monthly bills we get. This is why I have literally no fixed expenses (with the exception of my cell phone bill).

      As for buying a shitload of stuff at Shopper's in one month; yes, it messes up tracking cash flow. However, the thing about couponing and shopping this way is that you save WAY more money in the long run. For example: Had I not bought ALL my allergy medication at once for the summer (which cost close to $100), I would not have received bonus points at Shoppers. And I redeemed those bonus points on a bonus redemption weekend, resulting in being able to get $160 worth of personal care and cleaning products for FREE.

      So while it seems expensive at the outset, it's actually cost saving in the long run. (It's similar to buying things in bulk, but cheaper and a little more strategic.) It means that I likely won't have to spend out anything at the pharmacy for the next three to six months. Again, maybe this is something else that might need to amortized, somehow?

      I agree about the fitness allowance bit! Spending money for high quality running shoes was totally worth the expense.