Ain't got no money -- Gimme sum

9:30 PM

Given my new lease on life--that is, a freer schedule and more peace of mind than I've had since before my 20's (read: smaller income), it's time to tighten up my finances. Numbers are not my strong point, never have been or will be. And money, forget it. I wish we'd revert to the barter system, or shells. I can collect some shells son!

Last month, I wrapped teaching "How to start your own business" at one of the local community colleges. (Don't ask for my credentials, apparently none are required.) It was an 8-week course that introduced me to some wonderful characters, each with a classic American dream. One of my more interactive students was a woman with excellent math skills who wanted to start her own bookkeeping business. One of her goals was to offer courses to individuals on how to keep their own home/personal finances, and I picked up a few tips from her.

On her recommendation, I kept ALL of my receipts from April. Serious task for a chronic spender like myself. Now that May is almost over, I finally got motivated to compile all my documented spending into a spreadsheet to see what I could learn, where I can cut, etc. Ah, elusive spreadsheet formulas how I loathe thee! The sum of my expenses subtracted from my income = #$%^&*!

So here's what I learned...

Total # of recorded purchases:  74 (2.5+ per day!)
Biggest expense category:   Fuel (due to former commute) @ $570+
Followed by:  Dining out @ nearly $400
Rent/Utilities/Cable bill:  < $350 (God bless the South!)
Groceries:  > $200
Overall Synopsis: Ouch!? Spending happens almost daily, with more spending on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday than any other day of the week. On days when I started out with two purchases, 90% of the time, I made at least another two purchases by the end of the day. My biggest spending days coincide with special occasions that require eating out more than once and gas or coffee fill-ups. When I use my debit card, a night that would otherwise cost $20 magically ends up costing $40.

So, to set myself on the right financial path or something, here are some new wallet rules:

1) Leave it at home 3 days out of the week - Working as close to my home as I do, there is no excuse for eating out at lunch time when I can zip home for a meal that costs less than $3.  
2) Take cash when going out and cap it at something reasonable.  
3) Schedule monthly shopping days to reduce impulse buys. TJ Maxx is my guilty pleasure, and I always end up spending $50-100 there thinking I got a great deal when really I didn't need that many throw pillows and bottles of extra virgin olive oil to begin with. The shame! Putting the shopping trip on the calendar reigns in spending and gives me a reward to look forward to. 
4) Be more proactive about deal-hunting. (Ex.: My mom called me last week to let me know that Backyard Burger is giving away a free burger when you join their email list. Takes just a few seconds and no gimmicks, promise. Davis and I picked up our free burgers today guilt-free.)  
5) Spend more on groceries and less on dining out. If I splurge a little at the grocery on that $7 polenta, it will amount to a dozen side dishes costing less than $.60 a piece. So worth it.   
Two extra pointers that have already served me well:
* Always tip 20% regardless. There is a service industry karma, and it will come back to you, probably in the form of a $10 bill in your dirty jeans.
* Recycling options are out there. I pay $13/mo for my recyclables to be picked up weekly. It has reduced my trash output dramatically and extended the life of each garbage bag. Probably won't break even financially on that one, but it's one bill I that actually gives back to me in a meaningful, circle of life kinda way.

My opening song is an homage to my financial woes and to the last Grupo Fanstasma show at the Thirsty Hippo that was May 14. Serious sweat. Twas a DGT y'all.

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  1. I was cleaning up twitter, removing folks like Lance Armstrong (from my France summers) and BP America (from the oil spill). Saw you'd made a blog post, haven't yet visited, and this is the one I see...just letting you know I READ THIS, so I will be asking for updates even though I know you can't go 5 days without a trip to TJ Maxx.
    What would we do without each other?

  2. Guilty!
    What would we do without each other? Not much.
    Thanks for reading, and for the Gmail labs link. I enabled all of them!


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