What Does Your Spending Say About You?

| March 19, 2012 | 19 Comments

This past Saturday, I withdrew $100 cash from an ATM. Today, two days later, I have $42 in my wallet and no record of where the other $58 went. After sitting down on Mint.com for 20 minutes, I finally figured out where it all went. That’s when these questions popped into my mind. “Why do I spend all this time tracking my finances? What does it tell me?”

So I decided to dig in, once again, and see what story my finances have to tell me, about me. The results were quite interesting.

Where Did I Spend My Money?

Straight out of Mint.com, here’s my spending totals, by category, for the past year:

What Does This Say About Me?

Well, let’s dig in:

Home: $745/month – My rent this year was $710 for most of the year and it just went up to $715. Lumped into the Home category in Mint.com is what I call “Home Supplies”. This includes everything I buy at Target to keep me up and running. This includes, laundry detergent, hand soap, dish soap, dishwasher soap, garbage bags and even my personal care items (I know I classify these weirdly), like body soap, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. So, this says that, on average, I spend around $30-$35 on keeping my place up to par and keeping myself healthy and clean. Not bad.

Food & Dining: $324/month – I’m going to break this down for you (And I’m embarrassed to do it):

  • Groceries – $140/month – I’ve been buying stuff on sale. Not terrible, huh?
  • Alcohol & Bars: $100/month – Yeah, I spent almost as much drinking as I did feeding myself all year. Not cool.
  • Smoking: $31/month – What a waste of money. Thankfully, I’ve been a non-smoker for almost 5 months now. Yay!
  • Restaurants/Fast Food/Coffee Shops: $50/month – I didn’t see the inside of too many restaurants or coffee shops this past year, as you can see.

What does this say about my eating lifestyle? It definitely says that I ate at home quite a bit and ate out very little. It also says that I was living an unhealthy lifestyle of smoking, which I’ve now stopped doing. Another thing it says is that I may have a slight issue with drinking. Gosh, drinks are just too expensive. I’m not an alcoholic, I swear!

Auto & Transport: $272/month – Here’s the breakdown of this:

  • Gas – $125/month – You may think that’s chump change, but I work about 2 miles from home. It’s that darn supercharged car that requires me to use premium gas, which is more expensive. Besides that, I probably drive as much as the average person. Not much of a story here.
  • Car Insurance – $78/month – No story here. Just a regular rate of insurance, which reminds me though, I need to raise my deductible from $250 up to at least $500.
  • Service & Maintenance – $47/month – Wow, I’ve never calculated this number before. Almost $50/month sounds kind of expensive for maintenance and service.
  • Licensing – $16/month ($179/year) – Ugh, this just makes me mad.
  • Washing/Detailing – $6/month – Wow, I’m shocked that I only spend this. I love to wash and detail my car. It’s almost always squeaky clean!

Health & Fitness: $150/month – This may look like a lot, but it’s nothing. This includes my health insurance (high deductible, crappy plan), and one dentist checkup/teeth cleaning, two visits to a chiropractor (my back was and is still all messed up) and a reorder of my contact lenses. My fitness (all $0 of it) included living life and going for a bunch of runs, walks and bike rides. Yeah, I may not be in the best shape but I’m at a healthy weight, eat well and can ride my bike 25 miles on a nice day and run a mile in under 7.5 minutes. I’m surviving!

Bills & Utilities: $140/month – This includes my electricity bill (it averages $40/month), my mobile phone (that averaged $40/month), which I canceled because I have a work phone provided to me and my overpriced internet, which I continue to be ticked off about. Interestingly enough, I’ve managed to cut my bills this past year.

Everything Else –  Here’s a very rough breakdown:

  • Gifts & Donations – $45/month
  • Entertainment – $40/month
  • Shopping – $38/month
  • Uncategorized – $32
  • Blog – $32/month
  • Fees & Charges – $3/month

The story I see here just says “I’m a cheapskate”. In the giving department, I wish that weren’t the case. I hope to do better this next year on that. You know what, I hope to do better on all of these (except for Uncategorized and Fees & Charges) next year. That means I actually want to go out to more entertainment, I want to give more and I want to go shopping (a little) more. I at least don’t want to look like I can’t afford (or pick out) any nice looking clothes. I hope to crank it up a bit there.

 Again….. What Does This Say About Me??

I honestly don’t know what this says about me because it’s my life and I can’t step outside of it. I don’t know any better, at least right now. I bet you can make some judgments about me based on this information though. Well, go ahead, make them, but only if you agree to comment on this post and share them with me.

Category: Living Cheap

Comments (19)

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  1. Sara says:

    WOW. Look at your budget. Mine is very similar to yours. +/- a few things. But I do know I spend $$ on a hobby that is very close to my heart and has been since I was a little girl. A hobby I just started up again, since I was able to fully fund and something I am proud of and passionate about. Is is wrong to spend money on something you are passionate about? I think alot/most of you guys would think so. BUT its hard to describe that feeling of perfecting something you’ve work really hard at. I think you(Kraig) have found passion in something that gives you that same feeling – blogging/personal finance. KEEP it UP!I someday hope to follow some of your awesome tips :-)

    • No, it’s not wrong to spend money to do what you’re passionate about. From what I can tell, you’re not spending all that much, so don’t worry so much about it. I WOULD, however, encourage you to always look for ways to get by cheaper or even to earn money while doing it (private lessons perhaps?). Keep on going. I wouldn’t even think about telling you to stop!

    • Amy says:

      I can really relate to spending money on hobbies that are close to your heart. Being a runner, I know first hand how expensive it can get. New running shoes every six months, new gear, racing fees, travel expenses. It all adds up. Running and exercise is a passion of mine and I don’t feel guilty forking over the dough to enjoy what I love. Where I get into trouble is the money I spend on decorating our new home. Running, Home Furnishings, Fashion and Cooking are all hobbies that I enjoy. I need to figure out a way to balance them all without killing my wallet!

  2. Bridget says:

    I think you’re spending looks good.. $21,000 is a great amount to live on. I’m not sure what mine looks like for a year but I’m already afraid lol I’ve spent over $8,000 already and it’s only March so I guess my year will probably be about $35,000-$40,000 on spending. Thankfully about 1/3 of that is needs and 1/3 is DEBT (I’m trying to kill my student loan) so I don’t feel so guilty about the remaining 1/3 which is mostly going to the spa, going out to eat and travel.

  3. I love the detail Mint allows you to get. I haven’t blogged about our spending to this level – our expenses are much higher than yours, but we are a family of 4+, so the needs are different. As for what it says, if you’re happy and can afford it all, then it doesn’t matter what it says to other people, right?

  4. Great post man. I like your style of writing as well, more like a conversation as I try to do in my own blogging. The post itself was awesome. I have been looking for a post like this to link to from my blog post about Mint.com. http://wp.me/p2exMj-Z
    I am now subscribing to your blog and am very glad to have found you through twitter. I hope to possibly work with you sometime in the near future within the blog-o-sphere.

    Sara, keep going with your passion, like Kraig said, try to make money doing it to off-set the cost a little bit. Catherine Pulsifer once said “If you love what you do, then it is no longer work. The money you earn is secondary when you love your work.”

    Bridget, I understand debt can be daunting, but you are on the right track to eliminating it. Great job dedicating roughly 1/3 of your income to it.

    In my opinion, those who are successful are passionate about something and they give a portion of their time (and finances) to it as well. I mean, don’t we all have to take a moment for “me” time? What a better way to spend it than to do something you are passionate about? I love fishing from my kayak, baits are quite expensive so I discovered how to create and design my own. Now I pour soft plastic baits a few times a week for sale via the internet. This covers the cost of my bait supplies as well as funds my fishing needs ;-) Carpe’ Diam

  5. Daisy says:

    Congrats on kicking the smoking habit! I definitely have an issue with dining out and bars, too. Not that I go to bars a lot, but when I do it’s easy to drop a lot of money.

  6. Tony says:

    Do you still eat lean cuisines or have you graduated to ramen? I spend at least 60 dollars on groceries a week lol.

  7. Mai says:

    Great post! I haven’t started tracking my expenses and spending habits but have been meaning to. I think the only thing preventing me is being scared of seeing what I waste money on. I do a lot of crafts and buying props for photography. Some props I only end up using once, and I have leftover craft supplies lying around. Ouch! I think that even if you don’t track your expenses, deep down, you know where you can cut back… like eating out way too much. I’m guilty of that.

    • I don’t mean to make you feel guilty, Mai. It’s just an interesting question to ask what spending says about you. For, me living so cheap can definitely be viewed as boring and uneventful. Although that could be partially true, it’s also been a great year in many ways. There are ups and downs to both spending and saving, in all areas.

  8. bogofdebt says:

    I really need to figure out what my yearly spending habits are–I have it all broken down into monthly so it shouldn’t be too hard to figure it out. That’s excellent for your grocery budget–we spend about $400 at Wal-Mart/Aldi’s/supermarket and that includes food and house type items (I too classify our personal hygene items as house purchases). We’ve found that we can make just as good food at home rather than going out to eat in a restaurant.

    • Do you use Mint.com, too? Or do you track your spending some other way? And yes, I think I make tasty food as well. It surely tastes better than fast food and is inching closer toward beating restaurant food.

  9. I like that you frame this in terms of what your spending says about you. That was brought out for me studying Luke 12 with our church. v. 34 “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” You can easily tell someone’s priorities from their tracked spending, and I love Mint for making it so easy!

    In the last year our top categories were:
    $15.5 k to bills – $12k was rent, rest was utilities, renter’s insurance, some miscellaneous
    $7.4 k to gifts and donations – largely our tithe but also other charitable giving and gifts to family and friends
    $5.1 k to groceries, CSA and eating out
    $4.3 k to cars

    I think it’s not as much about the absolute spending levels (especially on things like rent/mortgage, food) but rather what’s over- or under- emphasized in your budget in comparison with people in your same area who make a similar amount of money. For instance, traveling to see family and friends is a huge priority for us. It’s our 6th largest expense area, so a little ways down the list, but represents about 7% of our gross pay, which I think is rather high for people in our situation.

    • Great bible verse. That was the inspiration for my post, actually. I do believe your spending says a lot about you. In that regard, I want to become more of a giver like it looks like you are. Great job with that! Also, if travel is really important to you, than I don’t think 7% is bad at all. I’m sure many people spend way more than that percentage on things that are important to them.

      • I just jumped in to that 10% figure and have bumped it up over the years from there. My husband did something similar about a year after I started. We just realized how important it was and started. Why not just give it a go? You’re debt-free now right?

        Haha it’s not travel that’s so important, it’s the people we’re traveling to see! The one and only time during grad school that we traveled without the intention to visit anyone was our honeymoon!

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