A few days ago, after reading Jess' post where she mentions a freeze on discretionary spending in their household, I decided I needed to get more of a handle on my own discretionary spending. My current method is "DON'T BUY ANYTHING oooh except maybe a coffee from Starbucks and these cute new pants that I really neeeed and yes I'd love to go out to dinner with that friend tomorrow night" and then before I know it, I've spent $401.61 on extra crap for the month of January. Yup, I just sat down and added it all up. After, erm, several days of procrastination.
First of all, the good:
I spent only $30 on transportation (buses and subways to get around Chicago). I would have guessed this to be much more because it seems like every time I check my bank balance, my Chicago card is "reloading" and bam, CTA takes $10 more out of my account. But actually it only added up to $30. Transportation is my lowest cost, since I walk to work or ride the campus buses for free. Also, I only spent $7 on entertainment, not counting food or drinks (I went to see a movie with friends while I was in Austin). No need to cut down there.
I spent $41.00 on alcohol. Pfft. Should not be drinking this much. Or, should be drinking cheap wine from Trader Joe's, not going out and spending $9 a pop on a drink I could make at home. I also spent $44.94 on clothing and clothing related expenses (tailor). Now, this isn't that bad. I mean, I rarely buy clothes. I had a giftcard to the GAP and spent about $15 more than it covered. Not a big deal. I also hit up a J. Crew final sale and bought something I'd really been wanting. All in all, not terrible for the amount of clothes I got. However, I'm going to try to do much better in February (ie, spend NO money on clothes or clothing-related expenses because wow I have so many clothes).
The ugly: I spent $34.36 on coffee in the same month that I resolved to stop going to Starbucks. Sure, not all of this money was spent at Starbucks but a big ole chunk of it was. Failure, utter failure. Bad Marisa. I resolve (again) to try to give up Starbucks once and for all. I don't even drink caffeine anymore! Gah. I also spent $224.31 on eating out. Now, that is a huge number. HUGE! But, a lot of it was at the beginning of the month, before I left Texas. I was eating out pretty much every day, sometimes twice a day, because I wanted to meet up with various people at restaurants around town that I'd really missed. I wanted to see all my friends, and a restaurant is a great place to grab a bite and catch up. I also wanted to get a chance to eat at all my favorite places while I was in town and to get my fill of yummy Mexican food before I headed back to Chicago. And I pretty much ordered at least one margarita at every meal (well meals at which it was socially acceptable to do so, anyway, heh, not breakfast) which drives up the overall price of the meal. Also, once I got back, I took D out for a nice sushi meal that drove this overall number up. Luckily my freelance gig pretty much covered that big eating out binge, but I can't help but think that money would have been better spent if it went towards my student loan debt.
So for the month of February, D and I have resolved not to eat out. At all. We're gonna do other things for entertainment and focus on making fun, healthful meals at home. We've already decided that we're going to the zoo for Valentines Day (just like we did last year) and then he's going to cook my favorite meal for me (I got him a small present already). I'm lucky that he loves to cook and try new recipes because the idea of all that cooking practically has me running for the hills. I'm also going to try to put most of my freelance money towards paying off my student loan and bulking up my retirement account this month. I have some serious financial goals for myself for this year (maxing out my IRA contribution, for one, which is $5,000!)and if I don't really start working towards them, they're just not going to happen. Unless I win the lottery or something. I figure that one month of a Spartan-like approach finances will probably make me feel better about last month's binge and help get me back on track for the year. The goal for March is to be able to re-evaluate my February progress and find a happy medium that I can stick with for the rest of the year. Now if I can only resist the Starbucks siren song...