Budget, Personal Finance

The Finance Diary: How Much I Spend in 1 Week

When was the last time you really thought about what you spend your money on?

I used to be terrible at keeping track of my money. It would be a week until payday and, suddenly, I had no money.

Thankfully, I got my act together and remembering those days makes me cringe!

Even though I pulled myself together financially, I still have moments when I can’t remember what I spent money on. Even if you’re not spending a lot of money at once, it’s still easy to nickel and dime yourself over time.

Which brings me to the Finance Diary.

I’m slightly obsessed with Refinery29’s Money Diaries Series (they credit New York Magazine for the inspiration).

Money Diaries is a series on Refinery29 that focuses on the budgets and weekly expenditures of millennial women over a 7-day period. Each edition features an anonymous woman in a different U.S. city living on a specific salary. This is incredibly insightful because you essentially get to see how much it costs to live in various cities across the U.S.

Plus, we all secretly relish participating in some form of anonymous vouyerism, amiright?

Seriously, I have stared at my phone for over an hour, reading the detailed lists of weekly expenditures submitted by anonymous modern, working, American women to Refinery29.

After reading about 50 of these diaries, I decided to sit down and write my own. And let me tell you–it wasn’t easy. A Finance Diary requires you to admit what you bought, for how much, and why. I realized that quite a few things I bought throughout the week were a result of total laziness.

I even had reservations about dedicating a blog post to this topic. I wanted to talk about the series on Refinery29, but I didn’t know if I wanted to tell everyone the details of how I spend my own money.

But then it occurred to me–if I’m going to talk about personal finance then I should be prepared to be straight about my own financial habits. After all, it’s the reason I created this blog!

So here it is–one week of my financial life laid bare.

Finance Diary

Finance Diary

February 20, 2017 – February 26, 2017

Our Story:

Industry: I’m in Quality Assurance, Stuart is in Project Management

Age: 29 and 34

Location: Hilliard, OH (a suburb of Columbus)

Monthly expenses:

Mortgage (3 Bed/2.5 Bath house): 37% of our combined take-home pay

Car Payments: 19% of our combined take-home pay

Student Loan Payments: 17% of our combined take-home pay

Internet: $30

Netflix: $11

Utilities (gas and electric): $129

Transportation: $60/mo in gas, $85 for bus pass. We each have a vehicle, but only drive one. Stuart takes the express bus from Hilliard to downtown Columbus (no traffic!). I work about 10 minutes from home.

Groceries: $400–we buy 2 weeks’ worth of groceries every other weekend.

Day 1

6:30 AM — We have French press coffee every morning before work. I always throw in some caramel almond creamer (less sugar than regular creamer).

8:00 AM — I have coffee from the stash of K-cups I keep in my desk (we bought a huge box of them at Costco over the weekend. Keurigs are scattered all over my building. I especially needed this coffee today because I locked my keys in my car right when I arrived at work. I thought late-model vehicle fobs have technology to guard against that. I was wrong… But it’s President’s Day and Stuart has the day off so (thankfully) he can drive over and unlock the car. Otherwise, I might’ve had to ask Security to break into my car… So, yeah, coffee.

8:45 AM — We pack our breakfasts every morning and take them to work. I have hard-boiled eggs today.

12:30 PM — I packed a sandwich, orange, and trail mix. We also pack lunch (almost) every day, which majorly cuts down on expenses. I also guzzle a lot of La Croix, brought from home. I make a note to check the price of the giant variety case of them at Costco.

4:30 PM — Inevitably, we forgot a couple of grocery items during our grocery trip on Saturday, so I stop at the store on the way home for milk, rice, and chocolate (85% cacao–1 square = dessert). $11

6:00 PM — After we walk the dog, neither of us feel like cooking, so we cave and order Chinese for dinner. When the delivery guy comes to the door, he makes a joke about not spilling our food all over the bag this time. We realize it’s because he knows us now and maybe we should stop ordering so much Chinese food… but it’s so tasty and this place is inexpensive! $19

Daily Total: $30

Day 2

6:30 AM — French press coffee before work.

8:30 AM — I have coffee. I’ve started to do this more because I finally remembered to bring in coffee for myself. I feel bad taking the free K-cups at work if I’m not going to use them enough to contribute, so I don’t. I have hard-boiled eggs for breakfast.

12:30 PM — Lunch is chili packed from home, an orange, and trail mix. I lament how expensive trail mix is because I would eat a lot more of it if it didn’t cost so much. But maybe that’s a good thing…

4:15 PM — I have an appointment at the doctor’s office to get bloodwork done. My insurance covers it, allegedly (we’ll see).

5:30 PM — We make homemade fish tacos for dinner. We’ve been on a crunchy taco kick lately. I think hard taco shells are super underrated. We eat dinner and watch 2 episodes of House of Cards. We’ve also been on a House of Cards kick lately. I might need to budget an allowance for Robin Wright’s wardrobe.

Daily Total: $0

Day 3

6:30 AM — French press coffee before work.

10:00 AM — I don’t eat breakfast until later because of early meetings. I have coffee and hard-boiled eggs (we are total creatures of habit).

12:30 PM — I packed a homemade chicken Caesar wrap and also buy Chex Mix and a Reese’s from the cafe in our building. Confession–I love Chex Mix. I also love Reese’s. I try not to let this become a problem. $3.04

6:30 PM — After we get home, we take the dog on a walk. We’ve been trying to be much better about this, especially since he’s been getting bored and chewing on the corner of the kitchen table during the day. We’ve also been filling his Kong with frozen pumpkin, which seems to help. Afterward, we make orzo pasta and roasted red pepper, onion, mushroom, squash, and zucchini with feta and kalamata olives. We double the serving size of the orzo and we’re still astounded by how small of a serving it is. We both eat some toast and homemade strawberry preserves for dessert.

Daily Total: $3.04

Day 4

6:30 AM — French press coffee before work.

8:15 AM — I have coffee, hard-boiled eggs, and a banana for breakfast.

12:00 PM — I packed homemade sweet and sour chicken with rice for lunch. It’s much better this week because I cut the amount of pineapple in half and added crushed red pepper flakes for more spice. I’m still hungry so I try to buy a bag of Chex Mix at the cafe, but the self-checkout computer is frozen. I go back to my office in defeat. However, I’m informed later that I could have left an IOU with our admin. Noted.

2:30 PM — My coworker received an order of Girl Scout cookies from another coworker. She orders me to come into her office and take a couple. I do because she’s my superior and because, duh, it’s Girl Scout cookies–peanut butter patties even (or Tag-A-Longs or whatever the hell they’re called now).

4:45 PM — After I pick Stuart up from the bus stop, we decide it’s too warm outside to go back home. We decide to have tacos and beer on the patio at the Local Cantina in Hilliard. We get tacos, (free) chips, and queso. It’s Happy Hour, so our draft beers are $3 each. We stop at the store and get a bottle of bourbon on the way home. $31 for tacos, $26 for bourbon

Daily Total: $57

Day 5

6:30 AM — French press coffee before work.

9:45 AM — I have a quick breakfast between more early meetings and a 10:00. I have coffee and cottage cheese with berries. Costco also has the best frozen berries ever.

11:00 AM — A huge, 2-year project ended today, so one of the supervisors brought cake and ice cream for everyone who worked on the project. After my meeting, I swing by the cafe for free cake. I feel guilty because I only half-worked on the project for 2 months (when I started working here). But only a little.

12:00 PM — I packed leftover Chinese (actually vegetable and tofu Pad Thai) for lunch. I grab a bag of Chex Mix from the cafe (and resist more cake). $1.81

2:00 PM — I call my doctor’s office and pay a bill for a visit back in January. When this particular bill arrived, I realized how much my previous employer’s insurance plan sucks. But it’s OK because I pay this bill with my Health Savings Account funds (also from my previous employer). At the beginning of each year, my former employer contributed a certain amount to an employee Health Savings Account. The amount depended on the incentives a employee took advantage of (e.g. was a non-smoker or quit smoking, completed an annual physical, etc.). Now I’m paranoid so I’ll be sure to read our current insurance benefits summary very carefully prior to future appointments. The healthcare system in this country is totally broken. Like this is news to anyone. $204 ($0 since I paid for this with HSA funds rather than out-of-pocket)

5:00 PM — It’s super nice outside (72 degrees in February!) so we decide to grill burgers for dinner and sit on our deck. I don’t have anything to drink, so I run out to CVS. Their alcohol section is the worst (even for a drugstore), but I get a bottle of red wine. $6.99

Daily Total: $8.80

Day 6

8:45 AM — We have the usual French press after we get up. I make egg-in-a-hole and bacon for breakfast (my favorite breakfast ever).

11:00 AM — I have a nail appointment, which I’ve been putting off. I’ve had acrylic nails for about 1 1/2 years. I used to pick at my cuticles constantly, which looked terrible and convinced my mom I was going to get a staph infection. Acrylics have turned out to be a lifesaver in that respect because they’re too blunt to pick at my fingers with, so my cuticles look amazing. I go to a place in Hilliard that’s awesome and also very reasonably priced. $31 including tip

12:45 PM — I get home and it smells super clean. I find out that Stuart cleaned all of the carpets upstairs because he’s awesome (and I’ve also been putting it off). We have frozen pizza for lunch. We’ve stopped ordering pizza for 2 reasons: 1) It’s more expensive and a good frozen pizza is just fine, and 2) every pizza place in central Ohio (both local and chain restaurants) refuse to cut pizza into regular slices. It’s all square all the time. I Googled this phenomenon after the third time our pizza arrived cut into squares after SPECIFICALLY requesting triangular slices. Apparently it’s a central Ohio thing (home of Donato’s) and if you don’t like square-cut pizzas, you can go to hell.

6:00 PM — We make shredded beef tacos with slaw, sour cream, chimichurri, and leftover pot roast for dinner. The tacos were good, but I tried to throw some Mexican spice into the leftover potatoes from the pot roast, and those two flavors don’t mesh that well… We each have a square of 85% cacao chocolate for dessert.

Daily Total: $31

Day 7

8:30 AM — We make pancakes and turkey sausage for breakfast with French press coffee. We’re going up to Cleveland/Akron for the baptism of a friend’s newborn, so we get ready to leave by 11:00 AM.

1:00 PM — We take my vehicle and stop to get gas before arriving. $24

2:00 PM — Our friends have a reception at their house after the baptism, which is an amazing spread (complete with cake, of course). We both eat way too much but don’t care because we haven’t eaten since breakfast.

6:00 PM — We stay at our friends’ and visit with them until about 5:30 PM. We text one of our other friends in Akron to see if we can stop by and see them. She says yes, so we drive down to her house and have dinner with them and visit for a couple of hours.

8:00 PM — It’s getting late and we still have a 2 hour drive back home, so we head out. However, we’re pumped we got to see a few of our friends and their kids all in one trip. We get home around 10:00 PM and immediately dread the thought of working the next day…

Daily Total: $24

Grand Totals

Weekly Total Spent: $153.84

Food & Drink: $98.84

Home & Health: $31

Transportation: $24

Since starting a Finance Diary, I’ve already started making changes to my spending habits. I’ve started preparing better so that I don’t spend small amounts on snacks throughout the week. Honestly, many of my expenses are a result of forgetting to add items to our grocery list.

Ultimately, writing my own Finance Diary was incredibly insightful and I would do it again! In fact, I’m planning on including it again in future posts.

When was the last time you analyzed your spending habits? Were you surprised with how you spent your money?

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