Spending Challenge: Changed Habits, Lost Money
With the holidays coming up, most of us are thinking about budgets… specifically, how to stretch them, adjust them, move money, and get some more money. With that in mind, our team decided to test out some personal finance tips. I asked Katie, our marketing manager, to jump onto some personal finance blogs and dig around for little tips we could try out.
It was like I had set her on fire.
“Adarsh, Not only do I lack diversified investments, rental properties, or a 10-year financial vision… I don’t even know what my spending patterns are.” She was wild-eyed in our bi-weekly 1–1. “Like, I think the only thing that could be considered a pattern is how I tend to be dependant on credit for the 4–5 days before my next paycheque.”
After about a month of such reports, Katie issued a team-challenge. Use Trippeo to track your spending for two weeks, and see how watching your expense patterns changes them.
So we did. Some to more effect than others. We’ve listed our individual findings below: some are radical, some are underwhelming, some are totally stagnant.
Top expense pre-tracking: Parking and coffee
Top expense post-tracking: Maybe coffee? Still pretty low though.
Well, half of this challenge happened while I was in Vegas for a conference. So while not the optimal time to be tracking my spending, it turned out to be a pretty good reminder of how to save cash on the Strip. Tips include: eat free (bad) food at the conference, take Ubers instead of taxis (on the Strip it saves you at least half the cost of a cab fare), and watch roulette instead of actually playing it. Those are some pro-tips right there.
In my regular life, I don’t Uber or do anything with roulette, but my expenses are pretty low. Largely because my wife takes care of a lot of the family purchases, like groceries and clothes for the kids. Since the birth of my second son, Everett, my parents have been staying with my family. Having them around is great: they help out with childcare, they’ve killed my daily coffee expense by making amazing chai, and I leave the car for them to use during the day. It’d probably be more telling to try this again as a joint-venture with my wife, once my parents have gone home… but for now I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.
Top expense pre-tracking: Dining out
Top expense post-tracking: Still dining out, but cat-gate 2015 = more saving.
I’m really bad with budgets. I’ve tried multiple times before to track my expenses and get a better idea as to where my money goes, but I’ve always failed due to… laziness. But I did the team challenge. Mostly because Katie pings a lot.
The result turned out to be quite reasonable (10% of all expenses are coffee and alcohol lol). My wife and my eating habits turned out to take around 20% of my pay… but considering that my wife is a foodie and we go out for a dinner every other day, this isn’t too bad.
The major expense/lesson came when my cat, Godzilla, dislocated his leg. I don’t have a lot of emergency cash set aside… largely because I don’t experience a lot of emergencies. I did not realize how expensive vet bills were. That was a huge hit. I’ll be setting aside some cash for other cat related emergencies in the future.
Top expense pre-tracking: coffee.
Top expense post tracking: reasonable groceries, with approx 40% less cheese.
I’ve got a bad habit of not tracking my spending closely (aside from an occasional and horrific peek at my online bank statement), so initially, this assignment made me grimace a little. But, I ended up enjoying tracking my purchases with the Trippeo iPhone app. I learned quite a bit about my spending habits — where and what I was spending too much on. I realized there were a few things that I should probably cut down on — such as multiple trips to Whole Foods every week JUST to buy different cheeses, vino a plenty, weekly/bi-weekly steak dinners out, and not to mention a dizzying amount of coffees to go (I’ve since forced myself to brew more at home and I’ve already saved an arm). I’m going to challenge myself to make expense tracking a habit, to keep both my finances and cheese-consumption in check.
Top expense pre tracking: COFFEE
Top expense post-tracking: Groceries
I had an unfair advantage (which is totally why I issued this challenge). I started tracking my spending two months ago, and was so horrified by my findings I overhauled my entire financial life. I was spending over $100 on coffee… biweekly. That is insane. I knew I was spending a lot on coffee, but it turns out it was literally the expense that brought me to the wire every paycheque. Not booze, not eating out… coffee. Though those other two certainly came into play. Once I determined which expenses I needed to actually live, I put all my other cash out of digital reach. I made a few minor adjustments, but in the last 2 months of tracking my spending I’ve paid off my credit card aaand started putting money into my RRSP. *Pats self on back*
Top expense pre tracking: buying meals out, gas.
Top expense post tracking: same.
I rarely grocery shop. I eat out every day. But truthfully, it’s a lot cheaper for a single person to eat out than it is to grocery shop, at least in Vancouver. I can get 3 rolls of sushi and a miso for like, $6. Much to Katie’s chagrin, I didn’t get a lot out of this exercise. I tracked my spending, but the results didn’t change my spending like they seem to have done for my teammates. Let me cost/benefit you: I don’t like to cook. I live pretty far away from our office. I like really good coffee. When I need something, I get it at that moment. This attitude basically informs my spending habit.
Top expense pre tracking: Rideshare car rentals
Top expense post-tracking: Student loan payments
My weekday eating habits are mundane and boring- I never spend more than $50–60 per week on a discounted americano (perks of being a regular), the guilty pleasure of an Ensure meal shake for breakfast, and a cheap nearby deli lunch. The biggest drain I’ve found recently (besides paying off the bills for a trip to Seattle for my girlfriend’s birthday) was how out of control my Car2Go costs are. $4.51 here and $6.12 there to save at best twenty minutes getting somewhere can sneakily add up in short order! It doesn’t help when you get stuck in traffic those odd times and you’re suddenly blowing $15 standing still. Needless to say, I’ve been walking a lot this week.
As we inch closer to the holidays, we challenge you to try this out yourself. Track every expense you make for two weeks, and see where your biggest costs are. Can you cut unnecessary ones? How much exactly are you spending on coffee every week? You might be surprised.