I track the money I spend. However, I have never tracked “not spending.” Lots of Personal Finance Bloggers make note of how many days a month they spend nothing. I didn’t think that would be a useful tool for me. I thought, “My personal spending is low anyway, so what difference does it make?”
I reviewed my daily spending over the past year and I have changed my mind. I was able to see patterns I never noticed before. It’s not just the money I spend that counts, it’s the distribution!
When I paid regular monthly bills such as power and property taxes, I counted it as a No Spend Day. When I made irregular payments such as home repairs, groceries and gas for the car, I didn’t, because they have a discretionary component. I didn’t include transfers between accounts, such as a “payment” from a chequing to a savings account. I did say it was a No Spending Day if my only costs were work expenses for which I was reimbursed.
I had 113 No Spend Days in 2014, with highs of 14 and 16 in January and August, and lows of 5 and 6 in May, September and November. It averaged about 9 days a month.
I laughed at myself because I had 11 stat holidays, on which most stores and services are closed, and I still spent money on 5 of them! On one of them I even bought something online, so I must have been really shopping-deprived?
When I commuted to work by car, I stopped at the grocery store a couple of times a week to “top up.” In 2014, I walked to work most of the time, which should have prevented drive-by shopping. Once a week, I made the rounds of grocery stores and tried to shop for a whole week at a time. Nevertheless, I made 84 grocery transactions that weren’t on grocery days. 84! That folly may come to an end. Now that Rom is doing the grocery shopping, he is going out twice a week, and buying nothing in between. So If I want a snack or an ingredient on other days, I am s—t out of luck 🙂
Another pattern was work expenses. Every time I go to a meeting at another location, I pay out-of-pocket for take-out coffee and snacks. At my “home” work location, I bring my own. I am not sure if I can bring myself to drink water when I am off-site (bleah, water!) but I can at least take some healthy munchies.
On the last two days of every month, I rarely spend a cent. Clearly I am looking towards my month-end totals and trying to rein them in! I should try to extend that attitude beyond two days a month. Similarly, I always have a low-spend month in January, and there’s no reason I can’t apply the same diligence mid-year.
My best month was a nose-to-the-grindstone month at work. Was I miserable? No, I was very focused, and either had no desire to buy things, or no energy left over! That is not a bad thing. Work doesn’t always consume me like that, though!
When I travelled for vacation, my spending was high before, during and after, but at least it was budgeted.
My longest no-spend streaks were 5 and 6 days. Now I have to challenge myself to do a No Spend Week!