Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Upper bounds on monthly spending

I spent a lot of time last month on Mint., for the uninitiated, is a personal finance aggregator of sorts. It automatically pulls data from all your financial accounts and gives you a command-and-control view for situational awareness over your finances. I highly recommend it. Though it's not the be-all-and-end-all of personal finance, I'm happy enough with it that I've never thought to look for alternatives. And yes, at first I was leery of the security implications of having all my bank account information (and passwords) in one place. I'm not anymore and you shouldn't be either.

Mr. Money Mustache planted the seed in my brain to spend less, cut expenses! Every day I found myself on Mint, agonizing over my purchases. Silently cursing myself for going out to lunch at work twice at the beginning of November. "No more!" I resolved, no more blowing money for lunch. In October I was lax with my finances and I let a credit card bill slip for two days. I saw the late charge on Mint, called Bank of America and got them to refund the fee. I'm not worried anymore about forgetting to make payments. For one, Mint has friendly automatic reminders, and secondly I'm way too interested in my finances now. Mint makes real life like playing a video game, and I'm hooked.

I'm going to give you the general trend of my monthly spending, but first a word about the way my girlfriend and I do our finances, because otherwise the numbers will have no context. We adhere to the Yours/Mine/Ours strategy of joint finances. She has her personal bank accounts, and I have mine. Then we have joint checking and savings accounts for expenses and joint purchases, like furniture and groceries. Our paychecks are split and direct deposited into the joint account as well as our own accounts. This was the arrangement we settled upon when we first moved in together in our last apartment and it's been working pretty well so far. So all my Mint numbers are for my accounts and the joint accounts — good enough for our purposes.

Here's some numbers. I'm starting in June since that's after we bought our house and the numbers got relatively "normal":

  • June - $7,981
  • July - $9,085
  • August - $6,682
  • September - $9,375
  • October - $8,841
  • November - $4,545
These are some high spending numbers, I'm not going to deny it. November was the first month after I converted to Mustachianism, and you can see the difference. Now there's a few caveats, we did have some big payments we needed to make that are skewing the numbers. June was car insurance for the year ($870), July was a bunch of car repairs and maintenance work ($1500) and earrings for my girlfriend's birthday (not telling), September was getting the house exterior painted ($2400), and October was a storm door and a bunch of handiwork around the house ($1100). That said, the vast majority of the expenses were little things, various assorted shopping, buying groceries multiple times per week, etc etc.

So I'm hopeful. Here we can see a massive improvement from a previously cavalier financial situation. All I really did was scrutinize every purchase, stop buying lunch, and set a budget and weekly plan for grocery shopping. And I'm sure I can do even better, but damn, I can't believe I was spending so much money.


  1. Surfed on in here from MMM.

    One piece of software that has given me great peace of mind is YNAB ( I highly recommend it. You may be happy with your budget now, but YNAB will change things in miraculous ways. I've had it for 11 months and the change is unbelievable. In that time I have gotten myself out of debt (everything but the house) and am about to embark on a second career. Take a look at their video tutorials and forums. They're what sold it to me back in February.

    Anyway, great start to your blog and I look forward to seeing how you finances and goals develop over the coming months.

  2. I appreciate the heads up re: my shout-out in today's MMM post. It would have taken me a while to figure out where the spike in readership was coming from.

    I'll have to give YNAB a try and see how I like it. Thanks for the tip and the words of encouragement :)

  3. Interesting. A cursory look at YNAB gives me the impression it is pretty cartoonish and probably not worth the money when (certainly flawed in its own right) or your own Excel spreadsheet could do the trick.