Christmas will be with us soon and we are all thinking about our budgets and what we can afford to buy for our friends and family. But would micromanaging your money for a month make any difference on the run-up to the festive season?
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What was the experiment?
I don’t know about everyone else, but there have been plenty of times in my life when there has been too much month and not enough money. There have been times that I have sat back and wondered where my money has gone, despite sticking to a budget. But do I really stick to a budget? Or do I have spending habits that would make Scrooge curl his toes and roll over in his fictional grave? There was only one way to find out, I was going to micromanage my money for a whole month to see what the effect would be. I decided to keep receipts and track daily spending to see what my spending habits were. I decided that the best thing to do would be to observe my habits and then see if I could make any changes. I do actually have a budget in place to help me cope with the demands of having a large family but I don’t tend to stick to it religiously, it is more of a guideline that a set in stone rule.
How did it go?
It probably isn’t surprising that I was left shocked by my spending habits. When you keep every receipt, every scrap of paper that equals money, it gets really scary. I will admit, I have not been keeping on top of my accounts for the last while so that was a headache in itself. Once these were organised for the previous months, I had a better idea of how my income was doing and if it was staying consistent. One of the big dramas about being a freelance writer is not having the guaranteed income every month. I’m not gonna lie, it can be unnerving some months when the emails aren’t coming in as fast as you would like.
One of the best things I did for this experiment was to get a receipt for every purchase. And even if I didn’t get a receipt, I would write it down on a scrap of paper. Do you know how awful it is to see all of that paper that might as well scream “wasted money”? I was reminded of when I was growing up and watching my mum balance her cheque book. I always thought she was bad at math, as it turns out she was probably just horrified at seeing what we were wasting money on. My shameful secret must come out though, I like to have a little dabble on the lotto from time to time. I don’t do it every time there is a draw but I probably do it more than I realised. Over the course of the month, I had a bit of luck when it came to the lotto, I’m not talking loads of money but I did win a series of lucky dips. For those of you who don’t know anything about the UK lotto, if you match 2 numbers from the main numbers on certain draws, you win a free lucky dip. So I ended up doing the Lotto a few more times than I had planned because of the free lucky dips, not because I have a gambling habit, I promise.
Will I stick with it?
This is one of those things that I think I have no choice with. My eyes have been opened to the stupid spending that I do, and we are all guilty of it. I realised that my local shop is one of the biggest money drains in my life. I can go to Iceland and spend £15 on shopping that would feed us for a couple of days. If I was to pop to the shop, I could spend the same amount of money on crap. I’m talking about going around for milk and bread, but walking out with milk, bread, crisps, apples, a bar of chocolate and a bag full of other stuff. I’m not saying that I don’t buy stuff like this in my shopping but I know that the shop charges double for the convenience of being local.
Another thing that I noticed was the amount of takeaways I order when I don’t have a meal plan in place. I’m not great at meal planning somethings, mainly because when I do, people roll their eyes and complain. Do you know how much I can spend on one takeaway for my family? Minimum of £20 but it is normally around the £25-£30 mark. Add that up, let’s say once a week I slip up and have to order a take away at £25, that is around £100 a month just on takeaway food. The thing is, with my stomach in recovery from IBS, I know that it isn’t good for it, so why am I still eating out? There is a lot that I can do to get my finances in better shape and now I know my weak spots, I can work on transforming my bank balance by making smarter choices when it comes to spending money.
Like this? Then check out some of my other experiments to get my life on track-