Jump Start January 2015: Day 29

Have you tried keeping a spending diary this month? Some of us have kept one for a week, others have been keeping one for the whole of the Jump Start. Either way, let’s go back and evaluate our spending.

jump start january spending diary part 2

Spending diaries are brilliant for helping you to monitor spending, and they also slightly remind you to think before you spend too. And of course, once you’ve collected your data, you can evaluate what you have and begin to look for room for improvement.

Start by collecting the spending into categories. This depends upon what you’ve been keeping an exact note of, but it could be something like this:

  • Rent / mortgage
  • Utility bills
  • Insurance
  • Healthcare (e.g. prescriptions, dentist etc)
  • Standing orders to savings / investments / pensions
  • Paying off loans / credit cards / other debts
  • Transport costs (car, petrol, bike, train, bus, taxi etc)
  • Groceries, basic toiletries
  • Entertainment
  • Food & drink outside home
  • Clothes & accessories
  • Hobbies
  • Fitness
  • Memberships & subscriptions
  • Stationery, magazines, books
  • Beauty services, hairdressing, cosmetics
  • Gifts
  • Tech hardware / handsets / software / apps / hosting
  • Other services, e.g. dry cleaning, car wash, childcare, babysitting etc

You may well have fewer categories than this, it’s just a guide so you’re less likely to forget something important.

Compare your outgoings against your earnings. Are you spending more than you’re earning?

In particular, look out for impulse purchases, and any spending you might regret. Look for any areas where you could easily cut your spending. Then look for more difficult areas where you could make cuts, ones where you’d have to make a bit more effort.

What’s happening here

I’ve only been tracking my discretionary spending this month, rather than noting down every single regular bill or standing order. That’s because we’re on top of the bills here at the moment, and we’re not being overcharged so they’re not a point of worry – it might be different for you, and it never hurts to check a few latest prices for utilities etc to make sure you aren’t paying over the odds.

So my spending adds up as follows:

  • Groceries & basic toiletries: £26.04
  • Stationery: £17.46
  • Entertainment, tickets: £59.50
  • Food & drink while out: £21.95
  • Everything else: 99p paid off credit card

I have been quite strict with myself about most things this month, so haven’t bought any clothes, makeup etc, and have been trying to eke lots of stuff out, use up leftovers, and so on. Staying away from the January sales has helped a lot as well: there’s nothing I truly need so I decided to stay out of it. I’ve also booked myself onto a couple of free events and courses, and made the most of freebies in general.

The stationery bill is higher than usual, but that’s because I needed to buy some important new year things for work, and it’s a legitimate business expense that can be offset.

I’ve mostly been having coffees or just one drink when I meet up with friends, instead of going out for lunch or dinner as much, and of course doing a Tenner Week has really reined the spending right in too.

As far as the entertainment bill goes, one of my goals this year is to watch less TV and get out more to do interesting stuff, which involves buying a few tickets for things here and there as well as taking up offers of free events. I’ve spent wisely, and have some excellent activities to look forward to in the coming days and weeks – just what you need to cheer you up during a cold, grey January. Je ne regrette rien on this one, it’s part of a bigger plan and maybe I’ll write about it in due course.

The one thing I should have spent some money on was hairdressing, but I was completely hellbent on coming in under budget for the month and something had to be sacrificed. I’m looking like a fluffy little yeti again, and although it’s kind of funny it always pays to look a bit more professional, so from 1st Feb I’ll be taking myself more seriously and getting a proper cut. Take that, unruly barnet.

How did your spending diary turn out? Did you spot anything interesting, like clever spending, underspending, or maybe some seasonal splurges or other bad habits? Was there any room for improvement anywhere?

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