Life & Style Money

8 Things I Learnt By Tracking Everything I Bought In A Month

May 30, 2016 by

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In April I set myself the challenge of writing down everything I spent my money on. You can read all about my Everything I Buy April challenge here.  It was hard work but it really helped me determine how reckless I was being with my spending. As my mum would probably say, so much of my money was being wasted ‘willy nilly’. I haven’t actually managed to bring myself to tot up exactly how much I spent in total (partly due to shame, partly due to laziness) but I’ve learnt the following anyway…

8 Things I Learnt By Tracking Everything I Bought For A Month

1. I have no self control

When I’m on the bus each morning I tend to say to myself “oh, I don’t need chocolate today” but as soon as I get off the bus and walk past Morrisons, this attitude changes. All of a sudden I think “f*ck it!” and I dive right in and stock up on sweet treats. This lack of self control needs to stop. Not only for the sake of my bank balance, but also for the sake of my health.

2. Jake and I need to be smarter with our food shopping

Since logging everything I spent in a month, Jake and I have moved in together. It’s more important than ever for us to be thrifty food shoppers and even better cooks. (Jake is a great cook… I’m pretty rubbish lazy). Although we’re not ones to live off ready made pizzas, oven chips and microwave meals (aside from a few exceptions as you’ll see in the post), we need to be careful not to spend too much on food.

  • We need to reduce our portion sizes
  • We need to start cooking in bulk
  • We need to spend less on snacks
  • We need to do a big weekly shop instead of popping into Tesco every evening

Now that we live together and can plan our meals for the week ahead, I hope we can me much smarter when it comes to our eating habits.

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3. Slashing direct debits makes a big difference

Since I started saving money way back in September 2014, I’ve cancelled several direct debits. This month made me realise how much more I’d be spending if I hadn’t cancelled the following:

  • Gym membership (£20 a month)
  • Contact lenses (£18 a month)
  • Microsoft Office (£5.99 a month)
  • Netflix (£6.99 a month) – although I do sometimes repurchase Netflix temporarily to binge watch a show

I also rarely pay for Spotify because I tend to get it when it’s 99p for 3 months. April was an exception to this and I paid the full £9.99 since no offers were available and I really wanted to binge listen to Disclosure on the bus.

4. I have potential

Although I’m ashamed of how much I spend on junk food, I’m able to see just how much potential I have to be better. Since I started saving for a deposit in 2014, I’ve done really well to cut down the amount I spend on clothes, nights out, and even meals out (this month is an exception). I’ve learnt that I don’t need new clothes and wild nights out to be happy with my life, so it’s time to adopt this same attitude when it comes to food.

5. I need a better system

As it turns out, writing down everything you buy is bloody difficult. Throughout April I tried to keep receipts from every transaction and would add my spending to this post at the end of each day.

Although I started out with good intentions, I soon found myself leaving my receipts on the self scan machine and forgetting to log my spending for days on end. In the last few days of the month I almost gave up completely. I think it’s time to find a new system. I either need to write my spending down in a little notebook immediately or embrace an app such as You Need A Budget.

6. I’d probably take this more seriously if I wasn’t in such a fortunate position

Considering I lived with my parents at the time of this challenge, I was in a pretty fortunate situation financially. I didn’t have to worry about real rent (I paid just £200 a month to my mum), bills and council tax, and I’d never run out of loo roll or shampoo because my mum is an organised grown up.

Because I didn’t have all these huge essential living costs hanging over my head, spending money on little things unnecessarily wasn’t the end of the world. After all, I could afford it and in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t really matter that much. Now that I’ve moved out, it makes sense to get my act together ASAP.

7. I should have started this sooner

If I’d started tracking my spending months ago, I probably would have a larger deposit fund by now. Over the last year and a half I’ve slashed unnecessary spending considerably, but I’m still wasting money on snacks and junk food. It’s frustrating to see the figures add up because I work so hard to make as much money as I can but I’m wasting a lot of this income on things that really aren’t important.

8. I thought I had my financial shit together but I could be better…

With a 10% deposit saved towards my first house, an emergency fund to hand,  and an ability to say no to nights out and new clothes, I thought I had my shit together financially. But as it turns out, I’m still kinda reckless in some respects. Sure, it’s important to treat yourself and there’s nothing wrong with having a guilty pleasure or two but eating 3 chocolate bars a day is not healthy! Obviously. Even more worrying is the fact that it’s taken me this long to see just how out of control my junk food spending has become.

Even if I struggled with this challenge towards the end, I’m glad I did it. It made me realise just how much money is going to waste each month and highlighted how much I could save by being a little more sensible with my spending.

8 Things I Learnt By Tracking Everything I Bought In A Month

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  • I set myself a debt challenge to pay off £11k in 6 months, May was month 3 and a bit of a wash out for one reason or another mainly because I got fed up of spending nothing at all, I am feeling re motivated for month 4 and hope to get back on track, like you I don’t know if I will do it, but il give it a damn good try!

  • So fascinating to hear about your month. When I was at uni I did it and I used to get so competitive with trying to spend less than previous weeks! lol. Maybe I should restart it now… interested to hear there are apps that can do it!!