Breaking News: when I don’t have a planned budget, my spending is all over the place.
I haven’t bought “stuff” – anything on my no-buy list – but the amount I’ve been spending on experiences and food needs to get back in check if I want to finish this year at a reasonable level of “on target” for my budget. My biggest issue, right now, is that I’m not taking the time to slow down and figure out the planning side of things, but instead going with the flow of whatever else is going on for the people I’m spending time with. This isn’t to cast blame on those that I’ve spent time with, it’s more of a “I’m already busy and didn’t know what the plans were until I got to my destination, so I didn’t have a limit in mind.” I’m treating this blog post as the outline for what I’m going to do to reflect and plan for the rest of the year. The key point I want to make is that this is what I’m trying, and it might not work for everyone else – I’m solely doing this as an accountability thing for myself.
I’m taking the time now to reflect on what I could have done differently so that I can reduce the likelihood of this happening again. The first, and most pressing element, is that I haven’t really taken the time to look over my spending since early August. Not knowing where I am makes it that much harder to know where I should be spending the money (and if I should be spending at all). For example, do I even have any “for fun” money left for the year? Should I re-calibrate to reflect that things are going back to normal and that $75 a month might not cut it? Or should I be more careful with the decisions I’m making regarding spending?
Next, I’m going to recognize that it’s okay that I didn’t predict (couldn’t predict!) what the rest of this year was going to look like back in January. I made the budget I had in light of what routines and behaviour patterns I already had, and I can make adjustments along the way – so long as the choices I’m making will not impede my greater goals (being able to fully fund my graduate and doctoral studies).
Next, I’m going to compare the numbers from projected and actual spending, and see if categories need to be broken down differently in the future. For example, in my first year of tracking my spending, I had one category called “shopping,” which included everything from gifts for others, supplies for work, clothing, and groceries/food. Those subcategories are all rather different – and need different amounts of money allotted to them – so I want to look over whether this sort of thing is happening again.
The goal is that, in the same way that I did a massive inventory of all my stuff at the beginning of the year, I want to know what I’m doing with my spending so that I can feel back in control of what I’m doing. With the awareness I already have, I want to go into November and December (two very full social calendar months) with a plan in place rather than all of my fun stuff being tinged with a sense of dread about how much it all will cost.
Fingers crossed the damage isn’t too bad – though I know it’ll be a bit before I have the results of combing over my budgeting and tracking from this year/quarter.
With the first quarter of the year coming to a close, I thought it would be good to check in on my goal progress and see if there’s anything that needs to be adjusted.
So far, so good, I haven’t bought anything new or thrifted. There was one item that I picked up from a clothing swap – a dress for warmer weather – and two items that were in my maybe pile that got put back before I left. I’ve also decluttered some 20+ clothing items since the beginning of the year. I did have a bit of temptation when a new activewear line was released from Joe Fresh, but other than that nothing had been added to my wish-list or particularly caught my eye. I feel that the fact that I still haven’t worn everything once through is helping me to immediately reconsider making any purchases. I’ve also been lucky that nothing has needed to be replaced, so there’s been no need to browse online or in store for stuff. I haven’t brought in any new/new to me accessories either, which is great considering I still haven’t yet worn all 60+ pairs of earrings that I own (so it’s not like I’m lacking new-to-this-year things to wear). Lastly, regarding tracking my clothing, shoes, and earrings per wear, if I have the energy at the end of the day, I’ll add the tally marks right away, if not, I’ll do it every 2-3 days.
Slowly but surely, I’m making my way through my yarn and planner stickers. Pens are harder to go through as quickly, but I haven’t bought any new writing utensils. Through travelling earlier this month, I had picked up postcards and was careful not to buy more than who all I wanted to send to – so nothing has been added to a stockpile, but I haven’t used up any of my other stationary. What’s important to highlight (hehe) is that there’s nothing new in this category either.
I have drank so much tea since January, and yet somehow I’m still barely making a dent in the quantity I have. I make anywhere between 1 and 4 cups of tea a day (sometimes double-sized in my huge mug), so progress is there, but sometimes hard to see since I keep all the tea in tins. Same as above, nothing new has come in.
When I made the estimate that I wouldn’t need anything until at least the summer, I was 100% right. I’d even be willing to wager that I’m going to last a bit longer on certain items, like toothpaste and body wash (liquid and bar soap). The only “new to me” items are hotel shampoo and conditioner that my mum passed me before the second leg of my trip (she wasn’t using them and I could still get through security with them in my bag), but other than that I’ve just been chipping away at what I have.
I have a bit of a mixed review for this category: I haven’t bought anything new, but I’ve only read two of my own books this year. Making the most of my local library (physical and digital branch), I’ve read or listened to some 10 or so books since the beginning of the year. I think what’s drawn me more toward the library is the “newness” factor of content, or finding old series that I never finishes/aged out of but still wanted to know how it ends. I’m pleased that I’ve read more than double in the first quarter what I read in all of 2021, though I’m looking for ways to recapture the “wow” factor of the books still left on my shelf. I don’t know if I want to do something as extreme as flipping the books around on the shelf, or select titles through a random generator – or maybe I just need to slow down and choose what to read based on more than just the title. In fairness, packing light but wanting to read on my trip meant that I’d opt for e-books and audiobooks, and the trip wasn’t planned until later January/early February, so I couldn’t have predicted that when setting goals on January 1st.
I believe the bye-bye bin format will still work for me, as it’s been the same method I’ve been using for a few years now. Regarding empties, I find this to be rather helpful in seeing what I’m using, as well as how quickly (or how long) it takes for me to go through a given product. Lastly, for the wish-list, I still think the parameters I set are what’s best for me – there’s no reason to lower the bar just because nothing has met it yet.
I’m pleased with how experiences-focused my plans have been thus far, as well as what I’m looking forward to for the rest of the year. I feel that being more mindful and intentional with my budget (including my “for fun” money) means that I’m not opening up my banking app at the end of the month and trying to figure out where my money went after I went off the rails with impulse purchases. Additionally, I’m more inclined to answer “yes” to looking at an experience (solo or shared) of “is this event worth 10 hours of work,” while the same question geared at clothing or other no-buy categories are a resounding “no.” Other than reading my own books, I don’t think there’s much yet that I need to change about how I’ve been approaching my no-buy year – but I’ll be sure to keep you posted if that changes 🙂
This post is both to look at how I did with my March goals and to reflect on travelling within the parameters of my No Buy Year.
I ended up going with a backpack and a purse, which meant that I was able to fit in the estimated three days’ worth of clothing into my bag. Granted, I didn’t count the day of clothing for travel (I wore the same thing on each flight), but I needed the layers for some of my excursions anyhow. I was able to do laundry often enough that it wasn’t a problem, and it was still cool or rainy out that I would have been seen in a jacket and black leggings no matter what tops I was wearing. Getting through checking in and airport security, by the way, was an absolute breeze, so I’d be inclined to do this again for short trips.
Stuff versus Experiences:
The only “things” I bought were postcards, but I bought fewer this time around since I brought my gratitude journal with me (which I used to list my daily highlights instead of the postcards). Though I’d been in some stores throughout the trip (where else would I get classically tacky postcards?), I had very little inclination to browse for location-name shirts or books – especially when I thought about how many layers of shirt I’d have to wear on the flight home to fit it all into my backpack. I’m not entirely sure if I would have done the trip all that differently were I not on a No Buy, since much of it was spent on day trips and walkable outings, but it made it easier to not have half a day lost to the vortex of circling a store display to hunt for bargains. I also was able to pace myself a bit better throughout the trip, since I wasn’t trying to constantly do mental math to figure out how long we had left before the gift shop or other stores would close.
Staying on Budget:
I do my my monthly budget by pen and paper in my planner (which I didn’t bring with me), and I didn’t think to take a photo of it before leaving. Though that may sound like I’m gearing up for something negative, things actually turned out well. I ran through the numbers before setting out to write this, and the only section I was over budget on was for postcards, by $0.26 – everything else either fit into what I’d allotted to spend, or was added to my “for fun(d).” I did make sure that what I was setting out to do had a reasonable cost in the first place (museum entrance fee for $15CAD versus almost $70CAD for a suspension bridge crossing), and to not be swept up by promotions like, “buy 12 postcards for $5” when I only wanted 3 (which came out to around $2.50, but I’m fine without the other 9 postcards). I also was travelling during the off-season, which meant that there weren’t too many lines or a sense of urgency while going from place to place, which in turn meant that I could take my time to make more intentional decisions.
For the sake of not worrying about trying to account for preferred currencies of every reader, I figured I’d use percentages to make it easier to see how I did with my budgeting:
On maybe a less positive note, I noticed it was really easy for me to slip into the same treat-yo-self/guilt cycle for buying take-out/dine-in meals. One major factor was that I had lowkey forgotten that I had the $75 “for fun” money set aside, so each time I bought food while out on my own, I went for the cheapest options instead of what I necessarily wanted. For example, one of the slower days had about an hour of deliberation of how far to walk versus how much to spend versus should I just get delivery, which was made worse by my increasing hunger. The majority of the food for the trip was either home meals or split bills/someone covering for the group in turns, so this at least didn’t eat away (… ha ha) at too much of my time – but it’s indeed something to keep in mind for my next trip, whether that’s looking at restaurants in advance or choosing the number of meals out versus at home.
I finished my physical book in one day, and finished three e-books during the month. The audio book didn’t pan out, but I was completely enthralled by what I loaned as e-books, so I’d say that balances out.
About the No Buy & Travel:
To begin, doing a No Buy while staying with friends and family would look different than if I were in a hotel/accommodations without a fridge and space to cook. Everyone I stayed with or spent time with had some knowledge of what I was up to, and my goals were respected, which made it easier (and was validating). There were a few small instances of needing to say no (to the general “is there anything you need while we’re out/on the way back?”), but for the most part, discussions took place in advance to figure out what I could borrow/share while I was packing and planning.
My level of flexibility for planning what to see/do was influenced more by travelling in reduced-but-not-gone pandemic measures than the No Buy Year, since experiences are a category I hadn’t limited. I did, however, spend less time combing through any souvenir shop that caught my fancy – especially once I had a postcard per person on my list – which gave me more time to see and do things (and not have my hands or bag full while doing so). In trying to be more mindful of what and how I’m consuming, I’m also more hesitant to pick up things for others – mugs, magnets, shirts, etc. – if it wasn’t something specifically requested. I’m sure my friends and family who have young kids are silently relieved there isn’t a new toy or stuffed animal entering their home.
I don’t believe that it’s fair to compare international/non-family trips to essentially going home, so I won’t look at how I did versus my last bit of travel in 2020. I can, however, think about past trips to family versus this trip, and recognise that I didn’t even go into a mall (let alone browse small shops) on this trip, at all. I didn’t have the room in my luggage for stuff (intentionally), there’s nothing on my wish-list (still/yet), and I didn’t put myself within reach of temptation through staying busy otherwise. Or, to consider things in a positive light, I got to do what I set out to do: take a proper break from work, see my family, hang out with friends, eat delicious food, lose myself in 5 different museums, and be in nature. The memories made and the photos taken will outlast my interest in a t-shirt that might get worn twice a year, even if I got it on discount.