So I live about 0.4 miles from a grocery store. (Actually, I live about 100 yards from a Costco but I have neglected to buy my membership thus far so I can’t go there yet.) This grocery store is excessively convenient because it’s directly on my way home, and so it’s generally my grocery shopping locale of choice. However, there are several other grocery stores within ten minutes of my apartment and every once in a while I decide to try a different one, just to scope it out.
When I linked to my budgeting spreadsheet in an earlier post, I mentioned that I had several color-coded categories. The large majority of these are expenses I can’t or shouldn’t avoid – some are adjustable and some aren’t, but there was only one category of spending that I could completely eliminate if I wanted or needed to, and that’s this one:
All those things are nice, but they aren’t necessities in the same way that gas, groceries, and rent are. However, that doesn’t stop me from wanting things that require spending in those categories; quite a few things that require spending in those categories, in fact. The problem is that wanting all of those things now doesn’t mean I should or can afford to buy them whenever I feel like it, and that’s what led me to my new idea: discretionary expense of the month.
I like to believe that my parents raised me to be pretty responsible with my money. I’ve always been careful about spending and big on saving – when I was ten I decided to open my own savings account to make sure I wouldn’t spend too much. However, ten year-olds have way less monetary responsibilities than adults do, and I started to notice a fairly big problem through my junior and senior years of college: I have no idea what I spend.
While the habits that I learned when I was younger still stand – I’m careful about making big purchases, I try to avoid buying things that are unnecessary, and I have a savings account intended for use in college that I haven’t even touched – I have not been doing a good job at tracking my smaller purchases, and those add up.
So, to solve this problem, I decided to develop an budgeting tool to help me figure out how much I’m spending and on what, and then, if necessary, reduce my spending in areas where I might be a bit reckless. Enter Excel.