Let’s start this round-up with a pie chart mapping out the distribution of my spending over the eight main Wally categories for the last six months:
If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll know that most of my money is spent on eating out – meals, coffees, desserts, etc. Shopping has surprisingly shot into second place, but really I think the best way to analyze and tease out this data is by comparing it to my expenses report from the same period last year.
So here are some observations from Jan – June 2016 versus Jan – June 2015:
- I spent $200 more on Food and Drink this year. Surprisingly my coffee consumption has been exactly the same; I actually spent $4 less this year compared to the same period last year. I can (and probably should) actively work towards trimming this expense more (because I literally spend more on coffee than I do on my car and phone bill combined – how crazy is that?!), but at least the habit isn’t getting worse. Disclaimer: My car is fully paid off so I only spend on fuel and regular maintenance twice a year. And the fuel that goes into my car is a heck of a lot cheaper than the fuel I pour down my throat and into my veins.
- Household expenditures decreased by 20% even if I did spend $560 on a new aircon. Last year I had to spend quite a bit on vet bills because both my rabbits had to get neutered (they were humping me left and right and generally getting very aggressive and sexually frustrated, poor boys) and one of my guinea pigs kept getting sick until he eventually died in February at the ripe old age of 6 😦
- My phone bill is exactly the same – $200 on two Easi recharge cards. Split over 6 months that’s approximately $33 but if you want to be really anal about it, I actually still have $33 unutilized phone credit left, which means I’ve actually only effectively used $167 this year (~$27 per month). At the end of Q1 I said I’d spent an average of $15 per month, but I’ve been using up my data plan faster lately which accounts for the increase.
- I went a little nuts with the shopping, oops. I spent almost double on this category but that’s because last year most of my shopping was done in the second half of 2015 so I can still redeem myself before the end of the year as long as I slow down and take it easy. I had a few Asos sprees, bought some sports gear and a new pair of Nikes, and I had a couple of short hops to Singapore and KL (work) which is unavoidably when I’ll strut out of Uniqlo with more than a few bags in tow. Another reason this category has spiked is because I’ve sent a lot of kain to the tailor this year for baju raya (Eid clothing) which I intend to eventually use for work, especially since I chose to leave out the beads and bedazzles. Last year I’d only had two or three outfits made; this year I’ve already picked up and paid for four and I’m expecting two more next month.
- I bought a flight ticket for my Big Annual Holiday (scheduled for November) and I had a quick weekend trip earlier this year too, which did contribute to some travel expenses under the Fun category.
- Car costs dropped but that’s only because my regular servicing is a little overdue (I’m planning to get it sent next weekend); once the car’s serviced and paid for the amount spent will be pretty much the same across both periods. Fuel costs have been roughly the same.
- Miscellaneous (yellow gift box) category has dropped. Maybe I’m stingier, haha. Well, to be honest I’ve tried to be more careful with this category; just because it’s nice to be generous and blanja makan doesn’t mean you should do it all the time without sparing a thought for your overall financial health. Don’t bekira but it’s also important to realize it’s not just about how much you spend on other people; it’s the thought and intention behind it that counts, right? Gift giving isn’t simply about spending money.
Overall though, my spending has increased by 3% which… I’m going to consider not too bad. My target to meet by the end of the year is actually to spend less overall than I did last year. It might be a little challenging, because:
- Hari Raya (Eid) is coming up next month (duit raya, general Eid expenses, two more baju raya to pay for)
- I have a 9 day holiday in November. Well the flight ticket is settled, but everything else still has to be booked and paid for.
- I’m expecting to spend more than usual on my car soon to overhaul and replace a few things. These aren’t unexpected or unplanned expenses though, I’ve been keeping it in mind for a while and I think I’ll get it done in the coming months.
But on the bright side, last year:
- I had a three week holiday in Europe which was pretty expensive so I’m hoping this years holiday will cost less
- I bought a table which cost a few hundred dollars haha
- I wasn’t very careful with my Miscellaneous category, which ultimately racked itself up to 16% of my overall expenses in 2015 (which is quite a lot actually considering I’d only spent 10% on shopping!)
The main areas I really want to focus on trimming down before they get out of hand are:
- COFFEE. If I spend more on coffee than I do on my regular car expenses and phone combined, that’s pretty ridiculous.
- Eating out (and take-outs) in general. I definitely spend in this category quite carelessly because I order/buy without thinking most of the time. The number one reason I want to crack down on this category isn’t because I really “need” to save the money for something else, it’s about reducing wastage. Food wastage is such a big deal but it doesn’t get talked about often enough. We throw away so much edible food as a society – sometimes the food is even untouched – and it’s really, really horrible. I’m certainly guilty of just mindlessly buying food I don’t really want (Parkinson’s Law: “Oh okay I’m having a coffee, I might as well also order a slice of $5 cake since I’m already here even if I know I won’t finish it”). Ramadan is a truly sad testament to just how wasteful we can be; I don’t even want to think about what happens to all that uneaten food at the end of a Ramadan buffet, or what the vendors at the gerai do with all the food they haven’t managed to sell. In general though, food wastage is such a tragic reality and it breaks my heart to know people don’t even think twice about tossing food out, especially if it was cheap! Eh, apa jua $2 – buang tia saja. Bali lagi nanti bah. It’s not about how much the food costs, it’s about not even blinking an eye when throwing away perfectly good, edible food.
So how do I intend to do this?
Well, you may be surprised to hear but I’ve never had a proper categorical (purpose) budget for myself. Every month I grant myself a lump sum budget after I’ve set aside my savings and usually I’m quite good at sticking to it – but I’ve never broken this budget down according to separate purposes, or down to individual weeks. I use Wally to track my expenses and I do check the “Review” tab every so often to track my progress over the month (so I can see if certain expenses are getting out of hand) but that only helps me see the damage I’ve already done so I’m able to make a mental note to be more careful in the future.
For starters, I’m going to try my very best to stick to a $100 per week food & drink budget which will include all my eating out, take-out, and yes, coffee expenses. And, hey, it’s Monday tomorrow so that’s a great time to start. $100 a week might sound like a huge amount to some people but like I always say, personal finance is personal, and it’s important to set budgets and targets for yourself that are realistic (and realistically I can spend >$100 per week if I’m frivolous). Trimming down habits has to start small and be reasonable so you don’t just give up and quit after three days because the targets you’ve set for yourself are impossible. Crash diets and last-minute marathons don’t work for people who are trying to lose weight. That’s why it’s important for me to track my expenses and progress; I can only set realistic targets for myself if I know what the reality is. Far too often, we don’t actually know how much we spend or save; we just guess and assume a reality in our minds which may be far from the truth.
How much do you spend every month?
I don’t really know, but not that much.
Are you sure?
You owe it to yourself to make sure.
Please don’t lie to yourself or make excuses for yourself, because the only person you’ll end up hurting is you. I don’t care how much you earn or spend – it’s none of my business and it doesn’t affect me in any way at all.
It’s the same with anything else in life, really: if you feel like you need to shed a few kilos or start working out for health reasons, excuses about how you don’t have time, you’re too tired after work, you don’t know how to run/gym/swim, etc…. You’re only cheating yourself, you know.
Haha and by the way, I’m talking to myself as much as I am to you because I don’t work out as often as I should either. But I have been much, much better this year (since I made it a solid New Year’s Resolution) compared to before when I literally didn’t do anything fitness related. Baby steps, we’ll all get there as long as we keep moving forward 🙂
/end motivational speech
And to make myself feel a little more accountable, I will be posting an update on my progress every Sunday (gasp the horror). Since that’ll be quite a short post on it’s own, I’ll attempt to slip in some general updates and casual blog-type chat. I’ve noticed that I’ve been doing more bloggy posts lately anyway in addition to my really long textbook-for-dummies type notes, so I’ve created a new category which we’ll call Myn’s Memos (cos I’m a sucker for really lame, uncatchy titles).
Enjoy what’s left of the weekend!