Challenges, finance, Health, Living, sober, travel

So Little Spending, So Much More Time

As of this credit card cycle, I have only spent $860 this month. I look at that number, and then log in to my banking app and double check that that is correct. I have never spent less than $1000 per month, not in recent memory, anyway. Every month it was an average of $1300 dollars, actually. What on earth was I spending that on? It certainly wasn’t necessities. Rent and utility bills automatically come out of a joint chequing account that my husband and I keep. So what the fuck?

Put that back in your pocket!!

So began my deep dive into the past year’s credit card statements. Perhaps non-surprisingly, my lowest credit card bills of 2020 were in March and April, when the lockdown occurred. They were still over $1000, but only just. But as I got out my investigative hat, thinking I would discover some amazing secret thing that was sucking out all my money, I realized how mundane all of my purchases were that were adding. Liquor store, restaurant, coffee shop, liquor store, fast fashion, unessential groceries, liquor store, brewery, liquor store, birthday present. Noticing a pattern? I sure did.

This January I gave myself several challenges: I stopped drinking (and I mean STOPPED, with no intention of starting again), I cut junk food, and I consciously tried to keep spending seriously low. I decided to do all of these challenges at once because in each area of my life that I value (my mental, physical and financial health) felt like they were stagnant. I had been given a new set of notebooks, one of which was graph paper – I used this to create a tracker with colourful pens and lovely quotes. Each day that I hit my goals I get to colour in a new spot. It works for me; I’m not artistic, but it gives me great satisfaction to see my progress.

So, why the financial decision? I’m fortunate enough to be doing very well: I’ve automated my emergency savings, my TFSA and my RRSP accounts, my pension contributions are automatically deducted from my pre-tax pay, and I am employed in a very secure position (teacher). I’ve come leaps and bounds from even two years ago, and I’ve been able to see my personal wealth grow modestly. But, by gum, it could be growing even more.

I am not one to deprive myself. I like to live challenge-free, with my routines firmly in place and all the comforts that entails. I don’t like hardship or feeling like a martyr. I just want to live my life and that’s that. So when I started these challenges I expected to be very grumpy about them and honestly didn’t think I’d stick with them. To be honest, the first week kind of sucked, but I had accidentally set myself up for real success. Each challenge fed the other really well! No drinking = less spending, less sugar added to my system, less junk food eaten during a drunken binge. No junk food (really more Paleo-style) = less money spent on going out, no temptation to drink at a restaurant. Low-spending = no going out to eat, no temptation to break the other two challenges.

In reality I could have spent far less than $860 because a lot of that (roughly half) came from a little weekend getaway Kyle and I took to a different part of Vancouver Island, and we treated ourselves to a really nice hotel. So I calculated some more. If I can keep doing this, all of it (which I am finding a lot of enjoyment from), I could be saving close to an extra $1000 per month. $12,000 per year. If I invested that now, at an average compounded interest of 7% for 30 years, that would be worth over $96,000, just in time for me to be in my prime (at age 63). Just typing those numbers in gives me a little tiny thrill.

So what did I spend money on in January (or this credit card cycle which goes most of January)? Truthfully, not a lot. Taking out the trip at New Year’s (we didn’t drink then either, and went to bed around 9:30…), these were my costs:

  • food: $246. This includes very high quality meat that I get from a local butcher, though I buy a lot of ground beef and cheap cuts that can last over several meals. The husband and I split the groceries so as a couple we’ve spent around $400 this month on groceries, far below our normal amount which would usually include restaurants and take outs at least once a week.
  • the gym: $36. The monthly membership is a must for me. Lifting heavy weights is a great de-stressor and makes me feel powerful.
  • phone: $70. This could absolutely be lower, but the cheaper company I was with didn’t have reliable signal where I live, and the road I drive to work is quite treacherous in the winter so I need to depend on my phone if there’s an accident or bad conditions.
  • Gas: $68. Two tanks in the ol’ manual transmission Toyota Corolla. I love my car. It’s the car I learned to drive on 16 years ago and it’s still as reliable as ever. I’ve talked about upgrading for over a year and I can’t bring myself to do it because there’s no need.

That was it. That was literally it. If I bought a coffee on the way to work it was put on a gift card. Not eating out, not drinking, prioritizing my health cost me a grand total of $420 this month (again, not including the little trip away). That’s insane, and I in no way felt like I was depriving myself. It made me realize how much money I was throwing away on stuff I couldn’t give less of a shit about. If I can keep this up, and build up my frugality, I can reach financial independence in double time. Actually sitting down and looking at the numbers has created a huge opportunity for me, one I wasn’t even aware of, and will propel me towards my financial freedom with a jetpack.

My emotional state when I realized how much I can save without really trying.

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