This wasn’t this first time I’ve been asked to chronicle my spending. When I was around 13, I had a discussion with my parents about pocket money. While my dad would have been happy to set a figure and be done with it, my mum had another idea. She asked me to keep a diary of what I spent money on through the month, her reasoning being that they needed to see a track record of my habits to make an informed decision about my budget. Smart, eh? Thanks, Mum!
You’d think after such rigorous training in my formative years I’d have every aspect of my financial life in check. However, when it comes to finances, I’m still learning. I’ve been a grad student for the past two years, and started from the bottom all over again post-graduation this summer. Now, as a grown-ass working woman with NYC rent to pay, I’m trying to acquire good habits and be wary of the daylight robbery also known as the New York City prices that surround me every day.
Here’s where I’m at:
I have really bad circulation and my hands and feet are always cold, which is weird because I’m only 5’2″ so my blood doesn’t have very far to travel. Anyway, acupuncture is really helping. I try to go every one to two months. With colder months looming, it’s an irregular investment that I’m willing make. Perhaps I’ll see the returns in the form of my heating bill.
If you’re wondering why my groceries are so cheap, I buy mainly vegetables, fruit, yogurt and eggs from a great local store (I’m not a vegetarian, I just don’t really cook meat) and I already have plenty of quinoa at home.
Tonight, a friend from London was in town with her boyfriend. I met them at Bar Belly, where we shared a few small plates, I had two cocktails and then they very kindly would not let me pay. I got an Uber home.
On Sunday, I had friends over for dinner which meant my hosting skills were put to the test. I have a set menu for this: a large batch of quinoa, a bunch of oven-roasted vegetables and a big salad of rocket (arugula), cucumber, tomatoes, feta, onion and parsley with lots of olive oil, salt and lemon. It’s a great low lift/high impact crowd pleaser. We had strawberries and ice cream for dessert. This all came out of my grocery shop from yesterday.
I have breakfast at home almost every day, and it consists of two medium-boiled eggs and a cup of tea, which keeps me going until about 11 a.m. when I might have a yogurt at my desk. Last night’s dinner became today’s lunch because quinoa and vegetables will always be quinoa and vegetables. I had friends over for dinner again (who am I? This is not normal!). I recently moved into a new apartment and, for the first time in the two years I’ve lived in New York, I actually have space for other people. Four girlfriends came over, I ordered pizzas and they brought the wine and ice cream sandwiches.
Shortly after this money diary I got a monthly unlimited subway card — another money-saving trick I should have picked up on sooner. My quinoa and vegetables kept me going for another day and then through a grueling spin class after work. I made dinner at home. I love days like this, when I manage to spend $0 on food even though I eat well! To celebrate, I treated myself to Klorane Dry Shampoo, an eyelash curler and this Topshop sweater.
Yep, you guessed it – quinoa and vegetables for lunch, but I did go out for dinner this evening. It’s been an unusually social week for me. If you’re ever in the area, the grilled octopus at Kiki’s is the most delicious thing ever, as are the lemon potatoes. You’re welcome!
My quinoa and vegetables run came to a hard stop today, so I ordered a kale caesar from By Chloe. This type of day is much more my usual weekday speed!
Keeping a money diary was eye-opening. It’s one thing to track your spending while mentally thinking you have it under control and it’s another to see it written down in front of you at the end of every day. This was a particularly social week for me with the acupuncture, cooking for three, pizzas for five and dinner at Kiki’s (total = $145.77). Normally I’ll eat out two to three times a week, usually on Friday and Saturday nights.
I’m trying to bridge the gap between being smart with my money and saving while also treating myself every so often. It’s important to participate in things you enjoy, however, especially if you’re living in a big metropolitan city like New York, those tend to involve spending money. And everything is expensive! I’m trying to be more vigilant about what I deem to be unnecessary.
What about you? How do you prioritize your spending habits? Let’s brainstorm in the comments!
Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.