Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Where My Money Goes

Unlike in my former life as a corporate worker bee, these days I spend more money than I earn. Not counting the tax hit from the bonus I got when I left my last company (which, after all, came with a bonus), I'm about $2000 poorer (in terms of cash and short-term savings) now than I was a year ago.

I'm not too upset about that. I started grad school with some savings that I expect to partly deplete by the time I graduate. At the same time, considering that I live in a relatively cheap apartment ($675/month) with a roommate (so that my rent + utilities is typically under $400), my TA stipend (about $22,000 a year including the extra summer work) really ought to be enough to live on. Many people are supporting families on such a wage.

I keep track of my finances in Mint, so for your amusement and/or horror, let's take a look at how I spent my money in 2011. First, here is an overview of all of my spending:

A few things really stand out:
  1. Wow, I spend a lot of money on food!
  2. And shopping!
  3. What am I spending all that "Auto & Transport" money on?
  4. I wonder what is in "Other"?
(In case you wonder, the Education spending includes $5 of tuition and the rest is books and office supplies. Some of the books are textbooks and others are supplemental reading. I also spent $180 on eBay for the tablet I teach from.)

Let's look at where my food budget goes:

So, it turns out that I eat out a lot. This shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me. And this aspect of my life has proven extremely unresponsive to my attempts to apply budgets to it. It turns out (via the magic of revealed preferences) that eating out, and in general having nice things to eat, is important to me. I'd still very much like to spend less money on food. Over $20 a day seems a bit excessive.

Now, about the shopping:

I'll admit it shocks me that I spent over $1000 on clothes in 2011. I don't think of myself as buying many clothes (even including shoes, which are included here). I'm fine with the money I spent on books. The 'hobbies' money here was the money I spent having the photo albums of my childhood digitally scanned and I don't regret that either.

Now let's take a look at where my "auto & transport" spending is coming from:

The parking is mostly for school, of course. I shouldn't need to spend money on this at all given that I live half a mile from campus, but I started buying parking because I developed chronic foot problems that seem best remediated by avoiding walking. Hopefully over time I can cut that expense. The rest of this is just the normal costs of car ownership.

Let's take a look at "Other":

I'm happy with the money I spend on travel - I think it's money well-spent, relatively speaking. Visiting my loved ones is important to me, and if anything, I wish I spent more money on this. (That is to say, I wish I traveled more. If I could travel more for the same money that would be great too.)

What about that $418 on entertainment?

You might think from seeing this that I buy movies, but that is not the case: if you look at the individual records, it turns out that a few of these are movie rentals and the rest are actual theater tickets. (There is also my Netflix subscription for $10/month.) I hardly ever used to go to the movies, so it's a bit shocking that I apparently saw 25 in the theater this year.

Seeing movies in the theater is a bit of an extravagance, but it results from the social life I have these days that I never used to have. I really relish that aspect of my current existence and don't regret it in the slightest. I will continue to see movies with friends as much as I want.

So that's how I spent my money in 2011. I would like to cut back on shopping and on eating out; otherwise I'm relatively satisfied with my current choices, and very grateful that my life affords me so many opportunities.


Sally said...

Is your eating out usually alone, usually with friends, a mix? (I am sometimes surprised by how often you and your fellow poor grad students eat out at places that seem kind of pricey for grad student budgets.)

Angela said...

I am so glad I'm not the only one who categorizes and graphs and analyzes yearly expenses. I've been doing it for 3+ years now and it's always eye opening.

Tam said...

Sally, most of the fast food is alone, and most of the restaurant food is with others (unless it's the Thai place across the street from school, where I often just pick something up).

We do eat out a lot. I guess my friends are profligate like me.

Angela: hell yeah! It's even more fun if you can embarrass yourself publically with the data.

Sally said...

I keep absolutely no records of my spending. Now if you want to compare bird sightings...