Is there such a condition as “financially bipolar”? Because if so, I am willing to self-diagnose right now. Considering the many people in tough times right now, I will say that I am lucky to have a job and a paycheck to be a little reckless with. But every few weeks after a spending splurge (spring clothes! major dental work! baby shower gifts! cocktails… oh, the cocktails!), I end up looking at the old budget with squinty eyes trying to figure out exactly where all the money went. Then I’m cheap, cheap, cheap until something else- birthday present! great new books! – comes along.
I signed up for Mint.com and linked all of my accounts so I could try to figure it out and so far I love the system- free, easy to update, and with fun pie charts and graphs and email notifications.
But the bigger picture seems a little cloudy. Last month my largest expense category was “ATM Withdrawal.” Bigger than rent, bigger than utilities, bigger than my student loan payment. And I cannot for the life of me trace where I have been putting all that cash. My best guess? Happy hour, and bus fare, and taxis, and oh, look at that shiny dollar store item that I must have and a new bottle of nail polish and sure, I should buy a Powerball ticket because you can’t win if you don’t play.
Cash is obviously burning flaming holes in my pockets that I don’t need if I am going to have a sizeable down-payment together any time soon for a house of my own (oh, and a car- my, things add up don’t they?). So, I’m trying to be better about forcing myself to put purchases on my debit card, so that I can see where it is going and hopping the bus (cheap! convenient!) when a cab would have happened (running late as usual!). I’ve dropped a few subscriptions that weren’t worth the dribs and drabs of $25 here and there. And even though it came with a pricey initial investment, joining a CSA should bring down my costs for food and groceries from April to November since I will have giant boxes of delicious local produce to eat all week and will have it paid off by June.
So, what I need now are other ideas for where to cut back. I’m not talking HUGE cutbacks – I have my income, and man, am I grateful. Just those things that saved you a few bucks here and there that you never thought about until you stopped them. (And no, I don’t buy the $5 lattes anymore … and if I do I have giftcards from the holidays). Any suggestions? Especially you adult homeowner types- how did you scrape together that downpayment?