You know when you feel so confident you’re going to achieve something, and you realize that it was just maybe a little too much for you to chew? Yeah, I bit waaaaay too much off for the month of January with my “no-spend” rule. I’m pretty sure I caved in the second week when that mid-day slump happened and Starbucks was just CALLING my name.
But, there is a silver lining…January was my BEST month in terms of spending and I am calling this little challenge a success (yes, a success) because of everything I learned and became more aware of. And, I’m going to share those sweet little nuggets of wisdom with you today!
This is 100% NOT sponsored, but I wanted to share the tool that I find to be the most helpful for budgeting! I use Mint.com to keep track of my spending. It makes it so easy to visually see where your money is going, because let’s be real…how many people are actually using cash these days? I use debit/credit for essentially all of my transactions and being able to see them in one place, sorted by category or merchant, is super helpful. The other feature I love is being able to set goals! With the left over money from your budget, you can create various goals depending on your objectives.
We really wanted to start building back our rainy day/emergency fund after our wedding and our dog, Ace having surgery, as our savings took a bit of a hit. My other big goal this year is to pay off my student debt and credit card. I was able to create both of those goals on Mint AND it tells me exactly how long it will take depending on the amount that I put in each month. I found this extremely helpful. I wish that we were taught more about budgeting/finance in school. This stuff should be taught at an early age – it’s so important! But it’s okay, I learned about the Pythagorean theorem instead *insert eye-roll here*.
Here’s a little screenshot of the look and feel of the app from the budgeting perspective:
And as you can see….I may or may not have hit a lot of red. BUT, what’s great about this is that it tells me exactly how much I overspent and that gives me an idea if it was something that was necessary or not. There are a couple of downsides to this app… I did pay my line of credit but for some reason the transaction didn’t pop up and same with the transfer for bills. What app doesn’t have it’s flaws though…It’s definitely worth it, even with these little hiccups.
Next, you can see trends in your spending. Who doesn’t love a pretty graph!?! I do wish I could change the colours though…
My mind is blown when I compare what I was spending LAST January (in the yellow) compared to THIS January (in the green). I mean, look at that shopping tab! The other graph compares the last 3 months, which turned out to be a significant decrease from November to January! Wooooohooo!
Below are my learns from this challenge and things that I will continue to take with me and improve on. Plus, hopefully this will give you some insight for any of your goals/resolutions you’re still tackling!
I was able to see where my money was going instead of blindly purchasing. I became more strategic about where I was spending my money and keeping an eye on my accounts! (Also super important in an era of online shopping + online fraud!!).
I really started to look at the worth of what I was purchasing and began asking myself if things were going to serve me in a way that added value to my life. A coffee on a bad day, yes 100% worth it. A coffee everyday because I was too lazy in the morning to make it – not worth it.
This was a pretty big one for me. Life isn’t going to be perfect or cookie-cutter easy, it’s messy and it has to be flexible. Unexpected things come up and you just have to go with the flow. For instance – I lost my Presto Card (transit card) on my walk to the subway. Literally a 5 min walk. But that loss ended up costing me more money in January because I had to order a new one AND I had to spend more money on tokens. Even though this may have been a small amount – it’s still a cost that I had not expected to pay for. Being flexible and having an cushion is important!
When you’re spending or budgeting with a partner, it can be easy to just spend without consideration. Not because you’re meaning to do it or in spite of the other person, it can just be so easy to get caught up in your own wants/needs. This challenge was a great way to connect, plan and map out where we wanted our money to go and what our priorities were for the month.
February is going to be a lot different for us! Our puppy, Koda is getting spayed and we have Adam’s birthday this month, as well as some car repairs we need to take care of. All of which are fairly big expenses, so planning what needs to shift in our budget to accommodate these things is important to discuss together.
I am my own worst critic. That’s probably one of my biggest pitfalls and something I am always trying to navigate and improve. Through this process, I was getting upset and feeling guilty for spending when I knew I shouldn’t have been. I learned that it’s okay to drop the ball sometimes and that tomorrow is a new day to get back on the horse and try again. It’s completely unrealistic to expect change to happen overnight (or in one month). The most important thing to do is learn from your setbacks and keep pushing forward.
You can apply these to any resolution that you may have set in January. How are they holding up? Take a look at your resolutions and refresh for February! Maybe you need to start from the beginning or maybe your goals need to be shifted in some way? It’s never too late to refresh nor is it a bad thing!
Let me know in the comments below what you’ve learned from your resolutions progress so far!