It is a new year! A new opportunity to stop bad habits and start good ones. A chance to redeem the mistakes of the past! Or so they say. For people who go to the gym regularly, January is an annoying month. But the crowds never seem to last long. Resolving a New Year’s Resolution is difficult for many, but can be made easier with a data-driven approach. Most progress is measurable, and measuring your progress keeps you honest and committed to the goal.
2012 was the first full year for which I recorded the details of my personal transactions. I have heard of a variety of websites and applications that help with this sort of thing, but I chose to track my finances in a good old-fashioned homemade Excel workbook. It contains a few gains, many expenditures, and a wealth of data to help me learn more about myself. I can even manipulate nifty PivotCharts!
This chart shows the monthly volume of some key expenditures. I specifically wanted to track how much money I spend on alcohol and video/computer games, so they have their own categories. Here is how much, on average, I spent on each of these categories per month in 2012:
- Alcohol – $77.91
I home-brewed three 5-gallon batches of beer in 2012, but with the amount I drink it didn’t lower my expenses much. I save money by avoiding drinking at bars, but I can certainly do better than $78/month in 2013.
- Cell Phone – $60.40
This amount is misleading because I was on my Mom’s Verizon family plan until June! Now, with my own monthly Verizon bill of $86, I’m looking to do MUCH better in this category next year. Look forward to a post about my upcoming Google Voice/MVNO experiment.
- Clothing – $16.13
My company doesn’t have a dress code. One month I bought a really warm pair of woolen socks from Kohls. I hope I can keep my clothes spending at this low rate through 2013.
- Entertainment – $47.96
This includes concerts, other live performances, movies, and my Netflix subscription. It does not include video games (they have their own category). The girlfriend and I try to avoid paying to see movies in theaters. She is signed up with a nifty service (gofobo) that offers free pre-screening tickets every so often. We saw Looper in the theater for $0! I’m sorry to say that I paid to see Prometheus.
I hope to spend less on this category in 2013. In my defense, I did not spend a cent on physical media like CDs or DVDs. And that live orchestra performance of Final Fantasy music was pretty sweet. I should cancel my Netflix subscription since I get pretty much all of my media for free on the internet, but I have family members using that account in three states.
- Gaming – $53.97
Well, that comes out to almost a full-priced game every month. Definitely room for improvement here. Why do I buy these games when I can just borrow them from a friend a month later? Another option would be to buy them during a Steam sale at an extreme discount. When it comes to my gaming hobby, I need to be more patient and flexible. That spike in Oct was entirely due to X-COM and ACIII, and both were much cheaper a month later on Black Friday. Patience is a virtue…
- Gasoline – $64.74
This isn’t too bad, especially when you consider that I drive a compact SUV. Still, I live close enough to work that not biking every day is inexcusable. I resolve to bike to work much more in 2013, and hope to see spending in this category go down as well!
- Groceries – $125.31
Nom nom nom.
I hope you’re as excited as I am to revisit these numbers next year and measure the improvement! A few decades down the line I expect that this spreadsheet will help tell the story of my life. I hope it’s a good story. Don’t forget to challenge yourself to something big this year! Have a happy 2013!