Today is the first post in the new Everyday Dollar Diaries series. In this series, I collect personal journals from real people who have tracked their normal spending habits over seven days, and then publish them here anonymously.
One of the first steps I took to save $1 million by age 35 was becoming aware of how I spent my money. If you ever wonder, “Where does it all go?” then I challenge you to keep your own spending diary for seven days. You’ll be surprised at what you might find.
The young-at-heart corporate buyer
A 46-year-old single female from Michigan. She has no debt and makes $65,000. Her biggest expenses are $350 a month for rent, eating out daily, and maintaining and repairing her car. She celebrated paying off her debt last year, and this year has been working to build up an emergency fund. She meticulously tracks her spending and finally feels pretty good about her money situation, but she knows her circumstance could change in an instant.
Small plastic bin with lid to store seeds for garden…$2.64
RFID neck stash wallet for passport and money…$15.89
Starbucks (a new habit I need to reduce to once a week or less)…$5.18
Items from Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Store to make friendship bracelets…$25.41
Lunch out (also bought co-worker’s birthday lunch)…$21.08
Dentist (I cracked a crown)…$63.00
Dinner with a friend who I’ve been trying to get together with for awhile…$19.38
Water can for house plants…$3.43
Essential oils (I concoct different blends that I diffuse in my bedroom)…$76.03
Hair chalk because I wanted some pink and violet stripes in my hair (I don’t care that I’m 46 years old either)…$8.47
Hair brush for blow-drying my hair…$5.29
Wildflower seed mix for my garden…$8.41
Amber bottle (to make an essential oil mixture)…$1.90
Essential oils (I need to cut myself off from buying more)…$23.10
Total weekly spending: $792.87
The eager college grad
A 23-year-old single male from New Jersey. He has $88,000 in college loans, about $500 in credit card debt, and makes $45,000. His biggest expenses are $350 a month for rent (he rents a room from his parents). He’s recently entered the 9 to 5 work force, and is comfortable with his current money situation. His goals are to begin paying back his student loans, and building up an emergency fund.
2 bottles of wine…$9.60
Takeout (I had a gift card)…$2.00
I went to a music concert…$15.00
Lunch out at Applebee’s…$7.00
Total weekly spending: $88.48
The stay-at-home mom
A 32-year-old married female from Idaho with two children. She has a $23,000 car loan, and the family makes $88,000. Her biggest monthly expenses are $1,300 a month for rent, $650 a month on groceries, $500 a month for her car loan, and $300 a month for preschool. She generally feels okay about their money situation and feels they make plenty to fund their non-extravagent lifestyle. But she wants more financial security, realizing it’s going to take a lot of work to get there.
Monthly car loan…$500.00
Monthly natural gas bill…$27.75
Car insurance bill (for six months)…$235.86
Monthly Pandora subscription…$3.99
Preschool lunches for my son…$12.00
Total weekly spending: $1,036.42
The side-income salesman
A 39-year-old married male from Oklahoma with two children. He has a $239,000 mortgage on his rental property, and makes $137,000 a year. His biggest expenses are a $1,908 monthly payment towards his mortgage, $1,600 a month on groceries, and $1,350 a month for his two children to attend private school. While he has a 9 to 5 job, owns rental properties, and is the owner of a side business, he feels a sense of urgency that he should be saving more than he does.
Federal tax payment…$2,400.00
I bought a gun holster…$80.00
Lunch at Whole Foods with my kids…$20.00
Prescription from Walgreens…$10.00
I paid for a bed and breakfast for me and my wife’s 10-year wedding anniversary…$645.00
Dinner out with my kids…$30.00
Groceries, candy & a bottle of wine from Whole Foods…$77.00
I got a haircut…$15.00
Lip balm & a notebook from Walgreens…$8.00
I bought some patio furniture at a yard sale…$65.00
New clothes for my kids from Target…$111.00
I bought top soil from Walmart…$5.00
A bottle of wine…$10.00
Rolling Stones tickets from StubHub…$430.00
Total weekly spending: $3,990
Now it’s your turn to track a week of spending. Download this cheat sheet to make it super easy.