Saturday, April 2, 2011

March Budget Sum Up

Another month, another $100 discretionary fund. Well, I actually started this month in the red. Why? If you remember my dilemma in February, I ended up deciding to sign up for another month of boot camp (2, actually. I'm continuing in April). It set me back $127. I was almost inclined not to include it as discretionary spending seeing that the line between need and want here is blurry for me. To me, whipping myself into shape and working through an 18 month plateau is a need, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I ended up adding the cost anyways. It’ll also motivate me to find savings elsewhere.

The $127 turned out to be a disappointing investment. Not because the class isn't good. If it wasn't I wouldn't have signed up. The reason it was a disappointment was because I got sick for 2 weeks, so I wasn't able to attend half of the classes in March. I'm not beating myself up over it, though. Let's just count it was an "unforeseen circumstance." Life is full of surprises. Now I'll just have to make sure to take care of my body, and hopefully, this episode doesn't repeat.

The good thing about being sick though, was that I didn't go out much which resulted in the lack of chances to spend money. Excluding the boot camp, I spent a total of $84.47.

Here's a breakdown:

  • $25.90 on coffee
  • $35.24 on other food
  • $8.18 on books
  • $10.15 on BART tickets (public transportation)
  • $5.00 donation to Red Cross via Living Social

I wrote in the beginning of March that I wanted to cut the amount I spent on coffee to $15. Clearly, that didn't happen. I've had some time to think about why I this is. The answer lies in the fact that my buying coffee actually curbs spending on other things. Most of the time when I get coffee, it's when I'm out and about on the weekends. Purchasing a drink is much cheaper than eating an entire meal. Besides, having a cup of coffee in my hand makes it harder to sift through products in stores and helps me buy less!

The reason I wanted to curb coffee in the first place was because it's one of the most cliché things the media uses as an example of "cutting back." Experts love pointing out that "if you just cut out that $3 latte everyday, you'll save over $1000 a year.” But if it actually prevents me from purchasing larger ticket items without sacrificing my enjoyment of life, who's to say I'm not being frugal?

Even though I spent a total of $211.47, more than twice of my budget, I don't see the March results as a failure. I was able to dig deeper into why I splurge on certain things. Every time I think about buying something, I have to weigh it against other ways the money can be allocated. It often comes down to "I can either buy ________ or share a meal with a few friends on the weekend." I guess that's what frugality is: being able to make informed decisions on what maximizes happiness while making each dollar go further.

Like I mentioned before, I'll still be doing boot camp in April, but I've put my membership at the rock climbing gym on hold. This way, I'll lower the tab by $45. Hopefully, I'll fare better in total expenditure this month. Wish me luck!

Do you have a monthly discretionary budget? What are some of the decisions you have to make often because of it?


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