"A Writer in Austin, Texas Goes on a 30-day Money Challenge" is a month-long experimental series in which I, Sheena Sharma - editor here at On The Dot - actually track what I'm spending every day, for the very first time in my life.
A little about me: I'm a 28-year-old media professional living in a 1-bedroom apartment in South Austin. Interests include yoga, hanging with my dog, and shopping mostly for clothes and shoes and jewelry. I am hoping by challenging myself to chronicle my spending habits for 30 days straight, I will figure out where I can cut down on spending, and learn to budget in some way, so I can save for purchases for my future. This is Part 2.
If you read my post from last week, you’ll know that I’m on a quest to be more conscious of my spending habits. This week marked my second week of tracking my finances.
So far, I’ve noticed two things: I spend most of my money on coffee – which should come as a surprise to no one because a lot of millennials spend more on coffee than they save up for retirement – and I have a nasty clothes-shopping habit. But let’s pick up from where I left off last week.
9 AM: I started my day working from home as usual. I didn’t buy Starbucks and instead made some Tazo tea at home for my caffeine kick.
I spent most of the day as a hermit, not even leaving to get food, but taking short work breaks to walk my dog around the ‘hood. Such is the life of a work-from-home person.
6 PM: After a day of snacking through whatever was in my cupboards and refrigerator, I order Indian food. (Yes, I’m an Indian food addict). But it was worth every penny.
Generally, if I order out, I try to make sure I get at least two meals out of the order, otherwise it's just not financially worth it. Know what I mean?
Indian food, $30
9 AM: After waking up and walking the dog, I head to Starbucks to begin my work for the day. I get my go-to drink: a tall caramel iced coffee. It's soooo good.
2 PM: I head back home for some lunch, a frozen Lean Cuisine. I know frozen food isn’t exactly the healthiest for you, but they're cheap! And they're usually nutritionally dense enough. I'll always get something with a good carbohydrate-protein-fat ratio.
4 PM: I go to Black Swan Yoga for a free yoga class! I love this studio, in particular, because it’s donation-based – making it accessible for people in all income brackets. Other yoga studios in Austin will charge up to $40 a class, but Black Swan is unpretentious and good for yoga lovers like me who are on a budget.
6 PM: I eat dinner at home: scrambled eggs and toast with peanut butter. I hardly spent anything this day.
10 AM: My dog lets me sleep in a bit (yay!). We stop at Starbucks, where I pick up my iced coffee before we head to a nearby trail for an hour-long hike.
12 PM: I make one of my favorite smoothies at home: a banana, blueberries, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed, almond milk, and some ice. The seeds are filled with protein and the smoothie keeps me full for a few hours.
3 PM: I head to a friend’s house for a wine-and-snacks afternoon. Each guest brought her favorite bottle of wine. My favorite bottle is an Argentinian Malbec and is super affordable, at $10.
I really enjoy seeing my friends while saving money on drinks. If we were to go to a bar, we'd each be spending $10 on each drink. Why do that when you can drink a bunch of wines and talk about Tinder at home for much cheaper?
7 PM: My cousin just moved to town and wants to grab dinner. We head to Asiana, an Indian restaurant in South Austin. (Are you seeing a pattern here yet?) After eating some delicious food, we split the bill, which amounts to a total of $60.
Huh, I'm noticing I spent most of my money on food...
Indian food, $28
Sunday is always my self-care day. What I love about self-care – real self-care, like yoga, meditation and maybe a nice, hot bath – is that it’s all free of charge and it makes you feel good! I make my smoothie, do some yoga and plan for the week.
5 PM: I head over to MOD Pizza, an Austin pizza chain. I don’t typically eat pizza in Austin because I’m a New Yorker and am ~very~ picky about my pizza, but I was in the mood for it. I was pleasantly surprised that a medium-sized pizza pie was only just over $10. I grab a brownie for dessert.
7 PM: I take a bath, listen to some music and wind down for the night. I like having one day of the weekend to myself.
Pizza pie and a brownie, $12
Ah, the first of the month. You know what that means: rent collection time! Monday was a big money day. Ugh.
9 AM: I pick up my Starbucks and begin to work.
12 PM: I head to another café for my weekly work meeting with the team. I don’t buy any food or drinks at the café because I know I have lunch waiting for me at home.
3 PM: I eat the rest of my leftover pizza from the day before for lunch. (I’ll definitely be going back to that pizza joint because I got 2 meals out of it for $10). It holds me over while I work and until dinnertime.
5 PM: I pay my rent bill online. Womp womp.
6 PM: I head to Target to do some grocery shopping, and some food and treats for my dog. (Side note: Having a dog isn’t very expensive, but every few weeks, I do one bulk restock of his dry and canned food, his treats, and his toys). So, my grocery bill was a bit higher than usual.
On the way to the cash register, a pretty white dress catches my eye. I try to resist temptation but I can’t! I take the dress, try it on and fall in love with it. It’s $30, and I’m not supposed to shop for clothes this month, but…oh well...
7 PM: For dinner, I eat one of the pre-packaged meals I bought from Target.
Rent + utilities, $1150
7:30 AM: I drive to Starbucks to get my caramel iced coffee. Unfortunately, I haven’t been doing a good job staggering out my Starbucks; if you recall, I initially wanted to stick to only buying one every other day, but their iced coffees are so damn addicting that my tastebuds literally crave them the moment I wake up. UGH. Fail.
8 AM: I go hiking at Barton Creek with my dog, a couple of my neighbors and their dogs. Usually, I go hiking alone with my dog, so this was a nice change.
Part of my money-challenge is to engage in social activities that don’t break the bank, and this fit the bill perfectly. (No pun intended).
9:30 AM: I head back to Starbucks to begin my work day. I don’t usually buy two Starbucks in the same day, but I feel bad sitting down and not buying anything, so I buy a tall passion iced tea. My whole day consisted of just purchases at Starbucks, which I find pretty funny. (Oh, and no, I promise this isn’t an ad for Starbucks).
Starbucks coffee, $3
Starbucks Iced tea, $3
8:30 AM: I head to Starbucks to work. Along with my usual coffee, I purchase a water bottle. (Again, I don’t usually buy anything other than my coffee, but I was ill-prepared this morning and didn’t bring my water bottle from home).
Tomorrow is July 4th, but I don’t really anticipate spending much money, as I’ll be going to a free event hosted by Boss Babes. Luckily for me, there are so many fun, cool, free things to do around Austin, and I don’t need to spend a ton of money to have a good time.
Also, something else I've realized as I look over my little money journal is that since I don't drink much alcohol anymore, I've been saving a ton of money there. Aside from a glass of wine or two with friends one day a week, I don't go to bars anymore, which means I end up saving both on drinks and taxis.
Moral of the story? Don't drink! It's healthier, cheaper and safer. (Kidding! Kind of...not really). I'll see you guys next week! Have a happy 4th.