Rounding out this week’s Money Drain Awards are the Honorable Mentions. Although they didn’t rank in the top 3, they should still be acknowledged for their skillful artistry in draining our bank account.
Blow Money - $260/month - No, we don’t have a secret drug habit. This is random ATM/Cash withdrawals, and I simply have no idea where this money went. Probably random entertainment, food, bars, and whatever spur of the moment activity that needed cash. Duly titled, we blew through it.
Cell Phone - $210/month - Monthly bill total for our awful cell phone service. Can be largely blamed on our Smart Phones’ add-on features like email, web, and random apps we never use. We don’t need to be connected to the grid all the time.
Credit Card - $175/month - This is our approximate minimum payment amount. Although we often paid more than this amount monthly, we ended up using the card right after a huge payoff because we found ourselves in a financial tight spot. On the road to nowhere.
Gas - $160/month - We both work from home and feel this expense could be significantly cut by making more purposeful car trips and walking everywhere less than a mile.
Gifts - $550/year - Sorry, we love you friends and family, but what more do you need than our love?
Clothing/Shoes/Accessories - $40/month - I actually thought this would be higher because I love to shop. Turns out I’m somewhat thrifty for being such a fashion junkie.
Housewares - $40/month - Seriously, what the heck else do we need living in a 1 bedroom apartment?
Personal Care Products - $40/month - I’m mostly guilty here with my fixation on skin, makeup and hair products. I always wanted to try something new, and I could never leave a drug store empty handed.
Aaaaand that’s a wrap for the Money Drain Awards! It’s been a fun week divulging our past year’s big expenditures beyond practical needs! To check out all the big wins, click here.
With only a $50 gap, I’m calling a tie for 3rd Place in our first ever Money Drain Awards.
Dining Out - $440/month
This includes ALL food and drink experiences not prepped or cooked in the home - restaurants, take out, coffee shops, frozen yogurt, ice cream, wineries, bars, bakeries, etc. This is by far the most tempestuous category in the Bay Area. We live in Foodie Nation. Walking down 24th Street in the heart of the Mission, how can you not be enticed by a scoop of Humphry Slocombe’s Secret Breakfast ice cream, a flavorful blend of bourbon and cornflakes? And don’t get me started on the beloved bay area organic Blue Bottle coffee, individually slow dripped less than 48 hours out of a micro roaster, we’re talking smooooth! I’m not going to bore you with elite San Francisco foodie talk, because there are plenty of other blogs for that. Dining out is a phenomenal part of the cultural makeup here, and I’m starting to think we’ve lost our minds declaring we will not be eating out for an entire year. We’re swimming in a sea of sharks.
Groceries and Household - $490/month
I found it too difficult to separate the food groceries from the random household products like detergent and cleaning supplies. Every couple of months, a trip to Costco or Target would greatly increase this tally while some months were much lower, but averaging it out over 12 months resulted in nearly $500 per month in groceries. Really? I think the bulk of it was food, indulging on fancier cuts of meat, name brand labels, gourmet products and over abundance. We simply would buy more than we could eat in a week - especially considering that we were often running for take out or casual dining. Many of the overstocked items would sit in our cabinet for months, even years. Since our spending lockdown started, we’ve been eating the remnants of this bounty.
All in all, spending almost $1000 a month nearly all on food is comical for two people. It’s important to note that we are not giving up foodie culture, and as a result, we are learning to cook our favorite dishes from scratch. To tell ya the truth, cooking at home has thus far been the most rewarding part of this whole experience.
Continuing this week with our Money Drain Awards…
Travel - $7200/year
I was pretty taken aback by this tally. Even though we traveled to Bali and Mexico in the past year, what made up the other half of this amount? Scouring our bank account records revealed quite a few frivolous weekend trips. The irony is that we thought we were cheaply pulling off these mini getaways, but the bank statements proved otherwise. My husband and I love to travel, and as I expressed previously, I can’t imagine my life without it. But the reality is that in order to save money, we have to slash our travel budget until we are debt free. This number is making me especially nervous because I have a few upcoming trips (planned prior to our spending fast), and I’m going to have to take big precautions for expenditures. This might prove to be our greatest challenge yet.
I mentioned yesterday in my post about Perk Spending how I tracked both my husband’s and my expenses for the past year (June 2010 to June 2011). Seeing our monthly spending averages broken down by category, we understood that we were between the devil and the deep blue sea. We could either continue spending on everything we wanted but carrying a large amount of debt, or we could give up our perk spending in an effort to start significantly paying down the debt. Obviously, with the creation of this blog, we chose the latter.
Over the next few days, I will post what we feel like were our biggest money drains beyond our practical needs(rent, insurance, healthcare etc.) ranking them 1st, 2nd, and so on. Some expenditures were necessities but we believed could be dramatically cut. These are either monthly or yearly averages based on the category.
I now present to you…
THE MONEY DRAIN AWARDS
Student Loans - $750/month
Our Badges of Honor. These are the minimum payments combined on both of our loans, so obviously this is not a category we can cut back on. Some might think this is inappropriately ranked at the top because this is good debt, and that it was necessary because it’s education. It will only be good when it’s paid off, and we both are of the opinion that post-grad education was unnecessary for our current careers. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll never regret attending grad school. I’ll go so far as to say that it was worth the money in terms of life experience, skills learned and growth as an artist. But we classify this as a perk because it is a somewhat privileged choice to attend grad school. Many great opportunities came out of attending, but now it’s time to pay for it. Once we pay off the joint credit card, we are going to tackle these loans with a vengeance, hopefully doubling even tripling this monthly amount to pay it off rapidly. Until they’re gone, they will continue to be a huge money drain.