Did you know millions of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings? It’s true, and I used to be one of them. I blamed it on outside factors, of course. I had dozens of very real reasons, like the rising cost of healthcare, food, college and housing costs. But I also knew there was more to it.
I realized a deep dive into my spending would help me figure out where I was hemorrhaging money. So, I decided to track my family’s spending for three months. Here’s what I found out.
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During the first month, I spent as I normally would, to get an idea of where my money was going. Using an Excel spreadsheet (I’m a paper-and-pen kind of gal, normally), I tracked every single expense, down to the stick of gum I brought before hopping on the train. It was an eye-opener.
My second month was much more proactive. I used my log to categorize my expenses and weed out splurges. My top three splurges — food, Lyft and entertainment, in that order — weren’t surprising. What was surprising was how much I spent on my two Australian Shepherds that month: $992. It’s no wonder the pet industry will rake in an estimated $72.13 billion in 2018.
The third month, I really started cutting expenses. I canceled recurring subscriptions that I was no longer using ($275.25), canceled my cable service ($162.89) — we already had Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, so it seemed redundant — and reduced our food ($350), Lyft ($204.92), entertainment ($150) and pet upkeep/boarding ($350) expenses.
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Given that I live in a city and have access to public transportation, as well as safe walking spaces, I decided to take it a step further and sold my car. Doing so reduced my monthly expenses by an additional $733.39 ($408.39 garage, $125 insurance, $200 gas/upkeep), while also giving my savings a nice bump from the car sale.
Since starting this project, I’m happy to say I am no longer one of the millions of Americans that have less than $1,000 saved. I realize now that I was making choices every day that put my family’s financial future in jeopardy. I can’t change the rising costs of healthcare, food, college and housing costs, but I can take control of other expenses. Tracking my family’s expenses showed me where we could cut costs, without feeling too much pain. Now, I’m focusing on our household debt.
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