Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The ugly 2008 truth

So. A VERY rough snapshot of what I spent during 2008 would look roughly like this:

Blow money (not cocaine! Just mad money!): 897.41 Most of this was spent during the first quarter of the year when I was smoking. Disregarding that, this works out to less than $20/week spent on whatever I felt like, which I think is not too bad.
Cell phone: 976.58
Clothes: 708.22
Dance expenses: 1303.55
Dance income: 1353.00 Well, I thought I was in the hole but it turns out I'm not exactly. This is a little misleading, as it doesn't include the value of costumes received as payment and also some of the expenses are fully deductible (classes, transportation) and some are only partly deductible (meals). I'll be paying taxes on around $500.
Entertainment: 350.18 Movies, books, museums, video games, theater, etc.
Food—Dining out: 2885.57 This includes restaurants as well as everything bought while running about, including bagels from street vendors (daily), Dr. Peppers, granola bars, etc. It’s horrible.
Food—Groceries: 987.56 Peanut and I now split buying groceries since we eat almost every meal together. But still. I spent three times as much eating out as I did on groceries!
Gifts: 799.55
: 95.32 This is things like dish soap, toilet paper, adhesive for when I knock the soap dish off the shower wall, cleaning supplies, etc.
Laundry: 108.50 I don't budget for laundry, as I pay for it almost entirely with quarters that I collect during my regular cash transactions.
Medical 183.99 That entire amount was reimbursed through my flex spending account, although it seems pretty low. There must be transactions I was reimbursed for but didn't record (maybe in February?).
Misc Income: 2120.00 This includes gifts, payment from Pinecone Research and focus groups, and things like when everyone gave me cash to put a dinner on my credit card. I need to figure out how to break this out more clearly in the next generation of spreadsheet.
Moving: 3452.00 This includes the broker’s fee, credit check fee, security deposit (but not first month’s rent), bank fee for certified checks, and the movers, who cost me $100 more than they should have.
Mystery shop expense: 2351.34
Mystery shop payment
: 2477.97 Small profit! As you can see, mystery shopping is NOT about MAKING money. But that's $2,350 worth of free merchandise or meals, plus a small profit, for not a whole lot of work. I prefer to make less of a profit anyway, since that keeps my tax liability very low.
Net pay from day job: $22,336.64. Wow, that’s a very small number compared to the salary I have on paper. However, I have deducted from my gross pay: medical, dental, vision, life insurance, 401k contributions, medical flex spending contributions, and my monthly metrocard for transportation. Best to keep the taxable income as low as possible anyway!
Personal: 310.53. This includes things like toothpaste, hair cuts, etc.
Refunds: 128.67. Stuff I changed my mind about, I guess! This might include some mystery shop things that I had to return as part of the shop.
Rent: 12608.00. (HALF of my net income!) So worth it. If I stayed with my roommate, I would have spent $10,500--If I'd realized the difference in yearly cost would be so little, I would have gotten my own place a long time ago.
Renter's Insurance: 101. Small price for peace of mind.
School: 383.91. This is out of pocket money for books and fees.
Stupid tax: 9.25. Library fines, ATM fees.
Taxes: 548.30. This is state and federal taxes (I had to pay both) as well as the fee to file through TurboTax (which is deductible off next year’s taxes).
Therapy: 570.00 Not too bad for the world of good it’s done me.
Travel: 1,366.82. This includes cab rides, plane/train tickets, car services and one-off metrocard purchases (for friends who visit or when I forgot/lost my own pass). It does not include my regular monthly metrocard purchase or travel to/from dance jobs.
Tuition reimbursement: 5,000. From work, non-taxable.
Utilities: 529.84 This is gas and electric, the only bill I have (no cable, no internet, water/heat included in rent). And actually, MUCH lower than expected! Yay!
Student Loans: 12,224

Total difference: ~$1,890 more in than out, not counting the student loans

So, what have we learned?

First, I need a simpler way to keep track of everything so that it's actually accurate. This is very helpful but I have no illusion that it's accurate. I can't wait to start plugging things in to Peanut's spreadsheet.

What went pretty much right:

The categories for Blow, Entertainment, Clothes, Household, Laundry, Medical, Personal, School, Stupid Tax, and Utilities seem pretty good.

Where I can improve:

Travel could be rounded down a bit. I don't plan to travel as much this year as I did last year. Cell Phone should also come down--I like having unlimited internet and everything else on my Palm, but it's really not a necessity. Gifts were also a little high, though I don't usually buy a plane ticket for my sister for Christmas.

The giant elephant in the room is Dining Out vs. Groceries. That's just Not Acceptable Anymore in my world. My goal for 2009 is to have a lower Dining Out category than Groceries. Some easy ways to accomplish that--stop buying crap like sodas while out and about (I'm trying to quit drinking soda anyway), eat breakfast at home instead of getting a bagel from the street vendor every day, and STOP GOING TO RESTAURANTS ALL THE DAMN TIME. I get to eat out pretty frequently with mystery shops; there is NO REASON for me to eat out UNLESS I'm getting paid to do so! I'll probably get suckered into eating out with the girls at work sometimes, but I need to step up and suggest some cheaper places when we do so (or suggest happy hours instead, which would come out of blow money--or is that cheating?).

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