Overspending & Boredom: Tracking my Spending

No job + staying home mostly all day = a whole lotta boredom. So for the month of May, I tracked my spending (outside of bills) and stopped drinking, which meant no buying booze.

I’m fascinated by personal finance and how others relate to and think about money.

I believe that an individual’s relationship to money and habits has to do with environment, family history, and emotional triggers.

Learning to save when I was younger

My parents tried to teach me that saving is a good thing, but I think it fell short. My mom opened my first savings account for me when I was 10, but reluctantly allowed me to blow the $800 I had saved on a stereo.

My parents weren’t great at saying no, and to some extent, I have a hard time setting limits on my adult self. My emotional triggers mostly boil down to boredom and anxiety.

Socially, it’s sometimes hard to hang with friends and not spend any money. (Although, I do enjoy some physical distance picnics in the park on a sunny day.)

I wanted to work on changing my habits by being more mindful of my reaction after recognizing those triggers.

Awareness first, then work on your habits

Habit expert and author Charles Duhigg recommends replacing bad habit activities with something healthier. At its core, it’s basically replacing one habit for another, but you’re also training your brain to associate those triggers with the healthier activity. Fair enough.

I wanted to find out how often I’d use Duhigg’s habit training methods, especially in times of boredom or anxiousness (i.e., wandering into the grocery store or opening up Amazon on my browser).

The outcome

I had 11 days of not spending, but don’t let that fool you. It wasn’t always easy.

There were many moments when I just wanted to get outside and get coffee or or wander aimlessly into a grocery store. On those 11 days, I had to restrain myself. I also discovered that I wasn’t necessarily replacing that with another “better” activity. I just didn’t do it.

But as we all know, you can’t rely on sheer willpower to get you through tough moments.

In these moments, I had to replace the habit with something else. Instead of walking to the store, for example, I’d pick up a book or go for a walk on a new route (in the opposite direction of the stores and coffee shops). I’d also call up friends.

No boozin’

Surprisingly, staying away from alcohol was pretty easy. I craved a glass of wine, maybe twice. I’m happy to report that my dry month is extending into June. Why drink if I don’t really want it?

Here’s a day-by-day play of what my month looked like:

May 1, Friday

Sometimes I make my own juices and reuse a Starbucks cup to make me feel like I got something from there. It’s kind of lame, but it works.

It’s the first day of May. Here we go.

For the first time in a month, the weather was bright and sunny. I wanted to get outside and soak up the rays.

Usually, I’d be holding a cold brew from Starbucks. I couldn’t resist because I actually passed by a drive-thru. (This was when most Starbucks locations were closed, except for drive-thrus.)

  • -$3.65 cold brew

May 2, Saturday

After opening my fridge and looking at my cupboards for the 10,000th time, I decided I needed more apples, bananas, and nut milk. I wandered into the Grocery Outlet. (My first time discovering this magical place!)

  • -$20 fresh fruit

May 3, Sunday

All uphill…

I started going on regular bike rides to the Bay Bridge, which is a slow, steady, and painful uphill ride for about 7 miles. The whole ride is about 14 miles and I’m proud to say I did it without quitting.

Bike rides make my lower back ache, so I started thinking about what else I can do outside, since the weather is so great and I live so close to these awesome paved trails.

It was already in my mind that I wanted to pick up roller skating again (I don’t think I’ve been on skates since I was in 6th grade) but it’s like riding a bike, right? The next thing I knew I was on Amazon to find out how much they cost and how quickly I could get it delivered.

Hope I don’t break my neck.

Guiltily, I hit purchase, and bought a pair of black skates for $86. I told myself I’d get lots of use from them and practice early in the morning, before all the bikers and runners hit the trail. It’s exercise, afterall. (Cut to a month later, I’ve been on those damn skates exactly once.)

Then I thought about all that baking I’ve been doing. I’ve joined the masses and bake almost daily. Banana bread, banana carrot bread, banana blondies… and I wanted to get a mixer.

I’ve always wanted an immersion blender, so I decided now is the time. It’ll help get my baking done efficiently and I’ll get plenty of uses from it. (Cut to a month later, I’ve used the hand blender twice. I think the lesson here is that just because you “always wanted one” doesn’t mean you should get one.)

Plus, I already broke the rule with the rollerskates, so who cares. I hit purchase again, and bought a hand blender for $34. Good Lord, I’m only on day three.

  • -$86 roller skates
  • -$34 hand blender

May 4, Monday

Despite having gone to Grocery Outlet the other day, my fridge was pretty empty. I hadn’t gone for my weekly grocery run since Trader Joe’s on April 30, so I went to Sprouts.

  • -$65 groceries

May 5, Tuesday

  • No spending!

May 6, Wednesday

  • No spending!

May 7, Thursday

  • -$48 Whole Foods (Ahem, more groceries? What can I say, I love fresh fruit and veggies…)

May 8, Friday

  • -$36 Target (SPF spray, avocados, and random things? This was definitely on a day when I was majorly bored.)

May 9, Saturday

  • -$100 to my mom for Mother’s Day

May 10, Sunday

  • No spending!

May 11, Monday

  • -$22 stamps from USPS

May 12, Tuesday

  • -$64 Trader Joe’s (My weekly groceries.)

May 13, Wed

  • -$14 Amazon (Bought a few spices I needed for baking and cooking.)

May 14, Thurs

Repotting plants is so therapeutic.

I have a lot of plants. I get really great light in my living room, so my plants have been growing like crazy.

Some of my larger plants are potted in large, plastic storage bin containers I bought for $5 at Daiso. After a recent Target run in a nearby city, I discovered that a Daiso was actually open!

So I went in there and bought a few more storage bins, as well as some kitchen supplies I needed, or… wanted (is the better word).

I came home and repotted my plants and threw some ones that were dying into the trash.

  • -$5 Ace (potting soil)
  • -$43 Daiso (kitchen stuff)

May 15, Fri

  • No spending!

May 16, Sat

  • No spending!

May 17, Sun

  • No spending!

May 18, Mon

  • No spending!

May 19, Tues

  • -$11 Walmart (Picked up some fresh fruit/veggies: bananas, spinach, blackberries)
  • -$15 Audible (I caved and subscribed again.)

May 20, Wed

  • -$27 KP Market (Sometimes, I need my Korean shiz. I went to the local Korean market and bought mushrooms, sesame seed, melons, and kimbap)

May 21, Thurs

  • No spend!

May 22, Fri

  • -$6 coffee (After a long hike on a beautiful day, a cold brew was in order.)

May 23, Sat

  • -$16 Oakland Farmers Market (Fresh produce: beets, kale, peaches, oh my…)

May 24, Sun

  • No spending!

May 25, Mon

  • -$19 Amazon Prime “Better Call Saul” season 5 (Because I need to know what happens in season 5!)

May 26, Tues

  • -$30 Walmart (Household items run: toilet paper, laundry detergent)

May 27, Wed

  • -$45 Air fryer from Amazon (This was definitely an “I’m bored” purchase, but I have heard amazing things about these babies and I was craving some perfectly crispy sweet potato fries.)
  • -$38 Sprouts (Weekly grocery run)

May 28, Thurs

  • No spending!

May 29, Fri

I decided to get Starbucks today for a cold brew. While I was walking there, I thought about someone who said he was having a rough day at work, so as a “Happy Friday” nice gesture, I sent him a few bottles of wine via delivery.

  • -$36 Whole Foods delivery
  • -$3 Starbucks (venti cold brew)

May 30, Sat

  • No spending!

May 31, Sun

I had previously been making cold brew in a pitcher with grinds thrown in. It always tasted kind of “off.”

This, of course, made me want Starbucks cold brew, so I figured, maybe I’ll save in the long run by getting a proper cold brew maker? Or was I just suckered into buying something I don’t need?

  • -$39 Cold brew maker from Amazon

I’m continuing this habit of tracking my spending and thinking about why I’m doing it. Being mindful about spending when you don’t have a job is crucial, plus it may help me hold on to those good habits once I have a full-time job.