Money Diary: My Spending Vices
“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.” – James W. Frick.
This quote makes me cringe. If you were to look at where I spend my money, you’d think my priorities lie in artisan coffee and decor from HomeSense. If you asked me what I value in life, I’d say travel, good food and being financially secure. All things that I’m not doing, eating or being.
My spending habits are out of alignment with my values, so I’m putting myself on a budget for the month and will write weekly about the challenges, pitfalls and discoveries I make along the way.
I’m not alone in my lack of money management. In the past year Canadian household consumer debt rose to record levels. For every dollar of disposable income earned, Canadians owe $1.65 in credit.
I live in Vancouver, where salaries have not kept with the rising cost of rent and food. In 2015 the Canadian Rental Housing Index found that across Canada, British Columbia had the highest number of renters spending over 30 per cent of their income on rent and in four major urban centres—Coquitlam, Richmond, Burnaby and Vancouver—renters are spending over 50 per cent of their income on rent.
When I moved into the city from the suburbs in 2008 as a student, I proclaimed that I was going broke $20 at a time, now it’s $30 at a time. That’s a 50 per cent increase in broke-ness.
Cost of living woes have been a handy scapegoat for my poor money choices. The reality is, I’m not entirely a victim. I want my craft beer and I want to drink it too.
For the past several months I’ve tracked my spending using a tracking app, which has illuminated some of my more unsavoury spending habits.
First, my food bill is atrocious.
Statistics Canada reported that food prices have risen by 1.1 per cent in the past year alone. This not only affects my grocery bill, but also my dining out bill. That being said, I eat out too much. I’ve always considered myself a home cook, but judging by my spending habits, I’ve been lying to myself.
I’ve boiled this issue down to time management and general laziness. It takes time to put together a lunch, and at night, frankly, I just don’t feel like doing it. I’m not a morning person, so my best intentions to make lunch in the morning are consistently thwarted by the snooze button.
My inability to commit to making lunch costs me a couple hundred bucks a month on “quick lunches” and that’s on top of the groceries I’ve bought and allowed to rot in the fridge.
Another area of concern is the number of impulse purchases I accumulate in a month that aren’t much individually, but add up over time– $10 here, $30 there. I’m attributing this to my inability to remember purchases I’ve made even an hour earlier.
It’s like when you indulge in that sumptuous chocolate chip cookie at noon, only to forget about it by dinner time and break into a chocolate mousse for dessert. I’ve already maxed out my sugar intake, but whoops, totally forgot it even happened.
A spending tracker has been good for pointing out my forgetful ways, but it’s only as useful as the person using it.
I’ve created a budget for myself and a financial plan with my CI Direct Investing financial advisor, David Dyck, which is pretty aggressive. I’m going to cut my spending by nearly half and it’s no doubt going to be painful.
What I’m hoping to get from this month-long experiment is a sense of control over my financial life, implement better habits regarding time management and conscious spending, as well as finish the month with more money in the bank.
The payoff will be extra money in the bank, less stress about my finances and freed up cash for the things I really want to do, like scuba diving.
Abby Wiseman is a journalist, writer and communications professional based out of Vancouver, BC. She’s written for publications from the Vancouver Sun, Metro Vancouver, and BCBusiness, to being an Associate Producer for CBC Radio One. Follow her on Twitter. She also contributed to the CI Direct Investing blog.