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I was first inspired by Olivia’s monthly finance reports from her financial independence blog, Birds of a FIRE, to start a monthly personal finance “report card” for January 2018 onward. I then read Adam’s monthly income & expense report on his finance and minimalism website, Minafi.com.
With that said, I was already tracking my monthly finances via a spreadsheet but didn’t have any intentions to share it with anyone, ever. This all changed in March 2018 when I saw a considerable amount of personal finance and FIRE bloggers who shared their financial report cards and reflected on it.
I liked the reflection part because I think it will help me to better understand what worked and didn’t work when it comes to my personal finances (and maybe help the occasionally FIRE dreamer here and there who can benefit from my mistakes lol).
I’m a little bit hyped up on caffeine right now from my black tea so let’s just get started.
There’s this movement going on in the personal finance and financial independence blogging community to acknowledge their privileges and biases while blogging, so their audience can better understand the mindset of the blogger, and for the blogger to better understand the viewpoints they are coming from in their articles. You can read about The FIRE Blogging Manifesto from Tanja at Our Next Life, a personal finance and financial independence blog.
With that said, I will note my privileges as I analyze my expenses and finances in order to be more transparent about my finances and where I’m coming from 😃
My “Spark Joy” Style of Looking at Money Interactions
Because I’m an avid KonMari minimalist, sometime in March 2018, I thought, “I have January 2018 and February 2018 incomes and expenses already added on my spreadsheet, let’s retro-actively apply the KonMari method to my finances to see how it looks.”
“What the heck do you mean, ‘KonMari your money?'” you might ask?
Good question and I’m glad you asked. It’s pretty much where next to each interaction I have with my money, whether it’s earning income, investing it, or expending it on something, I put “Yes” or “No” as to whether I enjoyed it or not. You can read more about how I KonMari my finances on my other blog post here.
My reasoning for this form of reflection is that I want to see what my enjoyment-to-spending ratio is, and how I can make better life and financial choices that will increase this ratio of enjoyment. My only criteria is the KonMari method, and Marie Kondo’s philosophy that we either enjoy it or we don’t (assuming there’s no middle ground). If you can’t answer with a resounding and complete “Yes” right away, then it gets labeled “No.”
I understand that this might be painting our enjoyments as black and white but humor me and let’s see where this experiment goes.
On a side note: there are some necessary evils of society that we might not enjoy, such as car insurance, house insurance, etc., you get the idea, and yes, I would label these as “No” also.
My Savings Ratio For January 2018
Without going into too much detail, I put away 17.30% of my after-tax income into investments and savings accounts. That’s not a ratio that I like, AT ALL. But it’s at least above the 10% minimum as suggested in The Richest Man in Babylon (it’s to a free version on the internet that I first ever read of the book, not Amazon 🙃). I made sure to put away more money in February and March 2018.
January 2018 was also a slow month for me as I took a 3 week stay-cation from work and didn’t get paid for time off. This affected the savings ratio.
My Expenses for January 2018
My Total Expenses For January 2018: $1,117.25
I’m going to analyze the expenses in that order. Transparency: I didn’t pay for rent this month because I lived for free at my girlfriend’s family’s house. However, I did do chores around the house, and helped around their farm, so it was pretty much an exchange of “farm labor” for lodging. Nor do I have any student loans (3 reasons: went to the cheapest State college, SUNY Purchase, where tuition was $4000/semester. Commuted from home, so no room & board cost. Dad paid for my tuition).
Expenses for my side hustles totaled $314.04. Nothing big there, it included costs of some goods that I’m working on shipping.
Credit Card Payments
Payments were $302.83. I’m working on paying off 3 credit cards right now, with the highest one with a balance of over $8,000. It kinda sucks but I got over it and am now buckling down and using the weekly pay-off method proposed by David Bach in his book, The Automatic Millionaire.
He proposes that by paying, say $50 per week for 4 weeks instead of $200 once per month, you end up paying less interest over the span of your credit card loans because that’s less principal for interest to accrue over the course of the 4 weeks.
Eating out was $238.80. I also like eating out, and I think January 2018 was a slightly sad month as I dealt with the harsh winter snow storms of central New York. It would snow like 10 inches a week and was horrible to shovel. It was dark by 4pm. I was stuck indoors for most of the month, which didn’t help my mood. I did try to go to the gym to release some endorphins but sometimes, it was so cold and windy that my excuse was to just stay in my nice warm room. But these are all excuses. And in order to be more proactive and not reactive, I have to be more aware of why I’m feeling certain ways and what I can do about it besides just spending money on eating to make myself feel better.
Also, being even more proactive so it doesn’t get to that point in the first place. (Perhaps a dry sauna with UV mood lighting in the bathroom? It would be warm AND I’d get a tan lol).
It was also my girlfriend’s birthday month, so I think I took her out a couple of times, lol. Not complaining, just acknowledging.
Here is where I will make transparency acknowledgements about my grocery expenses. I didn’t spend much money on groceries because I was staying with my girlfriend’s family and her mother provided the groceries and cooked most meals for the family. In a sense, my $99.23 in grocery expenses were pretty much for chicken thighs and Ben & Jerry’s milk and cookies ice cream.
Car Gas & Maintenance
Transparency: I don’t pay for car insurance. My girlfriend and I are privileged, lucky, blessed to have parents who pay for car insurance.
In January 2018, I started driving my girlfriend’s economical 2-door sedan to work instead of my big old clunky Jeep. Her car’s mileage was 25 mpg. My jeep was 17 mpg.
Instead of the Jeep’s $40-45/week in gas, I only spent roughly $20-25/week. This definitely helped save some money that could be better spent on credit card payments.
The rest is pretty self-explanatory. Entertainment was in the form of movies. I love going to the movie theatre as a form of escapism. Miscellaneous is for things such a stationary, etc. And the health & fitness is for a gym membership 🙂 gotta stay healthy on the road to FIRE. Privilege: my health and ability to go to the gym to stay healthy.
What I Actually Want to Share With You
It goes by the sexy name of “Percentage of Interaction-to-Enjoyment ratio.” Or just “Enjoyment Ratio” for short.
Pretty much, after writing yes or no after each interaction with your money, whether it was income, putting money away for investments, or spending money, you add up the total amount of yes’s and no’s of whether you enjoyed it or not.
You also add up the times of interactions with your money, again, with each direct-deposit you received, each investment, expense, etc.
For January 2018, I had a total of 47 interactions with my finances.
Out of these 47 interactions, I enjoyed 8 of them. Or rather, 8 “sparked joy,” for a 19.04% enjoyment ratio with my finances.
I didn’t enjoy 37 out of 47 interactions. This is an 80.95% non-enjoyment-ratio.
Analyzing the Enjoyment Ratio
It was a tough call to label some things that I moderately enjoyed as “No” but I think by making these tough calls, I can better look at it from a black-and-white perspective to focus on what I truly enjoy.
For example, from the “Eating out” category shown below, you can see that I enjoyed 7 out of 11 interactions with spending my money eating out. This shows that I predominantly enjoy eating out! 😃
However, not all eating out is equal. Sometimes, I ate something I didn’t like, or the experience wasn’t as pleasant as I thought it would be. That’s why there are some No’s, such as the bad Chinese food I had, or McDonald’s. You can even see that I F-ing ate McDonald’s twice. TWICE! After I didn’t enjoy it the first time. That’s some poor life choices, not to mention bad money moves. It’s a good thing I documented it on the spot from my mobile phone to analyze later.
It’s documenting interactions and experiences like these that I think will help me make smarter and better financial decisions going forward because that was close to $15 eating out at McDonald’s that I didn’t enjoy. That $15 could have been used to pay down debt or spent toward something I did enjoy. But life is a learning experience and we gotta roll with the punches, get back up, and keep moving forward.
On another note, if I didn’t document these interactions, I most likely would have forgotten about them and then made the same mistakes the upcoming months. Not only is sharing these thoughts with you cathartic, it’s also helping me better understand my financial decisions via a thorough analysis of myself and my decisions in order to make better ones going forward.
Just another example, I absolutely DID NOT enjoy filling up gas for the car. I thought it was stupid that I even had to fill up gas to begin with and longed to live in a city with pubic transportation. That, and it could have been the blistery winter winds nipping at my face as I stood filling up the car.
January 2018 was a retroactive analysis because I really started measuring the “Enjoyment” ratio in March 2018. Therefore, we’ll see how the rest of the months turn out. I’m predicting that I should begin making smarter money decisions that will increase the enjoyment interactions with my money sometime around March onward. At least we have it in blog writing now lol to make sure.
To borrow from Star Wars, there must be balance to the force.
Because of this idea, I realize that maybe the enjoyment ratio I should first aim for is at least 50-50. Then go from there to see if I can tip the balance into a higher ratio of enjoyment to non-enjoyment. We shall see!
Thank you for reading!
Would you consider doing this as well? Let me know in the comments below! I respond to every single one 😃
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