Where does the paycheck go? I seem to have the magical power of making money disappear and I’ve done it consistently for decades. My partner blames the kids so when we had an empty nest in May, I designed a procedure for following every penny.
Tracking our spending can be tricky because we have a constant flow of traffic. My home serves as a make-shift orphanage for millennials. The rooms that once housed my children are now open for others. Our occupancy rate in each room varies and I’m a horrible cook so most guests have to fend for themselves for food. They DO use electricity, natural gas and water. I monitor this but not as meticulously as I am other spending. Someday, I plan to open my extra bedrooms for paying guests Air B and B style but for now, millennials stay for free as we teeter between youth hostel and homeless shelter.
In May, all of my biological children were not living at home so I started tracking the rest of the paycheck. I sorted receipts into six categories including groceries, entertainment, gasoline, home improvements, medical and celebrations. Sadly, even when tracking every dollar, it seemed to disappear quickly but I made a two important discoveries during May that I’m using to better inform my spending during June.
Finding #1-Spending Money on Fruit and Vegetables Feels Good
When I shop for single categories of food, I have a much better understanding of what we are using and how much we are spending. Last week, I spent $29.15 at a produce stand. My son (now living at home-we had an empty next for 2 days but that’s a different story) grilled asparagus and bell peppers for dinner Friday night. We ate strawberries over the sink, much like we would a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.* Carrots, celery and tomatoes were washed and put in containers to be added to lunches along with the apples. Every part of my $29.15 could be followed to a belly of someone I love.
In the past, during the summer months, my family has purchased produce at Farm Stands (conveniently located near wineries) and at Farmer’s Markets. I didn’t realize we had a year round produce store near our home until one of our guests received WIC vouchers that could only be used at a produce stand. She tracked down 185th Produce and it’s become my new favorite place to buy fruits and vegetables. It’s fast, with great variety and I like supporting local farmers.
Last week I also spent $144 at a grocery store. While I purchased everything on my list and limited my impulse buying to just one thing, I don’t have a good sense about the value of what we purchased. The fuzzy memory of what filled my cart makes me wonder about disaggregating my shopping event further. What if I shopped by categories of the food pyramid so I could see where my dollars went? Would it change my spending habits in a positive way? That will be my next challenge.
Finding #2-Pennies Add Up
My husband has always emptied his pockets at the end of the day into jug on the dresser. I typically use my debit card for purchases so don’t get much change but I certainly find a lot. I started saving the coins I found as part of my decluttering process in July 2018. As I empty and organize an area, the coins I find go into a growler. A growler full of coins is HEAVY so I decided to deposit them. US Bank on the corner of 185th and Farmington Road has a coin counting machine. I called ahead and learned that Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings between 9:00 and 10:00 are typically pretty calm times at the bank. When I called, I learned that coin machines jam when other objects are included so I was encouraged to clean the coins before brining them in if I hoped for a quick visit. Sure enough, play plastic pennies and washers were in the mix.
I hate waiting in line at the bank. I hate making others wait. Because I’ve been THAT person in the past as I made a Pennies for Patient deposit after a school-wide coin collection, I limited my visits this time to a half-full one gallon ziplock bag. My first trip took a total of 4 minutes and 37 seconds and I left with $58.62 in my account. My second trip was even faster but with $59. It could be that this particular location is just amazing but my whole attitude about banking has shifted with these visits. The people at the counter know their customers and greet them by name as they enter. My attitude about coins has shifted too as I’ve consolidated what was already in my home into my son’s tuition fund for fall. He’s now nearly $200 closer to his goal. I’m on the hunt for other things in my home that I can collect and cash in.
Though my money still SEEMS to disappear, I now have a much better understanding of where some of it is going. I know we at healthy foods part of the time and for that I feel good. During May we celebrated two wedding showers, a house-warming-send-off party, two birthdays, three road trips and a graduation. My total spending on groceries was $1166.27. While I’m not sure how my cupboards still seem bare, I know that I had a lot of fun time with friends and family and you can’t put a price tag on that.
*Oregon grows the best strawberries in the world. If you pass a stand selling berries, the smell alone draws you in. Small, red ripe Hood strawberries are my favorite this week.