How I'm taking control of my finances in January

At the end of January, I went for my second ever tarot reading. If you are wondering how I go from spending money on a tarot reading in December to saving money in January…I promise I’m going somewhere with this!

My tarot reading (at This Magic Life in San Francisco) was mostly focussed on my job and my upcoming change to my role, to take on my dream role working 100% on Diversity & Inclusion. To my surprise, during the reading the theme of money came up, and the tarot reader told me that I was going to get my finances in order in 2019. She told me I would be spending time getting everything in order, I’d get my ducks in a row, and it was going to help me to become richer, it would be good in the end.

I was really interested by this because it wasn’t something I had on my plan, but I had been mentioning to my boyfriend the possibility of me seeing a financial advisor about saving to buy a house one day. I forgot about it for the most part, until I found myself on Jan 2nd with an urge to go through my December statements and do an ‘audit’ of my spending.

A December spending audit may not have been the best idea…it was so painful. Not only did I have all the December gifts but I also splurged more than usual on myself with the excuse of ‘well it’s the Holidays!’ I was amazed how everything added up, especially food, Uber, and ‘self-care’. I want to take a minute to acknowledge my privilege here - I am a young(ish), educated, white woman who CAN afford to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and came to do this audit not because I was down to my last dollar, which is a huge luxury I’ve been afforded. I acknowledge that and give gratitude, whilst also knowing that to be the best version of myself I can be I want to be more in control of what I’m earning and where I’m spending it.

So I did some research on money-saving tips and I want to share with you what I am trying in January to have a money-saving month!

1. Firstly, audit

As I did, my first recommendation is to take stock of what you have coming in and what you have coming out. To do this, I downloaded my monthly statement from each of my banks and then created broad categories (Housing, Food, Clothes, Beauty, Social, Dog, Misc etc). That gave me a list of my top spending categories and the amount I spent in a month, so I could see the percentage of my monthly spend going on each category and see if my outgoings were greater than my ingoings for that month.

Looking at those broad categories, I made assessments on where I could make efficiencies (i.e. STOP spending so much!) The ones I chose were Food, Clothes and Beauty. After implementing my other tips (below), I’ll be able to do the exercise again in January and see how much I managed to save!

2. Be the captain of your (spending) ship!

I had a feeling that there were a LOT of skeletons in my financial closet that I’d been turning a blind eye to for too long (sorry, too many idioms!) I was almost afraid to dive into my daily spending and see what I was buying, but I knew that with a few hours of upfront maintenance I would be able to check in for just 5 minutes a day and feel completely in control. Firstly, I downloaded my banking apps on my phone. I know, I know, is this 2009? For some reason, I’d just never done that and gotten away with only logging into my banking on my laptop when I absolutely needed to. Secondly, I signed up for text message alerts EVERY TIME a transaction went through on any of my accounts. This made me extra accountable for every purchase I made and had the added bonus of catching those sneaky hidden payments that had been going through without me knowing. Through this method I was alerted to:

1) A charge from Sephora that was for a membership i’d signed up to that I no longer need (I have now cancelled)

2) A monthly subscription to HBO I’d forgotten to cancel after my trial

3) My squarespace annual subscription going through, on the wrong card (not the card that gives me rewards)

This was all in just a few days! I hope over time the number of these little surprises declines to near zero but for the time being I’m just glad that I caught the unnecessary recurring payments sooner rather than later

3. Preparation is key

With a goal of cutting the amount I spent on food, I took a hard look at the way I’ve been buying food. I tend to buy my food from Wholefoods via Instacart (not for long though unfortunately) and I was ordering more than once a week, as I tended to run out of food before the week was up or I wanted to cook a recipe that I needed different ingredients for. For January, I committed to weekly meal planning, so every Sunday I’ll be sitting down with my cookery books and picking recipes. I did it this week and only needed to top up on Almond milk and Celery

4. Waste not, want not

Although I always cook more than one portion I was rarely eating my leftovers as I was just eating whatever I wanted that day rather than optimizing for using up what I had. I’m aware this is an incredibly wasteful attitude and if I’m serious about my commitment to living an eco-friendly life, this has to go! This week I’ve cooked 3 dishes that have stretched out all week. The first dish I made was a delicious Lentil Daal that I happily ate 3 days in a row in slightly different ways, mixing it up between a rice and homemade paratha side. Maybe in time this will get harder, but so far i’ve been loving the satisfaction of knowing I’m saving money each time I eat leftovers!

5. Remove Temptation

My shopping habit needs to be curbed and although I would say that I’ve been doing better in recent months, I’m still noticing that my temptation is all coming from external stimuli - mostly marketing emails and instagram.

Marketing emails are wonderful for alerting us of sales and new arrivals but terrible for our wallets! There we are getting on with our day and then suddenly, we see a catchy subject-line, click ‘open’ and are taken down a rabbit hole of desire. This week I have unsubscribed to EVERYTHING that isn’t completely temptation free. It takes a while to do, but only 10 seconds more than just hitting delete and much more efficient over time (in 5 days I’ll have made that time back in not having to click delete 5 more times!) It also frees up my inbox making me more efficient in my day and less stressed by mounting email piles.

Influencers make money a lot of the time because they are really good at what they do - influence! And I’ve found occasions even this week when I am clicking through and looking at some item that I do not need that I now want because so-and-so has it and loves it. The first step here is AWARENESS. Just saying to myself before an instagram session, “be aware, no shopping” can be enough to rewire my brain to avoid clicking on those pesky links. In a moment I’m tempted, I ask myself “Do i really need this to live a happy life?” (always a “no”) and then ask myself “How will I feel about this purchase later - guilty or justified?” This has got me off of a few product pages without adding-to-cart in the last week or so!

6. Celebrate your success

This is really important when embarking on any new lifestyle choice or challenge and I’ve been reminding myself this week that I’m on a journey and this is just the next step in my more money-conscious life. There will be mistakes and slip-ups (see the subscription payments in number 2) but ultimately I’m making my life better. One way I’m allowing myself to celebrate each and every win is by using a Piggy Bank app to track my daily savings. This means that every time I choose not to spend when I previous would have done, I log it in my app. Some things I’ve ‘saved’ on this week are:

  • Taking my own hot drink to a friend date in the park rather than buying one at the cafe

  • Taking leftovers to the Assembly rather than buying food

  • Practicing yoga at home with Adriene rather than going to a studio

It’s worth saying that my goal for this exercise is not to not spending but to feel more in control and knowledge of my financial footprint. I want to be able to spend money on things that I’ll really benefit from, like experiences with my friends, my boyfriend and my family and personal items that I’ll cherish without any feelings of guilt or remorse. I’m still treating myself occasionally, this week it was $11 for 100% cocoa sugar-free chocolate (which is extortionate, but was worth it to satisfy by chocolate craving whilst staying free from my intolerances!)

I’d love to hear how you save money and any tips you have! Let me know in the comments!