Though I haven’t actively started saving money yet, at least I’ve figured out where all my money is going, and have set a tentative Budget of $500 per month (not including rent, of course). I think that’s a good place to start this money-saving challenge. I have realized that it is important to set realistic limits for my spending and justify why each exists. Here are the areas that have been putting the biggest dents into my wallet:
A girl’s gotta eat, right? Well, groceries are expensive, especially when I get lazy and go to local corner stores near my apartment that often have a $10 credit card minimum and insanely marked-up prices. It’s also difficult to buy food for one person – A lot of times the produce I buy goes bad before I can eat it, which means I’m literally throwing money away.
What’s worse is when I eat meals out. I avoid sit-down restaurants when possible, but sometimes the occasion arises (a housemate’s birthday or a friend visiting, for example) and it’s hard to say no because eating is such a social event. Also, I’ve found that a lot of times, I’ll be doing something for the whole day and will end up having no choice but to get food while I’m out. It seems like no big deal to spend $5 on Halal food or tacos from a truck, but when that happens a couple times a week, it really starts to add up. I have allotted $20 per week for groceries and an additional $20 per week for meals eaten out, which totals $160 per month for my Budget on food.
Everywhere I go, I see dogs, children, parks, and food that I want to take pictures of, which is exciting, fun, inspiring – you get the point. It’s also insanely expensive since I use a film camera. Most photo shops in the city charge up to $15 to develop a roll of 24 pictures. As I’ve already taken 3 rolls of film, that adds up to $45 just on pictures!
There’s so much to do in New York City! Comedy clubs, photography classes, Coney Island, and concerts are calling my name. But a lot of these activities cost money, directly or indirectly. For example, I went to Coney Island a few weekends ago for the annual “Mermaid Parade”. While it was free, I still ended up spending money on photo booth pictures, empanadas, and games. Also, many attractions in the city such as the MoMA cost money. It feels like a wasted opportunity to just hang out in my apartment when there’s a whole city waiting to be explored!
This all fits into the category of “Entertainment” in my Kiboo Budget, along with film. I have been spending a lot of money on going to see movies, art exhibits, and comedy shows, but I am extremely committed to finding free or very cheap things to do, even if that means spending a night or two watching Netflix at home. I also have to figure out what I’ve spent at free events and plan to avoid these costs. For that reason, I have set a somewhat conservative Budget of $80 per month on entertainment.
I made the mistake of subletting an unfurnished apartment. That means that everything from the tables and chairs to the sofa and bed had to be brought from my parent’s home or bought. While I brought my futon and beanbag chairs from home, there were some unexpected costs, such as a sofa and an air conditioner. That was on top of the regular cutlery and toiletries that one has to invest in when moving into a new place.
For the most part, furniture is a one-time investment. However, there are some basic items that constantly need to be bought, such as paper towels and toilet paper. Therefore, I have allotted $20 per month towards the “Personal Care” category.
5. Shared Living Expenses
While living with housemates is a blast and saves me tons on rent, there are other costs involved. We make “house decisions” to buy certain communal items like cooking essentials, house decorations and combined presents. Of course, these purchases are a part of the experience of living with others, which is really fun. But again, they add up, especially since I sometimes help pay for items I wouldn’t buy on my own. Last week, for example, we threw an impromptu barbecue because my housemate’s friend was visiting. It was a great time, but cooking for a group of people is definitely an added expense!
These expenses tend to be unpredictable, so I think it’s better to overestimate my Budget. Thus, I have set aside $50 towards the “Household” category.
New York City fashion is unlike that of anywhere else in the world, in my humble opinion. It has definitely been a challenge for me to see so many awesome outfits without being tempted to splurge on myself. Even the thrift stores I’ve been frequenting in Midtown are expensive, and my occasional $10 – $15 purchases have been adding up.
I am trying to severely limit the amount of money I spend on clothes because I really don’t need any more. Just to be safe, I have set aside $40 per month to use for clothing.
Everything I have left over, approximately $150 per month, is going to go towards my Goal for the Puerto Rico trip. This should be more than enough – The goal wizard calculated that I need to save $35 per week, which is $140 per month, in order to reach my Goal in time.
So now a week into my New York City adventure, I venture further, Kiboo by my side, into the world of smart spending. Wish me luck!