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Money Diaries: Leandra Chronicled Her Spending for a Week

Ohhhhh so that’s where that twenty dollar bill goes…

06.16.16
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After accidentally riding the rollercoaster that is a personal essay meant to espouse the benefits of saving money by bringing my own lunch to work for a week during the holy, annual festival of unleavened food (Passover), a couple of you asked that we begin publishing “money diaries” on Man Repeller to chronicle how we spend our money for the duration of a week. Under the guise of this diary, we would also announce a goal (like, for example, spend: less on food, more on experience; less on clothes, more on helping others; less on everything, more on nothing, etc).

I nominated myself to go first and surmised that instead of beginning with a goal, I’d track where most of my money was being spent in the first few days and then come up with one accordingly.

I started my diary on Thursday of last week (a shame, really, given that I was the victim of a $60 Uber ride from Chelsea into Nolita the previous day during a bout of torrential downpour) and here’s what it looked like through Sunday:

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It became immediately evident that most of my funds are being allocated towards entertaining that is related to nourishment, but also that the dramatically expensive Friday was an exception because of fertility drugs (don’t get me started on co-pays), the groceries purchased for four people as opposed to two (and then I had to cook them), and the treating a prospective new employee to breakfast (I fed her paleo cashew cream! She better accept that offer, am I right?), which presents a small, but important point worth acknowledging — these expenses are spread across two credit cards linked to two separate bank accounts: my personal and my business.

The goal as of Sunday evening, June 12, 2016 looked as follows: Pay for only one meal daily, and give yourself a high five if you can expense it. Do not exceed spending more than $50 per weekday.

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Survey says, I managed to hit my target of paying for only one meal daily, but that I consistently exceeded the $50-per-day goal in part because of expenses I’ve been putting off, like going to the grocery store (if there’s nothing in the fridge, technically, I can’t cook), and picking up clothes from the tailor (what was I thinking when I resolved to shorten a sequined gown, anyway?).

Frankly, I’m not sure what I hoped to get out of keeping a money diary — if nothing else, I imagined it would help categorize where I’m spending the most amount of money so that when the credit card bill comes at the end of the month (read: when I muster up the bravery to look at it online), I’m not just like !?!?!@>!>@#$@>.

I realized that I miss cash because it is sure-fire way to stick to a budget and it is not a myth to insinuate that you can save a shitload of money by deciding not to eat out. There are other ways to take breaks from the work day, like going for a walk around the block or stopping into a magazine shop to browse the offering. Maybe you’ll even meditate.

Oh! And so you know, I did not buy the nightgown.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis, creative direction by Emily Zirmis. Olympia Le-Tan clutch, Illesteva sunglasses, Charlotte Olympia card holder.

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  • I once tracked how much money I spent on coffee in a single week and it was something like $65. Granted there were a lot of almond milk iced lattes but still! It seems like a crime for a non-alcoholic or juice beverage to cost more than $4.

    • Aydan

      this is life. Imagine my shock when I met a friend for coffee in their neighborhood, which I had always assumed was more expensive than mine and the coffee cost me less than $5 and my eyeballs nearly popped out of my head!!

      • I’ve found in Seattle, you learn to be smart about finding relatively inexpensive but good coffee. If there’s even a whiff of a hipster in the area, that shit latte’s gonna cost you $9.

    • grace b

      Guess I’m lucky then that I get the $1.95 tall iced coffees at Starbucks? Even today I got two — one for me and one for the boy, one grande and one tall and it was $5.30. Though I am DEFINITELY a victim of the $8 smoothie.

  • Celeste

    This is great! I like the idea of providing narrative along with the list of what you’ve spent money on–makes it easier to gauge the circumstance/mood that went along with the spending, and I imagine would help you better hone in on where you can really make cuts.

    • M Rae

      and could totally help de-code all those bullshit acronyms they use to ‘describe’ charges in online banking. im always having fraud panic because i dont think i bought a new “ENNL0014” when in reality it was an agave plant. its like they WANT you to fail!!

  • I should do that too, but I’m scared to see how much I spend haha

  • Is it bad that my boyfriend and I’s average grocery bill is almost $200 for the two of us? Granted, this is for our big grocery run that we do every few weeks to get the bigger/bulk items, and it’s also in CAD so I’m guessing that’s around $150 USD.

    • Leandra Medine

      So, my groceries usually tally up around $85 for two people on a weekly basis (though when there are more expensive things like nut butters and fish involved, it gets more expensive), but over the summer we spend weekends (when we do the bulk of our at-home eating) at our parents place so the food is free. Those $45 was spent mostly on smoked salmon, fruits and veggoes.

      • Ok I feel better now! Our $150-$200 grocery runs last us for a few weeks and they have more expensive items like nuts (once we got $20 worth of nuts, crazy!) so I guess that’s pretty much the same as yours.

    • ponydanza

      Nope! I spend ~$120/week for me and my husband and our three dogs. Hey as long as you’ve got the dough, you’re good to go!

  • This post is so accurate to my spending habbits, food and entertaining can really strangle your wallet! Love this new series.

    Fellow Blogger,
    Priscilla Ivette
    Thepollenblog.com

  • Lizzy

    I recently listened to a TED Radio Hour called “The Money Paradox” and it was so interesting to learn about our relationship with money, and why it can dramatically influence our choices. Definitely recommend if money diaries makes you curious.

  • Alarive

    I loved reading this. It has actually held me back from moving to New York.
    I’m thinking of starting a way to share how to reheat food Italian-style. Maybe a cooking blog? Italians/French/Greek have some of the best methods of preparing for leftovers that never have to do with microwaving, or, worse, cold versions of former awesome dinners. If anyone is up for it, it saves a TON of cash and helps the planet.

    • grace b

      Yes, please do! I’m about to go from microwave to an apartment without and desperately need this!!

    • Vie in the subway

      … Correct me if I understood wrong: do you need a way to re-heat leftovers without a microwave? Why not just use a pot/pan on the stove? That’s what I’ve been doing my whole Italian/microwave-less life.

  • Lacey Bergevin

    I am super oldschool and still use a ledger to write my reciepts in so I know how I spend my money 🙂 I don’t actually balance my account with it, just to see what is actually happening. My friends make fun of me for it, but it works for me!

    • grace b

      Oh cool! did you buy one at Office Max or somewhere similar?

      • Lacey Bergevin

        It’s just the one that came with my checking account – you can go into the bank and get them from the counter 🙂

  • Anna Kalmbach

    Loved this

  • Amelia Diamond

    I am so scared to do mine. Cash helps me stick to a budge, too.

    • Aydan

      I’m so not money aware and I NEED to change this! As a single girl, its not reality to assume Dad will always be around to help me out when I don’t get it!

      • $$anon

        Just spent the last two years benefitting from, “my BF’s dad will always be there to help out” and that stops Sept 1st (though his dad has extended the offer — I did NOT grow up like this though btw) and I feel like I’ve been wearing blinders and Rich Girl glasses this whole time…glad I’ve got my budgeting (cash really helps!) from college to fall back on, and gotta teach the SO the same. Gulp. #whitegirlprobs

  • artist78

    So y’all took this idea from Refinery29? At least when they took the idea from NY Mag’s Sex Diaries, they modified it.

    • Celeste

      Honestly, RF29’s Monday Diaries series is a little lame at this point. I like how they feature different incomes but what makes MR’s version different is that we are all obsessed with these particular writers’ perspectives and lives. At least, that’s what keeps me coming back. I LOVE MONOCYCLE, LEANDRA

  • Kelsey O’Donnell

    I am currently on the hunt for a tailor. Have tried a few, but have not settled down. Would you recommend this one?

  • Tess

    Wait, don’t subways cost 2.75 now? Or have I somehow missed out on some sneaky way to only pay 2.50.

    • I was going to say the same thing!

      • Leandra Medine

        Oh shit, I am living through the glory days of my college years. YOU ARE ALL RIGHT

    • Catherine

      I literaly couldn’t read the whole article without focusing on this. Subway rides definitely cost $2.75 now…. I don’t know what I am going to do without a student card tbh

  • I am actually the opposite! I like using my (debit) card better than I like having cash because I have an electronic diary of where every last cent went.

    • Lyla

      Usually with cash budgeting you take out exactly how much money you want to spend in the week and carry only that. You see where every dollar goes and you watch it dwindle down in your wallet and have to think about your plans for later in the week to reserve cash for specific things.

      • I do this for when I go out drinking.. And make sure I have different bills when I go to dinner with friends. I literally reserve $1, $5 and $10s in a safebox for the future.

    • Same here. Also paying for a $10.58 lunch in cash feels like I paid $11

  • Vanessa

    Why do subway rides only cost you $2.50?? Jeal, and jealous of that goat milk ice cream rn…

    • Heather

      Last time I checked 1-trip cost $2.75

  • Sam

    My job is basically a student loan payment generator so when I have to spend money (e.g. this week I didn’t have time to prep lunch a day ahead so I ended up ordering takeout a few times) I really feel it. I like the idea of tracking how much I spend in a week just to see where everything is going on top of my student loans. 🙂

  • Samantha Gambello

    This is all great, but where can I buy that Carrie Bradshaw -looks like a- compact?
    🙂

    • Fran

      I also NEED to know this!

      • Samantha Gambello

        Maybe we shud just Google it…lmao ..it’s prob something made on etsy

  • Karla

    Everydollar app is the best budgeting tool out there, and it is scary to look at your bills and debt and spending in the face but it’s so necessary for being able to get your finances in order. Dave Ramsey is the man! Listen to ONE of his podcasts and I dare you not to be hooked. Well, if you’re ready to get finances in check anyway.

  • Olga Vlasova

    Leandra, I want to be your employee, or at least your intern! You seem to feed them pretty well. 🙂

  • Jasmine Malika

    Leandra!! I’ve been thinking about shortening a sequined gown too!! Did it work? 🙂

    • Leandra Medine

      It did! Will post pic.

  • Writing down your spending is an awesome way to save money since you know where the cash goes. I have done it in the past when I made an excel table and put down all my spendings during three months. I knew that I had a good salary, but still sometimes at the end of the month I had to rely on payday loan lenders to make it till the next payday. After three months I found out that I was making some expensive impulsive buys as well as had dinner in pretty expensive places.

  • Isabel

    Do you know whats truly upsetting? That there is a page on the hailo app that tells you how much spend per month. !_!

  • Mariana

    I started doing a money diary last month in an excel sheet. I KNOW: BORIINGGG. Before that I used notes in my phone, but it is more easy this way because I just can scroll the mouse through the numbers and see how much money I spent until that day.

  • I noticed you said for dinner one night that your husband paid for a dinner. Not being married or engaged — yet! — I’ve always wondered about this. Are there marriages where they keep their money totally separate? Or did you technically pay for this because you have a joint account?

    Not that I want to dig into your finances specifically. I was just curious.

    • Leandra Medine

      We have two sep accounts and a joint account. That particular night was a wedding anniversary dinner, so he bought din, I bought dessert

    • starryhye

      My husband and I have been married for almost 10 years and we still keep separate checking/debit accounts. We do have a joint savings account, but the separate checking ensures that I don’t spend all of our money o_O

  • This looks like something I defo need to do – I have no idea where my money goes…

    http://www.girlfromnorthlondon.co.uk

  • Ellie

    Skip a few coffees and get theeeeese! I just ordered them and they reminded me of the ear parties you’ve had going on recentlyyyyy!
    http://m.us.topshop.com/h5/product?productId=25204653
    http://m.us.topshop.com/h5/product?productId=25266651

  • Alyssa

    I really want to do a money diary now! Even though I’m horrified of what it will look like, because I too spend too much money eating out. Thanks for the inspiration as always Leandra!

  • Laura

    Sorry for not commenting a few days ago! But I really love this post – if it’s going to be a series – I AM THRILLED. Money is such a source of stress for me, and it’s reassuring to see that other people have the same issues!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Shahi Biscus

    Wow I’m reading your comments and I thought that Paris was expensive O_O
    I always take the Americano at “pret-a-manger” and it’s 2,45€
    2,95 at Costa Coffee