Last month, I challenged readers to predict their spending for the month of November, track it, and then come back and see how well their predictions went. Over 60 people completed my online Google spreadsheet survey, and an unknown amount of people did it manually via paper. It’s all anonymous so hopefully that makes it easy to be honest.
Well, I finally went back and recategorized my own expenses in Mint, and here are the results that I can share. The first two columns are the average and median of all the online responses. This is just for kicks, it really doesn’t show much valuable data. The third and fourth columns are my own household predictions and final spending tallies.
|Average||Median||MMB Predict||MMB Actual|
The real goal of this post was to motivate some of you readers to track your spending and see if you found any surprises. Budgeting every month is hard, but just tracking your spending for a single month can point out problem areas to target. If you missed it last month, you can just download the PDF version and do it this month or any time. Some thoughts on our own spending:
- Predicting housing costs is probably not very useful, as for most people this doesn’t change much from month-to-month.
- Food continues to be our weak spot, both groceries and dining out, although for the most part we spend a lot on food and we choose to do so. We’re trying to buy more fresh vegetables and such, and need to work on planning ahead of time so we don’t buy stuff at “retail” prices at the supermarket for our recipes.
- Gas is another area that probably stays relatively constant from month-to-month, it’s hard to separate the noise from actual gas-saving efforts like driving less or with less vigor. We actually usually spend less than this in most months. We have no car payments.
- I broke down Personal as “health insurance, medical expenses, clothing, personal care, entertainment, etc.” Our health insurance premiums are covered by work, but we’ve had several visits recently where the copays have been adding up as well as other things. We also bought more clothes than usual this month.
- Regarding the total number, another factor here is that we bought most of our holiday gifts in November. I read somewhere that the average household spends about $1,000 during the holidays in general, with $700 going towards gifts. We’re pretty close to that, and our rough budget was $1,000 towards gifts for the family and friends.
In the end, I think when it comes to overall spending, it’s best to concentrate on the recurring big stuff – housing, food, transportation. This takes preplanning and structural changes such as getting a roommate, moving closer to work and getting rid of a car, or downsizing the living space. However, in month-to-month budgets, it’s often those forgotten and occasional expenses and sneak up and bite us. Things like holiday gifts, doctor’s bills, car repairs, birthdays and weddings for other people, and so on.
How’d you do?