Using Pivot Tables to Analyze Expenses

Back in February, I bought Caitlin Flander’s Mindful Budgeting planner. I hadn’t done any analysis or looked at how much I was spending yet.  I spent the first 3 months, simply collecting data, but decided to use my long weekend to do some analysis as Q1 comes to a close. This afternoon, I punch all the data points into an Excel spreadsheet and tried my hand at pivot tables and charts.

I actually have no experience with pivot charts or pivot tables, so I worked my way through a tutorial by Excel Campus off of YouTube. I found it fairly straightforward and produced two bar graphs.

Graph 1 – Personal Expenses by Category: This chart summarizes my total spending, including shared expenses for both J. and I. The Daily category includes mainly day-to-day expenses, but is comprised mainly of groceries. The Fun category includes shopping, alcohol and eating out. Transportation covers car expenses, including my financing and car insurance, but also travel. Unfortunately, I did not split the shared expenses, so the total value is slightly inflated. Here are a few observations:

  • Transport was high in Feburary as I paid for some tune-ups at the Honda service centre ($709), as well as a plane ticket to go to the job interview ($1077).
  • Health expenses are mainly Cody app plans that I purchase. There is a negative value from a refund that I received.
  • The professional category was higher in February because I had to pay my annual membership to the Ontario College of Teachers ($130) and I bought a lot of food from my own pocket to cover a few classroom parties.

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Graph 2 – Shared Expenses by Subcategory: The data source is actually the same as the first graph, but the information is filtered to show only the expenses that I share with my boyfriend. Unfortunately, there are still some discrepancies from the numbers we calculated on Sunday, specifically under groceries, but ultimately, it`s not about the details, it`s seeing the trends that is most important. Some more observations about this data:

  • We had a party in March and went out a few times, therefore spending more. We also wandered in and out of the grocery store out of boredom after work.
  • We don`t eat out very often, but I know there is at least one meal out that I forgot to mark down because J. paid in cash … I shall be more diligent next time.
  • J. pushed me to walk more to work, so we use a lot less gas now. Mind you, we only use one tank of gas in a month. It`s about $65 for a full tank up north, and you only have one gas station to go to, so you can`t be fussy about prices!

 

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All in all, this was a fun exercise. I still don’t really care to create a budget, but like observing my data. The only area that really might need to be reeled in a bit are groceries, but we cut back in the other areas that I feel like we need a bit of give there.

Anyway, I’m happy to have done this. It’ll be interesting to see how my spending will change when I go south in a couple of months!

Lotion Before Bed

I don’t have many regular rituals before bed, but on occasion, I put lotion on my legs after my shower. My favourite brand for the past couple of years has been Parkdale Butter, which is based out of Toronto. Frankly, I don’t care that their ingredients are mainly organic, but I like that there are really only 3-4 ingredients and the product is quite pure.

My cousin, A., first bought it for me a few years ago as a thank you gift when I showed her around Toronto. She picked it up at Evergreen Brick Works, which, as we all know, sells incredibly expensive artsy-fartsy hipster stuff.

But dammit, I really like this cocoa shea butter lotion! When I finished using the first jar, I waited until there was a sale on Well.ca and then picked up a new jar for $20. Sighhhh. I wish I didn’t like things that were pricey.

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Saving Money on Books

One of my most favourite things to purchase is books.

Given the fact that I have lived in the north for the past 5 years and experienced some lifestyle inflation – having a stable job helps – I have made many excuses as to why I need to buy hard copies and audiobooks whenever my heart pleases.

As I prepare for my transition back south, I need to change some of my financial habits.

First, I ended up discontinuing my Audible membership in February. I’d been planning to do this for a while, since I had untouched books slowly piling up. Secondly, I considered getting an eReader. My friend B. offered me her old Kobo that she wasn’t using. She ended up mailing it north to me, but I can’t seem to get it to sync with our wireless internet (sigh). I even brought it back to Toronto but it didn’t take to my mom’s internet either. The alternative, for now, is just to use my iPad for reading eboks.

Thirdly, I started using my Toronto Public Library account more actively. In the past two weeks ago, I read two Raina Telgemeier graphic novels and Fifteen Dogs, which I enjoyed immensely and zipped through in 6 days!*

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I don’t like having to wait for books but it is an exercise in patience. I did it when I used to live in Toronto and I will have to suck it up and start doing it again. For now, I am patiently hoping that everyone else reading these books will return their copies soon:

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Fourth, and most obviously, I have to start reading some of the books that are collecting dust on the shelf. I’ve got no more than 10, so I’m not hoarding a lot, but sometimes I just get obsessed with something that feels novel.

While I won’t stop purchasing books, at least I am more intent on going through various methods of getting books for free first before I resort to buying paper copies!

I am also still sticking to watching and tracking how much I’m spending. I had made a media budget back in January, but realize that $750 might be a bit generous. I decided to challenge myself and cut back to $500 instead. At this point, I’m already one-fifth of the way through my budget, but if I have access to libraries starting from July, it will be much easier to get through the rest of the year!

*Recommended on Canada Reads this year, even though it was published back in 2015. I had never heard of it until they were discussing it on CBC Radio recently. 

Linking Yarn Together

I had started an infinity scarf with a double-crochet back in December, but had only purchased one ball of yarn. When I went for my interview last week, I made it a point to pick up a second ball at Walmart* last Saturday. Too bad each ball is $8! That means one scarf alone costs me $16 + tax, not even calculating the time to do it**.

Since I am fairly new to crocheting, I had no idea how to connect that new ball of yarn to my old one! Thank goodness it’s 2017; just go onto YouTube and you can find any information without awkwardly phoning a friend*** at odd hours of the day.

Eventually, I found a copy of tutorials that were consistently using this technique:

 

Friday after work, I gave it a go. It didn’t take the first time but it worked the second time! Woohoo! More crocheting this weekend.

*A place I have vowed not to shop at for many years, but having limited options when I drive up north, occasionally make purchases there.

**Ahhh, but it still gives me satisfaction and of course, the additional bonus of warding off mental decay …

***Old-school Google

Taking Steps Towards Budgeting

On Wednesday night, feeling restless and unable to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, I sat on the couch with my laptop and stumbled across Cait Flander’s Mindful Budgeting Planner ($40).

I recently heard about Cait through one of Jessica Moorhouse’s podcast and was also impressed with Cait’s articles, namely one on the privilege of financial advice; I’ve since admired her and have been following her on Twitter.

Even my personal definition of what minimalism means to me is a privilege. Being able to decide what adds value to your life and letting go of what doesn’t – how fortunate am I to be in the position to apply that to any area of my life!? If my diet is making me feel bad, I can walk into a grocery store and buy better food. If the work I do is leaving me unfulfilled, I can find other work. If I need/want to learn a new skill, I can take a class. The list goes on and on.

Since then, her blog has intrigued me.

And seeing her planner, I suddenly wanted it. At the moment, it felt a bit like a sleep-deprived impulse buy, but given the impeding changes coming up in 5 months, moving back south, I’m going to have to start budgeting … soon.

I’ve never really budgeted and hated doing so. I really just spend as much as I feel is necessary, occasionally buying a treat for myself (i.e. leggings, bath bombs). Even when I travel, I don’t budget.

Anyway, I ended up ordering the planner, which is printed on demand and then shipped in Canada. With the shipping charges, it was a bit steep at $58. I balked when I saw the price and nearly changed my mind, but the biggest draw for me is to have an online Facebook community where I can share thoughts and tips as I being using the planner.

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Other the past month, I’ve really been enjoying participating in Jessica Moorhouse’s Facebook group, Money. Life. Balance. and also got included in a recent group chat with some old high school friends on investing (I got roped in due to the posts I’ve been sharing on social media). It’s the social support that I need the most. I also occasionally bounce ideas with family and friends, but love the diversity of information that comes to me when I can connect with people of different backgrounds, situations and privileges.

Really looking forward to the planner. It should, hopefully, arrive here by next Friday. Fingers crossed!
 

New Annual Goal: Media Expenses

Two things I really like to spend money on are Cody App fitness plans and books. I know that while I don’t go crazy, I will have to cut back if I move down south.

For this year’s set of annual goals, I thought I would try to track how much I spend on these two things. I thought I would put a personal budget of $750 and added this to the financial trackers on the side of my page.

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I didn’t plan on spending money right away, but on the weekend, I did a bit of shopping on Indigo and bought these books:

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I’m hoping that my friend will give me her old Kobo and that I can figure out a cheaper way to access books (without stealing them from authors, still paying them so that they make money). I might also have to cut back on buying audiobooks, as I have a stash right now that I need to work at.

If you have any tips on how to purchase, please let me know!

Weekend Update

Just a few updates:

  • Meal-prepping: This has been going pretty well, since starting about 3 weeks ago. I find that this makes food preparation a lot less stressful when I have written out the meals for the week on my chalkboard in the dining room. Interestingly, since we were out of town last weekend, I got lazy and didn’t end up meal-planning. By mid-week, we started eating junk and some bad habits. Back to planning, which will usually happen on Sundays.
  • Make-up: Waiting on my order from Sephora. Will be studying how to do eyeshadow application and how to do the brows. Still trying to find a replacement for the blush though. Future projects include learning how to do falsies.
  • Natural movement: Don’t think I will need a pillow for the rest of my life. Been slacking on the work commute and grocery pick-up though, the past two weeks. No Vibrams yet, but I am considering making an order in the future. Just finished podcast episode #17 of Katy Says.
  • Professional Development: OAME speaker applications are due at the end of November. A professor from Nipissing University who is mentoring me asked if I would like to do a webinar for the NOMA chapter of OAME. I’ve drafted rough notes already, but just need to pick a few images. It will be happened in two weeks.
  • Crocheting: I made a huuuuge haul of vegan acrylic yarn in Rouyn during the Thanksgiving long weekend. Maybe about $50 worth of yarn? Haven’t gotten around to starting anything yet, but would like to make items that I could give for winter solstice / Christmas. Perhaps a blanket or a scarf.
  • Leggings: Waiting on a few new pairs from Guelph-based Sweet Legs. Bought 3 pairs that ranged from $20-25, since I don’t fit into the two from The Jiva Shop anymore. ARGHHHH!!! I hate how painfully slow mail can be in the north!!! I usually don’t think about packages for the first week but then I start getting antsy by the second!

Late Night Shopping

Argh. I was suppose to do my before-bed yoga and ended up being sucked into a shopping hole for 2 hours.

I’ve been meaning to get a few more items* since my last purchase. I ended up ordering 3 Tarte products off Sephora*, including this pretty eyeshadow palette! Thankfully all 3 products were vegan. And thankfully, having substituted three classes at work over the past 2 weeks covers the $130 I spent last night, ha!

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*As someone who has worn very little make-up most of my life, it has been a goal this year to get better at it. Last month, I worked on contouring and getting some basics (i.e. brushes, primer). This month, I will be working on brows and eyeshadows.

**Of course, using Ebates to get some additional dollars back!

Getting Things Covered: School Supplies

Earlier this week, I received reimbursement for school supplies (~$1000) that I had picked up over the summer.

While there is no shortage of academic supplies – the cupboards have lots of algebra manipulative, Bohr models and textbooks – I felt that, in my fourth year with this school board, I could finally purchase “not so academic” supplies. These purchases help with the environment of the classroom to reduce stress and to help with better mental health for students; sadly, I feel that these are aspects of the classroom that are often neglected. Some examples include:

  • Yoga mats ($150)
  • Boogie board” tablet* ($40) Specifically for a selective mute student that I work with. You can write on the tablet and then use a button that activates a 3-V battery that wipes the slate clean again. She will be using it to communicate with me when she needs help or has to ask a question.
  • Door mats for shoes (12 x 6 – $80) – Reduces the dirt coming in since I have made it a shoeless classroom this year
  • Foam play mats ($132) – For high traffic areas of our classroom. This keeps our feet warm off the linoleum floor.

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I admit, I looooove shopping and spending money that’s not my own! It’s great that I have such a big budget to work with and don’t have to ask for every item to be pre-approved.

The mats were pre-approved by the principal, of course. I will eventually be starting a yoga club at the elementary school. I’ve bought a couple of yoga DVDs to my mother’s house by Amazon Prime* and she will mail it up to me.

As I go through the list though, I’m also reminded that there are many things I am able to cover on this generous classroom budget. In the south, I’d likely be buying my own:

  • Teacher’s lesson planner ($19)
  • Miracle Bind notebook** ($11)
  • USB memory stick ($5)
  • Japanese washi tape ($13)

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Part of me is writing this post as a reminder for the future. When I transition back to the city, I won’t have a $2200 classroom budget anymore!!! Better enjoy this while it lasts …

*Currently trying out a free trial until October 5th. Wow, my mom got a shipment the next day!
**These are great when your provincial ministry of education decides to change the curriculum every year. The pages are removable and you can reinsert them into another part of the notebook