Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 284 - How To Analyze Spending Habits

Comparison - 2011: Q1 vs. Q2 Spend
After spending a large amount of money on vacation last week, I decided to do some fun and exciting data mining to see what type of expense leakage may have occurred during the last six months of The $60K Project.

Since I have dorkily diligently been tracking every single expense since the first of the year in an elaborate Excel spreadsheet, I decided to compare the first three months of "spend" in 2011 with the second three months to see if any unusual and/or helpful patterns appear. The result is this beautiful bar graph you see above. Note: Since the purpose of this exercise is to find spending habits that may need to be altered, income and debt payment amounts are not included in the analysis.

Spending Habits Analysis
The blue bars represent the amount of money spent from January to March in the various expense categories shown at the bottom. The red line shows money spent from April to June. What clearly jumps out at me is the tremendous increase in travel expense during the second quarter. This is due to travel for a wedding, bachelorette party, doctor visit and a birthday. There was also an increase in car expenses (due to unforeseen repairs) and personal care. Surprisingly our food expense was almost exactly the same for the each quarter.

So what did I learn? I clearly see that the travel bucket got a little out of hand the second quarter. That is money that could have gone towards a faster debt payoff. I would also like to take a more in depth look at the Other bucket - this is likely a source for expense leakage since this includes everything else not included in the first ten buckets. Overall, I would say the total amount of money spent on expenses is very good compared to the amount that went towards paying debt ($12,500 and $23,300 during Q1 and Q2, respectively).

Your Turn
Below are four quick tips on how to analyze your own spending habits.

Consider a comparison period of at least three months. You aren't looking to be exact with this analysis. Instead you are trying to detect unsitely spending patterns that may be occurring. By using a three month (or longer) time period, you will be able to even out any non-recurring - yet necessary - expenses that may pop up one month and be gone the next.

Think carefully about your expense buckets. I chose ten expense buckets and added "Other" to catch everything else. If  you find that your "Other" bucket of expenses is quite large in dollar amount, consider adding additional buckets in order to gain some more detail. I ended up breaking out Personal Care, Gifts and Travel from the Other bucket. Also take a close look at Other - this could be a great first place to start searching for spending reductions.

Look for patterns. Unless you moved in the last six months or decided to make extra mortgage payments,  you would expect your rent/mortgage payment expense to be very similar in both quarters. But when your travel expense jumps by 1200% (like ours did!), it may be time to take a closer look at whether spending this extra money was really necessary.

Look at overall amount spent in a category. Even though you may be spending close to the same amount each period on a certain expense, stop and consider whether this amount might be a ilttle high.  If you spend $2,000 a quarter on personal care consistently, there may be room to reduce that expense.

Stay tuned,

Have you analyzed your long-term spending habits? Did you find anything unusual?


Miss T said... Best Blogger Tips

Great point about looking at a few months together. There are bills sometimes that are only specific to one month and this can throw things off. If you can see your average over 3 months you get a much more accurate picture. 

Miss T said... Best Blogger Tips

PS: Can I be added to your Blogs list? Everyone else from the group seems to be up there. If it isn't a group thing than don't worry about it.

Kyle @ The Penny Hoarder said... Best Blogger Tips

Besides the Travel category, it is remarkable how consistent your spending is. By the looks of that graph you've got your food spending down to a science. :)

Jackie said... Best Blogger Tips

I love that I'm not the only one that stares at spreadsheets like this. They really can tell you a lot :)

60kproject said... Best Blogger Tips

I know! Our difference in food spending between Q1 and Q2 was less than $5 bucks! No idea how we did that.

60kproject said... Best Blogger Tips

You should be on the list now. It's a rolling blog that shows the most recent posts first. Sorry, Miss T!

60kproject said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm currently working on some pie charts. ;) Stay tuned....

Sarah Minton said... Best Blogger Tips

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Ken @ Spruce Up Your Finances said... Best Blogger Tips

It is nice to know where you spend your money in order to properly adjust your budget if one category seems to be needing some help.

Great job on analyzing your own expenses.

KNS_Financial said... Best Blogger Tips

I am very impressed that your food budget was practically identical over each period! 

60kproject said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks, Ken! I'm always trying to find new ways to look at things. There is always something new to learn.

60kproject said... Best Blogger Tips

Would love to take some sort of credit for this but I really have no idea how it happened. :)

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