Alex's Alliterative Adventures

Thoughts on Programming, Life, and Travel

Not yet the b-word

I’ve always been relatively carefree with money. Not only do I pay my bills on time, but I graduated from university with no debt to speak of. I even managed to sneak in a couple of flights to Europe without breaking the bank. My mom always told me to floss and keep a balanced checkbook, but since I can get by without keeping my money on a tight leash, I figured that budgeting is like studying: a good idea that’s probably more effort than it’s worth.

But a few months ago, I started flossing. I don’t mean the half-hearted, weeklong fling I’ve done so many times before. My name is Alex McCarthy, and I’m a Daily Flosser. It’s been something like 4 months now, which crosses the line from new years resolution to bona fide habit.

My old way of life was crumbling down around me, with firm gums opening the floodgate of full-blown fiscal responsibility. My head was spinning when I renegotiated my bank fees (in German, no less). My heart still pounds with excitement whenever I think about my monthly cell phone bill (15 Euros a month for unlimited landline and network calls). But it wasn’t until I started hanging around with the pushers (personal finance blogs) that I started to think about hitting the hard shit: budgeting.

At its core, budgeting is about planning where you want to spend your money, and keeping yourself in line. The trouble is, I know that I pay rent every month, but after that it gets a little hazy. I created a Wesabe account to figure out exactly where my paycheck disappears to every month:

Wesabe - my spending breakdown from November 2008 - February 2009

I started by uploading a list of transactions from Deutsche Bank using XL2QIF, and I’ve recorded my cash transactions for the past few weeks. A few hundred Euro crawled out of my wallet before I started tracking what I was spending, so I’ve flagged the missing funds as MIA.

Here’s where Wesabe gets interesting:


Now, these numbers are pretty rough, since I extrapolated my lunch costs for January and February. But I’m spending around 60 Euro per month on lunch alone, which seems shockingly high. I’m not ready to actually make a budget, but it’s definitely time for the home-made sandwich to make a comeback.

And the earnings (green) vs. spending (blue) graph makes me feel all warm and fuzzy:

Wesabe - Earnings (green) vs. Spending (blue) from 2008 - 2009
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