July Money Challenge: A Retrospective

The view of the river from the rooftop bar in Vicksburg.

I’m going to be honest: Posts about the July Money Challenge were cut short because I got busy with school stuff really quickly. Still, I’m a procrastinator, not a quitter, so I’m going to get it done!

Saturday, July 22

$4.06 – Groceries. I honestly don’t remember what this was – it must not have been more than one or two items.

$12.00 – Two beers at a rooftop bar in Vicksburg, where we sat and looked out at the river.

Sunday, July 23

$20.84 – Brunch in Jackson

$31.30 – Groceries, an actual weekly stock-up.

Monday, July 24

No Spending!

Tuesday, July 25

$3.26  РCoffee

Wednesday, July 26

$2.18 – Coffee

$28.63 – Groceries

Thursday, July 27

$33.50 – a bunch of letterpress cards on Etsy.

Friday, July 28

No Spending!

Saturday, July 29

$3.78 – Baskets for my kids to put their pencils in, from Dollar General. I think I cleared out their stock.

$15.33 – New school shoes – Keds-esque navy shoes. Are they cool? Not really. Are they comfortable enough for me to stand in all day and match with my school uniform? Yes.

Sunday, July 30

$63.71 – Groceries, including food for a potluck I hosted with my roommates.

Reflections

I feel like the commitment I made to share my spending publicly was a big factor in my spending decisions for the month – every time I reached for my card, I had to ask myself if this was something I wanted people to know that I spent money on. It’s this self-imposed peer pressure/public accountability factor that probably made me spend less than I would have otherwise.

The amount of time I spent out of town in July made a difference in how much I spent – it removed me from my regular routines (making dinner at home every night) and I ended up spending a bit more. I don’t regret it – it was great to be able to travel to Michigan for my cousin’s wedding, and I liked working in Kickoff at Delta State. I see that kind of spending as a part of life – I keep my expenses when I’m in Jackson low enough so that it’s not a big deal to spend some money to go out with friends when I’m out of town.

I think I also spent more money than average on gas, because I drove to New Orleans, and summer fellowship I had at RePublic required me to commute further than my teaching job during the school year. That isn’t a huge difference, but I noticed that I filled up my gas tank more than I normally do.

Something that I’ve been considering lately is trying to adjust my thinking about budgeting to be a little more…chill. In college, I really had a mindset of trying to pinch pennies, and that’s what I needed to do at the time – I made very little money, so it made a difference to buy store brand coffee even though it didn’t taste as good. Right now though, I feel like I have the big factors taken care of – I have very low rent, because I live with roommates in Mississippi, and it also helps that we split utility bills. I cook at home most of the time, I don’t drive a lot and I have a car that isn’t expensive to insure. I don’t go shopping for clothes as a hobby – I’ve basically just bought my school uniform clothes, a sweatshirt from the thrift store, and some new underwear this year. I feel like if I optimize those bigger factors, I don’t really need to worry about buying flavored seltzer instead of only drinking tap water, or going out for coffee twice in one week. It’s kind of an 80/20 principal. I’ve done my best to optimize the 20% of money decisions that make 80% of the impact, so that hopefully, I can be less worried about the other 80% of decisions and focus my mental energy on other things.

The goal of this project was not to reach some sort of budgeting nirvana, but instead to use my resources wisely and act like an adult. I feel like I did that pretty effectively.