What I Learned Tracking My “Wants” For 30 Days!

by J. Money - Published August 20, 2018

green coffee cup
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In a nutshell: I spent a lot of money on coffee and bagels, haha…

But also books and history* stuff!

Here’s a list of everything I spent on “wants” for the past 30 days. I decided to keep it to only the stuff I spend on *myself* vs others (kids, charities, etc) since that’s what I was most wondering about, and since I’m not looking to change the others.

Here we go!

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  • Day #1: $0
  • Day #2: $35.00 — membership to a local historical organization
  • Day #3: $3.27 — coffee & bagel
  • Day #4: $5.27 — coffee & bagel, two $1.00 raffle tickets at coin club
  • Day #5: $3.27 — coffee & bagel
  • Day #6: $0
  • Day #7: $49.27 — coffee & bagel + an old currency note for my collection
  • Day #8: $0
  • Day #9: $2.21 — coffee & bagel
  • Day #10: $53.27 — coffee & bagel + membership to local historical club
  • Day #11: $3.27 — coffee & bagel
  • Day #12: $38.01 — coffee & bagel + 3 history journals + banana + apple juice + dinner
  • Day #13: $44.56 — coffee & bagel + lunch out + soda + dinner date night
  • Day #14: $12.10 — coffee & bagel & craft beers
  • Day #15: $4.42 — coffee & bagel & donut
  • Day #16: $3.27 — coffee & bagel
  • Day #17: $14.99 — coin book
  • Day #18: $3.27 — coffee & bagel
  • Day #19: $2.21 — coffee & bagel (had Panera rewards :))
  • Day #20: $0
  • Day #21: $8.18 — old book & postcard
  • Day #22: $9.89 — dinner @ Chipotle
  • Day #23: $4.30 — coffee & bagel @ Starbucks
  • Day #24: $26.26 — coffee & bagel + to download old files
  • Day #25: $4.33 — coffee & muffin
  • Day #26: $0
  • Day #27: $0
  • Day #28: $192.29 — Bachelor party: hotel, food, beer, food, beer, beer ;) // also – another book
  • Day #29: $12.48 — lunch @ Subway
  • Day #30: $0

Total: $535.39
Average: $17.85/day

I was doing pretty good up to that bachelor party! Haha… I debated even including it since it was pretty much mandatory as the organizer of it all (I’m the best man) but since I’m not one to pass up experiences anyways, I knew I would have still attended ;) Would have dropped the daily average down to $11.74 though!

Here were the interesting takeaways from doing this:

#1. I didn’t realize I ate out as much? I always thought I did it maybe once or twice a month, but oops. It was triple that, at least for this month (and even without the bachelor party it’s still double what I assumed!).

#2. I didn’t think I was picking up so many books! My unofficial rule is “1 a month” as I have trouble consuming more than that, but looks like I don’t listen to myself in that department either as I picked up 6, haha… Though similar to experiences, I’m not one to feel that guilty picking up books which I’ll actually read :)

#3. I thought I’d have more than 7 no-spend days :( But I guess that’s hard to pull off when you BUY COFFEE AND BAGELS EVERY SINGLE WORK DAY!!

#4. I buy/drink much less beer than I used to :) There’s literally only two times I bought it last month, and 99% of it was consumed in just one of those nights, haha…

#5. And lastly, I definitely spend more than the $200/mo I was originally guessing on. Not *too* much more if you exclude the B Party, but still more than I would have guessed. Which is exactly why you track and budget this stuff – your mind likes to play tricks on you! But so long as I don’t keep doing $200 days I’m not going to sweat it too much… Every single thing up there brought me “joy” as they say, and I don’t regret spending on any of them. A huge difference from 20 year-old J$!

So a pretty insightful experiment, I’d say! Any of you guys still tracking this stuff? Learning anything good as well, or already gave up? ;)

Just for fun, here’s a breakdown of the # of things I bought during this:

  • 17 coffees
  • 16 bagels
  • 7 no spend days :)
  • 6 books on history/coins
  • 4 dinners eaten out
  • 3 lunches eaten out
  • 2 memberships to local historical organizations
  • 2 raffle tickets
  • 1 old currency note
  • 1 old postcard
  • 1 apple juice
  • 1 banana
  • 1 hard drive adapter (more on this next week….)
  • 1 soda
  • 1 muffin
  • 1 donut
  • 1 date night <– super important to slip in where you can! (TWSS!)

date night gif

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And then because it’s actually been 41 days since I started tracking this (I began before the announcement of this exercise), here’s a look at how month #2 is going so far…

Let me know if you notice anything different ;)

  • Day #31: $0
  • Day #32: $0
  • Day #33: $0
  • Day #34: $0
  • Day #35: $14.96 — lunch + dinner out (traveling)
  • Day #36: $0
  • Day #37: $0
  • Day #38: $0
  • Day #39: $0
  • Day #40: $26.72 — apple juice + banana + dinner out + geography book
  • Day #41: $0

Total month #2 so far: $41.68
Average so far: $3.79

Much better! Haha…

What changed? I officially became a stay-at-home-daddy blogger :)

Two weeks ago my wife went back to work, and now it’s just me and my three boys all day long – woot woot! And ain’t nobody’s got the time to go shopping or visit coffee shops when you’re wrangling them all, haha… Although I do cheat a little and send the older boys to camp for a few hours in the morning :)

baby monies

[Can you tell who is who? ;) ]

Been a pretty amazing experience so far too. And really just PROUD of myself for actually giving it a shot and setting things into motion to begin with! I like to talk the talk a lot, but not always walk the walk, haha… Not this time though. And bonus points: everyone’s still alive!! 👶🎉

So yeah, if you ever want to NOT spend money on yourself, just have lots of babies, haha… But fair warning, they’ll still take plenty of it for themselves ;)

I’m going to keep tracking this stuff for another few weeks or so and see what else I can dig up, but I’d say it’s been a pretty good success so far.

A) For actually following through with it (where’s my participation trophy??)

and B) for being more *aware* now of where my extra money is going. I wouldn’t say my habits have changed per se, but I know now the areas I need to watch out for at least!

So one more point on the ol’ experimental board! Highly recommend trying it out if you haven’t yet. Just track it for a month and see what you find! Worst case you go back to oblivious spending! :)

——–
*I was never a history buff until I started … Opened up my whole world, and now can’t get enough! Amazing how far we’ve come as a nation, and really the entire world. Lots of sadness too, but man we’re an incredible race.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Your Money Blueprint August 20, 2018 at 6:02 am

Cute pics J :)

There’s also quite a few bagels in month two, but they come in the form of a zero.

There is a lot of talk at how expensive kids are, and they can be. BUT, stay at home parents generally spend much less in other areas such as eating out, travel and socialising. Definitely not the doom and gloom on the wallet portrayed by many

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2 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 7:21 am

That’s one thing I actually miss so far being at home all the time – socializing. I had it every morning working out of Panera Bread, but now need to find it elsewhere or I can see myself going a little insane :) At least when school starts I’ll be around a lot of adults again come drop off/pick up time w/ other parents!

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3 Ngneer August 20, 2018 at 6:44 am

J$, we need to talk about your morning nutrition. This experiment needs to have a calorie total :). In all seriousness though I used to do the same thing until I realized my bagel had about 450 calories and very little nutritional value. Now I spend 0 on bagels and less on doctors visits too :).

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4 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 6:55 am

What do you eat instead? Or more specifically, what could you order at coffee shops that would be better for you and still fill you up? :) Oatmeal?

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5 Marc August 20, 2018 at 6:56 am

I don’t know how you manage to get anything done as a stay at home dad of 3 kids. We have 2 and if my wife is gone my only goal is to survive. Getting anything productive done is just about impossible, except during nap time.

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6 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 7:19 am

Haha… I wake up 2-3 hours earlier than everyone every day which certainly helps ;) And then yup – power through at nap times!

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7 Bryan August 20, 2018 at 7:30 am

Fire up your laptop at the kitchen table. Put on some Maxwell House. Eat some egg whites with a handful of almonds and blueberries. Boom! Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise :-)

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8 Road2Eudemonia August 20, 2018 at 7:49 am

It is really as simple as making choices. When I had a recent career change, we made the choice to materially reduce expenses on wants for a while. Did we need to do it? No. We are F.I. but with the job change came a lot of unknowns so we decided to be cautious expense wise until things got sorted out. As for breakfast ideas – steel cut oatmeal with fresh fruit on top (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries). No sweeteners other than the fruit!

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9 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 9:33 am

That does sound good :)

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10 Mr. Pop August 20, 2018 at 8:07 am

Ha! When I’m on the road I always sneak out of the house early and hit up a local coffee shop.

Way easier to keep the costs down if you’re at home…congrats!

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11 Nickel August 20, 2018 at 8:08 am

I love 30 day challenges. There is always something to be learned, and often beneficial habits are formed. I’m almost done with “get rid of one thing a day,” and I’ve just started “daily miracle morning.” Thanks for sharing your experiments with us!

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12 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 9:34 am

GOOD!!! I’m about to finish up that recap here soon and post how my One-a-Day has gone :) Challenges all over the place up in here! Haha…

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13 Sarah Li Cain August 20, 2018 at 8:17 am

You babies ALMOST me change my mind about having another one ;)

I tracked my wants too and for some reason all I want are plants…and some of them are called money trees! ha!

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14 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 9:34 am

Plants are definitely worth spending $$ on :) Make your house so happy and healthier I feel like?

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15 Brian August 20, 2018 at 8:30 am

I think you might have a bagel addiction. :) Great exercise. We tend to fall into habits that we just don’t realize we are doing, and until we track them they are hard to break.

Great photos!

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16 Francis Bach August 20, 2018 at 8:42 am

Nice experiment. I’ll give this approach a try track my wants for 30 days and see what I come up with.
What are you doing to position yourself into a ‘coffee shop’ to begin with? Why are you even ordering a bagel that lacks any characteristics of a proper nutrition item?

I guess there’s a difference between a want and then executing on it. All that you got for 80% of your wants were empty calories, a slight regret and some lost future spending potential some things that you really really want.

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17 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 9:38 am

But I DID really want those bagels and coffees! They make me happy!! :) Panera Bread is my “office” every morning which is a helluva lot cheaper than a real office, believe me… (or I should say – was – my office as now my kitchen table is with watching the newborn!). And while I guess I could sneak in my own homemade food/coffee there, it wouldn’t be very nice of me.

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18 Libby August 20, 2018 at 8:59 am

Here’s your gold star for doing the challenge!

I was a FT mother for seven years and for me it was super important to have some time with adults. Whether that comes with the coffee & bagel price tag or not is your choice :)

Our minds really do play tricks on us around accountability. Sooooo interesting. Thanks for sharing.

BTW – all three boys are ADORABLE!

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19 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 9:38 am

Thanks Libby!! Only 6 years, 11 months, and 2 more weeks to go until I’m a pro like you! :)

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20 Libby August 23, 2018 at 9:24 pm

And my first job when I returned to work was a playground monitor and crossing guard at my son’s school…..the hardest job I’ve EVER had on many different levels! Just think in 6 years, 11 months, and 1.5 weeks you too can be holding a walkie talkie and be responsible for 90 kids running around like crazy after lunch with ONLY ONE OTHER ADULT! Just letting you know as I think you are currently in training for a prime position like this :)

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21 J. Money August 24, 2018 at 7:31 am

I’ll be counting down the days! #NOT

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22 Hayes @ Absolute Budget August 20, 2018 at 9:33 am

This is such an awesome exercise! It’s great to see your results! I am going to do this in September and try and get the wife on board, too!

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23 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 9:39 am

Awesome!!! I hope you do, and then blog all about it to inspire your readers! :)

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24 Joe August 20, 2018 at 9:40 am

Nice job on the 2nd month. Having kids save money in some ways. Heh heh.
I think it’s good that you’re tracking your spending. We all think we spend less than we do. That’s why everyone runs out of money at the end of the month. Once you track it, you can see where you spend the money.

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25 B.C. Kowalski August 20, 2018 at 10:32 am

I’m curious to hear more about your Panera Bread/office experience. I had friends who worked off their laptops and could work anywhere, and they would start working at the coffee shop. It usually didn’t last though – they would start making friends, a good thing, but the more the relationships grew, the less work got done. Eventually some of them sought out a private office. I’ve heard this is a common pattern at co-working spaces too – work gets done the first couple of days until you start making friends, and then it’s hard to pull away and work.

I know what you mean about restaurants – they can add up sometimes. Last January I had a wake up call – I’d spent like $200 on restaurants! In Wausau no less!

Anyway oatmeal would be better than the bagel – or at least, maybe you could put some PB on it so at least there is protein. I tend to keep my carb consumption low, limited to brown rice and oats when I do – keeps the waistline fairly trim. : )

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26 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 3:28 pm

I actually make bagels and peanut butter for the kids sometimes haha… it’s really good, especially if you toast it first!

Working out of coffee shops/co-working spaces – yes, you def. start making friends and get distracted over time, but it still beats out paying tons of money for private office space, at least for me. Plus it’s the only real adult interaction I get these days anyways so I enjoy it! And most people at coffee shops only talk to you for a few as you’re more acquaintances than good friends (although co-working spaces are a bit different – I def. had a much harder time working out of those in the past).

The biggest downfall to coffee shops is really finding a good table, and then of course spending money on stuff that isn’t the healthiest for you apparently :) Also some will limit wifi time and will automatically kick you off which can be problematic!

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27 Eric @ Flip n Finances August 20, 2018 at 11:08 am

Hey J,

I gotta be honest with you. I don’t think I’ve ever read one boring article of yours. Except for this one… just kidding! ;) It’s amazing what happens when you track every single little expense!!!

My DW and I started tracking expenses/groceries and at first we thought, pshhh $400 is easy to budget for groceries. Then we realized it’s a lot harder to keep under $400 when you actually track your expenses :) Ignorance really is bliss sometimes haha. But ignorance is not financial independence!

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28 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 3:28 pm

Haha, true that :)

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29 Mrs. Picky Pincher August 20, 2018 at 4:10 pm

Okay, I really love this. Why am I not tracking my crazy spending habits? *rushes to make a spreadsheet*

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30 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 4:57 pm

DO ITTTTTT! :)

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31 Tonya August 20, 2018 at 5:42 pm

I was super into reading the blog post and then I lost focus gushing over those baby pictures! Oldest one or two (?) starting school soon? That will free up some of your wrangling time.

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32 J. Money August 20, 2018 at 5:57 pm

haha… proud dads always have to slip those in ;)

yup – oldest going into 1st grade already (!), and then middle has one more year to go until kindergarten, but we have him in 1/2 day preschool to get a good start w/ learning and interacting with peers. All of which opens up some good time for sure!

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33 Jay @ 5to9Living August 21, 2018 at 9:34 am

Adorable children, and it’s amazing that you are able to be home with them and bond.

As for the bagels, that’s a lot of bagels! But I can definitely relate. I tried to make breakfasts 100% eat at home, but a store-bought bagel just doesn’t compare to a bakery bagel. Especially when we are talking about New York bagels! So ultimately, I transitioned to eat-at-home breakfast on work-days (no bagels), and bagels and a coffee are my indulgences on the weekends. Kind of my weekend kick-off ritual.

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34 J. Money August 21, 2018 at 2:06 pm

That’s an excellent compromise :)

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35 Prudence Debtfree August 21, 2018 at 10:32 am

It is AMAZING what increased awareness does to personal finances. We were able to determine how much more we paid off debt the first year we became focused (2012) vs. the year before (2011). Same income, same expenses – and a 312% improvement! I’m sure that your 2nd month is going so much more frugally not just because of your ramped-up daddy role, but also because of your ramped-up awareness. (And way to be such a hands-on dad! I just read an article this morning about how good dad-involvement is for baby, mom, and even dad :)

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36 J. Money August 21, 2018 at 2:09 pm

It’s def. been rewarding so far :) Especially when people I barely know come up to me and say what a great father I am taking the kids everywhere, haha… They should be doing that to all the MOMS out there! But I guess it’s still pretty uncommon seeing Dad in the mix so much…

And 312% – Incredible!! With the same income/expenses no less, that’s some proof right there!

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37 Patrice | Financial Peacock August 22, 2018 at 12:28 pm

I need to to track my spending. It’s been creeping up lately for the items that fall into the “other” bucket of my budget.

I should try working from Panera or a coffee shop. I work from home and find it so isolating. I also eat way too much since I sit right next to the kitchen. I try to not buy junk food so it’s not in the house, but it’s amazing what you can find in your pantry if you dig deep enough. lol

Those boys are adorable! Looks like you will have your hands full!

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38 J. Money August 23, 2018 at 5:54 am

Give it a shot!! Even for just a couple of hours – it really helps break up the day and you feel a part of society again :)

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39 Cindy September 5, 2018 at 8:54 am

I love the idea of tracking “wants”. I generally use my credit card for all purchases and find the monthly total is really getting high. Used to be about 1K, now it’s over 2K. A lot of that is house related but then, that’s mostly still in the “want” category. I look at the expenses and say “oh, that is a one-time expense” but I find I think that a lot. I may be late to this party, but I’m starting my “want” tracking today!
J$, thank you so much for your very practical money management advice. I’m glad to have found you.
-c

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40 J. Money September 5, 2018 at 9:53 am

GOOD!!!! I’m so excited for you to see what you end up finding through the experiment! Will you come back and let me know after a month? :) Our c/c bill tends to skew upwards over the years too, but mainly because we keep on having kids haha… Hoping now that we’re content with our three we can start shifting it in the other direction :)

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41 Sobia September 19, 2018 at 6:11 am

(Aw the babies are so cute!) I should do this! I have around a month before I am off on holiday, and this will help me keep track. I find online shopping is something I have done too often recently. Will try to stay away from it unless necessary, and this will help me keep track of the ‘wants’

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