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How to Figure Out Where Your Money Is Going

Money + Happiness, Popular PostsDanna Rowan

"I'm trying to cut down on buying Starbucks coffees," said a coworker of mine, while sipping her venti black dark roast— the one coffee she was allowing herself that day, rather than the usual two to three. I try to arrange my face into an expression that doesn't look too horrified, and is somewhere between surprised and impressed.

Yes, you read that right: two-to-three Starbucks coffees everyday. And while this might not make your face melt off as quickly as if they were two-to-three lattes everyday, the math is still pretty shocking.

Let's say here the price of a coffee is $2.00 (it's about $2.20CAD, I think). Times three coffees a day (assuming there are no croissants, scones, doughnuts, cookies, or breakfast sandwiches accompanying said coffee). Times 350 (I'm being kind and assuming there are days she stays home, holidays, busy days, etc).

Hold up your pants.




Let's look at what $2100 can get you:

  • a trip to the UK
  • groceries for one person for a year
  • 10.5 pairs of gorgeous quality shoes
  • 175 trips to see a movie
  • 84 lunch dates with your girlfriends

I mean, that list could go on basically forever. Save that up over a couple of years and you've got yourself a decent car, or a good chunk of a downpayment for a house. A sweet financial cushion, or enough money to let you pursue your side-hustle.

All of which, I think is safe to say, are better than Starbucks coffee (at least black, ew).

But here's the thing: this lovely coworker of mine, until she really sat down and did the math... wasn't really aware of just how much money was disappearing into the Black Hole That Is Starbucks.

She didn't have a concrete number, so it was a lot easier to pretend it wasn't happening. But after that $2100 started staring her in the face? Nnnnnot so easy. And it's not just Lovely Coworker— the number of people I've talked to who were stunned to find that they were spending thousands a year on coffee, take out, booze, and Uber rides is, well, high enough that I'm writing about it (and I think almost everyone can relate to the feeling of looking at your bank account or credit card statement and thinking WTF HAPPENED).

Getting your spending under wraps means setting a great budget or financial plan that works for you— but before you can make a realistic budget, you've gotta find out where your money is going. Ah, we arrive at last.

If you're trying to put into place a budget that someone else has tailored to their life, without figuring out your money situation and what you need in your life, you're getting a pile of meaningless numbers based on someone else's lifestyle.

No es bueno. 


1. Make yourself some rough spending categories

Where you spend is not going to be the same as where others spend. I, for example, do not have a car, nor do I often go out drinking— these are not things that need to be a part of my categories.

But they might be for you.

Categories you may consider include:

  • groceries
  • home essentials
  • transportation
  • housing costs (rent, mortgage, utilities, etc)
  • student loans/other debt payments
  • entertainment (movies, eating out, lattes)
  • pet expenses
  • school expenses
  • "fun money" (non-essential makeup beauty products, clothing, decor, etc)


2. Decide on a method of payment

Okay, good. We've got our categories. Now, you'll want to be tracking your spending over a typical month. A strategy I find super helpful here is to stick to just one method of payment, if you can— it makes it much easier to track, and much easier to see where your money is going and when. You can do old school cash, or pay for everything with your debit or credit card; the important thing is that you do your best to stick to one.

Obviously, situations may arise where that's not possible— in this case, note down the purchase ASAP.



Whether you've chosen cash or a card-based or digital method of payment, you've got one more decision to make: how to track.

You can easily use an old-school Excel sheet (except, Excel blows, let's be honest), pen and paper, or a Notes document if you feel like that will work best for you. If you're looking for some more organization, however, I recommend a digital tracking app, such as:

The best method of tracking is the one you're going to stick to.


4.  Look into the future

Alright, so there's one last thing before we go: you gotta think ahead just a little.

Not every kind of expense is going to be accounted for on a month-to-month basis— there are lots of expenses that only show their faces once every couple of months, or even once a year (hello, dog vaccinations).

Take a few minutes to think about the types of expenses that show up for you on a less than regular basis and note these down. You can then either work them into a yearly budget, or divide them by 12 to see what the equivalent monthly spend would be.


You've got the tools, now go out there and start spending (er, you know, not too crazy or anything, as you normally would. Carry on)!


Did you find this post helpful? Click over on the left to share it. And while we're at it, let us know in the comments what your most surprising spending-find was!


p.s. And for a little money-inspiration... >> How We Paid Off $30,000 In A Year


13 Audiobook Reads For The Perfect Autumn Day

Books, Popular PostsDanna Rowan

Is there anything better than a beautifully narrated audiobook, a cozy blanket and a cup of tea (or coffee, I guess, if you're one of those people) on a cool autumn day?

No. The answer is no. I admit it: I'm a person who enjoys a bit of atmosphere, a bit of gloom. The bare branches with the vibrant autumn leaves whisking down the street, the overcast sky and crisp air. It's enough to make anyone feel just a little bit more magical.

12 Books That Changed My Life

Books, Popular PostsJordanna Rowan


I even went through 7/8ths of a masters in Library Information Science, thinking (mistakenly) that since I had such a passion for books, that was the career for me. Bad graduate school choices aside, books have undoubtedly shaped my life, supporting my dreams or helping me make a change when the time was right.

Today I'm sharing with you ten to twelve (I think twelve) books that have shaped my life in some way or another. These are a mix of fiction and non-fiction of many varieties, and you may find yourself a little baffled by the collection. But hey, it's like one of those treat bags you used to be able to get at the corner store for a dollar. You never knew exactly what was going to be in it, but there was always at least one thing you liked. And you don't even have to pay a dollar.

Why Following Your Passion Is A Load of Garbage

Life Advice, Popular PostsJordanna Rowan

Did I draw you in with the dramatic and controversial headline? I hope so.

As a blogger of two dear blogs, editor of a digital mag, and an online business owner, I read a lot— especially online— about following your passion. About stickin' it to the man (do people still say that?) and striking out on one's own to create the business of their dreams (tried that road, longer than expected, and came with shitty directions).

We're supposed to tap into our womanly intuition, listen to our hearts, and follow our calling so we can make waves in the world, so we can inspire other women everywhere to do the same, to take their destiny into their own hands, rather than bumbling along on the conveyor belt.

Breathe: 7 Tips for Coping With Anxiety

University, Life Advice, Popular PostsJordanna Rowan

I struggled with anxiety for many years.

In some ways, I'm still coping with anxiety— it's simply not winning anymore. It never really goes away, though. It's still there, in the back of my head, the worries and panic a little quieter now.

On another day, I'll share my anxiety story (because I know that when I was first experiencing how terrible and alienated anxiety and panic disorders could be, I would have given anything to know that so many other people were experiencing the same thing— that I wasn't some kind of freak), but today I wanted to share a few things that helped me cope.

A caveat? This is what worked for me. I'm not suggesting that this will work for everyone, and I'm certainly not offering medical advice. This is what helped me, after many years of suffering and depression, begin to live with anxiety, and not merely exist with it.

The 5 Whys: Getting to the Bottom of It

Life Advice, Popular PostsJordanna Rowan

Sometimes, when faced with a problem or tricky decision, we tend to linger near the surface, taking our first thought or reaction as truth.

"I have to speak in public, but I don't want to."


"I'm scared."

And that's where it ends. A moment of exploration and possibly deeper understanding stuffed unceremoniously under the couch.

15 Journal Prompts for a Transformative Year

Life Advice, Popular PostsJordanna Rowan

Welcome to 2017.

But if you're reading this at any other time of the year, that's okay too— and you know why? It's never too late to look back. If you're reading this on September 1st, and you're like, shit, this year hasn't exactly gone so great– it's okay. There are 2928 hours left this year.

It can be a little comforting to remember that the secular Western New Year is a completely arbitrary date that means nothing in either the personal or greater universal world. Today can be your New Year. 

4 Things Self-Loving People Do (And You Can Too)

Life Advice, Popular PostsJordanna Rowan


It's a phrase that for some brings to mind entitled millennials (bullshit), candle-lit baths (truly excellent), and that really sensitive person at uni who gets a teacher fired because they don't like something the teacher said (unfortunately that last one is legit).

But don't let a bunch of bottom feeders on Reddit convince you that self-love is selfish, or worse yet that it doesn't matter.

Disconnected: Why I Don't Have a Cell Phone and How it Changed My Life

Life Advice, Popular PostsJordanna Rowan4 Comments

So a couple weeks ago now I was in the downtown Starbucks nearest to me where I go once a week or so to work (I work from home, and every now and then a girl just has to get out of the house for her own sanity).

I ordered my chai, busted out the laptop and was working away with my headphones on when a group of girls sat down at the long table next to me.

They were younger than the usual crowd here and if I had to guess, I’d say they were juniors or seniors over from the nearest high school on their lunch break. Mostly I come here to work, but I also come here to people-watch and I couldn’t help but notice something interesting about their little foursome.

How to Live Lighter: A Minimalist Decluttering

Life Advice, Popular Posts, Money + HappinessJordanna Rowan1 Comment

With Black Friday approaching (or, as it seems to be, going since sometime last week), I thought it was appropriate to share with you my views on minimalism and decluttering.

Before we get into it all, I want to say that I don't consider myself a minimalist— I have a lot of stuff, at least by my standards. I have hundreds of books. A lot of yarn. Probably more clothing than I need (especially since working from home, I'm now using about 5% of it) and a good deal of fairly specialized kitchen equipment (recently considered acquiring a madeline pan). But we do, however, live a fairly frugal lifestyle. We don't buy a lot of things. We're not doing a huge Christmas. We buy things used whenever possible and we try really hard not to buy crap we don't need. We're working towards valuing experiences over things, and the process of minimalizing, like many other life changes, is a gradual process.