My husband and I love numbers. We may not always view them, literally, the same way but we both like them. They are fun. Okay, so not everyone agrees. We don’t even agree that the other spouse is viewing them the right way. 🙂 I’m not a fan of philosophical debates which makes it a good thing there are people in the world who love that kind of thing. Otherwise who knows what kind of world we would be living in. We can’t do it all, so thankfully God divided up the responsibilities.
So, money. In an all too common conversation the other day we were talking about the amount of money we spend each month. This was not an argument, we actually enjoy looking and analyzing our cash flow. I remember fondly the times, as a new married couple, where we would sit down to enter our expenditures and income, then look over the progress we made or didn’t make. We would then talk about ways we could achieve the goal we wanted. I loved seeing the pay-off-time for our debts shorten as we payed more on our debts than was required. Even if it was only shortened by a few days or weeks, that meant less money going to someone else and the sooner we would actually own our stuff, instead of the bank owning it. Yes, we may be slightly not-normal in this case, but I’m okay with that.
The recent conversation was the result of a Wall Street Journal article about a spending limit placed on former USB trader Tom Heyes. The limit was set to $400 a week. My first thought was, “Poor rich guy. Only $400 a week. Life is tough.” Then I wondered how much that was per day? per month? I began to view this number differently. What exactly is $400 a week?
- $57.14 per day
- $1,732 per month (assuming 4.33 weeks per month)
- $20,800 per year
Well, now the numbers look a bit different. $400 is nothing to sneeze at my any means, but it may not go as far as you would think. While you can get a lot of $1 items from the local dollar store for $400, it doesn’t always stretch that far in other areas:
- Assuming gas is $3 per gallon (which it isn’t here), if your car’s tank holds 15 gallons it will cost you $45 to fill, leaving you with $12.14 to spend the rest of the day.
- $400 is about half of what it costs for my auto insurance (more than one vehicle), then let’s not forget home insurance (if you own one), life insurance (if you have a policy), etc. I just lost more than a month of the $400/week limit.
- A new set of tires cost me $354 last year (one tire blew out so we replaced two of them. A week or so later one of the ‘old’ tires got a nail in it. It would have saved us money to buy a full set, but we weren’t looking to buy a new full set all at one time. This year we had issues with the tires, due to alignment or such and had to replace them. There was a prorated refund because they didn’t last very long, so that was another $$ bill to pay. Yes, you can save by not owning a car or just owning one instead of multiple.)
- Eating at home, we average around $20/person/week on groceries and $13.5/person/week eating out, bringing the act of eating to about $33.4/person/week. (Okay, WOW. I didn’t realize it was so high. We have lowered our eating out costs this year by $174 per person, but the cost of groceries has increased. Still, I see an area where we/I can improve in the upcoming year.)
- We pay the local teenager $20 to mow our yard, which he does about one time per week during the summer bringing the monthly total to $80. Family pool pass for the summer is $90, or $22.50 per month. Netflix is $18/month. These are all things that cost the same, whether you are single or have a family of many. The total? $188, or almost half on one week’s $400 allotment.
See how the view changes the amount? What else can $400 do:
- Sponsor a Compassion International child for 10.5 months.
- Give the gift of 1 water buffalo and 2 sheep, or the gift of clean water AND a bountiful harvest gift basket through Heifer International.
- Support a teen in your community, or through donation, to a program like Missionaries Across America.
- Put together several backpacks with school supplies for students at your local school who many not be able to afford them. (This could go even further if you strategically shop the back to school sales.)
After mentioning to my husband the article and how much Mr. Heyes was restricted/allowed to spend, he mentioned how much we spend each month on average. This is not a new number too me, so it wasn’t initially surprised by his comment. It did not seem like a lot for our family, until I broke it down into rough weekly and daily numbers. The both of us were a bit surprised. While we may not spend $50/$70/$90 each day, it does average out over the course of a year. The auto insurance gets paid in a lump sum, making that month’s numbers higher. Another month the home insurance is due. We may not need tires this year, but may have the water line to the house break, the furnace go out, know a young couple just starting out who would really be blessed by a monetary gift, or decide to take that extra trip to see a family member whom we don’t get to see often. It could even been as simple as taking advantage of promotions on gift cards at the beginning of the year, a sale on meat another time (and not keeping an eye on the grocery budget, though I would never be guilty of that … see spending note above), eating at the nicer restaurant instead of the cheaper but just as delicious one, having to spend $20 on a new pair of shoes rather than $5 for a still-good second hand pair for the growing feet in the family, or paying for a babysitter so we can go on a date or to a function the kids can’t come to (or pet sitter for the pet in your home).
Taking a difference stance, seeing things from a different view (yearly/month/weekly/daily/hourly) can shine a different light on numbers, giving them a new meaning.
- When we were paying off school debt I looked at things in the per month format – how many months are left and how many did we cut off from the length by paying the extra $5/$10/$20/$100/$1000 this month?
- My favorite way to look at our retirement savings is on a per-day view. How many days of retirement are being saved towards for every day of working? This puts a very in-the-future, abstract number into a more manageable and immediate view.
- How many hours does my husband/myself have to work in order to make the money for this purchase? (This was a huge motivator for me not to eat out when I was in school or working outside the home.)
I would like to challenge all of you to take a step back today and think about one area of your financial life in a different way. Then come back and leave a comment about what you learned or saw differently. Did viewing it per year/month/week/day give you a different feeling about the numbers?