The XX Factor

Track My Spending: The Year When I Don’t Spend $300 on DVDs in One Night

Double X invited readers to log their spending for a week and send us the results. One of our respondents, Erin from Chicago, recorded every purchase she made between May 10th and May 16th. Here’s her account of what she spent, how she spent it, and some accompanying epiphanies.

MY SPENDING, May 10-16, 2009


Movie outing: $12.50 - Other people like morning sex. I’m a big fan of morning movies. Get in, see the film, get out, and have the rest of the day free. This was my first time at the Kerasotes City North, the movie theater in the “nice” neighborhood. I am not a fan. Spent $2 for parking, $6 for my ticket to Star Trek , and $4.50 for a Diet Coke. One additional mile of driving to the Kerasotes Galewood Crossings, and I could have gotten free parking, a $4 matinee, and bigger, better seats.

Groceries: $35.94 - I spent $30 on crackers. Jewel Osco supermarket had a clearance on the organic aisle. I bought crackers, chicken broth, shortbread, and more for less than $1.25 per item. I am one of those people who consider “stuff on crackers” an entire food group, so this was a major coup.

Monthly cable bill: $111.64 - My promotional rate of $68 a month with Comcast expired. I got the new rate reduced to $97, with HBO. Still had to pay the $111 for this month, but broadband access is what keeps me sane. Through the six-month-long Chicago winter, it was basically the cable, my TiVo, and me.

Monthly cell phone bill: $60.64 - I switched from Sprint to Virgin Mobile over the winter, and I will never switch back. The phone was all of $30; I bought a second for $14 at a Black Friday sale for the extra charger. I cannot drop to a cheaper plan, as I went over last month.

Laundry: $10 - Eight loads of laundry at $1.25 each. I have an elderly dog. He contributes significantly to the amount of laundry I do.


Lunch: $5.56 - First failure to bring lunch of the week. Instead got a foot-long BMT at Subway, but at least I keep a supply of Diet Coke at work.

Snack: $1.72 - White Castle. I can’t make it until 8 p.m. without eating.

Manicure, pedicure, and eyebrow wax: $47 + $15 tip - I go every other month for a manicure, pedicure, and eyebrow wax. I tip quite a bit, as my heels are nasty and need a great deal of work.

Prescription Refill: $35 - I could have gotten it for $10, but I wanted the non-generic version. Paid via my Flexible Savings Account MasterCard.

Notebook from Target: $5.50


Public Transportation: $4.50 - Transit fail. Bought individual $2.25 ticket for each leg of the bus ride to work.

CTA card: $25 - Transit win. My whole daily commute is $5 on the card. Bought for the week.

Lunch: $4.96 - Fail (again). Deli Time is the lone deli in my office building. The food is awful. However, it is there, and I’m hungry. I need to be better about storing frozen meals at work.


Three personal training sessions at the YMCA: $106 - This is a first, but I desperately need to work on my upper body strength. The trainer will hopefully also help with my crappy balance.

Lunch: $6.40 - Another fail. Deli Time it is.


Breakfast: $4.62 - McDonald’s. Utterly intentional. A bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and a large Diet Coke are what they serve in heaven.

Lunch: $7.45 - Deli Time. Again.

Graduate School Information Seminar at the University of Illinois Chicago: free - Graduate school, however, will cost me a minimum of $10,000 a year, and they don’t offer anything but loans for MBA programs. The catch-22 is that you have to make enough money at your job to pay for the MBA program to make a lot more money at your job.


Full car detailing: $140 + $40 tip - I can hear my mother yelling at me for paying someone else to clean up my car. After all, I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself. History has proven that I won’t. I purchased my car in August 2005, and not once have I even take a Shop-Vac to the carpeting. I tipped $40, as the detailing guy managed to get the pine sap off of the hood, and made the floor mats look respectable again.

Groceries: $37.06 - Tony’s Finer Foods is not actually “finer.” It is a local chain, and the one by me is there to serve all of your Mexican and Polish food needs. The meat prices are good, and the produce selection is far better than at Jewel.

YMCA monthly bill: $49.50 - Not negotiable. The Y is a mile from my house, has a nice indoor pool, water aerobics, and a judgment-free environment. No cheaper gym is going to offer that combination.


Laundry: $8.75 - Only seven loads this time. I spend the day washing all of the extra winter blankets and cleaning my room. I fail to leave the building. Or get dressed.


DVDs: $300 - I was one drink and a few mouse clicks from replicating the summer 2006 incident, when I woke up to discover I had spent that much on such titles as Due South: The Complete Series.

SIGG bottle and really cute metal lunch containers from : $75 - I already have and love my SIGG. I don’t need another. And I would leave my reusable lunch containers in the trunk of the car for two weeks, then have to throw them out for fear of the contents.

Llama: $150 - Heifer International was doing a mid-year fundraising campaign.

Drinks with co-workers Friday: $25 - Decided to be anti-social and just go home.

New top-of-the-line desktop computer: $1,099.98 - My laptop over-heated twice.

Trip to Vegas: $69/night (deceptively) - Special mid-week rate at the MGM Grand. But there’s the $300 for the flight. And all of the other expenses.

Replacement DVD: $19.99 - Due South: The Complete Series.


  1. I still do not have a clear budget. My goals for 2009 are mainly to pay off my car, on which I still owe $3,200; save $4,000; and not rack up any new debt whatsoever.

  2. I feel the need to justify my spending, to others and myself. I’m very defensive of it.

  3. There are a lot of things I should do to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I probably won’t.

  4. I have a bad habit of drinking when home alone at night with the computer. This never leads anywhere good. But I’m a lot more worried about the money than the incipient alcoholism.

  5. I have no idea how anyone raises a family on my salary of about $60,000 a year. It’s above the median household income, and it barely supports me and the dachshund.

  6. I still need to figure out how I’m going to start paying my parents back the $45,000 that I owe them. I feel that I am not meeting their standards. I certainly am not doing better than they were at 32, and at my age they had already been married for five years and had a child. In my working life I have never been in a position where my spending didn’t exceed my income by at least $5,000 a year.

  7. I desperately need to work on my relationship skills. Forget the romance and the sex-managing to successfully cohabitate would improve my finances. This is not the fantasy of marrying money, but the fantasy of, “And then he paid half the rent and utilities.”

  8. I’m going to be 33, and yet I don’t feel like a grown adult. Perhaps a separate issue.