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Monitor everything I buy for one month

Even though you might not notice (and indeed, I don’t pay too much attention myself), progress on the 101-in-1001 list is slowly made in the background. For the past three months, I’ve been trying to write down everything I’ve bought and also tried to make some kind of interesting note about every purchase. I believe the traditional division into various areas such as food, clothes and entertainment is bunk, instead I propose a system where each purchase is graded according to how motivated it was. Highly planned purchases rank higher than impulse ones. Food rank higher than entertainment. Food bought in bulk (and thus cheaper) rate higher than fast food bought expensively. Everything ranks higher than cookies.

This is the result after three months (March, April and May 2011). The currency is Swedish crowns (SEK), 1 SEK = 0.16 USD  = 0.11 EUR = 4.6 TWD).

Rank 3 – Essential – Average: 4315 SEK/month – This category includes things that I would die without, or at least things I would be very unhappy if I lacked. It involves things such as rent, internet bill, phone bill, food bought in bulk, transport essential for my upkeep and/or education.

Rank 2 – Non-essential – Average 771 SEK/month – In this category, I’ve sorted everything that I really need, but that isn’t essential, such as hobby-related purchases. I also sort essential things bought at suboptimal prices here, such as food (which I need) bought at a bad price (because I’m bad at planning).

Rank 3 – Waste – Average 380 SEK/month – Here goes everything that I consider pure waste and that I would remove entirely if I were superhuman. Since I’m not, I still spend around 10 crows/day buying cookies, candy and so on. Some of these things would have to be replaced if removed, so the costs in this category can’t just be removed (cookies contain calories that would have to be bought in some other way).

Sum – 5480 SEK/month

Maintaining a life similar to the one I lead now, I have long believed 5000 to be some kind of minimum. Of this, about 3/5 is rent and 1/5 is other non-negotiable fees and payments. This belief seem to be justified. They only thing not included in the calculation above are costs related to my recent publication of a book, Magneter och mirakel, which I consider to be a very unique event that isn’t likely to recur any time soon. On the other hand, I spent a couple of thousand going to and from Lund this semester (I took courses in a different city), which is quite out of the ordinary.

I’m also a bit surprised that the waste category isn’t bigger. It feels like I buy cookies or something similar more or less everyday, but obviously, I don’t. I might have forgotten a few times, but I doubt i would change the average figures much. Since my weight has been extremely stable over the past year, I don’t have much to complain about, even though I realise it would be better to eat the same amount of calories, but distributed more in favour of more wholesome food.

I decided to monitor my expenses simply because all I had before was a guesstimate. Now I know, or at least I know a lot more than I did before. Calculating on yearly minimum of 60 000 SEK is probably a bit optimistic. Adding a margin of about 1000 per month for occasional electric devices, clothes and so on would raise the monthly cost to around 6500 or close to 80 000 annually. That is still a lot more than the student loan, especially considering that I pay no rent during the summer months.