Reducing Credit Card Spending One Month At A Time

Airplane On TarmacAfter January/February’s credit card spending blow out of around $3,100, I’ve successfully reduced my latest credit card spending by 61% to $1,200!  $1,000-$1,500 is the target credit card spending range I have every month.  If I can spend just $1,000 one month, it’s like building a $500 buffer to be able to spend $2,000 ($1,500 upper range + $500) the next month.  By spending $1,200 in Feb/March, I “gain back” about $300 from the $3,100 credit card blowout in Jan/Feb.

So what changed this last statement?  Well, I didn’t go on vacation to Hawaii, which saved me $500-$700 right there in flights, food, and extra discretionary spending.  The other thing I learned after meeting my accountant is that some of my expenses can be classified as business expenses.

For example, if I am to write about the best resorts in Lake Tahoe, technically, the costs associated with going to Lake Tahoe (gas, lodging, meals) to do my due diligence is expensable.  Think about the workers of The Lonely Planet and Rick Steve’s travel guides.  Of course all their travel expenses are business expenses!

Hence, I should really write more about the places I love and the things I like to do.  Nobody says I can’t enjoy myself while working.  In fact, one of the main goals is to find work that you enjoy doing, so it doesn’t feel like work.  This type of enjoyable work is writing online!

FEBRUARY/MARCH CREDIT CARD STATEMENT OVERVIEW


Category Description Amount
Food McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger $2.18
Food Farmer’s Market $8.47
Beverage Wine Bar $18
Beverage Bar in The Mission District $43
Transportation Taxi $29
Food French Café for two $29.30
Beverage Beers at Bar $12
Food Organic Restaurant For One $13
Tennis Tennis Grip $7
Postal US Postal Service $2.80
Taxes H&R Block State Filing $19.95
Transportation Parking $5.50
Postal US Postal Service $5.95
Food Wok Tossed Prawns $10.85
Transportation Parking $5
Food Oyster Po Boy and Guinness $20
Tennis Tennis Club $150
Food Organic Beet Burger $12.91
Insurance Car, home, umbrella, etc $285
Food Organic Food $13.50
Food French Bakery $3.80
Food Nasi Lemak For One $9
Food Farmer’s Market $11.00
Tennis Strings and Guest $85
Misc Haircut $18
Food French Bakery $6
Food Tofu Skewers For Two $18
Food Organic Mushroom Burger $12.91
Tennis Strings and Guest $87
Food Client Lunch (Reimbursable) $49.50
Dentist Teeth cleaning, etc $175
Tennis New Tennis League Team Fee $25
Food Farmer’s Market $9
Food Sushi lunch $11
Food French Bakery $2.75
Total $1,216.37 ($1,165 net)

CREDIT CARD STATEMENT ANALYSIS

I’ve really narrowed my credit card expenses to food, tennis, insurance, and health.  Insurance and tennis costs alone cost about $500-$600 a month, which I considered fixed costs that cannot be avoided.  Tennis is my favorite hobby that also counts as my necessary exercise outlet to stay in shape.  Good health and fitness is priceless.  Hence, spending $200-250 a month isn’t that much.

I’ve noticed over the past three statements that I don’t spend much on material things at all.  It’s partly because I’m trying to declutter the house, which also means that I have everything I need and then some.  The main material items that keep recurring are tennis rackets, tennis shoes, baseball caps, and strings.  Other than that, there’s not much else!  I’m on a mission to keep credit card spending between $1,000-$1,500/month on average all year because I anticipate an income decline in the future.

REDUCING CREDIT CARD SPENDING STRATEGIES

* Reveal your spending goals. By publicly writing these credit card reports and highlighting exactly what my monthly target range of spending ($1,000-$1,500) is, I’ve become much more conscience of my spending habits.  I’m tethered by your expectations, and my own expectations and don’t want to be a donkey and fail.  Seeing is believing and motivating.

* Consolidate your credit cards.  I’ve only got a company card and a personal credit card now.  There’s no mental games of spreading out costs across various credit cards to make myself feel better.  When you’ve only got one personal credit card, it makes your spending that much more real as you can see all spending in one place.

* Carry many types of bills.  I suggest carrying about $100 worth of $1 dollar, $5 dollar, $10 dollar, and $20 bills in your wallet.  Make the wallet feel nice and full.  You feel a little richer that way, and a little more shocked at the transformation of your wallet into a skinny old flap once you’ve spent all your money.

* Start a business.  Start a business because you have a business idea, and not because you want to load your personal expenses onto your business.  There are enough legitimate things you can write off before going overboard.  I have to warn you, starting a business can be a very painful process due to all the paperwork and taxes involved.  Here’s an example of how painful taxes are to small business owners.  The classification of some expenses as business expenses for some items such as transportation costs and my monthly smartphone bill help defray some of my personal costs.  However, I still have to pay them, just at a discounted price equal to my highest business marginal tax rate.  Just be careful not to use your business solely as a vehicle to load all your expenses on.

REWARDS CREDIT CARD RECOMMENDATIONS

Barclaycard World Master Card: If you are an avid traveler and looking for a travel rewards credit card, you can sign up for the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard with no annual fee with double the points on travel and dining and 20,000 signup miles ($200 value). Barclaycard offers $200,000 in automatic travel accident insurance, reimbursement for expenses if your bag is lost or delayed, trip cancellation coverage, and $0 fraud liability.

Discover Credit Card: Are you looking for the best credit card for balance transfers, flexibility, and rewards? Check out the benefits of the Discover it® credit card and maximize your purchasing power. You can earn 5% cash back rewards without any annual fees, over limit fees, or foreign transaction fees. Discover provides 90 day price match guarantee, 90 days return guarantee & full refund if the product is stolen within 90 days. And did you know Discover has been ranked #1 for customer loyalty for 17 years in a row? Discover it cards are accepted at over 9 million merchants nationwide and their U.S. based customer service team is available 24/7. Just remember to spend within your means!

Check Your Credit Score: Take a moment to check your free TransUnion credit score through GoFreeCredit.com, a company I trust. 30% of credit reports have errors, which could put a serious hamper on your refinancing or new loan borrowing abilities. I had a $8 late payment I didn’t even know I owed crush my score by 100 points come up during my last refinance. The average credit score for rejected mortgage borrowers has risen to 729 due to more stringent lending requirements. Do you know what your score is?

Photo: On my way to do some research. SD.

Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Patrick says

    Interesting post, and breakdown of your spending habits.

    What are you doing with the “extra” money? I must have missed an earlier post as to what you are going to do with the money you save by keeping your spending under $1,500 a month.

    • says

      Patrick, I just feel the best when my CC spending is at $1,500/month or less. I probably spend about $300 a month in cash as well. It just feels good to save aggressively, it’s kind of addicting. My only other expense is my mortgage, but that’s a fixed cost. The CC is what I can really control, but I am refinancing my loan down lower.

  2. says

    Thanks for the business expense links. I have a full time job and I’m also a volleyball coach for which I’m an independent contractor/own my own business. This is the first year where I really went all out with my deductions and my ‘expenses’ were greater than my income :) I tried to do a lot of research on this but everywhere I looked it just told me to consult a CPA, no duh! Too damn cheap for that!

    • says

      One of the red flags my accountant told me was people starting business to load up all their personal expenses and run losses. Perhaps you should take it easy on all those expenses, and focus on generating more revenue first.

  3. says

    Nice job cutting back your spending! I did better for March but am anticipating a more expensive April due to travel and family stuff. Having a business does help with expenses but it definitely takes monitoring and not spending just for the sake of spending because it can be written off. California definitely comes after businesses for all sorts of taxes so it’s critical to keep track of cash balances. Thanks for the mention!

  4. Francis Rose says

    Hi Sam,
    I am new to your blog, I found you through Twitter, so forgive me if you’ve answered this question before. Why do you use credit cards? I switched to debit cards and found my spending went down even more, then switched to cash and spending went down again.

    • says

      Hi Francis,

      I use credit cards because they are convenient, provide a nice snapshot of what I’ve spent money on every month, and gains me points. I pay the bill off every month. CC expense is something I like to see and try to control, hence this series.

      Thx,

      S

  5. says

    My March bill slipped too (around $1200). Coincidence, I guess! I use 2 other cards, Target for the 5% discount and Costco (gas/food).

    You may want to check with your accountant, but the tennis may be a legitimate business expense. Don’t you entertain clients? If you are not reimbursed, it is a business expense.

  6. says

    I charge just about everything I can on my AMEX rewards card. Same reason as you. I like to see where I’m spending my money and I cannot say no to earning money (cash rewards) for spending what I was already going to purchase anyway. I pay it off every month so I have no interest expense. It also does not have an annual fee, as I do not believe in CC’s that have annual fees.

    The additional reason that I use a single CC over a debit card is because of the fraud protection. If someone uses by debit card and leaves me high and dry, I’m SOL until the bank can figure it out and give me my moola back. With a CC, my personal funds are not touched and I simply file a dispute of the charges with the CC company. Makes a lot more sense and saves my sanity in the end!

  7. says

    Larry, you can still get the Target discount of 5% by using your checking account. No need to use their credit card if you don’t want to. Just a thought.

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