Dec 10, 2023

Memories from an Expense Journal

 While decluttering a few nostalgic items this week, I stumbled upon this expense notebook that K and I used to maintain regularly, back in 2004-07. We do continue to keep track of our expenses (not at this level of detail though! 😁) in a Google spreadsheet.

An expense journal shows a glimpse of how our priorities have shifted over the years. It also shows how our society has been changing.

As I flipped through the pages, I realized there were quite a many entries listed for Auto (as in Autorickshaw) with costs from Rs.10 to Rs.30. Those were the good old days when Bangalore auto drivers used the meter diligently.

There are also quite a few entries of Pizza Corner, Cornflakes, Tropicana, VCDs/DVDs, movie theatres, etc. Some of these categories aren't relevant for today - VCDs/DVDs and movie ticket expenses are now shifted to streaming platforms. Also, we have stopped spending on many of the junk food categories.

What was more interesting for me was to go through the prices of essential items. For eg, based on this entry made on 17th Sept 2004 (shown in pic), comparing a few items with the prices on Bigbasket as of today:

1/2 kg of onion = Rs.5 (Rs. 33 now)

1/2 kg of potato = Rs.5 (Rs.18)

1/4 kg of carrot = Rs.4 (Rs.14)

1/4 of beans = Rs.2 (Rs.19)

1 kg of atta = Rs.21 (Rs.65)

1 kg of sugar = Rs.20 (Rs. 50)

This shows a trend of how inflation affects essential food items in a span of 19 years.

One perspective recommended by many personal finance influencers is to keep increasing your income to such a level that you wouldn't be impacted by inflation.

My perspective is slightly different. Yes, increasing income is important, but if the expenses also keep rising along with the income, then it becomes a never-ending struggle. To increase income, we take up jobs that demand 70 hours/week and we lose our health, relationships, and peace in the bargain.

To lead a balanced life, being conscious and mindful of our expenses is the only way for those who don't have a large inheritance or family business with passive income coming in every month!

A few simple ways by which we cut down our expenses:

  • Not buying clothes just because there are deals/discounts
  • Not buying clothes just because someone says that it is out of fashion
  • Not eating out multiple times a week
  • No food wastage
  • No electricity wastage
  • Not buying things or experiences to impress others

Most importantly, planning a budget, noting down monthly expenses, and analyzing them at the end of the month/year has made a huge difference. I had written a detailed post on our process a couple of years back. 

Minimalism doesn't mean that we live on a farm and make everything on our own.

Minimalism, in my opinion, is understanding our priorities and aligning our expenses to manage those priorities even while living in a city and leading regular lives (whether we buy from a vendor or make things on our own is a secondary decision).

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