For a personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly hasn’t been very personal in recent months. That’s partly because of the book project, but also partly because I’ve moved to a stage in my financial life where not a lot happens. I’m not repaying debt, I’m not learning lots of new stuff; mostly, I’m “getting rich slowly”, letting my savings accumulate, and pursuing long-term goals.

One goal that Kris and I share is to take a trip to Europe later this year. We’ve been saving for nearly a year already to make this happen, and I’m sure to write more about it in the future. (In fact, I have one short post about our trip coming up soon.)

But I want to take a moment to get a little more personal than I have lately. In mid-January, I shared a brief summary of my 2009 discretionary spending. I pointed out two things:

  1. Last year, I spent an average of $286.97 per month on dining out. We typically dined out about six times per month, and paid nearly $50 per meal.
  2. Despite this, my spending on other discretionary items was down. In fact, I noted that I as experiencing what I called a “waning of want”; I didn’t feel the urge to buy Stuff.

More than in past years, I’ve been thinking about the results of my 2009 discretionary spending survey, and I’ve actually tried to act on them. During January, I did my best to keep my spending in check. How’d I do? Let’s look.

Last month I spent:

  • $83.09 on Entertainment ($13.98 to purchase two multi-record sets at a thrift shop; $69.11 on iTunes downloads, including multiple seasons of The Amazing Race)
  • $125.69 on Dining Out (we dined out five times, for an average of just over $25 per meal)
  • $14.78 on Pets
  • $5.97 on Books (again from a thrift shop)
  • $12.20 on Cable TV and $45.99 on Internet

That’s it. For me, this is a huge victory. I didn’t feel deprived in any way, but spent less than $300 on discretionary items. (And that’s including cable and DSL, which I don’t usually lump with discretionary expenses.)

To some of you, $300 will seem like a lot; for others, it’ll seem like a pittance. For me, it’s pretty skimpy, especially compared to past spending levels. (Again remember: I spent nearly $300 a month on Dining Out last year alone!)

Now, I’ll admit that I don’t think this level of spending will last indefinitely. The longer I put off buying comics, the more things I want to buy (Dick Tracy and Little Lulu are calling my name at this very moment). Plus, being holed up working on my book for the first three weeks of January played a huge role in my decreased spending. So did saving for our trip to Europe.

But still, the larger point is that it is possible for me to spend less if I put my mind to it. Just yesterday I decided I wanted to play a computer game. I’ve worked hard lately, and I deserve some time to goof around. I considered buying something new (or re-activating my World of Warcraft account), but instead I downloaded the free Battle for Wesnoth. Turns out it’s a fantastic game. Instead of buying new comics, I’ve been going through the un-read stuff I already own. And for entertainment, I’ve been trying to exercise. (My one goal for 2010 is to lose 50 pounds; I’m down five.)

There’s nothing earth-shattering in this article, no profound lessons to be learned. I just wanted to take a few moments to share the personal side of my personal finances. I’m pleased with how things have gone so far this year. How about you? One month into 2010, are your finances where you want them to be?

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