Sunday, January 18, 2004

Dude, where's my money?

A few months back, I wrote a piece looking at where the wife and I spend our money. So as I wrapped up the books for 2003, I thought it would be fun to take another look at the full year and see where all that money went.

Throw out taxes, mortgages, the Santa Fe loan and household bills, and here are the top 20 places our money went in 2003, in order of amount spent:

• ATM - yes, I hate dealing with cash, but it's just necessary sometimes.
• Kroger - Try as I might to avoid the Ghetto Kroger, it still finished first in the grocery department.
• Home Depot - Fixing up the old house and the condo, plus stuff bought from the new house make this not much of a surprise.
• Publix - If they ever put in self-serve checkouts, they'd pass Kroger for sure.
• Quik Trip - Ah, my blessed QT. If I'm not there at lunch getting gas, I'm sucking down sodas and those little taquito things.
• Gateway - The laptop I'm writing this on.
• The wife's mom - To care for the wife's granny when she was in Medicare flux. And you thought the Cap'n was heartless.
• Delta Air Lines - We flew them to NYC and L.A.
• - Dominated by the DVD recorder the wife got me for my birthday; we actually spent $0 with Mr. Bezos at Christmas this year.
• The wife's hair stylist - As I said before, looking that hot takes work.
• PetSmart - Care and feeding for the dogs, both Big Brown and Little Black.
• Shell Oil - The wife still prefers to get her gas at the station on Moreland so the Indians can flirt with her.
• Mattress King - All hail The Mattress King. The new house has an extra guest room, and thus an extra mattress (which is resting on the floor for now).
• Starbucks - OK, mock me. They make damned good iced lattes and iced chai.
• CVS - This was probably about half drugs/toiletries and half cash back. I hate ATM fees.
• Media Play - My favorite lunchtime hangout; around the corner from work. Replacing our PS2 drove spending up there.
• The pet sitter - Trips to NY, Vegas, L.A., NashVegas and Louisiana mean lots of petsitter time.
• Walgreens - The wife prefers the one on North and Piedmont to the CVS in Grant Park.
• The former owner of our house - For their breakfast table, other furniture and stuff we bought at their garage sale.
• Traders - Furniture from the hip EAtl shop.

That was fun, wasn't it? Now let's dig in to a category that's sure to reveal much about the Cap'n and wife. Where do we spend our dining dollars? This, of course, doesn't include most cash outlays at Hardee's and the like (love those new burgers), but I do still pull out the plastic whenever possible.

The top 10 places we spent dining dollars in '03:

• Starbucks - Would you believe we had 76 trips there in 2003? That's like a visit and a half per week. Excessive? Maybe.
• Six Feet Under - Now I feel better. We're supporting a great, new 'hood restaurant. Yea, us.
• Grant Central - Mostly ordered for pickup. Who needs delivery when you can go pick it up and have it 20 minutes after you order?
• Dakota Blue - This is how good a friend I am. This place ain't very good, but we've been three times with the E & K because a friend of theirs owns it. Half the total there came from one night of drinking overpriced and underpowered margaritas.
• Applebee's - Not quite as pathetic as it might seem. Three trips, all with the wife's family up in NashVegas. Twice we bought for the group, which raised its dollars-spent ranking.
• The Mad Platter - A NashVegas place that's way overpriced and way not so good. It actually wouldn't make the top 10 if not for the fact that they charged my credit card twice. Yes, we got paid back.
• The Earl - A staple for burgers and booze in the EAtl. Now that we're remembering not to order their very-bad queso dip, they may move down in the '04 rankings.
• Good News Cafe - Exclusively brunch trips to the only viable option in the EAtl now.
• Arby's - Because they take credit cards, Arby's is not only the one fast-food place to show up on the list, but they also get a lot of our quick-eating business ... because they take credit cards.
• Burrito Delight - Formerly Burrito Art, it's still a good bet for quick meals in EAtl.

Also in the payee-analysis section, let's see where the Cap'n and the wife spend our personal allowances. That's money we budget each month for us to spend on any damn thing we want.

The Cap'n's top 10: 1) The Flatiron (bourbons); 2) Burlington Coat Factory (a suit); 3) The New York Times (cancelled after Jayson Blair); 4) Nordstrom (mostly shoes from Nordstrom Rack); 5) The Gap (clothes); 6) Media Play (PS2 games, music, DVDs); 7) (mostly music); 8) Kenneth Cole (love that man's shoes); 9) Sirius (6-month subscription); 10) Chimes Textbook Exchange (LSU gear bought before Christmas).

The wife's top 10 (her motives are pretty clear): 1) JCrew; 2) Lerner; 3) The Gap; 4) Victoria's Secret; 5) Rich's; 6) Delia's; 7) Agnes & Muriels; 8) Burlington Coat Factory; 9) Circuit City (her Sirius docking thingy); 10) Urban Outfitters.

Finally, some random notes:

• Last year we spent money with 319 different entities (businesses, utilities, government agencies, individuals), not counting cash-only purchases.
• The world's biggest retailer - Wal-Mart - got exactly $150.25 from us in 2003, and $70 of that was for gift cards at Christmas. So we bought just $80.25 worth of stuff there, which may be the lowest amount of any household in America. That makes me feel good.
• By contrast, we spent $1,497.65 in East Atlanta Village (somewhat inflated last year by furniture purchases at Traders and the Antiques bazaar), and a total of $2,625.62 at independent businesses in EAtl, L5P and Grant Park (everything from Six Feet Under to Oxford Cleaners, but not including Starbucks). That also makes me feel good.

And despite the detailed analysis I'm able to pull out on spending, I'm not anal about finances, I swear. Microsoft Money makes it easy, and I've found that making and sticking to a spending plan is the key to having money rather than debt. And, OK, I think it's fun. I'll cop to that.


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