Where the hell does all my money go…?
Every month I ask myself that same question. I get paid. I budget all my outgoings and work out around £200 a month, £50 a week to be exact.
£50 a week for everything; from meals out, visits to galleries, art materials, drawing and exercise classes. However, just why do I continue to avoid this budget and dip into my credit cards to fund my coffee-with-cake obsession and post-work trips to Waitrose?
I’ve always known I spend way too much money on food, so on 1st August, I set myself a project to draw and annotate all my food purchases. I wasn’t drawing what I consumed throughout the day, I just wanted to visually see where my money went. Plus, I had been struggling to build up a regular practice of drawing without it feeling forced. I exhausted the mundane objects around my flat and I never really took to landscapes or portraiture. I was stuck not just creatively but also with my finances.
Drawing all my food purchases and annotating them was going to be a simple exercise that enabled me to maintain a regular project without getting stuck behind work that had to look classically beautiful or accurately representative of what I saw. I just wanted to see where all my money went and the behaviours around what I buy, when and why.
I love food — always have done. When living in London, I was spoilt for choice at the endless options of cool trendy cafes and restaurants. I got a weird buzz from experiencing a new place before my friends and then sharing my discoveries with them. Eating is also an incredible social activity for me. I enjoy seeking out new brunch places or bakeries with my friends and taking trips to the supermarket to stock up on treats for cosy nights in with family.
“I frequently chose to hide behind my debt, putting it down to an issue to deal with later. Later is now…”
I love cooking and trying new recipes. I weirdly enjoy picking meals to buy for our weekly food shop, much to my partner’s annoyance, and I also love roaming the reduced aisle at the local Waitrose. I set aside £120 from my budget each month for our household grocery shopping, but never actually stick to this figure. Buying and eating food is a way of treating myself. But treating myself often results in using funds from all accounts.
I frequently chose to hide behind my debt, putting it down to an issue to deal with later. Later is now; I relocated from London, where I lived at home for 30 years, left jobs in luxury retail that came with decent commission. I moved to Edinburgh, where I’m now playing ‘adult’ and having to share responsibilities with my partner, whilst living on a salary far different than I had in my previous job. I wasn’t used to playing this new version of myself and so I constantly struggled with depression and anxiety, which was amplified due to the isolation and loneliness of a new place.
Two years on, and still I don’t really have a social life in Edinburgh. I know a handful of people and my boyfriend and I still treat ourselves to brunch out once each month but seriously, what do I spend my money on? Does my boyfriend really eat that many bananas? How many trips do I need to make to the supermarket in the week? And how many oat milk lattes do I really need to buy?
Below are snapshots from my month of August. This month was a more social one than usual due to the Fringe Festival and time spent visiting friends in Norfolk. Over the course of the month, I calculated all of my food purchases and I was astounded to realise I had spent £297.72 on food across August.
I spent way more than my monthly budget of £200 which obviously shows me how much I rely and fall back on my credit cards. Nothing new there then! However, I need this to change. I made 64 purchases under £10. Some of these purchases, I did not even enjoy. I realised as a way of passing time, I use food as an acquaintance to keep me company and often went to Pret to pick up a pain au raisin before waiting for the bus. Every time I bought these, I would disappointedly throw away the paper bag uttering that it was a waste of my money. Noting the stomach pains as I forget that I have a slight dairy intolerance to buttery treats.
As I mentioned at the start, I love coffee with cake. Oat milk lattes fill me with so much joy and I don’t want to stop having these resting moments sitting in my favourite coffee shops to reflect. I probably don’t need to have 13 lattes in the month though, and it’s good for me to start cutting back on the dairy too with these rich cakes.
The amount I spend on crisps and sweets was another realisation. Over the past couple of years, I thought I curbed this addiction but since moving back to Edinburgh bad habits are starting to creep up on me. I get crisps when I’m bored and peckish; sweets when I want to scream fuck the world as I’m having a bad day. Yeah, this probably won’t change and will go up and down in peaks and dips but at least I’m aware of it now.
I’ve actually weirdly enjoyed keeping this illustrated food purchase diary and have decided to carry on. I see inspiration everywhere now in relation to food and often get motivated to draw when making a colourful salad. I’ve gone back to my iPad to mess about on Procreate, inking up drawings to add colour. I’m even contemplating drawing with the scissors again — a technique that I’ve not explored since university when I was obsessed with Matisse’s cut outs.
I’m a bit more mindful about what I’m buying and I’ve not looked to my credit cards as often as I used to. In fact, I just hide them away in my drawers. My debts are on ongoing issue and I will not be able to solve my problems overnight but I can reduce my spending. I can use these drawings to continue to determine patterns in my behaviours towards food as I don’t want to continue to waste my money anymore on unfulfilling purchases. Hopefully by continuing to document these will not only have an impact on my finances, but also with my artistic development and overall health too.