Highlights From A Year of Emotional Spending

by Sarah Collins

I was looking for a little control when I ended up with an unflattering snapshot of my financial life. After looking back on my 2013 spending in Mint and having no clue where my money went, I figured I would take charge in 2014 and really track every expense. Categorize everything. Make notes on everything.

I overestimated my powers to control 2014. On Dec. 30 my boyfriend’s mom died unexpectedly and way too young. Then, on Jan. 6, I learned that my kickass business magazine was closing and our wonderful staff dispersing. The emotional spending didn’t really stop.

Due to some deep-seated masochism and guilt, I kept up the methodical tracking of my 2014 spending. That means every purchase meant to FIX MY LIFE remains stained in my Mint.com account, reminding me of some of my lowest points of 2014 — and the unbelievable friends, family, and coworkers that helped right my ship with too many beers and late-night quesadillas. Thanks to them, 2015 is starting out much better, helping me to finally look through my purchases and get familiar with the costs of a very turbulent year.


Jan. 9

$11.99 — Made to Stick e-book

After returning to work with no real job, I was handed off to my new boss, who immediately set me to work launching two new publications for the company. He terrified me at first, talking so fast I considered carrying a recorder. Instead, I just wrote down every noun he happened to toss out at me, including the title for this business book. I bought it and started reading that night.

Jan. 17

$36 — Last day lunch for my now-defunct business magazine

When your publication doesn’t exist anymore, you can’t expense your lunch. You can get drunk at it though!


Feb. 9

$69.60 — New winter coat

The price you pay as soon as you realize your new boss is going to take you to meetings where people will be able to tell you’ve been wearing the same stained and grubby coat since freshman year of college. WORTH IT.

Feb. 16

$10.19 — Snacks with Andrea from Trader Joe’s

This would not be the last emergency snack purchase. All were consumed while watching the Veronica Mars movie, during which I realized I’m really more of a Piz, and, like, a Duncan at best. Resolved to spend more time on witty repartee in an effort to attain Veronica status.


Mar. 3

$17.96 — Drinks and tots with Chris. If that app ever happens … at Blue Frog, a Chicago dive bar

That app didn’t happen, despite my very smart developer friend’s advice, delivered over tater-tots. I did go ahead and mark this as tax-related though, so I could deduct it from my future millions. At this point in the year my financial strategy was apparently to land upon a billion-dollar idea.

Mar. 7

$30.51 — Drinks and food with [business magazine coworkers]. Job hunt!

$18.40 — Cab home from Blue Frog, split with [business magazine coworkers]

No. This is too many trips to a dive-y karaoke bar in one week.


Apr. 8

$12.07 — Deodorant and mirror

I spent most of 2014 convinced I smelled and/or had lipstick on my teeth.

Apr. 18

$24.99/month — Gym

A quarter of the way into this new job managing urgent special projects, I decided I was going to physically fall apart. Probably right about this.

Apr. 22

$100 — Cash withdrawal to have money on hand for Milwaukee, Great America

If the pressures of adulthood are too much to bear, I suggest taking a trip to an amusement park, followed by a visit to Chicago’s playground, Milwaukee, WI.


May 2

$10.41 — Drinks with [my amazing former editor] at Jamba Juice

After too many nights spent commiserating over booze, we developed a habit of walking and venting while drinking green smoothies. Calorie-wise, likely equal. But it made us feel much more virtuous.

May 15

$99.25 — Delicious Frenchie dinner in Montreal at Brasserie T

When the trip to Milwaukee didn’t cut it, I traveled to Montreal for Pouzza Fest — a three-day punk rock fest named for the combination of pizza and poutine served therein. Feeling sorry for myself, I took a break from mosh pits to eat escargot and steak frites at the nicest place I could afford. I came back from this trip feeling like a different, better person. Unfortunately that did not last.


Jun. 1

$33 — A round for coworker’s going away pub crawl

This was really the beginning of the exodus. From this point on, about half my social life was filled with goodbye parties for coworkers I loved.

Jun. 30

$5.21 — Smoothie for MYSELF

Really not sure why this is capitalized, but clearly the green smoothies were not working their chill magic.


Jul. 3

$34.72 — Filling up Mustang

I spent a lot of time between Chicago’s sleet seasons driving around in my dad’s 1987 Ford Mustang, which I borrowed for the summer because the only place I feel emotionally secure is inside the steel shell of that beautiful, beat-up machine. About 40 percent of these drives were accompanied by long and glassy-eyed lectures to my boyfriend about the amazing soul of the car. I am not generally a person who believes cars have souls.

Jul. 31

$19.98 — Garden and Gun

By August, I was now the editor of two publications, managing a staff and trying not to die. To help me find my way, I sprung for that standard of Southern journalism, Garden and Gun. G&G should in no way be held responsible for both those publications shuttering two months later.


Aug. 1

$13.03 — Got too drunk with [dev shop] and needed a cab home

This round of shots and other beverages marked the end of working with our incredible development team to build out a custom CMS and two new websites. Seeing this as the end of my stress and the start of a stable future for my two publications, I got so drunk I lost all sense of direction and put myself in a cab.

Aug. 13

$16.39 — Boscia acne spot treatment

Still recovering from the stress acne.

Aug. 22

$13.49 — Purchasing domain names, starting the world’s greatest business

Began purchasing domain names I thought were funny, chasing that next billion-dollar idea. I still think this is going to work out.


Sept. 10

$10 — Networking event on Sept. 10

I tried to get serious about finding a new job and started attending networking events. Was not terribly successful.

$5.40 — Drunk ride home with [former coworkers] from networking/dive bar

Really was not successful.

Sept. 13

$10.86 — Sandwich to discuss business ideas

$4.11 — Coffee to discuss business ideas

Decided at this point that starting my own business was preferable to any form of networking.

Sept. 21

$46.16 — Bad Feminist, Gone Girl, and Tiny Beautiful Things

To combat the stress/crushing effects of the patriarchy, I made a new rule that I couldn’t feel guilty about spending money while buying books by women authors from local bookstores. Possibly the best decision made during this time in my life.

Sept. 29

$17 — Cocktail with [old friend] to discuss work and life

Sometimes seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who’s known you for a long time and still wants to have overpriced tiki drinks with you is all you need.


Oct. 4

$375.87 — Check-up, rabies and other vaccines, heart-worm test, sedatives, anti-anxiety meds

Our beloved husky, pit bull mix had a rougher 2014 than we did. Leaving behind puppy-dom lead to constant panic attacks that would last all night, compounding the bad things happening that year. When we took her in for her annual checkup, she nearly choked herself out fighting the vet and multiple vet techs, resulting in lots of cuts, bruises, and vomit — for the dog and probably for the veterinarians as well. After experiencing the full force of my dog’s panic attacks, the vet prescribed a low-dose anti-anxiety pill. The big animal is currently sleeping next to me with one paw stretched out to touch my leg. A lot of great things happened in 2014, but getting her brain chemistry right was probably the best.

Oct. 9

$18.47 — Career lunch with mentor

After a particularly bad day in September, I emailed one of my favorite Chicago media people to beg for help finding a new job. He was gracious and kind and helpful.

Oct. 20

$5.95 — Smoothie between interviews and work meeting

After a brief but apparently impressive meeting at a networking event, I received an email from a new friend saying he had a consulting job for me at a Toronto tech start-up. I spent weeks assuming this was a prank or a fairytale. It was neither, and after the second round of interviews they agreed to fly me to Toronto for a final interview. I figured if I was sipping a smoothie when I went back to the office, no one would notice my hands were shaking.

Oct. 24

$170.75 — Changing my return flight from Toronto to the correct day

In the stress of trying to talk to a potential new boss while booking an international flight, I managed to schedule my return flight for the wrong day. I found this out by arriving at the airport after the interview and realizing I could not check-in for a flight I was not on. Near tears, I was willing to pay literally any sum of money to go home as quickly as possible. Did not tell the new bosses about this little mix-up until the contracts were signed. Even now I pretend like it was a great fun time.

Oct. 30

$14.41 — Beer for Drink Tank admittance

Because sometimes the universe is beautiful, near the end of 2014 I found a networking event that combined my love of too much alcohol and my love of pitching billion-dollar business ideas. Desperate to please, I spent way too much time trying to pick out a cool beer from 7–11. Ended up successfully pitching one of the many business ideas I came up with in 2014.


Nov. 2

$86.25 — Dog bed, organizer for the closet, new oven mitts

You know what you can control? The amount of crap you fill your house with. I poured my energies into stress-nesting while waiting for my two weeks to expire.

Nov. 4

$15.06 — Cab home from work on election night

One of my last journalism acts was to work one of the most depressing election in my lifetime. It was the most happy/sad I was all year.

Nov. 8

$44.19 — Yes Please and Americanah

Reaching out for life inspiration and finding it. Both of these books helped to put me back together.

Nov. 24

$4.20 — Airport breakfast on the way to Toronto

I have a superstition that requires me to eat McDonald’s breakfasts before all early morning flights for good luck. It’s a good belief system, and it carried me into a wonderful first week on the job with my new company.


Dec. 4

$8.08 — Two quesadillas, which was the only order I could think of because I was too drunk to function

Ordered after the goodbye party for another coworker from the business magazine. In one month we all landed new jobs.

Dec. 19

$31.60 plus untold cash — Christmas dinner

Almost a year after shuttering our wonderful magazine, the whole staff came together for a multi-stop Christmas dinner and drink spectacular. Losing the magazine kicked off a pretty crappy year, but being able to walk away with all those chumps as friends made up for every dumb thing.

Sarah Collins likes to build audiences. You can hear all about her dog @badscenemyfault or brace yourself for the next billion-dollar idea @gethustlin.

Photo of champion shopper Mindy Kaling via PurseBlog

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