The Perspective of Percentages

The Perspective of PercentagesOnce I finished my victory lap around the kitchen table to celebrate lower our car insurance premiums, I dashed over to dutifully input the new numbers into our budget spreadsheet* with a smug smile scrawled across my face. I had spent the better part of two weeks soliciting quotes via phone, email, and carrier pigeon. Finally, I found a company that would offer comparable coverage to the tune of $300 savings annually. I couldn’t wait to see the numbers dip. After a few simple keystrokes and a quick double check of my work, I clicked one more time to see the final category percentage plummet. And then…nothing. 

Excuse the hyperbole. It wasn’t nothing. It was 1%. One percent of our budget could be moved from the transportation category to the savings category. One lousy percent. Somehow, my victory no longer seemed so sweet.

This past October, I received notice that our car insurance premiums were due, and they were going up $100 for the year. I foamed, I raved, I swore. Not only were our cars both a year older, but we had never filed a claim, we both boast pristine driving records, and Mr. P’s credit score has increased significantly this past year.** I immediately called our insurance agent and asked him to run me new quotes. After the most epic two-day game of phone tag, it was clear that this company was not going to be able to do much more for us. A little lot more research saw us switching to Esurance to save $300. It was at this point in my life that I was convinced there would be a magical confetti drop as my celebration commenced.

Then, I was confronted with the cold hard truth of percentages. You see, I had allowed this magical unicorn of three hundred extra dollars to grow to such epic proportions in my mind that I never stopped to consider the scale on which I was saving. That tiny, tiny scale.

This post is not to say that I will stop comparison shopping. Please. It’s at least a hobby, if not a skill I would put on a résumé. However, percentages can also yield powerful perspectives. Now, as I work to trim my other budget categories to plump up our savings even more, I try to bear in mind the bigger picture. This percentage exercise also underscores the significance of making more money, as opposed to only trying to save money.

*Yes, I said spreadsheet. Yes, I’m a millennial. No, I’m not a very good one.

**Mr. P was my first test subject in the pre-blog days. Another post for another day, but the short story is he basically had no credit when we got married. Now it is above 740. Fist bump.

So Tell Me…Do you use numbers, percentages, or both in your budget? Were you also disappointed the last time you saved money and there was no confetti celebration to accompany it?

The Perspective of Percentages

19 thoughts on “The Perspective of Percentages

  1. Props to being bad millennials. Loving spreadsheets and early bedtimes is my jam, and I leave the Real-Millennial-ing to my friends, haha. Bad-Millennial-ing has been wonderful for my budget.

    But in all seriousness, I’m sorry the percentage took some of the fun out of your big win! Because ok, on the scale of everything you make, it’s not huge, but on the scale of this one fixed category of spending, it’s absolutely a win. Confetti for everyone! But mostly for Penny!

    You should be super proud, if only for the attention you paid to this category of spending, and your willingness to not just accept the rate hike. This year is the year that I actually shop around for car insurance, instead of just accepting the first rate and coverage package someone sold me (I know. I know. It’s so bad, and it was two years ago.)

  2. So guilty of this, and its not even $300 or $400 things, its more like refusing to buy socks and underwear until I find them at least 25% off. I mean, we have expensive tastes, but it’s still about a $5 savings.

  3. Okay, so it was only 1%. That’s still $300 that you can do something other than buy insurance with. Invest it, go to dinner a few times, take in a couple of events you want to see, go to the movies 15 times. Use it to cover an increase in a bill you can’t negotiate down. Whatever. It’s still $300 you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t done the legwork.

  4. Strictly numbers. Percentages will always frustrate you, but $300 never will! That’s also why I’m not a big fan of savings percentages because people with $200,000/year combined incomes can save 75% and still have $50,000 while others (more similar to us) make only slightly more than those people’s 25%. Any increase in savings is worth celebrating!

  5. I am so glad you brought up confetti celebration – this is what I visualize so often when I have celebratory moments in my mind. 🙂 I definitely have broken down my expenses in percentage form to see what the break down is from my monthly take home income. The 30/50/20 ‘rule’ was the first rough guideline I used to formulate a budget (which I view more like a framework than anything, since it continuously changes)! Any of my expenses that seem to exceed, I attempted to find ways to save (i.e. canceling cable & going to an internet only package, receiving the lowest data plan for my cell phone, etc.). When I view just one expense I am saving money on, it doesn’t seem to amount to much. Once I added all my savings from several categories/expenses – that’s when it really feels like a celebratory matter! I think you should be incredibly proud, especially since you take the initiative to shop around to generate savings! 🙂

    1. My husband threw napkins at me when I finished paying off my car because I said I expected confetti. Lesson learned. I think there’s a photo somewhere. 🙂

      Adding up all the savings is definitely an important perspective, too! I try to view finances from as many lenses as possible.

  6. Wait, what about Millennials and spreadsheets? Do Millennials not do spreadsheets?

    I do both numbers and percentages because our numbers are on a large enough scale that my $25-75 in Swagbucks money doesn’t even register on our net worth but it matters a great deal when defraying the costs of this or that or the other thing. It’s not a bad problem to have but it is awfully nice to see your efforts actually move the needle, ever! So, numbers, categories, and percentages are all great for my sense of achievement 🙂

    Shopping around FTW and *fistbump*

    1. I think you win millennial-dom by dropping a FTW and a fistbump! I’m told I could have an app, a program, or a doohickey. But I like to type in my own numbers.

      You’re definitely right. As long as the needle moves, I figure it’s progress!

  7. This makes me so glad I don’t use percentages in my budget! And I’m with you and Revanche. Spreadsheets forever! (Also, congrats on saving $300!)

  8. Great job, Penny!
    I like to think of all savings and expenditures in YMOYL terms, with my $6/hr first job as my wage. You just saved the equivalent of working 50 hours! Raise the roof! (How’s that for a generation reference?)

    To make it seem like a real win, I immediately transfer the amount to savings. Maybe it’s only $50 or $300, but making it an independent transfer makes it seem real and celebratory.

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