Many years ago when I was not so much Single as Separated waiting to Divorce, I embarked upon one of the most hardworking and economically responsible periods of my life. I lived in the kind of bachelor (bedsitter) flat for which I longed as an undergrad and saved as much money as I could. I worked a relatively stressful but reasonably paid 9-5 job, and I wrote down every cent I spent. In the evenings, I went to my boxing club and when I returned I studied languages.
It's amazing how far I got. I reviewed all my high school Italian and got very far with college Latin. I did all the Ancient Greek homework I should have done when I took Ancient Greek. I vaguely recall intending to review my French, but that fell by the wayside.
Incidentally I did not have a television set.
Not only did I write down everything I spent that year, I wrote down every calorie I consumed. I was quite pleased to be eating an average of 1300 calories a day although in hindsight that was outrageously low for the amount of exercise I was doing. (In addition to evenings at the boxing club, I went in the mornings to the YMCA.)
I took things too far with saving, too. My major expenses were rent, groceries and eventually psychotherapy. And I enjoyed knocking down my grocery bill a few cents each time. It felt like a victory, and advanced my plan to salt away a lot of money in mutual funds and to save for a ten day holiday in Europe, which I did.
One day I had an epiphany at the cash register of the supermarket as I eagerly awaited to see how low my bill was. It occurred to me that the closer both the grocery bill and my calorie intake got to zero, the more likely I was to develop anorexia and die. This thought totally ruined my enjoyment of the game, but it probably saved my health. One of my co-workers had suffered from anorexia as a teen, and while she was working with me discovered that she had done herself permanent damage. In fact, she had to leave work.
But now that I have decided that I would really like to move out of the Historical House one day, into a house or flat B.A. and I can truly call our own, I have gone back to totting up the numbers. I'm sorry I got out of the habit. For one thing, it's really great fun.
Groceries in the UK, by the way, cost the EARTH! For too long my attitude was "I don't want to know", but now that I (or we, now) have another clear financial goal, I really do want to know. It's another step in remaining rooted in reality, which for me is really a lifetime journey.