Dear Data 2019 – Week 5, Purchases

Week 5 of the data postcard project Sarah Bartlett and I are working on has long arrived and this blog post is overdue. I am a tiny bit behind schedule and can’t blame timing on the mail for this week!

The topic to track and visualize this week was items we purchased. So for this week I tracked every single receipt and line item – basically anything that I spent money on. This was a relatively easy tracking week because I held onto all my receipts and then compiled the data into a spreadsheet at the end of the week.

I was genuinely curious on what I spend my money on, and this week of tracking was a fairly normal week. I didn’t go anywhere spectacular, host friends for an evening, or have any emergencies (that required money). I consider myself a pretty frugal, not tending to buy clothes or luxury items very often, with one exception, I have very specific food preferences. I don’t like luxury food, but I do follow a very specific diet that includes pricey food items.

Here’s how the week turned out:

Dear Data 2019 – Ann’s week 5, purchases
Dear Data 2019 – Ann’s week 5, purchases (legend)

For this week I took the approach of going more abstract with my visualization. I didn’t want to represent time directly (as I’ve previously discussed), and I also wanted to veer off course to create an image/drawing/picture based completely on data. What I ended up with were potted flowers. Each pot represents a separate receipt. The leaves represent each individual item on the receipt, the circles represent the amount spent, the color of the circles/buds represent the product category. Finally, if there is a saucer at the bottom of the pot it means that it was a purchase just for me vs. my entire household (me and my husband).

This is probably my favorite postcard so far – it gave me joy when Sarah shared her reaction to it. And seeing it again in the blog post also makes me quite happy.

Getting down to specifics – my suspicions were quite true, of the $348 I spent, $315 was on food (that’s 90%). Pretty much the rest of the purchases are luxury in the form of a book and board game. The remaining purchase is airport parking.

And as you begin drawing conclusions you’ve probably got two thoughts: Ann spends a lot of money every week on food or something else is going on. I try to avoid going grocery shopping every week, so I tend to stock up on things – this was a week of stocking up.

Conversely here is Sarah’s postcard:

Dear Data 2019 – Sarah’s week 5, purchases
Dear Data 2019 – Sarah’s week 5, purchases (legend)

I like Sarah’s approach of marking whether products were essentials or not. Similar to my card, she’s chosen to denote whether a purchase was for herself or someone else. She mentioned she was sick during this week and you can see exactly when that happened with the medicine purchase! I also like the balance of essentials vs. non-essentials. The final visual is simple and very effective.

Mailed from inside the physical post office!

And that’s it for the week. My last lingering comment is that this postcard arrived to Sarah’s doorstep in the fastest time (so far!). I have a strong suspicion that it’s due to dropping it off inside vs. outside the post office. Make sure to check out Sarah’s take on the week!

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