Have you ever avoided doing something many, many times, and then suddenly found that it seemed like a brilliant idea? When Kelli mentioned that she would be tracking her spending during the month of October, I thought that it was high time for us to try it, as well. It only strikes me as funny because I have read that piece of financial advice a million times over the years and never saw fit to try it. There were a couple of reasons that I thought it would be a great idea right now, though. Mainly, we adhere to a pretty strict budget, but there still seem to be money drains and I couldn’t quite figure out where they were. Maybe I haven’t wanted to know, who’s to say? Anyway, I did make a couple of discoveries:
- As the title suggests, we are not very good at the actual journaling process. I brought out notebooks for each of us and left them right on the counter to encourage us to write down every little thing on the day it was purchased. Days 1 – 4 were spent reassuring my partner in crime that I wasn’t trying to get to the bottom of any sort of horrible frivolous spending on his part. The man is entitled to do whatever he wants with his money, for Pete’s sake (as am I, mind you)! I just wanted us to have to see, in black and white, exactly where our discretionary money was going. After that sank in, we both were pretty faithful to filing daily entries. . .for the first two weeks.
- Even with only half a month’s worth of data, one thing was clear: We’re kind of pigs. Awful lot of money going to the fast food establishment. I can’t say I was shocked by this, but I had been fooling myself to some extent. I really thought that I was only getting the boy and I a “special treat” once a week. As it turns out, there was the occasional breakfast, too. And sometimes a kolache or donut here and there. And then a meal or two on the weekend. Yikes. And, my gosh, has fast food gotten expensive!
- Target runs really do add up. I actually discovered this when I got a Target credit card, which I started using for the express purpose of seeing how much we were running up every month. It’s not pretty. (The balance gets paid in full each month, not that you asked. I’m not running up that much!)
- Tracking your spending does make you think about how much you’re plunking down on little things. Just knowing that I would have to “claim” my purchase was enough to make me think twice on occasion. Another deterrent? Only working half a day per week. When you stop and think how long you have to work in order to earn the money you’re dispensing with so casually, it can give you pause, i.e. “Let’s see. . .this much fabric is approximately two weeks salary. . . .” I haven’t been buying as much fabric, I’ll tell you that much.
So, we didn’t manage to even track our spending for one full month, but we came away with some very good information. Mostly, we eat a lot of our money. Whether or not this will lead to any kind of lasting change on our part, well, that will remain to be seen; I can’t say that I feel all that badly about the Friday night Chik-Fil-A suppers. I would, however, encourage you to try this yourself if you have any doubt where your money is going, even if you don’t think the process will be all that revealing. You may be surprised.