The source for what follows isn’t concrete – I’ve had the process applied to many different areas in my life. Today, I’m using it to talk about money management (because this is the Friday Finance post). :-).
How I Apply / Adopt / Adapt
How much money do you spend each day? On what do you spend it? I mentioned doing a budget or spending plan in a previous post (HERE). Today, I wanted to back you up a step or two.
Before I had a budget that worked for me, I had to become conscious of where I was spending my money and on what. Introducing, the MONEY TRACKER.
First – how to capture your purchases.
In a small notebook, write down what you spent and on what AT THE TIME OF PURCHASE. Don’t trust your memory, or that you’ll get a receipt every time and be able to write down your purchase later. Instead, carry a small notebook with you and write down each time you spend money and what you spent it on. From the smallest amount to the largest. Make note of extra fees that may come up – ATM fees especially.
Keep your notes simple – the amount and a short description is all you really need. There’s no to categorize things, use fancy color codes, and such. You just want a clear record of the dollar amount and what it was for.
I could write at least 20 posts on all the apps that are now available to capture your expenses but that would be ridiculous. Not to mention, I’m sure you’re familiar with Google and can with just a few clicks come up with the same list as I would, so I’ll keep it simple here and recommend that whichever one you pick – make sure it allows you to enter information manually for those times you forget to get a receipt, AND is capable of uploading information from a picture of a receipt.
Now, why do you want to track the dollars?
If you don’t know where the money’s going, you won’t know where to make adjustments in order to design a spending plan or budget that works for you. It’s also helpful just to see what your spending habits really are. Most people are oblivious to how much money actually flows through their daily lives. And because of this, they are often living hand to mouth when they don’t need to be.
By identifying where the money goes first, you can then make conscious decisions / take conscious actions toward redirecting money in ways that reduce stress, debt, and create a more stable financial life. For me, when I discovered how much I was actually spending eating out EVERY DAY, I was shocked. And it wasn’t just the expense of the meals, it was the gas spent going to this or that eatery, the time I could have used to do other things, and the not so healthy food choices which had an impact on how much money went to buying clothes that fit my expanding waistline. It was eye opening to see how things tied together financially, in my life.
Once I’d tracked my money for three months, I had a clear picture on what lifestyle changes I wanted to make in order funnel my money to purchases that benefited me across the board -financially, emotionally, and physically.
I suggest you track your spending for a week. I’d tell you to do it for 90 days, but let’s be realistic – if you’re not already doing it, to have you go from never tracking to a goal of doing it for 90 days is a bit much. So, just do it for a week. Get a feel for the practice. A week will provide you with more knowledge than you have to this point and that’s a great start.
Next up, if the week piqued your interest, then go for another, then another. Once you have at least four weeks worth of data you can do some basic analysis to see where your money is really going.
Next level up from that? Ask yourself this question, “Are my spending habits moving me in a direction I want to go financially, emotionally, or physically?”
If not, make some changes – develop the spending plan and stick to that for a week (since I get paid weekly, this is how I manage). At the end of the week, make note on how you felt – better or worse than what you were doing before? If better, then of course, do another week, and another.
And as always, drop a note, suggestion, or your results in the comments below.
May your ends meet, and fall madly in love!
The Next Chapter