My Spiral Bound Conscience
by Joey Shanley
10 Questions to Ask Before Splurging
For a newbie tightwad like me, I wish it were discipline alone that helped me curb my spending. I wish I had the ability to say "no" to random coffees and lunches with friends all by myself. But, I confess, I needed help. A lot of help. I had tried everything from carrying only a limited amount of cash on me to an envelope system of budgeting. But I always ran out of money and I always ended up using (and sometimes over-using) my check card.
Spending only came under control once I got serious about logging every single purchase that I made. Enter my spending log. My little green notebook. My spiral bound conscience sits deep inside my bag at work or on my desk at home. When I carry it with me, every time I make a purchase, I log how much I spent in the notebook to the penny. Whether I have used my ATM, a credit card or cash, it doesn't matter. It all goes into my log.
I track my spending as vigorously as I can. However, there are times when I am out with friends at night or during the weekend and I don't have my notebook on me. I don't fret too much because I am now in the practice of keeping my receipts and sitting down with my notebook as soon as I step into my apartment and logging each purchase. Again, if I have misplaced a receipt, I log into my online bank account and jot down any purchases that didn't initially make it into the green memo book.
I thought this would be a terrifying activity. I thought I would grow bored or disillusioned with tracking every penny that fled my pocket. However, the exact opposite happened. For the first time in years, I have become excited about saving money. I have actually become excited by the thought of not spending.
If you log your purchases and your expenses for any amount of time, you will find that it turns into a fun yet intellectually involved game: You vs. your money. Every time you pull out that notebook to jot down a purchase, you actually think and re-think whether you really need the latte, the hamburger, or even the haircut. I have become that fanatical with trying to save a dollar wherever I can.
At the end of the month, I open up an Excel spreadsheet and group my purchases into the five general budgetary areas. I deftly scrutinize my spending to see how much money was frivolously spent on items that I should have scrimped on (like how much money I spent on lunches out when I knew I had food at home).
I recommend that everyone track their spending, regardless of your income level. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have control over my money instead of my money having control over me.
Joey Shanley writes "Molly's Brother On A Budget," an online journal devoted to helping him, and others, get their spending under control.
Take the Next Step:
- Mint.com automatically categorizes your expenses. Use it with your mobile device and you won't need that little notebook!
Discuss "Tracking Expenses" in The Dollar Stretcher Community.
If you enjoyed this article you might also want to check out:
- Spending Addictions - Topic: Controlling Spending
- Addicted! - Topic: Spending Addiction
- A Tax-Time Question: Who's in Control of Your Spending? - Topic: Spending
- Reducing My Spending - Topic: Reducing Spending
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