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Tracking Expenses- First Update

This is a series following my experience tracking my expenses through January. I’m exploring this cash flow management technique with an eye towards what it feels like to write down every single time I spend money. It’s not that people don’t know how to track their expenses (the nuts and bolts are not particularly difficult),  but there are buckets full of internal obstacles  that make the practice very difficult.

I’m posting about the experience so when you try tracking your spending (because slaying ignorance leads to more budgeting peace of mind) you’ll know you’re not alone, this stuff is hard, but hopefully in the end tracking your spending is worth it.

January 2, 2012

My first purchase of the New Year was a plane to ticket for my brother’s graduation in May. I sit down, go over flight info and prices, remember my frequent flier number and make the purchase. I then walk out of my room, and luckily remember 5 minutes later that I’m tracking my spending. Oops. Came back into my room to find the pad of paper and write down the purchase.

January 3, 2012

Sometimes a bagel with chive cream cheese is all I need to make my day perfect. This tells me I take pleasure in life’s small joys and that I feel compelled these days to write on this blog about food. Anyhow, I forgot again to write down how much I paid, then I crumpled the receipt and caught it mid-air on its way to the the garbage can (no, I did not have to actually touch any garbage).

I needed the receipt because I had no idea how much I swiped on my credit card. None. This could be bad in 2 ways: if I routinely don’t know how much I spend then I will probably over spend. AND if there was an error on the bill (like an extra two zeroes = $200 bagel rather than $2.00 bagel) I would have no idea. I felt ridiculous when I realized this, and wouldn’t have even noticed if I hadn’t gone to write it down at the last minute.

Silver lining- it all worked out in the end. And if you haven’t tried a Black Russian bagel, you should change that situation immediately.

January 10, 2012

It’s only day 10 and I really want to quit doing this. I’ve been taking much more note of small expenses that I don’t usually count as money (change in the meters… who actually counts how many quarters go in?) and other interesting finds. But, I’m bored of this already. I got my brother a gift today and only just now wrote it down, 6 hours later. Not because I didn’t want it to show up on the list. Just because I’m sick of writing everything down. But I’m learning to persevere and therefore will continue on this journey. Doesn’t a habit get reinforced and less difficult after 3 weeks or so? I know I’ve read that somewhere.

Other findings

I spent $96 on groceries one day. (I don’t just shop for the week, plus if you buy something like Worcestershire sauce you pay for an item that will last for a long time.) Writing down $96 for groceries has prompted a budget shift of consciousness. I will now no longer budget weekly grocery money, but rather budget a set amount for the month. It will have the same effect of monitoring where the food money goes, but will smooth out the “Worcestershire sauce aberration” This change alone makes the tracking spending worth it to me. Hooray.

Stay tuned for the next update.  We’re going all month, folks!

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