How to: Get Real About Needless Spending

How to: Get Real About Needless Spending

julie
Sep 23, 2008

Terrifying tickers, RSS and actual news stories got us re-thinking our cash flow. Until now, ignorance was bliss but getting intimate with our pursestrings was the first step to knowing where to save without having to scrimp.

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The challenge: 1 Month Spending Inventory
We spent as usual but tracked obsessively. Painful, but eventually it becomes its own discipline that's almost strangely fun.

The method: Up to you.
After abandoning an online tool, we just tossed hoarded receipts in a shoe box, and logged the rest (tips, random treats, parking meters) into our iphone notes. At month's end, we reviewed our bank and credit card statements online and tallied all. Do what you think you can stick to.

Shortcuts: Categorizing from plastic and major banks.
The more you use your debit or credit cards, the easier to track broad tends. We always knew that but were afraid to look.

Idea: Find "emotional" waste.
Half-way through, we scrawled "hungry," "bored," "tired" onto purchases where applicable... often coffee, drinks or accessories. Crammed shelves, a Target blow-out and withered veggies also indicated shopping without a list or a plan.

Verdict: Guilty of self-deception and silly spending. (Like buying a cute little zippered thing to hold the receipts!)
Free of credit card debt, we'd always felt fairly virtuous. The entertainment and miscellaneous categories suggested otherwise, as did luxanecessities like the iphone, dog toy excess and our neglected gym membership plus fancy yoga classes.

How do you stay on top of what you really spend? Is there an app, a hint or a method that works for you?

Cover Image: Schtock

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