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Day 5) Should We Change Our Spending Habits Now or Later?

Welcome to Day 5 of Where’s My Money Going? Month! This February 2009, I’m challenging readers (and myself) to track spending manually for 28 days. Don’t worry if you’re late to the party, the more the merrier!

Diane, a reader, asked a great question:

Just one question on this challenge – am I supposed to spend normally but track what I spend, or try to us this to control spending for the month?

Before answering, I’m going to backtrack a bit to my purpose for doing this month of financial tracking. My goal is to a) learn where my money is going, b) learn from my spending patterns and figure out where I can spend less if possible, and c) use a & b to build a reasonable budget that fits me now (I built the budget frame I had been using before over a year ago). I think most of you who’ve joined up share at least one part of my goal with me, probably all three parts.

So I think the right way to do it is in a way that makes sure you don’t miss out on b. If we change a spending habit, it’s important to recognize that we have that habit and we’re making that change. Otherwise, it might creep in again.

Later on this month, I’m going to write about looking over our spending logs from the month and how to evaluate them (and another post on creating a budget from the logs). But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with changing your habits now.

If you do, just recognize that you’ve done so and keep track of the changes you made (perhaps write down somewhere by your budget or in your budget file). That way you’ll be able to look at all of them together at the end of the month and you’ll see the big picture.

So spend normally for this month or start making changes as soon as you have the chance. Either way, what matters is that you keep track of it and are able to evaluate it all at the end of the month!

This post was part of Where’s My Money Going? Month. Tomorrow, I’ll give a brief spending report and reflect on the first week of tracking finances.

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How to Make a Budget That Works!
February 27, 2009 at 7:01 am

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Phil February 5, 2009 at 11:20 am

So, how does receiving my tax return – and what I do with it – play into this? πŸ˜‰

Personally, I’ll continue tracking, but make notes next to items that wouldn’t be the norm.

PS – I’m being responsible and paying down debt with it πŸ™‚

Diane February 5, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Thanks for taking a column to answer my question! This challenge is proving very interesting.

I’ve already figured something out… for me, just the act of writing down everything I spend increases my awareness and accountability for where my money goes.

Knowing that I’ll have to write down the purchase has already made me say “no”. It was just a soy candle I saw in CVS while picking up a prescription for my son.

I know I will still buy candles because I love them, but I didn’t need another one right now and I didn’t want to have to write that purchase on the list! πŸ˜‰

The 2nd thing I’ve realize is it’s easier to avoid extra purchases if I don’t go into a store! I’ve been to CVS several times this week, as my son had the flu. Most times I used the drive up, which prevents seeing things I don’t need & being tempted to buy.

Just being aware is the first step to changing my spending behavior & habits. I really think this can work!

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