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Day 7) How Often Should We Record Purchases?

Welcome to Day 7 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!

As part of the challenge, I’ve been sitting down every day around 8:30pm to spend 2-10 minutes recording our purchases. Because I’m recording in both You Need a Budget and in my: [download#8#nohits], it takes me twice as long to record.

This is all well and good as part of the challenge, but when February’s over the question will be “How often should I record, if at all?” There are so many paths I could take. I could enter everything manually but do it once a week. I could import files once a week and fix any miscategorizations. I could import files or enter spending once a month, but I don’t know if that would be as useful.

I think the way to figure out how to record is to decide what your goal is for the next period (month, year, etc). My goal is to be more conscious of our spending, not just whether or not we stay within the budget but what we actually spend our money on.

So how and how often I record our spending will need to support that goal. To maintain an active consciousness of our spending, I’d probably have to log purchases manually (which makes me more aware even than importing or fixing miscategorizations does).

The question next question, then, is about frequency. To be aware of how we’re spending, I should probably enter data about twice a week. If that turns out to be too infrequently to stay aware I could certainly change things up. It would help if I set up reminders using something like to remind me which days I should log.

So to determine method & frequency, one first determines a goal and works to find the best ways to support it.

What are your goals for the next year? What systems of tracking do you think will support those once “Where’s My Money Going?” Month is over?

This post was part of Where’s My Money Going? Month. Tomorrow is reader tips and roundups.

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The other side of the card
February 11, 2009 at 6:01 am

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

RateNerd February 7, 2009 at 8:11 am

daily tracking of expenses is something I learned in BoyScouts in the Personal Finance merit badge. Keep it up!

Alison@This Wasn't In The Plan February 7, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Weekly is what works best for me, though it’s sometimes hard to do it that often. I find that most of our expenses happen no more often than that, so sitting down to check and see where we are weekly allows me to accurately know where spending is at, while waiting longer tends to leave me with more surprises.

Jason February 7, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I’m tracking things daily, and I think I’ll stick with that at least for the short to mid-term. I find it very easy to accidentally miss items if I leave it any longer, and I want to make sure I get a good record of my spending (by closely tracking every item I’ve already noticed a change in my spending habits – and a good one at that 🙂 )

Diane February 8, 2009 at 1:13 pm

I have to agree with Jason on a daily log of expenses. Otherwise I’ll certainly forget cash purchases.

I’m writing everything on a tablet at the end of the day, then moving it to a spreadsheet of categorized expenses every couple of days.

I won’t say I’ve seen a dramatic change in my spending habits, but I HAVE noticed a new awareness, which is the 1st step.

My goal for the year is 1st to be aware of my spending habits and 2nd to make changes as possible to reduce spending.

Manual logging of purchases supports that goal for me, along with the later categorizing of expenses.

Jo February 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Daily logging is a must for me, otherwise I become too complacent in my spending, create an overdraft, yada yada yada. Since I give every dollar a *job*, I can’t risk slipping up, which then shortchanges a category.

The other really important reason is to simply change my spending habits by being aware of how every dollar is spent. As a result, my habits are changing.

Since I work at Cracker Barrel on the retail side, the temptation to buy, buy, buy is extremely strong. Initially, I wasn’t careful at all of how I was spending, but when 2009 rolled over, I made a firm decision to change my ways. So far, it’s working.

I like this blog….quite a bit. Think of it as therapy, or perhaps a *Spenders Anonymous.* >:-P “I have a spending problem, so I need help” kind of thing.

Peace out!

Diane February 8, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Jo – It must be tough to work at Cracker Barrel and see that stuff every day… I’m always tempted by something when we stop there to eat. I’m impressed with your willpower!

I’m enjoying this too! I think this blog is a positive influence for me. Hang in there.

Tyler February 9, 2009 at 1:02 pm

What sort of purchases are people making via cash? Aside from a pop machine here at work every other day or so, the only cash transaction I have made in the past month was at the movie theater.

Diane February 9, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Tyler – I don’t make many cash purchases.

Last week I gave my 17 yo $20 spending money on Sat. night. I also paid $14 cash (for 2) to get into the Varsity Soccer playoff game – cash only. $1 at the concession stand for hot chocolate.

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