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Day 14) 9 Lessons from Tracking Spending In-Depth

Welcome to Day 14 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! Just keep doing it until the 14th of March.

This is a guest post from Maureen, a reader who has been tracking her finances since she was 16…and still has the records!

I’d really like to contribute what has changed since I began tracking at 16. Four years on I’ve made mistakes, miscalculated and finally managed to come up with a suitable and flexible budget but it took me a while.

Below is what I’ve learned from tracking my spending:

1) My biggest expense on non-essentials was Eating Out.

2) Using two currencies is an interesting challenge (I have been living in Germany for 5 months)

3) I realized what expenses I couldn’t do without (meaning I cut out that which I could survive without) – this significantly changed my habits

4) People won’t always agree with this method and other controls over personal finance. A lot of my friends were telling me to ‘live my life a little more’. After fours years of tracking I am actually a lot happier because I know what I truly value as well as being able to alleviate money worries

5) Mistakes are made: A few months ago I went back to the start of my expenses book and recalculated everything. There were serious mistakes made in calculations showing me the value of rechecking.

6) Highlighting the non-essential expenses is psychologically very effective. My aim is to have as little pink as possible in my book. When I see a month that hasn’t been highlighted much I feel really good about it.

7) When there are months that you haven’t spent money on a certain category you almost feel the need to see how long you can go without spending on it. This became apparent with jewellery, make-up and music. (I just asked for it for my birthday and christmas)

8 ) It can be a little hard seeing what you have spent especially if you don’t feel like you can cut back. I have felt this a few times but I found a solution that’s worked for me. I created a spreadsheet that documents what interest I was earning on my savings. This is nice to go alongside your expenditure spreadsheet. It can give you a boost.

9) You come to memorize what you’ve spent during the day because you’re actively considering whether you need something or not. If not, it becomes habit to keep the receipts and write the information down as soon as you get home. Sometimes it’s possible to remember a whole weekend of expenses (if you’ve been away from home).

This post was part of Where’s My Money Going? Month. As a note, I’m out of town this weekend so if you’ve e-mailed me I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve scheduled a half-time spending report for tomorrow.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Weekly Round Up: To The Moon
February 15, 2009 at 10:31 am
Day 11: Tracking (Part I) | The Thrift Diaries
August 3, 2010 at 7:26 am


Jo February 14, 2009 at 9:45 am

Excellent, excellent blog by the author. It makes ME want to truly track my spending for a whole month. I write down all expenditures into my BudgetMap (register size) spreadsheet so I can see where my money is going. But I think I need to take it one step further by using cash instead of my debit card.

It’s a tough love kind of lesson, but if the results produces a positive outcome, then I know I will have won.

Liz February 14, 2009 at 11:39 am

Wow. I can’t imagine how money would have changed for me if I had been tracking (and keeping the records) from the age of 16. I am inspired Maureen.
I love the highlighting idea. I will be trying that tip.

Maureen February 22, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Thank you so much for posting this article! I hadn’t checked my rss feeds for a while and was chuffed when I saw this. I appreciate the feedback in the comments as well! Happy Tracking for the rest of this month! Only a week to go!!!

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