Welcome to Day 19 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, you’re still welcome to join. Consider tracking your spending into March.
One of the things that intensive spending tracking has made me aware of is that a couple times a week I get an urge to make a completely unplanned purchase. Until now, my general method of handling it has been to evaluate whether or not I think we have enough money for it and I’d really like it, think about it for a day or two, and make a decision whether or not to buy. If we don’t have enough money this month, I may make plans and budget to purchase it the next month.
That’s not a bad system and hasn’t resulted in budget chaos, but it doesn’t have a real rhyme or reason. So this month, I’m trying out a list. When I want something, I just put it on the list. At the end of the month, I’ll take a look at what’s left in the budget, what’s in each category, and make my decisions on what gets spent and what gets snowflaked into our debt repayment.
Right now, the list consists of funny t-shirts from Cafe Press and 5 mp3s. I’ve had two t-shirts wear out this month and we have a clothing budget. We also have an entertainment budget. The question is how much of either I’m going to use this month.
I’m hoping that making the decision near the end of the month will help me figure out what I really do what and what I don’t. First, it’ll give me the chance to compare all my wants with each other. Second, it’ll give me time to live without any of them and have a better perspective on what I still want.
By giving everything equal treatment, I also hope to avoid a problem I’d run into on the previous “system.” Sometimes I’d plan to buy something at the end of the month, but something that got considered for only a couple days would eat up the funds because I wan’t thinking about the two together. Having them all in one place and at one time should help me prioritize what I really do want and what I don’t.
What about you? How do you handle impulse buys, even ones you’ve budgeted for? Has making a list worked for you?
This post was part of Where’s My Money Going? Month.