Are You Tired of Hearing the “Track Your Spending” Mantra?
Ask for advice on getting your finances under control or on getting out of debt, and chances are excellent that people will tell you to track spending as the first step.
I’m prone to suggesting that myself, because tracking my spending was one of the pivotal points in changing my own financial future. But…tracking every single thing you spend money on seems like an awful lot of work, doesn’t it?
You have to gather all those receipts, bring them home, write them down or enter them into some software, categorize them, and then review what you’ve entered. If you have a significant other, you’ve got to get them on board too. So you might have to get their receipts as well and go through the whole process, or find a time when both of you are available to go through everything. And then what if you forget something?
Tracking your spending is an easy thing to talk yourself out of.
I was resistant to it at first myself for a completely different reason. I wanted to get started on getting my finances under control Right. Now. I didn’t want to wait a month or 3 months or whatever the typically-recommended tracking period was. It seemed like a waste of time to me. And I knew where my money was going anyway. (Or so I thought.)
But, one day I read Your Money or Your Life and got so fired up that I figured I’d give the much-hyped “track your spending” thing a try. So I tried it the next day while on vacation. I just got out a piece of scrap paper, and whenever I bought something I wrote down a one-word description of what it was and the amount.
Now I didn’t even total up what I’d spent, create categories, or review the paper in any way. All I did was write things down and shove the paper back in my purse.
A funny thing happened when I spent the day doing that. I became much, MUCH more aware of my spending. Yup, those 5 seconds it took to make a note every time I spent some money were enough to get me to focus on what I was doing. 5 seconds of thinking.
Since then of course I’ve gone whole hog on tracking, but I’m a geek and I like poking around with that stuff. The point though is that even one day of tracking can make a difference, and it really takes almost zero effort. (Of course a month or longer will give you more data, but any data is beneficial.) And the answer to what if you forget something? So what. Try not to forget the next time.