Do you have your eye on pricy skincare products but can’t seem to swing it with all your other expenses? Or are you dying to take an all-inclusive vacay but it’s just not in the budget?
This past month I did an exercise that scrutinized my daily spending. And I discovered it’s a great strategy for identifying excess purchases and creating room for the good stuff.
Let me explain
So many people have told me over the years how helpful it is to record Every. Single. Thing. you purchase.
One woman said it uncovered a habit of spending $100 a month at Goodwill.
I’d put it off because it seemed too hard. I buy so many things all of the time. How can I keep track of it all? And honestly, I dreaded seeing how much I was really spending on lattes and junk food.
I found, however, that it was actually pretty simple. At the beginning of October I purchased a tiny journal that I carried around with me.
Periodically during the day, I’d pull it out and record what I’d purchased. Generally it was never more than five or six things for the entire day-sometimes way fewer. At the end of each quarter of October I divided the purchases into categories.
At the end of the month I combined all the quarters and looked at the numbers. I made significant discoveries.
I was amazed at how much I really spend on groceries-42% of my overall spending! I know they’re expensive in Hong Kong, and I tend to eat most meals in. But still, that’s a huge percentage of daily expenses.
Now I’m thinking it’d make sense to analyze just exactly what I’m buying in the grocery store. There may be some excess fat in there-and not just on the pork ribs.
Keeping It Real
My spending went WAY down in the 2nd half of the month: after taking out the one-time glasses expense, 57% of total spending was in the first half, and only 43% in the second.
This is due, I believe, to the simple act of writing everything down. My intent with the exercise wasn’t to curb expenses, but merely to create a record for analyzing them. However, with the accountability of a journal, I steered clear of purchases I knew were excessive.
New Glasses & Within Budget!
I purchased a much-needed new pair of glasses this month-and my budget still stayed in a good range!
My conservative spending in the last half of the month allowed me to fit in this extra purchase.
Here’s the breakdown of what I actually spent for the whole month, in US dollars. (I was recording the ‘walking around’ expenses only.)
$108 (13%) TREAT/FUN/MOVIE/EAT OUT*
$47 (6%) MTR (transportation)
$20 (2.5%) STUFF (hat, earrings)
$6.50 (1%) TEACHING SUPPLIES
Had I not been writing this down the latte and eating out category would have been WAY higher, I’m sure.
It’s important to incorporate treats into daily life: swinging by Starbucks for morning coffee, a weekend blowout, or (as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post!) full-service laundry.
However, it’s also easy to spend money on things we don’t really want-a dinner out because the fridge was empty, or on an Uber in lieu of carpooling.
A daily journal makes it easy to pinpoint this preventative spending. And simply changing up a dinner or breakfast routine can save $100 a month. Over a year, that adds up to plenty of luxury skincare products, or long lazy days lapping up sun on the Baja Peninsula.
Do you find yourself unnecessarily spending money on things you don’t enjoy or even need? Is there an easy way you could change the habit?