Tracking every penny

Document created by dvs on May 31, 2016Last modified by on Dec 5, 2016
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Like most folks I balanced my check book every month or so and kept a loose running tally of what monies were available.  More than a few times I scrambled at the end of the month to cover shortfalls and occasional over drafts.  Finding money in piggy banks, pockets, and sometimes cleaning out the couch.  Too often I ran short at the end of the month, even without unexpected expenses.


I had created a budget and outlined when to make payments each month, but there was never enough money to cover all of the bills.  I had even tried to build some flex into my budget. Because I knew that if I didn't set aside a little spending money for hanging out with friends I would get frustrated and tend to **** out on the whole budget.


One of my friends got tired of me bitching, about digging for change, that she suggested I figure out where I really spent my money.  She suggested that I track literally every penny, (for drinks, pizzas, or anything else I spent money on) every day for three months.  We made a bet as to whether or not I would follow through.  So beginning the first of the next month I recorded everything that I spent money on.  It was harder than I thought and the first two weeks there were many apx. (approximate) notations because I did not write everything down right away and I did not collect receipts.


Within thirty days I was regular at noting my spending and I began to notice some trends.  First, I always gave the benefit of my mental approximations in my favor.  This meant I gave myself permission to spend money that had been set aside for other things.  Second, I bought a lot more junk food and beverages than I thought I did.  Especially damaging was the night out after I got paid and felt flush.  Third, impulse purchases (I probably did not really need another light saber.) were eating away at the flexibility I had included in my budget.  Finally, overdraft fees ate even further into my budget and sent my finances into a tailspin.


I won the bet, but it was still many months before I got a real handle on my finances. It took some hard consideration about how, when and where I spent money.  The first step was an honest appraisal of where my money was going and why it was going there.  I learned how to build up a cushion, not much, but a few bucks for a planned splurge every month instead of unplanned splurges every week and I stopped relying on lost and hidden change to make ends meet.  I still track where the money goes and I have fewer overdrafts and missed bills.  Not perfect yet, but much closer now.