Did you buy a candy bar at the grocery store? A DVD just because it was on sale for $7? A store-made birthday cake? How much did you spend in gas? (Yeah - I know. ARGH! to gasoline prices!) But how much gas did you waste in "little" trips that could've been combined with other errands?
Believe it or not, this is where you should sweat the small stuff. Little, "extra" purchases add up. While that $.50 candy bar didn't seem like much at the time, when you add it and every other splurge up over the course of an entire year, it can total up to a truly frightening amount. Are you someone who never seems to have enough money at Christmas? Do you even go so far as to purchase gifts with credit cards because you don't have enough cash? (Which? STOP THAT. For now and ALL time.) Make a pledge today to change your habits. We're just starting the 6th month of the year. Now is as good a time as any. You can stop the money drain. You can also start planning for Christmas now. It's not like it doesn't happen every year at the same time. Christmas doesn't just sneak up on you.
Get yourself a spiral notebook and a large envelope. Keep every single receipt for everything you buy and put them in the envelope. Write down all expenses that don't have a receipt - like the $1 you paid for a soda from a drink machine.
Make a section of your spiral dedicated to "Money I Never Should Have Spent" and start with listing that soda. Be honest! You might think you deserved that $6 gourmet cup of coffee, but that's $6 you no longer have, for a drink that wasn't really that good for you anyway.
Make another section for "Money Well Spent" and keep track of triumphs you've had - such as finding a complete set of expensive "professional" Pampered Chef pots at a garage sale for $15. (Retail - $285) Also, make note here of any money you might have donated to a worthy cause, even if it's just a quarter dropped in the Salvation Army bucket. I'll leave it up to you to decide if spending $8 for a single roll of wrapping paper for a neighborhood kid's school fund-raiser is worthy or not. But I encourage you to give when you can, without giving so much you can't meet your own family's needs, and keep a record of it to remind yourself that as fun as it can be to beat corporate America at its own game, life isn't really all about money. No matter how tight things may be for you, someone is suffering more, and any little help you can give can genuinely make a difference.
After a few months of this excruciatingly accurate record keeping, add up all the money on your "Money I Never Should Have Spent" page (hopefully not pages!) and consider where this money could have gone to good use. Keep this up. As each month passes, you'll slowly break any spendthrift habits you may have, if for no other reason than it can be embarrassing to see it all listed out!
Unless you're totally in charge of all the expenditures in your home, you'll need to enlist your spouse in this project. If he's reluctant to join in, don't press. Keep the notebook yourself for several months, writing down every unnecessary purchase you know of, then show him the totals. If he sees your family has blown enough to cover the electric bill for two months, he'll probably be much more inclined to listen!
Stick to this and it will pay off. Pun intended. :)
Labels: budgeting chatter