Do you know how much money you spent today? From AM to PM? Why not challenge yourself with keeping a financial journal for one full week. This is a fabulous exercise and I am convinced you will learn a lot, be surprised and instantly recognize how you can cut out unnecessary spending and add to your savings!
The first time I went through this exercise I was over 20 years ago as single mom saving for a down payment on a home. I needed a minimum of $10,000, and with a salary of $30,000, I had just one year to save it. Living rent free with my parents made this a possibility, but, I also had significant medical bills for my sons, that I paid without his father’s contribution and attorney’s fees from my divorce. There were several unexpected, but, necessary purchases that could have derailed my goal; regular car repairs and numerous co-pays for my sons medications, therapy and tutoring.
It was at one of my sons’ doctor visits I read a magazine article about saving and budgeting. The article recommended to list out all of your daily expenses for one full week and to review the expenses at the end of each day.
Well, what I didn't realize was the amount of money I was actually spending during the course of each day. I didn't drink coffee, but, I did drink diet coke and a lot of it, and I was spending over $30 per week picking up diet cokes while at work and in my travels. Another surprise that added up was the $7.00 plus a day I spent on a grocery store salad bar and the $1.25 bagel each day Monday through Friday, over $40.00 per week. Meals and drinks purchased out of convenience and while heading to doctor appointments, were costing me over $240 per month or $3,360 per year! That adds up to more than 30% of my $10,000 savings goal. Plus, they really weren’t healthy.
After the first week I was instructed to review and cut out what I thought I could. Reviewing my purchases was a huge wake-up call and I immediately made changes! The next week, I again recorded my daily purchases, and again, reviewed and eliminated or changed my purchases. I repeated this each month as a reminder.
I packed my breakfast and lunch as often as I could, we picnicked in the car on the way to the doctor, an hour each way, every week. The days that I couldn't or didn't have the energy, I gave myself a "pass"; I found myself getting into a routine of packing my meals the night before and the boys helped with packing their lunches too, we worked this into our routine after just a week or two. We also started a vacation jar and added to that regularly.
This was just a start; I searched for free activities, headed to the library and researched and found some really great local parks for playgrounds, fishing, and hiking and biking, as a bonus we created some fantastic memories along the way. I identified other areas too, our movie nights out, a treat for good behavior (and a break for my parents), turned into movie nights in; this also allowed for much needed snuggle time together for me and the boys. By the end of the year my $10,000 goal easily turned into $15,000, and we were even able to sneak in a Vermont ski trip too! (Note: vacationing Monday-Friday allows for significant discounts)
I have often repeated this exercise to stay in check; especially when I am saving for something I really need, want, or when I was reminded the college tuition was due.
So, how much money are you spending each day/week? Get started today with recording your purchases in a financial journal or spreadsheet. The most important part of this exercise is to make sure every purchase is accounted for, and yes, Starbucks counts!
Kerry is a Certified Divorce Coach and the Founder of www.divorceresponseteam.com
Divorce Response Team© 2016