The eye-opening experience of tracking my spending

First off, where did the summer go?! How is it almost labor day?! Summer 2017 has treated us well. It is the first summer where we could focus on health and fitness plus spend quality time together as a family. We took a bit of a hiatus from the blog, but now we’re gearing up for a full fall schedule of  really great posts!

We also hired a Digital Content Manager, Tanya, to help us out with the blog! She’s been busy behind the scenes researching new and exciting ways we can update our blog. We have some lofty goals and she is going to help us achieve those.

For the past eight months I have been tracking my spending. Holy shit, has this been eye-opening. If you have done/do this, you can agree; you learn real quick your spending habits and trends. For the first six months, I used a spreadsheet to track my spending. Tolga and I have an agreement that I send him a fixed portion of my paycheck to go towards mortgage and bills, thus this was only tracked as a general “house” spending.  The variable expenses I tracked were:

  1. Food/Groceries/Restaurants
  2. Clothes
  3. Personal items (spa, nails, skin care, Shoppers Drug Mart, etc)
  4. Money to Tolga (put towards house expenses)
  5. Starbucks
  6. Savings
  7. Credit card payment

And now, a general recap of what I learned when I tracked my spending:

  1. I love food. Holy shit, did I spend a lot on food. It doesn’t help that I work right across from Square One, where it’s SO simple to not eat your lunch and go out. I also love chocolate croissants from Whole Foods. Thank God I am running again! This is where the majority of my money went to and I need to keep this mind when I re-adjust my spending habits.
  2. I spend a lot on personal care. I guess mama loves her skin care and pedicures?! For this, it was a bunch of little items which quickly add up. I do splurge on quality skin care products, but this made me realize I need to better budget for these items. I have used grocery store products, but my skin is pretty sensitive and I find these products made my skin break out.
  3. I don’t spend much on entertainment and booze. Small victory! Since I have filled my summer with running, baseball and family time, I haven’t had time to go out and party. I am also old and in bed no later than 10 pm. When you have a 5:45 am wake-up call on Sunday mornings to go for a 10 + km run, you don’t want to be out all night. I have also found that drinking and anti-depressants aren’t a super awesome combination and have found myself with AWFUL heartburn and end up getting sick.
  4. Carrying cash and tracking it does make me mindful about my spending habits. This probably goes without saying, but sometimes we need Captain Obvious to show their face. By tracking my spending by keeping my receipts, logging the expenses into my spreadsheet and carrying/using cash, it opened my eyes to my spending habits. For example, after buying my fourth chocolate croissant in a week and I saw the three previous receipts in my wallet, I started to question my spending habit. That and, what the hell does Whole Foods put in their baked goods?!

During the summer, I have switched over and started using Mint for my tracking of cash purchases. Since this is on my phone, it’s easier to update my expenses, as oppose to waiting until I got home to upload my receipts. It also shows me when I am about to go over/gone over one of my budgets. Due to my recent travels my shopping and food budgets have bled red for a little while. Time to get back on track!

This leads me into what I need to continuing doing:

  1. Continue using cash for variable expenses
  2. Get receipts and track expenses on Mint
  3. Log onto Mint daily to monitor spending

Now, for what I need to stop doing:

  1. Using shopping as a coping mechanism. Old habits die hard I’m afraid. It’s been a year of hard truths and realizations. One of them is that I still use shopping as a way to cope with stress/grief/depression/general feelings of unhappiness. I trying to find other ways to deal with these feelings, which doesn’t involve me pulling out my Visa. I have written about this before in previous posts, but it’s something I am still struggling to figure out.
  2. Stop buying baked goods! Starting September 1, Tolga and I plan on going on a vegan diet. This means bye-bye to chocolate croissants! This also means I’ll need to bake vegan friendly desserts, which will hopefully cut down this bad, yet tasty habit.
  3. Time management for meal prep. During the fall and winter, we rock at meal prep. It’s easier to spend a weekend cooking when it’s super shitty and cold outside. However, spring and summer means nicer weather and busy schedules. Our weekends get full quickly, so by the time Sunday comes around, we are scrambling for what to eat for the week. With summer winding down and a new focus on our eating habits, we need to make meal prep a priority in order to succeed.
  4. Consider my why when I spend money on personal care and clothes. These are the two budgets I consistently go over. I am reading more about the minimalism movement (more about this in a later post) and my lack of prioritizing my spending is a main reason why I am leaning towards this movement. I need to re-create my financial goals and ask myself how my spending in these areas will enhance or hinder my goals.

There area lot of good articles online about the benefits of tracking your spending. Forbes magazine wrote about the correlation between tracking your spending habits and getting out of consumer debt. On the other side, Business Insider published an article about how financial tracking doesn’t work and instead, people should have a solid savings plan.  Both offer good arguments for and against tracking your spending, but at the end of the day, as always, it comes down to you and your priorities and goals.

For me, tracking my spending works because I am an emotional spending. I have also had issues with consumer debt and tracking allows me to see when I’m about/have gone off the spending deep end. As you know, I am a big believer in goal setting. Success breeds from goal setting. By tracking my spending this sharpens my focus on my goals; where can I improve? Why do I make these particular purchases? What can I do differently? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Fall is the time to re-focus my spending habits and align this with renewed financial goals.

Have questions about this post? Want to know more about how to track your spending? Don’t be afraid to reach out! No question is too small or dumb.

Photo by Kelly Brito on Unsplash

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