Since landing my first part-time job as a junior in high school and working since then, I’ve always been one who admittedly spends more money than she should, but I never knew exactly how much it added up to. I recently purchased and have been actively using a Passion Planner, and was very excited to hear they released finance sheet PDFs anyone can download for the purposes of tracking their expenses. Each insert is divided into sections where you can write down the date, description of transaction, amount, and payment method. At first I was reluctant to try this out because I didn’t want to confront the reality of how frequently I buy things and how much I spend on them, since I knew I wasn’t going to be happy with the results. But that thought is precisely what made me realize that my problem was probably a bigger deal than it was in my mind, so I saw that as more of a reason for me to try this out and see what came out of it. Here are my findings from the one week I’ve been trying this out:
- I use debit way more than I use cash, which was definitely expected — after all, it’s so much more convenient to swipe your card than it is to count out bills and pay with those.
- Reflection: There’s a big difference between seeing what’s in your wallet and seeing (or avoiding) what’s on your bank statement. Using cash means seeing what I’m physically paying and what I’m getting back, which I’m always more hesitant to do.
- Shopping online almost always results in larger, more costly purchases.
- Reflection: Buying more expensive things is so easy when you do it online because all you have to do is click some buttons and be done with it, but this is also the easiest way to do some quick and serious damage to my bank account.
- I’m more inclined to spend money on food than anything else, which I’ve always been guilty of — this ranges from eating out at restaurants or cafés to buying candy from 7-11. Most of the food items I’ve purchased have been snacks, and looking back at the exact things I’ve bought has made me realize that I definitely could have done without them.
- Reflection: A lot of my snacking can be owed to convenience, since stores that are open 24/7 such as CVS and 7-11 are so close to my dorm. I mostly get cravings for certain foods at the end of the day, and I realized that’s because I’ve been neglecting to properly feed myself with real food throughout the day, which called to attention another problem.
- I impulse buy. A lot. I didn’t even remember making a lot of the purchases that I did, which goes to show that most of them really weren’t that important, nor did they add a significant amount of value to my life that wasn’t there before.
- Reflection: Prior to writing down my expenses, I already knew I had tendencies to impulse buy things if they were right in front of me, especially if they were online. I’m so used to feeding into my wants because it’s easy to buy something and forget about it, but forcing myself to record every time I dished out a few dollars really opened my eyes. Stopping this pattern comes down to having and exercising a greater amount of self-control, and thinking before I pay.
Numbers don’t lie, and I couldn’t hide from them when they were on the page in front of me. Forcing myself to face the reality of my spending by analyzing and adding the cost all of my purchases wasn’t an easy thing to do, but definitely invaluable. The reason why this exercise was so effective and opened my eyes to the extent that it did is because I made the effort to record absolutely everything I purchased, even the things from the vending machine that were worth 50 cents. It’s easy to swipe and forget, or shop online and forget, but I couldn’t escape from the situation when I concretely recorded them, and it made me more inclined to really think before buying anything, which subsequently minimized my spending. I recommend tracking expenses to everyone, because for me it made a lot of issues clearer and it was the first step I needed to take towards addressing them, and you may or may not be surprised at what comes out of it.