Episode 157: What We Learned From Tracking Our Spending

We bet you know how much money you made last year, but do you have any idea how much money you spent? Everyday money is flying out of our wallets, but we have no idea where it goes? Need more money to make the big change you want to make in your life? Start finding the money to do it by tracking your spending.

What You Can Learn

  1. Which of your habits cost you the most money.
  2. How to identify patterns in your spending, so you can bring them into alignment with your purpose or goal.
  3. Where you can make cuts in your spending, so you can spend more on what’s truly important to you.

How To Do This Challenge

The core goal of this challenge is to show you how much control you really do have over your money throughout each day and how it can be focused on what’s most important to you.

Download the Track Your Spending Challenge Worksheet

What Chris Learned

A lot of my Sunday mornings have been spent making budgets to try to control my spending or to save more money. Simply writing down what I purchased in a simple list taught me more about my spending habits in one week than the countless hours I’ve spent on making budgets.

  1. The majority of my discretionary spending is tied to my social circles and my daily routine. This was important to notice because of what I now know about habits. Habits are unconscious behaviors made up of a trigger, a routine and a reward. The act of recording my individual purchases brought awareness to my various triggers. Now that I am aware of my triggers I can begin to change my routines.
  2. The number of purchases I made, when I made them and the average size of the purchase also taught me a lot about my spending habits. My average purchase size was $11.00. That means each time I don’t take out my wallet I am saving $11.00 on average.
  3. I equate spending money with fun. This means when I try not to spend money I sometimes have a hard time allowing myself to have fun. By tracking my spending I had more awareness of my sources of fun outside of my spending habits.  I was having more fun while spending less money.

Here’s the action I’m going to take as a result of this challenge:

I’m going to try to keep tracking my spending by recording the first transaction I make each day. I found that as long as I create a habit to record the first purchase of the day I am able to remember to track the rest of my purchases. I have also discovered this is a neat way to practice mindfulness and build awareness of my spending at the same time.

What Stephen Learned

I have been tracking my expenses on and off for the last 15 years. I haven’t done this challenge in a while and I’m reminded of the importance of doing it from time to time to keep my spending habits in alignment with my goals.

  1. My two most dangerous impulse zones over the course of the week were restaurants and the grocery storeClick here to check out my $90+ grocery bill! It was my most expensive transaction. I realized I need to do a better job of understanding what is a fair price for many of the food items I buy.
  2. My most expensive day was $80+ because I went out to lunch and dinner on that day. It reminded me why I curbed my eating out expenses, so dramatically about 10 years ago in my early 30s! It has helped me save a ton of money, so I can spend it on experiences truly important to me like travel.
  3. The two habits that have the potential to increase my spending are the people I hang with socially and when I have the need to be comforted.

I have saved more money by being aware of who I hang around in terms of how those people spend money than by trying to stick to a strict budget!

My guiltiest expense during the challenge was buying season 4 of The Walking Dead on Amazon. (I’m hooked!) I’ve been housebound for the last few weeks because of 6+ feet of snow in Boston and a back sprain from a snowboarding lesson.

If I bought without the context of this challenge, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. This exercise made me stop and think about it. That’s the real goal of this challenge to stop, think and question whether or not you need to make each purchase you do.

Here’s the action I’m going to take as a result of this challenge:

I’m seriously considering tracking my expenses for 30 days. I’ve done this in the past. I find you can see more trends and patterns more clearly, helping motivate you to make adjustments to your spending to bring them into alignment with the big change you want to make it life.

Some Advice About This Challenge

Now that we’ve experience this challenge, we’ve learned a few things to share with you, so you can get even more from this challenge than we did!

  1. Stephen tracked his expenses in a Word document and doesn’t recommend it. Definitely track your purchases using an app on your phone (Chris recommends using a note on Evernote), so you don’t forget any of your transactions. This will also make you stop and bring awareness to each of your transactions.
  2. After you’ve completed the challenge and analyzed your transactions, talk to a close friend or family member about your results. Many times talking with someone else about your discoveries will help you come up with ideas about how you can make adjustments to your spending habits.
  3. Use and review your spending history as a journal for your week. When you review your spending history try to remember what you did each day. How did you feel? What were you doing? Who were you with? Why did you make those purchases? Use your review as a chance to reflect on your week.

Need to be held accountable? Get support when you join UnStuckable.co. We’ll send you a link to our private Facebook Group, so you can get help committing to this challenge!

Take The Challenge Now!