Money Talks: 5 Reasons Why You Should Write Down Your Daily Expenses!
I have an aversion to numbers. It began in elementary school math class and has only grown as I've gotten older. So, when my husband suggested we write down our daily expenses, I'm pretty sure I grimaced. I knew we were overspending, but this seemed like so much work. Blech. Since I didn't have any better ideas, though, I begrudgingly acquiesced.
What we discovered was truly eye-opening! We spent like it was water, which directly affected the fact that we often had more month than money. What we didn't realize before writing down our daily spending was all of those "little" purchases added up to large credit card bills. It didn't matter that we found a killer deal on X or that Y was for a special occasion. We were spending more than we should have and it had to stop. Period. We didn't have a lot going for us, but our one saving grace was a lack of debt. Other than that, we had a hard road ahead.
We're not exactly where we want to be, but armed with the knowledge gained by seeing how/where we needed to cut back, we have a clear path to important markers of responsible adulthood like homeownership, retirement, and inheritances for our children.
You got all that just by writing down what you spend every day? YES! And you can, too. If you're tired of feeling like you don't have enough cash, read this post, download the LMS Daily Budget Tracker, and get going! I promise if you do the work, you will reap the benefits!
1. To Know Where Your Money Is Going
How did this happen?
How did it add up so quickly?
I don't even remember buying that?!
If this looks and sounds familiar to you, please be assured you're not alone. So many of us have been right where you are now, staring with furrowed brows at the credit card bill(s) we thought were handled. The good news is there's an alternative: Choosing not to spend on frivolous, forgettable things. However, until you know exactly where you are, you won't be able to adequately cut your spending. Again, allow me to use myself as an example. We played at creating a "budget" of sorts, but because we didn't properly address the areas in which we were overspending (eating out, Target runs), cutting the cable and skipping the occasional latte didn't solve the problem. It was financial masturbation, frankly. Only after keeping track of our daily expenses were we able take a long hard look at our spending habits and implement strategies that made a real difference. I'm proud to say, we are making some significant progress and are well on our way to some major milestones. Naturally, this is the perfect segue to my next reason for writing down daily expenses.
2. To Accomplish Short- and Long-Term Financial Goals
Now before you roll your eyes about how one mani-pedi or drink at the bar couldn't possibly be the difference between homeownership, retirement, or whatever, please let me tell you everyday spending matters over time. These are things I wish I'd taken seriously ten years ago, but better late than never, right? Just putting away $50 or $100 a month in a high-yield account can add up to major coin as the years go by, especially if you leave it alone! If you give it a boost when you receive your tax return, pay raise, or annual bonus, you'll be sitting even prettier. No matter what the amount, though, your future self will be grateful! Here's a great introductory post on The Best High-Interest Savings Accounts. Even if your savings account is pretty healthy, use this account to save for something else you'd love to do or have, like a vacation, new car, home renovation, or college fund.
3. To Starve the Instant-Gratification Monster
Raise your hand if you've ever made an impulse purchase you later regretted. *raises both hands, eyebrows, and toes* Look, we all have, and that simply makes us human and prone to error. Rather than feeling bad about it, let's just work to change our ways, okay? It might not be easy at first, but you can do this. The absolute best way to defeat instant gratification is by cultivating self-discipline. Learning to say no—and meaning it!— is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. Every single time I successfully talked myself out of something I didn't need, I felt better, stronger. And the coolest byproduct of controlling your spending is that it spreads to other areas of your life. Pretty soon, you'll be looking around for ways to cut down on excess because it feels so right to live within your means.
The absolute best way to defeat instant gratification is by cultivating self-discipline.
4. To Get To Know More About Yourself
Another unexpected perk of writing down your daily expenses? By analyzing where your money is going and becoming aware of your impulses, you get to know yourself better.
Why am I spending money on this? Am I bored or maybe feeling a bit of pressure because my friends are buying stuff and I'm too embarrassed to tell them I can't afford it? Is this drink a reward for a job well done or just an excuse get drunk because that's what I'm used to doing? Why do I feel obligated to _________?
The questions are limitless, but the result is the same: You'll figure out who you really are and what you want, regardless of what others think. These changes may ruffle a few feathers and inspire pushback from those who are heavily invested in you staying the same. Humans have the uncanny ability to make just about anything about themselves, which has got to be the least useful superpower ever, but nevertheless, it happens every day. Don't be dissuaded, though! The people who care about you will make adjustments and be supportive; the rest can go step on some Legos barefoot. Good riddance.
5. To Make Splurges More Valuable and Memorable
Now, lest you think I want you to commit to a life of scarcity, allow me to put your mind at ease! You still need to, y'know, live your life because it's an awesome gift; the change occurs when you thoughtfully and mindfully treat yo' self. That's the key! In their book, Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton had this to say:
"Adding a dose of novelty can also short-circuit our tendency to consume something that no longer provides pleasure."
When something becomes a given, it loses some or all of its magic, depending on how often we do said thing. It just fades into the background of our lives and we don't "see" it anymore. What a shame! By exercising restraint, we can elevate a tube of lipstick or pair of shoes into an event, an actual experience we will remember for months to come. And every time we look in the mirror or down at our feet, we get another jolt of happy! How cool is that?!
On the surface, this process may seem to be about money, but really, it's about opting for joy that lasts over that which is fleeting. What really matters to you? What do you care about? What is the most meaningful way for you to use your resources? How can you make your dreams a reality? There are no one-size-fits-all answers to these questions, which is why it is so important to investigate your habits by writing down your daily expenses. When my husband and I had more money at our disposal, we used to say we'd wait until we had X dollars before we could give regularly; now, we see that was just an excuse to let ourselves off the hook. Despite having less today, we're excited to find ways to give to others. We didn't find it in our older, larger budget because we didn't really want to (because we were jerks). Thankfully, God didn't allow us to stay that way, amirite?
To further help you on your newfound path to financial bliss, here's a daily budget tracker that is based on the one we've been using for the quite some time. It's been incredibly valuable to our family and I pray it helps you, too. Click the image below to download it. Also, feel free to print it out as many times as you need.
How do you handle your finances? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to share any tips or advice below. And don't forget to share this post with those who'd find it helpful!