This is the second post in a series where we're following one of our team members here at The Dime as she takes a hard look at her spending habits—acknowledging, at times, some truths about herself that might be difficult to swallow. The silver lining: she (and we) will pick up some personal strategies along the way to help lay the groundwork for money management success.
If you missed the first post in the series, click here to take a gander.
Hello again, dear readers of The Dime!
You may recall this previous post where I bared my financial soul and admitted once and for all that I need to get on board with this whole “adulting” thing—especially when it comes to money. Last month I mentioned my bank robot system, and this month my eyes were opened to how vital that system is to keeping my finances in order.
In the beginning of June, I set out to record every single dime I spent. When I’ve tried this in the past, I’ve relied on apps on my phone to track my spending for me. This may work for some people, but it did NOT work for me. I have a knack for ignoring all the alerts on my phone, and even when I was paying attention to them, I wasn’t really facing the facts. For me, seeing the numbers on a screen just didn’t have an impact; it was as if my eyes were seeing what I was doing, but my brain wasn’t processing what was actually happening.
Instead, I need tangible evidence. I need to feel the pain of writing down $3.21 yet again for yet another cup of coffee. I need to feel the swipe of the debit card as a transaction, not just as part of the routine of spending. So, this time around, I opted to write everything down (the good old fashioned way—with pen and paper) and assign everything to a category. There was a single rule I held myself to for this tracking experiment: I didn’t allow myself to adjust my spending at all. I spent as if I weren’t tracking.
The first couple of weeks were fun, but then it quickly became daunting. I saw what I was doing. I felt it. There were days when I was so angry at that notebook (and at myself) because it is NOT fun to see my less than stellar spending habits there in plain black and white. By the end of the month, I was done. I didn’t want to face myself or my habits any longer—and that was before I tallied it all up.
My truth mirror was there, clear as day. I was spending way more on non-essential items than necessary. WAY MORE. Now, there were a few expenses that came up that wouldn’t be classified as everyday spending. For instance, my six-month car insurance premium was due in June—and it was something that led me to truly realize how crucial my bank robot system is to my ability to budget. If I had not set up my primary account to take automatically take 1/6 of the amount every month and funnel it into a separate “car insurance premium” account, I would not have had the money to pay for my insurance. All those non-essential items over June ended up adding up to a substantial part of my income, and had I not had the foresight to save incrementally ahead of time, I would have been in trouble.
I’m glad I didn’t change my spending over the month-long experiment to try to paint a prettier picture of myself. I’m glad I looked at what I was doing from a lens of genuine truth.
More than anything, I’m glad I got the truth. The truth arms me with the freedom to tackle my faults, embrace my strengths, and plot a course for improvement.
Next month: ch-ch-ch-changes. I’m making them. And you get to come along with me!