I’ve been actively trying to live the frugal life for the past six plus years, yet, this is the first month I have actually started to take and create a SPENDING INVENTORY of every single dollar we spend.
Every. Single. Purchase.
Usually, many of us go from getting paid several times during the month, to not having any money left by the end of each pay or month, and starting over again the same way the very next month. Money in, and money disappears, and then money in, and money disappears. Sometimes we get more money from our taxes or raises or promotions or bonuses, and same thing happens. If our income goes up, our spending goes higher. Sometimes daycare fees end or car payments end, and it’s almost as if these extra paydays did not come in at all, and it’s the same again, month after month.
At one point, you have to say to yourself: enough is enough, I need to keep more of what I earn.
For January, I started an Excel tab on my financial file, and every single time we spend money, pay a bill, or buy something – I write it down. I want to know EXACTLY the amount of cash that is leaving this house, and what else can we do to keep more of it.
Without sharing specific numbers, because those are boring and vary from person to person and family to family, here is where the money went this month:
Mortgage & Taxes
Preschool – Alegra
JEA – Electric, Water, Garbage
AT&T- Cell Phones
Circle K – Snacks/Fast Food
Starbucks Gift Card – for birthday gift
Target Gift Card – for birthday gift
Flag Football – Spring
We have 9 days left, and we have my husband’s birthday coming up, so I’m expecting one more run to Publix and one more to Aldi, but that should be it for the month.
I encourage everyone starting right now, or starting in February to write down every dollar that you spend, in bills, in cash, in debit card, in credit card, in change, in gift cards. If something is charged monthly to my credit card (like Netflix), I put it into this spending inventory. If I make a purchase with a prepaid card or a gift card, I still put it into the spending inventory for the month. It’s good to see EXACTLY where it is going, and a nice way to figure out WHERE it can go instead. I know it’s much easier on the temporary to NOT know, and to just go from month to month and hope there is more left over sooner than later, but get going with this right now.
There are months where the spending is more (or ideally less). We pay our car insurance twice a year, and we have to pay an association fee in December, and other bills arise such as co-pays and medicine, and vet bills and life insurance that may come in randomly or may come in annually. But if you see certain items pop up on your inventory that you don’t believe in, you don’t agree with, you can do and go without – get them the HECK off of there, and keep that cash instead. (The goal is to SAVE enough to invest the first time, and then to keep investing.)
As soon as I make a purchase, or a bill is paid or the credit card is charged, I add it to my Excel file, but I also keep my receipt in a plastic folder on my desk. So when a bill comes in, I quickly pay it and then save it. It will be nice to see and compare this going forward and see the positive changes that can be made when we are all more aware of the output.
Taking this inventory isn’t suppose to make you feel good. Or perhaps on Day 1 in February it may, if you managed to not buy a single item, but otherwise, it’s an exercise that will make you stronger GOING FORWARD, and not immediately. A lot of times, you may have a bit of regret, but this regret, will help you make better decisions in the immediate future.
Do I want to see a $25 ice cream purchase on my spending inventory in February? No. not for my budget, and especially not for my health. You can even break this down as far as you want. I break out my Publix and Aldi purchases as well. How much did we spend in vegetables versus beer and wine? Oh myyyyyyyyy.
The most important part of this is have fun with it. I WISH I became more aware of my spending when I was 18 and not 28. It would have been LEGIT so much cooler to be in a better position when you are younger, than when we are older, but such as life, and good habits need to start as soon as you recognize the need for them, which most of the time is yesterday.
Review your inventory on a weekly basis (or as often as possible), and this way you can get EXCITED from already positive progress. You can feel good INSTANTLY where you had a week where you did not eat out, or buy fast food or convenience food. You can get INSTANTLY excited when you attended a nice party, and instead of buying a new outfit, you found a good one in your closet all ready to go. It’s nice to have a weekend where you don’t have to insert a new row, because you made it fancy and ate what you already had, and played with the family and friends already around you.
You also may find yourself typing out your inventory, or writing it out in a notebook, and not being able to find a SINGLE item or bill or dollar spent you can’t go without. And you may cross your arms, and pout and say, heck no, how can I save more, when I ONLY buy what I or we need?
Little by little, as you practice this exercise you will find areas in your spending and purchasing where you can improve. I was there. I certainly thought everything I needed and wanted was a die hard necessity, until I slowly realized I didn’t. That we can do better, with less. This is not meant to make you feel bad or uncomfortable permanently. It’s only suppose to wake us up a little bit more so we can save and invest a lot more. Keep going, and keep writing, and keep saving more and more and more, by making your spending inventory shorter and shorter, and full of necessities only.
You WILL get creative, and that is the best part. I don’t sing, or dance, or draw or do anything fancy. But the amount of passion and pleasure and fun I have with this – is I can only imagine how Brit Spears feels on her stage on Vegas. Or maybe perhaps even more.
Hit me Savers one more time!