Thank goodness for February! Now I can turn off the guilt that’s been plaguing me these last two weeks. Although I made a sort of valiant attempt at ending the month of tracking spending strong and with complete data, that lasted about 2 days. I conveniently misplaced my notepad that fit in my purse until yesterday, February 1. Not that I couldn’t just copy down my expenditures on any writing surface with the pen that I always carry with me.
When I tracked spending I encountered the following barriers:
- Resistance to what feels like tracking my every move
- Anger at my forgetfulness
When I tracked my spending I experienced the following benefits:
- I clearly understood where my money went the first two weeks of the month
- I was able to make VERY useful changes to how I apportion some of my budgeting categories (particularly groceries)
- I am better able to understand how I spend money with guests, which will help me plan out how much money I’ll need for traveling later this year
Practicing What I Preach? Affirmative!
I teach thousands of students of all ages every year. Whenever I suggest tracking spending to ensure an accurate picture of spending, I never suggest tracking spending for a month. We are all busy, and we all have our stuff that we’re working on. (As Havi says “We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We take responsibility for our stuff. Because without sovereignty and spaciousness, this whole thing falls apart.”) Put all that together, and it’s difficult to expect ourselves to adhere to such a labor and memory intensive task for a full month the first time we give it a try.
My recommendation is that periodically throughout the year we should track our spending for 1 week. This catches variations in spending over the weekday and weekend. For a more thorough understanding you can aim for 2 weeks of tracking.
If you don’t complete the whole week THAT’S OK! This is not a zero-sum game. Congratulate yourself for persisting as long as you did, and then try and figure out what made tracking spending hard. Next time you can make changes that will support you in tracking the expenses for the whole week. Tracking spending is a form of habit building. The more times you do something, the more it becomes reinforced and the easier it becomes.
Sound Bites of Wisdom…
Changing habits is hard
Changing habits takes time
Changing habits IS POSSIBLE
Changing habits takes PERSEVERANCE
This is a series following my experience tracking my expenses through January. I’m exploring this cash flow management technique with an eye towards what it feels like to write down every single time I spend money. It’s not that people don’t know how to track their expenses (the nuts and bolts are not particularly difficult), but there are buckets full of internal obstacles that make the practice very difficult.