There is something to be said for the almost magical powers of keeping a written record. Grab a small notebook (or start a list on your tablet or smart phone) and write down every single penny that leaves your hands every day.
That’s it. It’s not complicated at all. Stop at the gas station for a cup of coffee? Write it down. Left a $1 tip in the jar at the coffee shop? Write that down too.
If there are other adults in your family, encourage them to log their daily spending too. After all, family finance isn’t just about one person. Getting your money moving in the right direction requires a team effort.
Choose a convenient day and time, once a week, to review the week’s spending log. If there are other adults in your home, make this a group project. During these review sessions, something amazing happens. You really see where your money is going! It’ll go like this: “WOW… I didn’t know I spend $14 every week on iTunes (or sodas or coffee or candy or video games or …)! That’s $728 every year… I spend 2 car payments every year on downloaded music (or…). I can use that money to make our finances better by… (putting it in savings, paying off our debts faster, buying more organic foods, …).”
Over time, you’ll find that the knowledge that you’ll have to write down every single penny will curb some of your impulse spending. Your mind will automatically start equating the bad purchase amounts to good purchase amounts such as “I could spend this $3.00 on a coffee, or I can get a cup for free at the office and use that $3.00 toward building our vacation fund a little faster.”
After a few weeks, you’ll see a dramatic change in your impulse purchase (hopefully!) and be well on your way to making your money work for you, instead of the other way around. Cutting $19.24 a week in impulse spending will save you more than $1000 a year. Broken down a little further, that’s $2.75 a day. That’s it. Less than one gallon of gas. Less than half of a McDonald’s Super Value meal. All for the cost of a $.99 little notebook to track where your money is going.