You can't know what you should spend until you know what you're already spending.
Before I made the magical spreadsheet, I spent an embarassing amount of time asking the internet how much a person "should" spend on certain categories and how much a different person "could" manage to spend if they were very thrifty and then multiplying that by the number of people in our house and dividing it by the coefficient of pi squared and carrying the one and crossing my t's only to determine that we've definitely never had enough money and probably we're all starving.
Which we're not.
But instead of scrapping the whole idea (that was my first instinct, promise promise) I decided that fine, I'll just have to go ahead and keep track of every. single. purchase. Period.
|Unrelated photos will be sprinkled throughout. Chombat! Almost 4 months old. Skinny jeans. Best.|
Keeping track of every single purchase is a pain in the butt.
Dang we make a lot of purchases. I don't just go shopping once a week and then never buy anything after that. Mostly I blame this on Amazon Prime, but it's like "here's this book I forgot to get! Better order it." Then 18 minutes later "oooooooh, is his birthday really in three days? Quick! Order that random emergency vehicle." And right there you've got two transactions and two weeks later you want to cry and give up.
Don't give up.
Push through. I believe in you. If I can do it, queen of never ever ever finishing a series of blog posts I've ever promised to serialize for you, then you can do it.
Pick an interval that works for you.
But how? How do you just start? Just, like, pull out those crumpled receipts from the bottom of your purse and brush the crumbs off and junk? No sir.
Here's the thing (All of you Ramsey peeps avert your eyes!): we never use cash. So instead of receipts, all of our transactions are online with the name of the establishment from which the purchases were made and I can say "Honey, what did you get at Family Farm and Home for seven bazillion dollars?" and he can say "Why, that gold encrusted dog food I insist on feeding our precious poochies, of course."
Anyway, back to the interval. I do ours once a month because Tommy gets paid once a month on the 15th. As soon as the current paycheck gets deposited, I go back and enter all the expenses and income from the 15th of the previous month thru the 14th of the current month. As I subtract what we spent, the income amount decreases right before my bugging out little eyes because excel is magical and does math for you.
It takes forever. I hate it. But I like the results, so..... #resultsorientedforthewin
|Lizzy is making these on the fly with air dry clay. I cannot even STAND how cute the mustache cat is. Zoinks.|
It's like that food log thing- knowing I'm gonna have to write it down makes me spend less.
I'm not kidding. The fewer transactions I have to enter in the wee hours of the morn the better. I save money just by making myself do this terrible task. Genius, right?
Doing this makes finishing your taxes a whole lot easier, y'all. Just make sure your chart (that sounds less scary than "spreadsheet" doesn't it?) has categories for things that TurboTax is going to interrogate you about, like charitable contributions, unreimbursed medical expenses, and other fancy things like that, so that you can just BOOP: open it up and slap that number in there. Magic.
Now before you say it, I know Quicken and Microsoft Money and all these other programs exist. But they're just so...cumbersome. And you have to have that actual program installed in other places, right? With my excel spreadsheet, I can save it to my dropbox folder and open it up on any computer anywhere and it uses, what, like 2 computer brain power units to run? Dat's how I likes it.
|Intent: to take before pics of the den sofas so I can share afters with you when I talk too much about staging the house to sell. Reality: this 4 year old and that outfit and the hair and wow, the mess. Just so much of all of that.|
Instead of being in a constant state of panic about money (guilty), you will sort of feel like you have a handle on what's happening. Because even though we were managing to feed and clothe our children and buy fuel and pay our propane bills, I always felt like we were teetering on the edge of financial ruin and so even though I made purchases, I still stressed out about them. "This is it! This is the pair of $4 grocery store flip flops that's gonna send us to the poor house. I don't even know what a poor house is, but I'm gonna get sent there, I know it. Stupid flip flops."
You see? Unstable. Bad.
Or maybe at first you won't feel peace because you'll discover you ARE overspending. But then you can do something about it and create your peace that way. We realized, after an entire year of tracking, that the quickest, easiest way for us to save money was to not eat out. And I'm not talking about eating out at Texas Land and Cattle or something. I'm talking even pizza to-go on a Friday night. Dude, that gets EXPENSIVE. I cannot even deal. Even a meal for all of us at the golden arches costs THIRTY FOUR DOLLARS. For a single very terrible meal. Wow. No.
|My mom works at Great News Cookware & Cooking School in San Diego. We get the neatest presents from her.|
And doing cool new things.
Like maybe buying a house? True story. I would not have been able to definitively say that we could afford to take this money and that money and this money over here and move it around here and...yes, yes we can get that new house. I mean the loan officer was like "You totally can afford way more than this." but she was wrong. I knew how much we could afford because I had my special document of truth at my fingertips. But the fact that I could say what we could spend at all? Fantastic. Amazing. Best.
If you are taking a ride on the do-better-at-life train, I highly recommend this terrible, horrible project. It'll be worth it.