One of the best ways to get a real idea of where your money is going is to track every expense. Most financial gurus (and personal finance bloggers) will tell you that. And that’s what I’ve been doing since August of 2007. Or at least, I’ve been trying to track everything since then. I’ve mentioned before that I have quite a few ways I keep track of my money.
I’ve noticed that I’ve been slacking off when it comes to keeping track of the things that I usually track. With walletproof, I’ve only been actively adding my dining out expenses (including my lunch spending in the cafeteria). There are repeated expenses and income that I’ve allowed to continue on the site, but I haven’t readjusted them to coincide with the correct days. And I mentioned before that I started using a program called NutriSum, where you track your weight, eating habits, and exercise. At the beginning, I was logging my progress every day. Now I log the information when I remember to, and sometimes go back days to fill in the missing numbers.
So what does this mean? I think for me, tracking everything gave me a sense of control; I knew where everything went, and I could watch as I reached my budgeted limit for the different spending categories. But now that I have an idea of where things are going (especially with the help of my other tracking websites like Mint), and can set my limits there. I think I have only been tracking dining expenses because I use credit cards or online bill pay for most purchases, which makes everything easy to track online. The only thing I spend cash on (usually) is food at the cafeteria. Going to those websites every once in a while to confirm that I am staying within my limits (and as a bonus, I can monitor any suspicious activity with any of my accounts) seems to get the job done.
I never have been a big spender. I do occasionally have a spendy month when I buy something that’s long-term (updated wardrobe, new glasses, computer, car) or for birthdays and Christmas (I like buying things for my family). But those occasional purchases are budgeted in, and wont happen too often.
As for the health tracking, I think that it got me started on healthier habits, and made me aware of what I should be doing. I’ve now started eating breakfast every day (mmmm oatmeal!), been drinking more water, and avoiding snacks after dinner. I’m not as good with the whole grains and fruits/veggies goal, but I do remain aware of what I’m putting on my plate, both as I go through the grocery store, and when I pick my meals at the cafeteria. And I’ve been trying to stick to my exercise regimen (2-3 times per week to start), though I sometimes do 2 instead of 3 days. But I know what I need to do, and can remind myself that I am working towards a healthier life.
Do you track every penny? Should I be?