Back to Basics Week Three: Where Does The Money Go?

We’ve already addressed this issue a bit in Week One:  SITREP and also Where Did The Money Go?, but this is the week where we get a grip on what, where, why and how we spend our money.  This is the hardest part for me – I hate to be bothered writing it all down, and then I really hate to be bothered adding it all up at the end of my little project.  I will tell you, however, that it works.  A little bit of effort up front results in big dividends at the end.

So, here’s your project for however long you want to do it.  Most “experts” recommend a month and I have done that before, but even a week of truthfulness can really help.  Using whatever method works for you, keep track of every cent that you spend.  Some ways of keeping track include:

  • saving every receipt (and make sure you hand write one for things like the vending machine)
  • sticking an index card in your wallet with your money (requires that you keep a pen handy, too)
  • download a spending app for your smart phone (I’m not going to recommend one as I don’t have a smart phone)
  • record it in a memo on your non-smart phone, or leave yourself a voice message
  • write it in a checkbook register
  • use your amazing memory (this one is dangerous)
  • be creative – what will work for you

The key to making this work is to be totally honest.  If you change your spending because you are tracking it, note that in your spending record.  (“Didn’t buy a Diet Coke from the vending machine”)  This is designed to figure out the past so that you can control the future.  Don’t fail to write down that 85 cent toll or the one-time donation to a charity jar.  Every cent is important!

I challenge you to do this exercise for at least a week, and I’ll be doing it along with you.  Good luck!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.