You already track how much money you use – so up your game by studying your holiday habits.
It’s Black Friday season and everyone is super aware of their purchases. We’re buying presents and feeling the pain in our wallets; we’re going to see family as tickets and gas prices rack up. And although these expenses create anxiety in us, they may provide the secret to tracking our spending for the rest of the year.
Think of what you do when you shop for the holidays: you write a list of things to buy, save your receipts, and make sure you have enough money to purchase the rest. See if you can use these habits to make a spending tracker for yourself in one of three ways:
Track with a budget
You know how to budget once a month, now keep it out and write on it. The titles you used to divide up your money will give you categories for what you buy.
I use this in my coaching. At the end of each budgeting exercise, I’ll give the client a blank copy to take home – a template to write down future expenses. Sometimes it’s too much for us to keep track of a budget, a bank account, and a spending tracker. Do what you do during the holidays: condense it to one list and roll with it.
Save your receipts
Your mom will probably like that cat sweater you bought her, but just in case, it pays to save the receipt. She might want to return it. That’s a small decision to cover your bases in the future, and the same applies to your normal spending.
Choose a pocket, a place in your purse, or a slot in your wallet. Instead of using returning your receipts, use them to check yourself. My wallet is chalk full of flimsy white papers every few days. I may have forgotten to write something down on my real spending tracker, but this system makes sure nothing gets by me.
Tracking your spending isn’t just about accounting for your money, it’s about being thorough in your records. Your budget at the beginning of the month may or may not prove accurate, but your spending has a paper trail – try following it.
Use your magic number
Find out how much money you have to spend each month, and write it in big numbers so it’s in your face. I’ve worked with clients putting up white boards, paper boards, and note-pads. At the end of each day, the number changes as they subtract what they spent.
If tracking each and every purchase is too taxing, boil it down to one number. It’ll be easier to remember and allow you to gauge how you’re doing throughout the month. For example, if you have twenty five days left, and $900 available, how much do you have for each day? As long as you carry that magic number, you’ll always have a starting point. As long as you know you have X amount to pay for Christmas, you’ll divide it up appropriately.
These are the things the holidays teach us about our spending. Use them to upgrade your spending tracker. I’ll be introducing the digital element in the future, but for now, happy holidays to everyone! I’ll see you next year