Sunday, 8 May 2011

A spending diary

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Recently I have gone back to recording all of our expenditure in a diary. At the end of every day I list all amounts spent, along with how (card or cash) and what they were spent on. I also have a tick column for whether or not the expenditure was budgeted for this month. All receipts are kept and gone over too; and mental slaps on the wrist given where I know we could have been better.

As the weeks of records build up, I can see a pattern emerge of when I am most likely to spend money and what on. I have the information I need to tweak our budget - I can see the areas where I am being overly optimistic and also the areas where I could trim a bit more fat. Flicking back over last year's entries, I can see that almost every time we went into town to run errands, we ended up eating out; and quite often not particularly frugally or greenly. That expenditure is now for the most part gone - because seeing it written down and tallied up the last time made me change my mindset. The diary also tells me that four years after first promising to change my habits, I still spend a ridiculous amount of money getting to and from work and buying food when I am there. Not so good.

The prospect of having to write down every last expenditure and then deduct it from the remaining budget each day has already made me unload one online shopping basket and put down several impulse purchases in the local shop. In short, it has made me very conscious of how I use my money and just what I am consuming. Every expenditure represents the consumption of energy and resources and usually the creation of waste in one way or another; and being confronted with a long list of 'stuff' that we didn't need is as galling as seeing a large sum of money that didn't need to be spent. Money also represents the investment of time and energy that we made to earn it - something else that I don't want to fritter away. 

A spending diary, even if you only manage to keep it for a week, is enlightening and you will probably be surprised at just where the money goes. Spending money is not a bad thing in itself - but it is better to spend it consciously, in line with your priorities, than without thought.

Have you ever tracked your daily expenditure? What did you learn? Did you change your habits as a result?