Guest post from Rachel
As someone who is fairly organized, occasionally even bordering on obsessive-compulsive, I had always just assumed that my grasp on budgeting and keeping track of my finances was fairly solid.
I’ve seen numerous friends and relatives struggle with spending outside of their means, but this has never felt like a struggle to me or my family. We don’t go on vacation particularly often, and when we do, it’s after finding a good deal on Groupon or the like; we don’t eat out except for special occasions; we don’t buy exprnsive clothing.
But I’ve found that it’s so easy to delude ourselves into thinking that if we aren’t spending on big things, then we aren’t overspending on small things either. However, this could not be further from the truth!
How could it be that I, the woman who spends hours researching hotels and airfare to find the best possible price, could be so lax about my spending in other, smaller, day-to-day areas?
The answer is simply: it just doesn’t seem worth it at the time.
In the moment, spending $3 or $4 on a cup of coffee seems like a small splurge to make, a small price to pay, for living in the moment. But a bit of careful planning would actually demonstrate how easy it is to get in the habit of letting these small charges grow and grow until they are no longer so small.
I’ve read countless articles on this topic over the years, all with the same message of how cutting corners here and there can yield large savings in the long run. I just never found it applicable to my own life until I spent one week where I wrote down literally every purchase I made.
$27 filling up gas
$78 on groceries
$7 for the café bill with my friend
$13 thanks to the bookshop next to the café
None of these sound unreasonable just yet… right?
Until I really stopped to think about it, none of my purchases sounded outlandish. What’s a few dollars in the big scheme of things, really?
But slowly, small realizations started creeping in on me. That $13 book is something I could have just as easily taken out of the library if I had been patient enough to reserve it instead of feeling the need to start reading it right then and there.
The $78 grocery shopping would have been cheaper if I’d been willing to go across town to the slightly less expensive, but slightly more crowded, supermarket.
I continued writing down each purchase, both the large and the small, and began noticing more trends in my own spending.
Becoming more aware of these little habits has helped me cut down on so many unnecessary expenses… even if it only saves me a few dollars each week, that really adds up over the course of a year.
I’ve continued to write down each purchase as I make it, which really forces me to stop and think about whether what I’m buying is absolutely necessary; and if it is, if I’m buying it at this particular shop due to its price or merely due to convenience.
The best news is – with all the money I’ve saved over the past year, we’re now looking to book another mini-vacation over winter break! Looks like it’s time to scour Groupon for the latest travel deals.
And you can bet that I’ll keep writing our purchases down even on vacation! Once you get in the good habit of writing everything down, it’s not something you want to break! Plus, it makes you really appreciate those things you do choose to spend your hard-earned cash on all the more.
Rachel teaches third graders, and in her spare time she enjoys writing, practicing yoga, and spending time with her loved ones; one day she will perfect the art of doing all three at the same time. Rachel calls the Midwest home, where she aims to live as naturally as possible.