“You must count calories.”
Yes, I count calories.
When I wrote about how to get in shape without going broke, I heard a few obvious objections. The one mentioned above was the common one. We feel that getting in shape involves counting calories and training for two hours a day, leaving us with no time for anything else. This isn’t the case. I hate counting calories and tracking expenses.
This talk about counting calories got me thinking about tracking your expenses to save more money. Specifically, I wanted to write about how you can finally fix your spending without losing your mind.
Writing a budget and tracking every penny is similar to counting calories because both don’t work in the long run! Many beginners are bored with the idea of tracking every detail and simply never get started. Yet the idea of budgeting and writing a budget is still heavily promoted everywhere I turn.
Should you track every expense?
You should keep track of expenses when you want to improve spending habits.
It’s not always a good idea to track expenses or count calories, but it does make sense at some point.
Why should you keep track of expenses?
Tracking for a set amount of time is useful in spotting your problem areas. When you spot your problem areas you can finally fix your spending forever because you’ll know what to work on.
I hate budgeting, but many years ago I knew that I had to watch my spending if I wanted to finish college debt free. I decided to track my spending and look at my fixed expenses. I realized that I had too many fixed monthly costs and spent too much on going out. I worked on these problems and then never budgeted again.
Instead of budgeting, I make sure to have enough money for my bills, pay myself first, meet my financial goals, and then keep the rest of the money for myself.
How do you keep track of expenses to target your problem areas?
The process here is really simple. I recommend getting an unlimited checking account so that you can make as many transactions as you want. You can also use your credit card to track expenses (dangerous if you don’t have the money). Cash is also an option.
Once you figure out how you plan on tracking your expenses I recommend following this process to help you save money without losing your mind:
- Make your purchases as you normally would using your debit card, cash, or credit.
- Don’t worry too much about details.
- After a few weeks, a month, or any time frame you choose, check your account to see where your money was spent.
- Spot problem areas.
- Choose two specific areas.
- Focus on improving them.
I chose two problem areas because it’s impossible to try saving money on everything at once. I prefer to work on problem areas. Once you fix your problem areas, you can save more money without losing your mind.
When do you stop tracking your expenses?
Detailed tracking just doesn’t work in the long run because you’ll either get really bored with it or flat out lose your mind. It’s all about doing the right things consistently and improving your spending habits.
When you target your weak spots, you can stop tracking. Your focus should shift to dealing with these problem areas. You can then try to track your expenses again when you notice that you’re not saving as much money as you would like to.
You don’t have to keep track of every expense all of the time. I just want to see you work on problem areas.