How Tracking my Spending has Improved my Finances

FORMERLYSKINT.COM - How Tracking My Spending has Improve my Finances

It’s no secret that I am a long time fan of Refinery29’s Money Diaries series. I check religiously every week for the new posts, and after discovering the U.S. version about 6 months ago, I’m totally hooked on that too, (even though I have no idea how much they are actually spending!)

I always wanted to submit my own, but just never quite got round to it.

 

Shortly after Christmas 2017, I took a good look at my finances and realised I was slipping in to old habits of spending money on what I can only describe as “stuff.”

I was feeling especially motivated, with it being January and me obviously being broke, to kick my money back into shape. I thought, why not start my own Money Diaries? Why not post it on a blog? Why not do it for a whole year?! 

The Background:

Historically, my relationship with my money has not been great. Essentially, I didn’t really have any money until I landed my first real full time job months after graduating. I’d been slowly racking up debts but when the wages started coming in, rather than manage the money sensibly, I spent it on “stuff.”

This was all stuff I thought I deserved. I reasoned that I should treat myself because I hadn’t been able to in the past. New clothes, eating out, the latest fad beauty product, that’s where my money was going.

All the while, the debts were still racking up in the background.

 

I eventually knuckled down and paid off my student overdraft, rent arrears and council tax debts, and began to pay more attention to my money. But I had a goal in mind; I wanted to buy my first home.

 

Since buying my apartment 2 ½ years ago, I have been focusing on buying rather than saving. This is understandable given the expenses that follow buying a home, I had previously lived in furnished rentals, so had to start from scratch. I was able to move everything I already owned in one small van load.

Once I was settled, furnished and no longer needed to spend money, I still found myself saving little and spending lots.

 

So in January, I decided to make a change. However, in order to fully understand where I am spending unnecessarily, I needed to be aware of what I was actually buying. This is why I decided to track my spending.

I spent ages creating my spreadsheet masterpiece, and somewhere along the way, I had the bright idea to publish my spending on a blog. I was very aware that this is the kind if thing I throw myself into head first, only for it to fizzle out after a few weeks. If I was publishing this info weekly, I would feel like I had to keep tracking my money.

 

This really has been a huge turning point for me, while I wouldn’t necessarily say I have been “bad” with money in recent years, I am certainly less mindful than I once was.

Since then, I’ve seen a huge change in my mindset already in various ways…
1. I’ve Stopped Buying “Stuff”

Take a look around your home, how much “stuff” do you have sitting around? And how much of this stuff actually serves a purpose?

I’m not saying I’m going full on minimalist and emptying my shelves, but what I am doing, is stopping adding to those shelves.

It’s too easy to pick up a few bits and pieces here and there, a little photo frame in the pound shop when you’re picking up your cleaning supplies, another scented candle when you spot them on sale and don’t even get me started on my nemesis: Primark.

You know when you pop into Primark to pick up “just a couple of pairs of tights” and you leave an hour and £50 later, with 8 t-shirts, 3 pairs of pyjamas, a lint roller, the same dress in 2 sizes because, you know, Primark, and a unicorn hair scrunchie?

And it’s all cr*p, you know it’s all crap when you buy it, but you buy it anyway because it’s “handy.”

 

Within just a few weeks of tracking my spending and seeing every penny in black and white, I had genuinely lost the urge to pick up these things when out shopping. I’m much better at just swerving the “household” aisle in the supermarket, sticking to my shopping list and only buying the things I actually need to use. I no longer class “shopping” as a leisure activity, it’s something I do when I need to make a purchase.
2. I’ve felt exposed

Have you ever joined a slimming club? Kept a food diary? Been totally horrified at the thought of sharing your late night cheese binge and cake-for-breakfast with everyone else in the group?

Yeah, it’s like that.

Every week, I post exactly what I have spent, I give anyone who wishes to read it an insight into one of the biggest areas affecting our modern lives. There is still such a taboo surrounding money and income. I often envy people working in the public sector on set “pay grades” as it’s a much more open topic. While I have no issues with sharing my income to people I know personally, I would still feel slightly uncomfortable disclosing it to someone within my company or industry. I hate that his is an issue for me, but I do think it’s born from social norms.

 

I grew up in an extremely low income, single parent family, and can always remember the stigma attached to this. I was ashamed of our low income (side note, I came across an older but thought provoking post from Ms. FAF this week exploring the feelings behind growing up in a low income family, which is something often overlooked, well worth a read!) and so money just wasn’t discussed.

Twenty years later, sharing how I decide to spend my hard earned money is obviously intimidating, but since it’s anonymous it’s much easier for me to be more open. I still find myself second-guessing unnecessary purchases thinking “I need to justify this in my Money Diaries!”

I have also posted my financial goals for 2018, and will be doing a quarterly review throughout the year (you can check out how the first 3 months went here). This also makes me feel accountable, like I need to explain myself if I blow £200 on a “just because” shopping spree instead of putting it into my depleted emergency fund.
3. I’ve Fallen Way Behind the Joneses

I purchased my first home much sooner than most of my friends, however, I did it alone. Myself and OH had only been together for a few months when I started seriously thinking about buying, so there was never a question of us doing it together, it was just too soon to think about.

Added to that the fact that he was working freelance at the time, and although he was earning a decent enough wage, similar to mine, it was still impossible for him to get a mortgage. So really, even if we wanted to, we couldn’t.

 

Of course, by the time we actually moved in to my new apartment we had been together for 2+ years and had been living together for most of that time too, but I still kind of like the fact that I did this, I bought our home and I could have done it as a single lady too *insert Beyoncé here*

 

Fast forward a few years and all of my friends are starting to purchase homes with their partners. I went for the usual first time buyer 2 bed apartment on the outskirts of the city. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good size and I wouldn’t want anything bigger right now. However, my friends seem to be looking for their “forever home” before even hitting 30 years old! Is it just me, or is that a bit crazy? We’re talking 4 bedroom detached houses with a garden and a bit of land out the back.

This is, of course, the more extreme end of the scale on this, obviously I’m not going to rush out any buy a bigger house I can’t afford just because my friends are. But more importantly, I don’t want to. I no longer care what other people are doing. I’ve stopped reading those “Things to do Before You’re 30” articles, because I’m almost 30, and I’ve not done any of these things.

And I don’t care.

I am happy knowing that I can pay off my mortgage in half the length of the term. I am happy that I didn’t spend the 6 months prior to moving in to my apartment worrying about whether or not I could actually afford the mortgage. And I am happy in the knowledge that if something awful were to happen to either myself or OH, we can survive on one income.

 

How Can This Help You?

 

For anyone who is struggling with managing their money and doesn’t know where to start, I would highly recommend tracking your spending.

And I don’t mean you have to go the whole hog and do it for a full year, sharing the nitty gritty with the world, but even within one month of doing it I was already able to see the bigger picture and how I wanted it to continue through the year.

 

Having both a weekly and monthly overview of my spending makes it so much easier to project outgoings, I always know what to expect and I can pretty much now tell you the exact balance of any of my accounts down to the penny.

I finally feel in control of my money again, I can set myself a savings target for the year and know that it’s realistic, I am making an educated assumption now, rather than a stab-in-the-dark hope-it-all-works-out guess.

I’m a firm believer that knowing your money is the first step towards taking control of it, and what better way to get to grips than to literally write down every penny.

 

I’m writing this just before heading out to do some grocery shopping, and I know I will be scouring the reduced section for any bargains I can get excited over sharing, just look how excited I got last week when I picked up my lunch for less than £2 one day! LINK

 

If anyone else out there is taking a similar route to me and publishing their spending, I’d love to read along so link me up in the comments!

 

 

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5 thoughts on “How Tracking my Spending has Improved my Finances

  1. I have started tracking some of my spending and agree with a lot of the points you make. Barely anyone reads my post lol but I still feel accountable knowing I have to write about it.

    Like

    1. oh I am exactly the same, even if not one single person read this, I would still have that feeling of having to explain my silly purchases haha!
      I will definitely be checking yours out, I love seeing how people spend/save money!

      Liked by 1 person

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