It's that time of year again.

It's October and around my household that means we are sucking wind, as my mom would say. (Mom, where on earth did that saying even come from? It doesn't make any sense.) Sucking wind, to us, means that all that money I diligently socked away in my savings account during the most recent highly profitable tax season is dwindling faster than stink on you-know-what.

Every year this happens. I float along in the months after tax season spending with wreckless abandon only to come dangerously close to having $9 in my checking account (this recently happened.) Then I'm forced to transfer money so that I can buy unimportant things like Twinkie pans. (I totally made vegan corn dogs with the pan and it was AWESOME.)

I have never been one to budget. I've tried, I swear. I make a list of the essentials like housing and fuel and electricity and I start out with a valiant effort but it always ends in a slow implosion. Strewn papers lie around with my awful penmanship. Numbers crossed out with newer numbers scribble beside it. Paper bits torn and crumbled and generally in a pile of chaos. Some efforts are followed through for a week or maybe two at the most and then I give up, accepting defeat.

Today is a new budget day. I have finally discovered what my problem is. Why I can't manage to stick to a budget. The reason I can't is because I really have no clue how much I spend on things. Sure I know exactly how much my house payment is and my monitored alarm system is the same each month. But, fuel? clothing? food? All variable. I used to give myself a budget of $150 on food a month, which made no sense because I knew I spent at least $300 a month. Now that I have an extra mouth to feed I'm positive that amount has gone up. Let's not even discuss the cost of food.

As a result of my epiphany I'm going to write down every single cent I spend including my $1.18 coffee that I get on the mornings I go to work. It's not much but I bet it adds up to more than I expect when this is all done. My plan is to do this for a month. I'm extremely nervous that I will look at my spending habits and realize that I've been wasting money with little regard to how it's affecting me and my family.

I'm aware that this tracking every expense for a month plan is nothing new. I certainly didn't invent it, nor do I take credit for it. But I do hope to take credit for getting myself in touch with my own financial destiny.

ETA: Just got an e-mail from Macy's. $.99 shipping ends today. GOD GIVE ME STRENGTH.


She Likes Purple said...

I'm posting a financial post today, too! I watched on Oprah that you should have a little basket that you put all your receipts in at the end of each day. And at the end of each week, you add up your variable expenses.

I also think most utilities can give you an average payment if you've been with them long enough. For example, my electricity is different every month, but I can see what my average electricity is and work that amount into my budget.

Elizabeth said...

Yeah, we've been obsessed with our budget lately too. The only thing that works for us is to take all flexible spending amounts out in cash, and to give ourselves little individual slush funds that we have to use for coffee and other non necessities. The cash system is great because when it's gone, it's gone. You can't spend money you don't have. And it's MUCH harder to spend cash psychologically, for some reason. ANd that way I dont have to balance every 1.45 spent on bananas out of my checking acct.
Anyway, that's just what works for us! Good luck with your tracking! I'll be fascinated to hear the results of your "study."

Missah said...

I too totally watched said Oprah. Only one major detail was left out. You get yourself a journal. At the end of the day (or week however you want to look at it) you write need on one side of the journal and want on the other. Go through your receipts and put the needed stuff and wanted stuff where it goes. Then stand back in shock as you see exactly how much you squander!

Heidi said...

I try and I try to budget too. It never quite works out. I was never good at math.

SLynnRo said...

I did this recently and attempted to document it on my blog. But it kind of lead me to spend less because I didn't want to embarrass myself. Though, ultimately who cares because I still spent less.

Juanita said...

I'm going to join you on the month long spending journal. I really need to cut down on my spending and I really don't know how much I spend a month. We will need to compair notes at the end and see who is worse. I think with all the mouths I have to feed I'm going to win. Boy for once I hope I lose!!

Sarah said...

I totally splurged on clothes recently and boy howdy am I feeling guilty and broke! I need to stay financially focused now too!

Ms. R said...

It may be the oldest budgeting trick in the book, but when my husband and finally starting writing everything down back in May - we finally got it all figured out, set a budget, and are officially working our way towards being financially responsible adults. The hardest part is remembering to write it down. Even though we are tech savvy, we went old school and write it all down on a debit/credit ledger on our fridge. Whatever works.

Missah said...

Here's what we did at our house (after we figured out what our budget was).

We pay everything weekly. Yep how annoying is that. Rent, car payment, credit cards, cable. The ONLY thing we don't pay weekly is electric and gas since it changes every month.

To start off with a bang we used our tax return to get a months worth of bills into our bills checking account. They set up everything to be paid automatically. The key is that this account must be used SOLELY for bills or else you get screwed up.

By paying everything weekly (this is especially great on student loans, credit cards with high balances, rent and car payments) by the end of a full year you have actually made an extra payment on everything thus paying everything down sooner (read: paying less interest thus saving money) Paying 200 dollars a week to your mortgage is a whole lot easier than sitting down and paying 1000 all at once! Same with car payments (for those of us that have one or two!)

And since everything is automatic we don't have to sit down and think about what we are paying. We can sit down in from of the TV knowing our bills are paid (on time at that!) and enjoy ourselves!

La Petite Chic said...

Jon and I document every penny we spend and it totally keeps us on track. Though I occasionally, ahem, go over my allotted budget :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we spend way too much of crap. Mostly food. You will probably be floored by how much you spend on everything. It's amazing.