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Keeping track of personal finances


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How do you people keep control of the money you spend so that you don't overspend? I know keeping busy is one way to do it. I have a hard time keeping control of my finances. I don't work but I go to school and have clinicals so I am pretty busy most of the time. I just dont know where my money goes. I dont buy clothes a lot or buy stuff. I spend money on food and gas and other stuff.

 

I dont know why I spend so much money on food. I seem to compulsively spend money on that (like the way people compusively spend on clothes or gadgets).

 

Money slips out of my hands really quickly and it bothers me, esp since I have gone through so much money since I moved out here. Granted there's lots more to do out here and things cost more out here.

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I have this problem too... I just try not to go out at all. And I limit how many times I can go to the grocery. If I only need milk, I send my boyfriend because I know I'll spend $50.00 when I go to get milk.

 

One thing I've figured out. I have two children and feel that I can justify spending money at the grocery. Even if I bought enough food to feed an army (more than enough.) I think I replaced my impulsive clothes shopping with impulsive grocery shopping! I never go shopping for clothes these days...

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I find it's usually the little things that add up. Making a budget and keeping track of how you spend is really the best way. It's hard because it takes the fun out of impulse buying. But it really works.

 

If you are spending alot on food, then you can try to stop eating out. And when you go to the grocery store, make a list in advance. Then stick to it. Again, not as much fun, but it works.

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I'mThatGirl, I understand you well. I dont go out that much either. I spent most of my free time on here. I do clothes shop a little. But after looking at my bank and credit card statements, I realize that most of my money goes to food and miscellaneous stuff. I shop for food a lot, mostly because I dont cook and I eat out a lot or else buy only enough food for a day or so.

 

I have gotten into exercising as a way of avoiding shoppin for food, but it only takes the desire away for a while. Then I go out later in the day, bounce around the mall, pick up some food, or else go to Whole Foods or something like that.

 

I was doing this even when I was living in Wisconsin.

 

I spend money on lots of strange, inane things.

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One trick I have used with a lot of success is the "wait 2 days" trick.

 

If I see something at a store that I think I want, I don't buy it right away. If I'm still thinking about it 2 days later, then I'll probably go back and buy it....but most of the time, I've forgotten about it after a day.

 

It's amazing how many things we think we need or think we have to have are really just impulse buys.

 

When it comes to grocery shopping, I only go every other week. I plan out meals and make a list. While I don't stick to the list 100%, I do make sure I buy the things I will need to make the meals I have planned. The fewer trips you make to the grocery store, the less opportunities you will have to spend money there.

 

I also don't do groceries on an empty stomach, otherwise a lot of impulse buys wind up in the cart.

 

One way to track your money is to have a program like Quicken and run everything through your checking account on Quicken. You can even set it up so Quicken downloads your transactions from your bank's website (thus saving you having to remember to enter it). Quicken can also break down your spending by category, as long as you categorize your expenditures in the program. I've been using Quicken since 1999, but there are several other money-management programs that do similar things, too.

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Oh, yeah, one other thing...if you can set up some sort of savings account that will automatically transfer money out of your checking account on a regular basis, and you treat it like one of your bills, that will help you build up savings.

 

Even better if you put your savings account in a place where it's difficult to access -- it makes you really THINK before withdrawing the money. You have to really NEED it to jump through the hoops.

 

At one point I had set up a savings account set up with a financial institution in Denver. I live in Ohio. This was pre-internet, so getting money out of that account required a long distance phone call and several days wait. They did an EFT out of my checking account for a specific amount on a specific day of the month every month. That has worked real well, because even when I got internet access for that account, I was in the habit of not touching it, thus making it easy to build up a nice little emergency fund.

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On a related note to Ellie's post...I feel so much more in control now that I've become old-fashioned and started using a checkbook instead of a debit/credit card! Since I have to write out the check, it forces me to record what I'm spending and helps me track my shopping habits. Everything is reflected in my checkbook register, I love it! Who really records what they put on a debit/credit card anyway?

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In order to try to save money and cut down on credit usage, I have stopped using credit cards for small things and use a debit card for most things. I only use credit cards for big purchases.

 

Maybe I should go the cash route, although that would be hard. Debit card purchases are hard to track. Although most people nowadays expect you to pay with a credit/debit card when it comes to most purchases.

 

Two years ago, the day before Thanksgiving, I got my purse stolen. I didnt get my credit cards or debit card replaced until after the holidays. That holiday, I had the hankering to buy an iPod ($400). I paid cash for that sucker and the clerk's eyes were bugging out watching me count out $400 in $20 bills. It felt weird to count out so much money.

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I used to be such a big clothes and misc shopper. It was nothing for me to go out and spend $200 each month (sometimes each payday) on clothes for myself and my children. I used to buy a new wardrobe for my children each season.

 

When I finally decided no more shopping, I just stopped going to the stores that have items I'd want to purchase. I finally realized that my kids don't have to have 20 top of the line outfits for each season. And I don't need many clothes either.

 

After awhile, it gets easier. Now, when I go clothes shopping, it makes me sick to spend more than $10 on a shirt for myself or them. I am a true bargain shopper but even at bargain prices, the stuff just doesn't seem worth it. I often come out of the store empty handed. Unless I'm shopping for staple items for my kids ie jeans.

 

I look forward to a little better days. When I can go shopping and get a bit more without feeling guilty. But for right now, I can be disciplined. Even with groceries . . . . I was seriously spending $200 easy every other week on groceries. It's only my two children and I. We don't eat that much and we had lots of food stashed at our house. I don't think I've been grocery shopping for 3 or 4 weeks. Besides having my bf pick up milk or misc items we run out of. It feels good to save a little money.

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I sat down and figured out a budget, then put my "spending money" into separate envelopes, $20 for morning soda in an envelope marked Soda, $50 for lunches out marked Lunches out, etc.

 

it's kept me mostly on budget, if I run a few bucks over on my lunches out, then I know that I am physically taking money from somewhere else, so it keeps me mentally in tune with what spending more money than I budgeted means.

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I have heard of the "envelope" method, and I think it can work really well for some people.

 

Actually seeing the money and having to physically move it from one envelope to another if you overspend can really drive home the point for someone who does better learning by concrete example than abstract concepts.

 

Having that much cash readily available makes me kinda paranoid, so I never tried that method myself. I've found I budget and manage a lot better if I think I'm broke all the time, so I got in the habit of stashing money in accounts I couldn't easily see (like that financial institution in Denver) rather than my checking account (which I use for all day-to-day transactions). But that's just my own quirk. That trick won't work for everyone, either.

 

No harm in trying the "envelope" method...it'd be fairly simple to set up and I think you'd find out real quick if it would work for you or not.

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