Making Tracks: My Baby Steps to Saving

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Making Tracks: My Baby Steps to Saving

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One of my favorite activities is tracking progress (preferably in a color-coded spreadsheet)-everything from my running times to my DMP progress.

Somehow I can't seem to bring myself to track expenses.

I will set up a spreadsheet for it and even add a column in my Christmas spreadsheet for it. But then I never fill it in. And then-now here's a shocker-I wonder where all my money goes.

For the first time since I started my Christmas spreadsheet, I was almost as diligent at tracking my spending as I am about all the fun things I track. I probably wasn't as good as I should have been, especially towards the end as I grabbed some last minute gifts, and I hardly ever included wrapping supplies in my costs, but it was by far the most detailed account of my holiday expenses. Ever.

So, then I got to thinking. What if I make a plan of all my expenses all year, just like I do at Christmas?

I can plan for other gifting occasions, my bills, my DMP payment, my food, you name it. And what if I'm honest with myself about what I'm spending? Since I started my DMP a couple months ago, I have spent more time thinking about these things (even if I don't always act on it).

This holiday season I learned that I controlled my spending a bit more when I actually wrote down what I was spending as I was spending it. I still ignored the "Budget" column in my spreadsheet, but for the first time, I found that if I spent a little more than I liked on one gift, I took roughly that amount out of another. While this may seem rather Grinch-like, and it wasn't my favorite thing to do, it had to be done, and my bank account was a little better for it.

Again, I'm thinking maybe I should do this all year.

Along with tracking things, I like to make lists. So, I thought I'd make a list of goals for my 2013 expenses:

  1. Make a weekly budget by category: if I track how much I spend and on what, I can pare down some purchases if I overspend in one category.
  2. Be honest about what I spend: it's not like when calories don't count because you're out of town; in real life all my purchases get deducted from my bank account.
  3. Take note of all those "minor" purchases: they add up quickly and it's easy to think they don't count when they're made one at a time.
  4. Look at my income: I've always just assumed my income and expenses are close, but I've never checked on this. I think I should. And then adjust accordingly.
  5. Learn from my expenses: it's nice to make note of all these things, but it would be even nicer if I could learn where I can cut back and actually start saving!

I know all of this will be easier said than done, and I have no doubt I'll fudge some numbers (I am an economist, after all) here and there, but this is the first time I've made a deliberate choice to track my expenses. I have to start somewhere!

Sarah Pack, New Debt Management Plan Customer with leading provider of debt relief CareOne Services, Inc.  

Sarah Pack

Sarah is currently enrolled in the CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). You can read more about Sarah's experience in the My Journey Out of Debt or A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. In her blog, Sarah shares her experience as she just starts out on the DMP, managing her own expenses and spending, and working towards becoming a better saver. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • Good luck! I am great at tracking. I can tell you where every penny goes. I just can't seem to make it go in the right places in the budget. My tendency seems to be to make a budget, spend what I need and want to spend and then adjust the budget after. That is why I always seem to end up in the grocery store with my calculator trying to make what little I have left cover the groceries.

  • I have the same problem with creating budgeting spreadsheets and filling in all the details, EXCEPT the actual costs! It's a tough habit to start. I think I need to schedule reminders in my Google calendar to sit down and review my weekly/monthly expenses.

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