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Can You Picture Your Spending?

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A few weeks ago, a reader left a fantastic idea as a comment on one of my posts.  The post discussed the importance of tracking spending, and mentioned how hard it was sometimes to remember how we've spent our money. 

The comment suggested instead of writing purchases down, to take a picture of everything with my smart phone.  My wife and I carry our phones everywhere we go, so it's extremely convenient.  It would be almost Picture Your Spending by CareOne customer blogger Travis Pizela foolproof way of remembering how we spent our money because while we commonly lose receipts, we have never lost a phone.

Wireless Router:  A record-setting May snowstorm knocked our power out for about three hours, and knocked our very old wireless router out for good.   Cost: $80.

CareOne dmp customer Travis talks about picturing his spendingSnacks for Teenagers:  On Friday night, our son had a friend stay overnight.  We were low on the things that teenagers like to eat and drink, so we made a run to the store. Cost: $32.

Dining Out:  Vonnie and I had a lot of errands to run, so we hit up a fast food pasta place for dinner on Friday.  I didn't have a high opinion of this restaurant simply because I can make a mountain of pasta for cheap at home.  But I really enjoyed the meal out with my wife and it was way cheaper than many restaurants. Cost: $18.

Picture your spending by dmp customer with Leading Provider of Debt Relief, CareOne Services, inc. Laminating Sheets:  Vonnie and I took part in a fundraising walk for MS on Saturday.  We agreed to make a sign to pin to our team's shirts.  There was a chance of rain, so we decided to laminate them for protection just in case they got wet.  Cost: $12.

Cinco De Mayo:  We had a Cinco De Mayo meal with our neighbors on Sunday.  We planned a menu, and split up the items we needed.  Vonnie and I ran to the store to get the things on our list, as well as a few other things we needed around the house. Cost: $55.Planning for spending can include documenting that spending

Grocery and Household Items Shopping: I couldn't fit everything from the trip into one picture, so I just took a picture of the receipt. Our budget was $150; we spent just over $145.

I started out liking this method simply for convenience and the very small chance of losing the pictures, but I truly got excited about it for a completely different reason.  As Vonnie and I reviewed the contents of our phone at the end of the weekend, we found that the visual of the pictures added emphasis, both Can you Picture your spending?positive and negative, to the expenditures.

  • The wireless router purchase reinforces the need for an emergency fund. While we certainly could live without it, having wireless internet in our home has become ingrained in our lifestyle. I was happy we had the extra funds tucked away to purchase a new one.
  • I can't believe how much we bought for the two teenagers. Although to be fair, the snacks lasted much longer than just that night.
  • We spent WAY more than necessary for the Cinco De Mayo meal. We could have simply gone out to eat for less than that.
  • We made three separate trips to the grocery store over the weekend. It looks like I haven't quite learned my lesson about secondary grocery shopping trips yet.

Would you consider taking a picture of all your expenditures?

What do you think it would tell you?

Related Links:

Tracking Spending Helps Me Spend Money Wisely

The Risks of Secondary Grocery Shopping Trips

Date Night at the Grocery Store


Travis Pizel, debt management plan customer with leading provider of debt relief, CareOne Services, Inc. Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family in Minnesota. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

To connect with Travis on Google+ click the

You can follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles

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  • I like the picture idea! Interesting that you could have gone out for Cinco De Mayo for less. Do you think that is because you needed food that you do not normally have on hand instead of staples you usually have? I have a question about that emergency fund. Before Tyler's friend got cancer we were at a point where we could finally had some money left after the bills. It was my thought to start a savings account rather than pay off debt. I thought after a few months of savings we could split the money and put some in savings and some on the debt. Now with my medical bills and co-pays for counselors we will not see daylight for several months but we will get back there. Do you think it is better to pay that money to the debt or savings for little emergencies? In our house being without the internet would be an emergency.

  • I LOVE THIS IDEA, Travis! You're brilliant.

  • @Kimmer5000 - the spending on the Cinco De Mayo  meal was a product of not making a list, and just running into the store to grab stuff "quick."  We grabbed everything and anything that we thought we would need.  Had we sat down and made the effort to list out what we wanted to make, and what we needed to make it the expenditure would have been much less.

    Regarding your emergency fund vs. paying off debt faster question - you NEED an emergency fund.  If you throw every penny you have at your debt, every unexpected expense becomes a 4 alarm emergency.  My recommendation to you is to meet your financial obligations (including your very important DMP payment), and when you have extra money put it into an emergency fund.  Once you have that funded, THEN you can decide whether to put more money towards debt, split it, or some other combination.  The number I always use is $1000 - Dave Ramsey calls that a "baby efund."  The vast majority of unexpected expenses can be taken care of with $1000 or less.

    Hope that helps - thanks for reading!

  • @Kathleen - well, if it isn't my newly minted DEBT FREE friend!  Once again, I'm SO happy for you.  :)  I can't take credit for the idea, it was the idea of one of my readers, but it sure was fun to do it - I may do it again!!!  Thanks for stopping by!

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