General chatter - Spending Journal?




View Full Version : Spending Journal?


Slim CB
09-28-2011, 02:07 PM
Hi all,

I use a food journal to write down all my meals that I eat everyday - whether good or bad. It has really helped me with this weight loss journey. I really want to tackle my finances now as I know I need to save more.

Has anyone used a spending journal? Has it helped? Do you have any tips on saving? I currently use a budget - the problem I have is sticking to it :dizzy:

Any help will be greatly appreciated....

P.S. I should add that I rarely dine out - I cook most of my meals at home and bring my meals to work...


nina125
09-28-2011, 02:27 PM
I use a site called Mint to track my expenses, debt, budget, net worth, etc. They have a free app that is also very handy.

My husband & I make enough money where we can live off one of our paychecks and save the other. However we have no been disciplined enough with our money. We did not grow up in rich households and were broke throughout college. We graduated 2-3 years ago with a lot of credit card debt. Once we got good jobs out of college, we started treating ourselves to stuff that we could never afford before. Now that we started using mint, we have paid off 1 credit card in full. We have also saved up a couple of month's pay for emergencies.

One of the ways that I save money is by asking for discounts from stores. For example, if I see something nice in Macys but they dont have a sale going on, I will ask the salesperson if they could give me an employee's discount. It works most of the time. I also negotiated my rent and they gave me about $200 discount per month and waived my deposit. Don't be shy about asking for a discount no matter where.

Also, the credit card that I paid off has a 5% cash back (upto $300 per year). So instead of paying cash for everything, I use the credit card for all purchases like groceries, restaurants, and gas to earn points. I pay the balance off in full at the end of the month, plus I get some money and/or gift cards to treat myself later.

ERHR
09-28-2011, 04:27 PM
I second nina125's suggestion of using Mint if you are OK with automating your tracking. I use it because my husband does not want to track by hand, but before we were married I tracked using Excel. I literally entered every financial transaction into spreadsheets according to my budget categories. Probably whatever way you do calorie/nutrition tracking could translate to tracking money. Personally I think it helps to interact with the numbers (calories or dollars) by writing or typing them.

If your issue is sticking with your budget, you could go to a cash-only system. (Again like nina125 I use a good rewards card for all purchases, but that's because I don't exceed my budgetary categories.) At the start of the month, take out all the cash you need for all your discretionary spending (food, clothes, whatever), parcel it out into your various categories, and spend out of those amounts. When you run out of cash in a particular category, that's it! You're done spending for the month in that area. Repeat until you trust yourself to do this electronically.

My number 1 saving suggestion is to pay yourself first. Right after you get paid, transfer the full amount of money you want to save for the month out of your checking account into savings or retirement or whereever you want to put it and then don't touch it. Again, this works on the principle that spending stops when your paycheck runs out.


Slim CB
09-28-2011, 04:43 PM
Right after you get paid, transfer the full amount of money you want to save for the month out of your checking account into savings or retirement or whereever you want to put it and then don't touch it. Again, this works on the principle that spending stops when your paycheck runs out.

This is my biggest trouble - not touching my savings. I keep dipping in it and clearly it does not help situations much.....

ERHR
09-28-2011, 04:51 PM
Are you saving for anything in particular? I find it helps me to have concrete goals and purposes for my money.

If it's for retirement, generally you should be saving in a vehicle that doesn't allow for (easy) withdrawals, like a 401k or and IRA.

If it's for buying something that you know the price of, you can calculate out exactly how long it will take you to get there based on your savings rate, and I think that should help you not dip in because you would be setting back your timetable.

Is it possible that your savings rate is too aggressive? Do you really need the money you remove from your savings? Do you have an emergency fund that you don't have to feel guilty about dipping into if something comes up?

Slim CB
09-28-2011, 05:28 PM
Is it possible that your savings rate is too aggressive? Do you really need the money you remove from your savings? Do you have an emergency fund that you don't have to feel guilty about dipping into if something comes up?

Hmmm...I have never considered these before. I will have to look into these. I really think that my situation is a combination of an aggressive savings rate (maybe an unrealistic one) plus being a bit of a spendthrift sometimes. I am really going to have to reassess my situation.

Thanks for the input :)

nina125
09-29-2011, 09:39 AM
What do you usually end up spending the money on? Clothes, shoes, entertainment? Would it help if you budgeted some money for that instead of having to dip into your savings?

Slim CB
09-29-2011, 09:56 AM
What do you usually end up spending the money on? Clothes, shoes, entertainment? Would it help if you budgeted some money for that instead of having to dip into your savings?

It would be entertainment and miscellaneous things that pop up during the month. I dont normally spend extra money on clothes and shoes - since my weight loss I got some new clothes but I saved for that. Money that I spend on clothes would be to have them tailored.

ERHR
09-29-2011, 10:27 AM
I think you just have to decide to be firm with yourself - but reasonable. If you have noticed a pattern of these miscellaneous things coming up, add them into your budget and give yourself a limit. That way you are still saving (and not touching the savings!) but you have some more wiggle room in that spending category.

This is something we do that maybe will help: We have about 7 different savings accounts for irregular expenses. Basically everything that we know we're going to spend money on on a less-than-monthly basis gets a savings account (cars - parking permits, insurance, repairs; travel; entertainment - season tickets to musicals, season tickets to college basketball, occasional movies or concerts; etc.). Every month we save a bit of money to each account that will cover those expenses when they come up. The trick with this is that we don't spend when we don't have money in a particular category though (like for clothing) unless our regular monthly budget has enough extra room for whatever reason.

What are you trying to save money for?

Slim CB
09-29-2011, 11:02 AM
What are you trying to save money for?

I'm saving for a house :)...well the deposit and closing costs...

Slim CB
11-01-2011, 04:11 PM
It's working - I find that I am more conscious of the money I am spending just because I am writing down every dollar I spend!

PreciousMissy
11-01-2011, 05:06 PM
That is good to hear! I was going through reading all the posts looking for some good ideas...and I found one. I think I'll give mint a try.

Prism21
11-01-2011, 10:40 PM
I just checked out the mint site. Is it www(dot)mint(dot)com? I hope it's the right one you're talking about. It looks like you enter all your financial information including bank account numbers. Is that right? I'm nervous maybe I could be looking at the wrong site and don't want to subject myself to hackers.

I second nina125's suggestion of using Mint if you are OK with automating your tracking. I use it because my husband does not want to track by hand, but before we were married I tracked using Excel. I literally entered every financial transaction into spreadsheets according to my budget categories. Probably whatever way you do calorie/nutrition tracking could translate to tracking money. Personally I think it helps to interact with the numbers (calories or dollars) by writing or typing them.

......

Esofia
11-02-2011, 07:39 AM
I had a look at or two pieces of software and didn't like them, so I'm simply using a spreadsheet in Open Office. It's divided into columns for different things (food, clothes, crafts etc.), plus another column for money received (numbers put in have a minus in front of them for this one). The days of the month are in rows, with Mondays highlighted for easy navigation. Each column gets added up at the bottom, so that I can see how much I've spent overall in each category, and then there's the grand total on the right. I have a spreadsheet page for each month, and I've just copied over the page for the different months (this is before highlighting the Mondays) and labelled them.

berryblondeboys
11-02-2011, 07:55 AM
I would like something for my phone to keep track of my expenses, but not by adding in bank info - just a way to keep track of how much I spent and where = groceries, entertainment, clothes and miscellaneous stuff. If MINT uses bank info, that's not helpful to me, but having something on my phone is as DH takes care of all the bank stuff, but I do most of the spending (Stay at home mom who takes care of all the food, car maintenance, etc). And budget and me - not so good at that!

Slim CB
11-02-2011, 08:57 AM
I just use good old pen and paper. I carry a little notebook in my handbag. As soon as I spend anything I write it down.

berryblondeboys
11-02-2011, 11:21 AM
Pen and paper don't work for me. People steal my pens and or paper, of they get lost or I end up stealing the paper for something else. The phone is the only reliable thing for me - that I can also access online would be great.

Slim CB
11-02-2011, 12:12 PM
Berry, I am sure there is phone app for this..hopefully someone can give us an answer on this.

Esofia
11-02-2011, 01:20 PM
Spreadsheet app for the phone?

sotypical
11-02-2011, 01:21 PM
I am using the mint.com website as well. I did a lot of searching before adding my finical information and everything I read said the site was safe. I figure it is just as safe as my online banking site so I went for it and I am happy that I did. I have set myself budgets and usually do pretty well staying in them.

The site is usually a couple days behind but it's not too bad. It does email you when you go over a budget. This is good and bad, it seems to email you multiple times because sometimes you go over in a few areas because of one purchase. For example, this month I got reminded 5 different times that I spent $1200 more then normal on my pet. I found it is a bit of a kick in the face every time I got the email. lol

There are phone apps for it as well - and you can enter cash spending in it as you feel - perhaps you can use it WITHOUT entering your finical information? I haven't tried it. But I can't see why not?

I have tried manually writing down my purchases in the past and I stick to it for a couple days and give in. This is all done for me, tracking my band card and credit card and categorizing all my purchases.

Another downfall is categorizing stores like Costco. Some of your bill might be groceries and some might be house hold items - sometimes I wish I could split my purchases into two categories or something. But overall it is good.

nina125
11-02-2011, 02:43 PM
I have been using Mint for about 2.5 years now and I have had no problem with lost/stolen information yet. I have the app on my phone, but it is password protected. So I am not very worried that my info may fall in the wrong hands if my phone is stolen.

It made more sense to us to use Mint because my husband had 4 credit cards, and I had 3, plus student loans each, and car loans each before we got married. We decided to mingle our finances once we got married, and it just became too cumbersome for us to keep track of so many accounts at the same time. With Mint, it just made it easier for us to streamline our finances and keep track of our budget & goals.

berryblondeboys
11-02-2011, 06:22 PM
Just got the free Spending Lite app. I'll see how that works.

XLMuffnTop
11-03-2011, 01:22 PM
I have started using Mint as well and am really happy with it. I was using a spreadsheet but it became cumbersome to track unexpected and spur of the moment expenses so I always ended up adding "adjustment" expenses to get back on track which made it really hard to track where all my money was going. Like others have said, this makes everything readily available to my husband as well without having to long into a ton of different banks for credit card, car loan, mortgage and student loan info.

I don't think you HAVE to enter financial information on Mint though it does make it easier. You can add transactions manually on the online version and I think you can on the mobile app though I haven't tried it.

Mint is backed by Intuit and uses pretty much the same security as the bank (I researched!). In addition, I have a credit block placed so no one can take out credit in my name without me first being contacted and regularly monitor my credit history.

The main thing is to find something that works for you. If you don't use it, it sure won't help. (Me and Quicken! Oh jeez.)