Dollars and sense

by Ginger on February 15, 2011

in Random

I did something this weekend that may have scarred me for good.

I spent more than 3 hours looking at every single purchase we made in 2010.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute. Think, for just a second, of every purchase you make in…let’s even say a month. Every debit purchase. Every check. Every ATM withdrawal. Every bill payment. Big or small. Every. Single. Thing.

I don’t know if I’ll ever think of our money the same way.

It’s kind of insane to see an entire year of your life through the viewfinder of your financial decisions. I could see everything laid out–trips, bills, unexpected expenditures. I could see our spending patterns–man, Saturday and Sunday get the most money love. I could see our big decisions and little ones, our good ones and our bad ones.

It was eye opening for sure, both for showing me the specifics AND for showing me the generalizations of how we spend our money. I can tell you the top 20 places we spend our money. I can tell you the top 20 TYPES of places we spend our money. Both of those are fascinating, if somewhat shocking, to get a handle on.

It’s really served to show me how removed I feel from our money. I almost always have a grasp on the dollar amount in any of our given accounts, not to mention the dollar amounts due on our bills. I know the balances. But this has shown me that balances don’t tell the whole story. Maybe that sounds like a giant DUH statement, but I’ve always just worried about the ins and outs—do we have enough to cover our bills, our savings, and our “needs” and not be totally stressed and wigged out?  If the answer to that is yes, I’ve been happy.

To start thinking about the rest of the story…well, like I said it may have scarred me for good.

KT February 15, 2011 at 5:58 am

Every week CP and I update Quicken and see how we are doing with our month-to-date budget. At the beginning of every month we then do a summary of the last month to see how we did. It’s amazing how much money goes towards food. And how a few little purchases add up.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks February 15, 2011 at 7:12 am

Do you use something like Quicken to track your $$ or does your bank run end of year analysis for you? I think I’d die a little inside if I saw those numbers for our house. Sigh.

Ginger February 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm

We’ve been using, which means we can look at everything (well, not cash purchases. But our cash purchases are very few and far between) since we signed up, which was like a year and 1/2 ago. We mostly did it to track N.C.’s business expenses, but the byproduct is that all our expenses filter through.
It’s a little mind-blowing.

Alexis February 15, 2011 at 9:18 am

That would be sobering. I am sure we waste money left and right. I agree that once you feel like you have your bills covered, your investments on track and some money is in the bank it gets far too easy to become lax about day to day spending. I have savings project in the works inspired by just this realization.

You were very brave, good job!

Brooke February 15, 2011 at 9:43 am

I just did that with one month worth of expenses and broke everything down. I know I can’t manage the cash system prescribed by Ramsey, but we created a list on a white board of every expense we know ahead of time we have for the month, and this month has been ridiculously better in regards to careless spending.

Perpetua February 15, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I have to give you credit for doing that. Since I’m not working this year, I’ve been avoiding looking at where my money goes because I don’t have any money coming IN, and that is scary (we do yours-mine-ours finances, though to be fair, my husband pays for pretty much everything “family” related, and “mine” is for stuff like coffees and books and stuff).

So, major kudos to you for even keeping such good track of this stuff! I would love to hear the top 20, by the way.

Ginger February 17, 2011 at 9:41 pm

We didn’t really do it on purpose, we just needed to have a way to track N.C.’s business expenses, so everything ends up getting tracked. It’s super sobering.

I like to avoid it, but man it was like a slap in the face when we finally looked.

Dead Cow Girl February 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm

My husband keeps track of every dollar we spend in quicken. This has lead to many conversations that begin with things like “We need to discuss your Target expenditures…”


After living in a cash world for years before meeting him, most my adult life in fact, this whole idea fascinating, but so very foreign. I think I’m slowly driving him mad with my inability to keep a receipt.

Ginger February 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Yeah, Target has it’s own category in our software. It’s…scary.

We have to keep receipts of a lot of stuff for my husband’s business, so I’ve gotten better about that over the years, but man, it sucks to have those little pieces of paper floating around!

Elizabeth February 17, 2011 at 12:25 pm

That sounds like a really good exercise. I try to keep up to date with categories for where we spend, but it doesn’t always happen.

Ginger February 17, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Yeah, the whole reason we did this exercise was because we needed to update Mint for tax stuff. I wish we were better about doing it monthly, but instead we end up doing it all at tax time. Ugh.

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