Track your expenses, save for retirement, and create a spending plan by writing it all down.
Posted in , Oct 13, 2021
During the early days of the Coronavirus Pandemic I started a ritual that seemed, if not life-saving, than sanity-saving. Every morning, rain or shine, I’d roll out of bed, throw on my jeans and sneakers and walk almost a mile to a cutesy little coffee shop which was conveniently situated steps from a picturesque waterfall. I’d buy a cup of coffee—and think.
When a friend pointed out to me that I was spending more than $1,000 on coffee each year, I felt mildly annoyed. After all, I need my coffee and considered it money well spent.
But then I started writing it down. In my planner, I’d track how much I spent on coffee each week. It was somewhere between $15 and $25. Not earth shattering, but that is still up to $100 a month. Then I started writing down other expenses, like groceries. It was enlightening to see how much more expensive that trendy new supermarket really is—and to pay attention to how easily I could shave some money off of my weekly bills with no noticeable sacrifice on my end.
5 Reasons to Stick with a Print Planner
Another plus of using my planner is that it helps me keep on top of recurring bills that are on automatic payment. While this arrangement eliminates any late fees, at times, I’ve forgotten about these bills altogether! At one point, my heating gas expenses almost doubled—but I didn’t notice it for almost a year. A quick call to the gas company uncovered an issue that was easily resolvable and the fees went back down. Now that I have a reminder to write down all my household expenses at the end of the month, I’m not blindly spending extra money anymore.
Here’s how to plan your way to financial success.
Track your expenses. Write them all down; the more detailed the better. From that small cup of coffee, to filling up the car with gas to the emergency trip to the orthodontist for your child’s broken palate expander. (Am I the only one that happened to?) The clearer picture you can get the easier it is to take action.
Set goals and deadlines. Are you hoping to buy a house in the next year? Take a dream vacation? Do you need to put away more for retirement? Whatever your goal is, write it down boldly at the top of each month—and then calculate how much you need to save each week to get it done.
Color Code. If you want to know what your week looks like at a quick glance, I’ve got two words: color code. With house expenses/plans in one color and kid’s activities in another, you can see instantly if you’re spending too much time and money in one area of your life. Use different colored pens or opt for highlighters instead. Creating a more graphically-pleasing page can also help you relax.
Make appointments. I schedule regular appointments with my financial planner, banker and others to make sure that I’m aware of what is happening with my money and to take advantage of any new savings plan.
Store your receipts in planner pockets. Choose your planner wisely—it’s important to pick one that inspires and motivates you and that you enjoy spending time with, like All God’s Creatures Daily Planner or Guideposts 2022 Daily Planner. But whatever you do, choose one with pockets. I often don’t have time to write down all my expenses, so then my receipts get thrown right into one of the pockets of my planner. That way, they are easily retrievable when I sit down to get organized.
Refer to your planner regularly. It’s just like the gym. A planner doesn’t work if you don’t use it. Set regular times to check in; some people review their budget goals every morning—and then write down how they did in the evening. Consistency is the key to success.