Blown Away by the Nickel and Dime

In all my years of being a Certified Consumer Credit Counselor, the one thing almost all of my clients have in common is leaks in their spending plan. This is one area that we all struggle with, including myself. There are always unexpected expenses that pop up that you did not plan on, or things you chose to purchase that were not in your spending plan.

When I am counseling a client, almost all of them can afford monthly living expenses. But then I start to ask about eating out, gas for the car, school expenses, haircuts or salon services, tanning, gym memberships, clothing allowances, dry cleaning, etc. Soon, their surplus is dwindled away.

It is not your “primary” bills that blow your budget; it is all the “extras”. Five dollars here, ten dollars there, adds up very quickly if we aren’t paying attention. So how do we track our spending without it becoming yet another thing to squeeze into our busy lives? Here are some very “low maintenance” ways to help:

Tip 1: Fritter Finder
A Fritter Finder is something designed just for this purpose. You put it in your wallet or checkbook, and write down what you spent your money on. This is not a substitute for a register. This is where you actually write down what you spent the money on versus how much. Purchases such as coffee, work lunch, protein shake, car wash, doughnut, nail polish, shoes, etc.

Tip 2: Rubber band

We want to hear from you…
We are always looking for new real world – practical ways to help people keep track of their money and spending.If you’ve found a different way of tracking your expenses that works for you, please share it with us in the comments.One person suggested using your phone’s memo pad, which serves as a list and puts the date on the memo of the expense. So what works for you? Your input and comments are appreciated.

If writing down or making a list is too much to keep up with, try putting a rubber band around your debit card, or cards if you use multiple accounts, or your checkbook; whatever you use most for everyday spending. Once you use the card or checkbook just rubber band the receipt to it. This is also a great way to not lose your receipts. Just make sure you always get a receipt. When you sit down each day or every other day to update your register and review your accounts, remove the receipts and write on each receipt what you actually spent the money on. Be honest! If you bought a Polar Pop when you got gas, write it on the receipt. Save the receipts in their own box, bowl, or drawer.

When you sit down to plan your next month’s spending plan, pull out your Fritter Finder and review the list or dump the receipt container and look over what you wrote on the receipts. You will start to notice very quickly where your personal spending leaks are located. A friend did this; she stopped and got a cup of coffee at the gas station each morning before work. She thought she was doing well not going to Starbucks or Krispy Cream, being frugal. She learned that she was spending about $ 2.00 each work day. That’s $40.00 a month; it equals $480.00 a year. So she bought a coffee pot and took it to work. She still has her coffee, and saves herself an extra $40.00 a month which she now puts into savings.

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