How much do you spend each month? How much do you spend on alcohol? On coffee? Do you even know? Keeping a diary of all expenses is becoming ever more popular among women, but I am willing to bet that most women who are reading this still don’t know the answers to the questions above.
Keeping a diary of all spending might seem like an unnecessary chore. I know it did for me. I felt that I knew where most of the money went. The little I didn’t know was not enough to warrant me spending all that time keeping a diary. I did reluctantly agree to keep a journal for a month after a friend told me how it had changed her life. How she had gone from not being able to save any money to being able to save 20% of her income. I did not really believe her, but I thought that I had nothing to lose. I spent a month keeping a diary and meet up with er once a week to discuss the findings. The results was shocking. Turned out that a lot more money than I thought was spent on frivolities.
How to keep a diary
Keeping a diary of your expenses can be very easy, and there are a lot of tools and apps that can help you. Two good options are Clarity and Dollarbird. You can also choose to do it using a pen and paper. I recommend you use an app. Doing so makes it easier to analyze the data gathered.
The most important thing to remember is to remember to enter all expenses, no matter how small, in the diary. Enter each purchase individually. Do not just enter the totals. Doing so can give you flawed data and cause you to miss unnecessary expenses. Let us say that you buy a chocolate bar every time you buy food. If you simply add the entire receipt as groceries, then you will never see how much you spend on chocolate.
I also prefer to assign each expense to a category such as food, travel, health, and beauty, recreation etc. as I enter them in the diary. You can do this later but doing it right away makes it a lot easier to do so and you do not risk forgetting the origin of each expense. I usually add both main and secondary categories to my diary. This allows me to see if a travel cost was work or recreational etc. It allows me to trace my expenditures better. I also prefer to add a little note to each expenditure so I can remember exactly what it was.
It is imperative to enter as much information as possible. The more info you add into the diary the more detailed picture of your economy you can get.
Analyzing your diary
Once you have kept your diary for one month it is time to analyze the data you gathered. You can start doing this earlier to see certain trends but you will not get a complete picture until at least one month past.
You can now see how much money you spent on a certain type of transaction during the month and see where all your money has gone. If you used an app then it is very easy to create different reports and filter the data as you see fit. An app will be able to tell you how much you spent on coffee, eating out or alcohol during the month. There are likely to be some expenses that surprise you. In my case, it was how much I really spend on coffee and bagels during the work week and how much I spent on wine at after work gatherings. I thought I spend some money on after work, but I never realized I spent more than 10% of my income on it. I am sure you to will find areas where you spent more than you thing, more than you think you should.
Acting on the data
You now know where you spend more money than you want to and can start trying to reduce these expenses. Changing your habits can be hard but knowing how much you can save makes it easier. Especially if you put aside all the money you save towards a particular goal. Calculate how much you could save in a year and plan a dream vacation or something else that you will be able to do if you succeed.
And keep keeping a diary to track your progress.
See if there are any friends at work or outside of work that want to try to keep a diary with you. This makes it easier to succeed and easier to change your habits afterward. If you all want to spend less money then it is easier to find new habits that allow you all to spend less money.