Weighin-In (Part 1)

“Passionately confused,” which nicely sums up our current national conversation about health care,image also characterizes the personal financial grasp of most overshoppers. Few compulsive buyers have a clear idea of how much they spend and what they spend it on. (The incentive for their confusion is straightforward: it supports denial. As for the passion, it’s there to outshout the countering claims of reason, to drown out the sensible voice inside.)

Weighing In is a technique for beaconing your way through this financial fog. It helps you twice: you being to keep close track of your expenses–how much and for what–and you start to see what you could be saving on a weekly basis if you only bought things that were more necessary rather than less.

You can keep your weigh-in data in a little blank pad you carry with you or, better still, on photo copies of the three forms you’ll see in the next few blogs. Here’s what the Daily Weigh-In Form looks like:

For the moment, we look only at the first and third columns of this form, Item Purchased and Actual Cost; and about these, only a little needs to be said:

  • Write the date at the top of each Daily Weigh-In page in advance
  • Record every purchase you make. (Use only cash, check, or debit card. No credit cards).
  • Record the Actual Cost (AC) of every purchase. Write the item and amount–to the penny!–as soon as you make the purchase, whether you pay with cash, check, or debit card. This minimizes the possibility that financial fog will roll back in. (Don’t save up receipts and enter them later; it’s too easy to forget that way.)
  • At the end of each day, add up the actual cost of your purchases and enter the total in the cells at the bottom of the form.

Next time, we’ll explore the three remaining columns, Category, Necessity Score, and Necessity Cost. These will very much clarify your financial picture. The first provides a breakdown of your spending, an x-ray according to usage. The other two address the critical issue of need. They allow you to calibrate how much you need the things you buy, and they then show you how much you could save if you only bought things that were more necessary rather than less.

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