We’ve now looked in some detail at the Daily and Weekly Weigh-Ins, a keeping of numbers that will tell you how much you’ve spent, what you’ve spent it on, and how much you could have saved had you bought only what’s more necessary rather than less. In order for these numbers to begin revealing the particular figures in your shopping carpet, the patterns that characterize your spending, expect to keep this data for two-or better three-months.
• At the close of each week, x-ray your spending habits by transferring your Daily Weigh-In data to the Weekly Spending by Categories form. (Don’t agonize about categories; just use your common sense. I’ve largely followed the excellent work of Karen McCall in naming and organizing these categories, and you aren’t likely to have much trouble deciding where to put any expense. If you’re ever in doubt-does an expensive pre-movie dinner count as Entertainment or Food?-make a reasonable decision. What’s most important is that you enter all your expenses and be consistent about categorizing them.)
• Then total the seven days’ amounts for each category in which you’ve spent. Two or three months of Weekly Spending by Categories data will tell you unequivocally what your problem categories are and give you a well-lighted target as you design a more measured and sensible spending plan.
A few final points about the categories. You’ll notice Savings/Investment at the top of Weekly Spending by Categories. That’s to emphasize the centrality of this much-neglected category; remember, pay yourself first. By the same token, though Debt Repayment is listed last, it is by no means least important; paying down your debt is a cornerstone of financial health. And don’t forget Heartsongs. As you move from excessive spending to realistic spending, play yourself some joyful tunes. Balance, here and in all things, is the watchword. Finally, as you keep your numbers, allow me to remind you: use only cash, check, or debit card. A credit card for an overshopper is like lighter fluid for a pyromaniac.
Carrie Rattle is a Principal at BehavioralCents.com, a website for women focused on mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence.