I’ve been tracking my discretionary spending since February – every dollar I spent has been written down and considered and agonised over. It’s been a very rewarding practice in discipline and in attention to detail. I’ve learnt a lot about how quickly money can vanish when you aren’t paying attention, turned into coffee and glitter and blown away.
While I’ve learnt a lot about what I spend, the most surprising thing is that for once, I succeeded in not buying clothes. I have set goals on countless occasions to stop buying outfits and shoes and accessories, only to be thwarted by my own materialism. I allowed too many flash sales and pushy friends and bored lunch breaks spent window shopping to get in the way of actually exercise some willpower. And so I never did. But this time, with my focus on using my $120 a week on things I truly need or that spark joy, all of a sudden – I have only bought one item of clothing since January. In comparison, I was too scared to even look at my credit card statements (other than to pay them off in full) in 2014, as I always knew I’d spent hundreds more than I could acknowledge ok clothes I didn’t even like that much. This shift says so much to me – that clothes do not, in fact, spark great joy. That there is more to my life than looking a certain way or being a certain way. And that my willpower is much stronger when it is directed to creating a small habit of writing down my spending, than pushing myself to quit something or utterly overhaul my life.
I continue to track my spending in handwritten A4 sheets, and entering the data weekly in to my spreadsheet. Some weeks still suck – for example, I was right on track last week until an extremely aggravating parking ticket pushed me over the edge by $3.62. And sometimes, the urge to splurge is so overwhelming it hurts. I use a bunch of strategies to stop me in these moments: looking at my savings balance; physically walking away from the temptation for five minutes; looking at my sheet of tracked expenses to remind me what it’ll do to me; just saying no. And slowly it works.
The best part about tracking my spending is that by the end of the year, I hope I can report back that I have only bought a few more items of clothing. Starting with socks, because if I don’t get a proper pair of socks that actually match soon, my adult status is going to be revoked and that would be a tragedy.