Monthly Money Mistake – November 2019

Failing to track monthly expenses

Financially I think I do a lot of things well but there is always room for improvement. The monthly money mistake series is a place where I can highlight a mistake from the previous month.  Provide follow up from previous months’ mistakes.  And record action steps for improvement in the future.

Since starting the Monthly Money Mistake series I have become more mindful of my money.  

Hopefully, this series helps to also inspire you to be more mindful.  In the end, it doesn’t matter what specifically you are spending your money on.  As long as you are aligning your spending with your values.

Remember personal finance is exactly that, personal.  I’m not here to tell you what to do or not do with your money.  I’m just going to share my journey and hope you get something out of it. 

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Last Months’ Money Mistake Follow Up

There isn’t much to follow up with on last month’s money mistake.  Once I renewed the mortgages the action was set in motion.  I am happy to report that we now have much more money going towards paying off the equity in those rental properties than we did before.  This should have a nice positive effect on our year-end net worth calculation.

I, unfortunately, have to admit that I have yet to learn my lesson about paying attention at the grocery store. Well, that’s not 100% true, I was paying attention when I went grocery shopping at the beginning of the month on the monthly discount day.  

In paying attention during the checkout process I realized that even on the monthly discount day, that particular grocery store is still much more expensive than other stores on certain items.  This was a good realization because going forward now I can get smarter.

Related Post – Grocery Shopping

I am now trying out a new adjustment to my grocery shopping.  I have created a multi-store grocery list.  As we run out of things we can add to the appropriate list.  In the first couple of weeks of trying this out, it has already made a big difference.  The key is to know which items are the best deals at each store.  Which I do know thanks to my grocery item deep dive.

If you would like a copy of my multi-store grocery list just send me an email and I’m happy to share it with you.

The Mistake

Okay, let’s get to this month’s money mistake.

I am a big fan of tracking my expenses.  Previously I used to set a rigid budget and would get extremely frustrated and angry if we went even $1 over budget.  Through many discussions, my husband has enlightened me that this is not a productive way to budget.

Although we no longer have a rigid set in stone budget I still see immense value in tracking my expenses every month.  It helps us to know where my money went, identify any areas of improvement, determine if there are any errors on my statements and to verify if I am aligning my spending with my values.

All of that is why I am embarrassed to say that I have fallen behind in tracking our expenses. In fact, at one point this month I realized that I had not tracked our monthly expenses since September! Not only was I one month behind, I was two months behind.

Falling Behind

Because I have fallen so far behind it took, what felt like a Herculean effort, to catch up.  Now I am probably over-exaggerating – a bit.  But the longer I avoided tracking our expenses, the longer it would take me to catch up.

Normally 5-10 minutes a week is all it takes for me to keep up to date with tracking our monthly expenses.  Now that I was 2 months behind all of that time added up.

It would have been easy to just say forget about the past 2 months and to just start fresh next month.  And in the past, that is what I have done.  But doing that ignores all the benefits as to why I am tracking my monthly expenses.

The Lesson

I am not tracking my monthly expenses just to check it off my to-do list.  There is actual value to this exercise.  So much value that tracking monthly expenses is one of the first things I would tell anyone trying to take control of their finances.  It is a great starting point and there is a lot to learn from doing it.

Tracking monthly expenses helps to provide an understanding of where my money went.  This process can help to identify any areas of improvement, determine if there are any errors on my statements and verify if I am aligning my spending with my values.

Even though I know the benefits of tracking monthly expenses, that knowledge wasn’t enough for me to remember to do it for the past couple of months.  By not keeping up to date with tracking my monthly expenses I am not overly confident in the accuracy of my tracking.

Also, by procrastinating instead of the task taking me 5-10 minutes it has now taken over an hour to catch up.  In the grand scheme of things, an hour isn’t that much time. But it is more time than I want to dedicate to this task.

There will always be demands on my time.  Part of the reason I am pursuing financial independence is to get greater control of my time. Putting in the effort to track my monthly expenses will help in this pursuit.  Therefore, it should be something that gets some priority on my to-do list.

Action Steps

It is easy for life to get in the way or to get caught up in the busy trap.  When this happens, I often focus on certain things right in front of me and forget everything else.  Here are some ways I can put the important things (like tracking my monthly expenses) right in front of me:

  • Create a reminder alarm in my phone for the same time every week
    • The reminder can state “track expenses” – set a reminder for Sunday at 3 pm
  • Habit stack
    • While I am taking the time to track my monthly expenses do so with a nice cup of tea.  
  • Get an accountability buddy for this task and have them follow up with me weekly
    • I love accountability buddies and have had great success with this type of relationship.  We can remind each other to track our expenses
Monthly Money Mistake - November 2019 - Failing to Track Monthly Expenses. I am embarrassed to admit this but I have failed to track my monthly expenses for the past 2 months! Read more to figure out how I intend to change this in the future. #moneymistake #handfulofthoughts #monthlyexpenses

Final Thoughts

I will be the first person to admit that I am not perfect.  Although I love talking about personal finance and do enjoy a good spreadsheet, sometimes other things in life grab my attention.  Tracking my monthly expenses (or remembering to do so) would be that much harder if I did not appreciate the task.

It would have been so easy to just skip the 2 months that I missed and to carry on from there.  But what kind of example would that have been? How can I help people with their money if I can’t even help myself with mine?

All of that being said, don’t get discouraged.  Just pick up where you left off and carry on.  Life is going to have its ups and downs, just focus on continuing to make progress.  

Yes, I failed to keep up to date with tracking my monthly expenses, but now I have taken the time to catch up and it feels so much better.

What was your money mistake this month?

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