Inside: Automatic spending trackers are a lifeline for some people. But me? I march to a different drummer. I purposefully enter in each and every purchase I make by hand—and here’s why.
The world is full of ways to automate your life and make it easier. Everything from automatic Amazon ordering services to automatic soap dispensers to automatic butt wipers (I’m told they’re called bidets, but I digress….).
I love all of these automatic gadgets (except the automatic butt wipers…yeeeech). There’s something really satisfying about using them—like a small triumph of humanity over stupidity. It’s one of the few things that gives me hope about the future of our species, especially after I watch the movie Idiocracy.
But, I don’t always find automatic tools to be useful. In fact, one of the best examples of this is with my own budget.
Tracking Your Spending Sucks…Until It Doesn’t
When I first started tracking by budget, I was loathe to put in a lot of work. It’s enough of a hassle to start up a budget anyways. That’s why people don’t do it.
It’s like exercising. You know you need to do it, but holy wah does it suck, especially if you’re not used to it. Why not just stay at home popping cheetos, especially if you’re not seeing any immediate returns?
Over time, though, you will start to see some results. Just like how you’ll start building muscle and burning fat, you’ll start spending your money more wisely and saving more.
I hated budgeting and exercising when I first started. But, I knew I needed to do it, lest I turn into Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka, especially when I started working from home full-time.
It was a positive feedback loop. Once I saw the changes, I started tweaking little things here and there. If I’d started everything all at once, I’d have given up faster than a Presidential cabinet member.
The same thing happened with budgeting. Once I got started—even if it wasn’t perfect—I kept going. Once I got used to one thing, I added another, and another until I’m at my present, sustainable level.
Why Tracking My Own Spending Helps Me Manage My Money
One of the most extreme changes I’ve made in my budgeting process is manually entering each of my expenses by hand. Every last little purchase I make I manually type into my budgeting program.
Extreme? Yes. But does it work? Also yes.
See, I used to be a chronic overspender. If it was shiny and/or had ahi sushi in it, I bought it. I had a big problem on my hands—an $800 a month problem, to be specific—and one of the biggest things that’s helped me tamp that down has been entering in my expenses by hand each day.
Related: Need help budgeting? Check out Adam Hagerman’s Budgeting for Budget Haters e-course.
It’s not as easy as updating my budget automatically, but that’s kind of the point.
I see exactly what I spent each day, rather than forgetting about it until my credit card bill gets too high.
It’s also enough of a hassle to enter in each purchase that it makes me think twice about buying shit I don’t need.
Sure, it was a pain to start doing, but remember how I talked about the positive feedback loop? I would never have done this to start. It was only after I’d already established a habit of budgeting that I decided to take the reins from the automatic program and do it myself. That way, I didn’t get too overwhelmed with too many things at once.
Signs you might be a good spending tracker
- You like entering data (where my scientist homies at?)
- You’re a control freak
- You’ve trained yourself into other “difficult” habits like exercising and public speaking
- You REALLY need to get a handle on your spending
You Do You
I’m not gonna sit here and pretend like I’ve discovered the best secret in the entire world. If I had, I’d sure hope to Hell I’d be earning more money than I am now.
Tracking your spending by hand may or may not work for you.
For me, it’s worked great, and I want to let other people know that this is an option. But, thankfully, we’re not all the same people, and so something else might work better for you.
If you’re not down with being your own spending tracker, try these automatic options instead:
Personal Capital tracks your spending and the rest of your accounts. I even use it for my monthly financial progress reports!
Mint automatically tracks your spending and you can set up a basic budget with it. I’ve never personally used it, but I hear great things about it from other people.
Do you know of another good automatic spending tracker? Have you ever tried updating your budget by hand? Leave a comment below!