Learning to Spend Money Efficiently
We have a goal. We want to be efficient spenders. We want to gain the most value and joy from each dollar we spend. Earning money is hard work, we don’t want to waste it on things that are of little value. To help us do this, we don’t budget, instead we track our expenses, and review them regularly to see if what we are spending our money on is bringing us real value.
We have found truth in the saying “when performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates” (Thomas S. Monson). Each month we take the statements from our two credit cards, our bank account, and our HSA and we combine them into one spreadsheet. This shows us how much we spent on what, and we can easily compare our spending to previous months.
If our spending increases in certain areas, it gives us an opportunity to look at why. If spending decreases it allows us to notice the change and determine if it affected our lives in a positive or negative manner. As we have consistently done this we have found our spending has decreased in most areas, but there are some areas where we have decided to increase our spending, for example weekends away from home.
Here is a comparison of our average monthly expenses over the last 2 years:
You will notice that in most areas our spending has decreased. Although, in a couple of areas it stayed pretty level or even increased.
The three areas our spending decreased were car, food, and other. Food was a particular focus this year, we had a goal to eat healthier and make food preparation simpler. We succeeded on both accounts. The result being significant savings at the grocery store. For the car our fuel costs have decreased because Nathan is working from home and we downsized to a single car. For the other category we just stopped buying so many clothes and stopped making impulse purchases on Amazon.
Housing and medical are the areas that have been least impacted by tracking our spending. If utility prices go up, they go up, and we are happy spending the extra money because we don’t like having a cold or dark house. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t careful and efficient with how we spend our money in these areas. For example we shop around to make sure we are getting good value with our house insurance and make sure we aren’t wasting water or electricity.
Overall, by tracking and reviewing our expenses, we have reduced our monthly spending by almost $1,500 a month. This means we have more money to save - which adds significant joy to our lives - and we have more money to spend on what really matters.
Tracking our spending takes us about an hour each month. The savings though make it clear that this time has been well worth it. When you pay attention to where your money is being spent, it's much easier to see where you have been foolish. Small improvements compound over time, until, before long, you'll find you're spending your hard earned money far more efficiently than you realized was possible.
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