Years ago I was working as a radio DJ in my city. Had my own show, a lot of experience, a very good salary (especially since I was working 4 hours/day from Monday to Friday only) and a great bunch of colleagues. I wasn’t married back then, was living with my folks at home and most of my needs were catered for. I had to pay for my mobile phone bill (which I was always smart enough to keep to a minimum and contribute a little when it came to the regular household expenses). Nothing out of the ordinary, had no debt, most my money would go for my own enjoyment.
Yet each and every month my money was gone. I didn’t have any kids, monthly payments, wasn’t even saving, because, like many others say, I was left with nothing to save. My family was never big about me becoming too preoccupied with money and never had any expectations for me to buy stuff into the house or help them with too much money, but they would still ask me from time to time: OK, where is your money going?
I had no idea.
In my defense, there were items for which I’d save diligently for months: a new fridge for us, some home improvements, a TV set etc. But they weren’t that expensive (compared to my wage), so there was still a lot of money going into something resembling the Bermuda Triangle, cause there was no better explanation to be found anyway.
My expense tracking meant summing up the phone bill, house related expenses and all other ‘big items’, since it was easy for me to recall these out of my head. And then … blank.
Few months before losing my job (don’t know, it’s almost like ‘someone’ tried to prepare me for my future employment disaster), I stumbled across a small PC program that would allow me to track my expenses. I was never a ‘pen & paper’ gal and my experience with Excel is VERY limited. Let’s say that, to now keep a budget, I downloaded a sample to tweak (had no idea how to set any formula or add/subtract numbers) and am using that.
Anyway .. I digress ..
So I download the software (it’s called AceMoney) and installed it on my computer. Then, as a test, I started tracking ALL my expenses (not just the ‘big’ ones). The end of the month came with an almost a stroke inducing conclusion: my small expenses were adding up into a monster money-loss. What were these expenses, you ask? Ice cream every few days at a nearby Gelateria and I mean some serious Italian ice cream. Delicious and, as any good thing, pretty expensive. A soda almost daily (not big can, but enough to add up). Every 2-3 days we’d order pizza. We were working for very few hours and yet we wanted to eat. The pizza was almost like a social event for us.
I NEVER smoked in my life, can’t fathom how bad my money situation would have been if I’d be adding at least a pack/day.
Anyway, the occasional taxi (so that I don’t use the public transportation or, god forbid, walk), the pizza, some clothing (though I was never into fashion, so this wasn’t something I’d splash on), sweets, soda etc. would add up and drain my money ‘pool’ like nothing else.
There were people in my country who, with the same money, would support a family, pay the bills and even save some money, while I couldn’t ‘stretch’ my paycheck from one month to another. I’d love to tell you how, after this experience, I became more responsible with my money and how wonderful everything was. But I didn’t. Just like many other people who make such mistakes (and KNOW they make them), I lacked the focus and drive to do something for myself.
I was living a cozy life, didn’t have to worry about anything, just little after that I also signed a car loan, since I ‘had’ to have a car and couldn’t be bothered to save.
After losing my job and being neck deep in debt, I started being a bit more responsible with my money, since now I was this close to lose everything. Have made mistakes, that’s for sure, but never squandered my hard worked money like before.
So, just because your coffee costs 2 bucks, it doesn’t mean it’s an expense you won’t feel one day. Small amounts add up to huge numbers. It’s the same with spending, it’s the same with saving. It’s interesting that many people won’t bother save even few bucks (since they consider it’s useless, if they can’t save 10K at once), but they’d spend the money carelessly, forgetting that every day’s small expenses add up at the end of the month.
What lessons did I learn from all this?
- TRACK YOUR EXPENSES – have done this for quite a while and it helps me see where my money is going each month. Whenever my husband is jokingly asking me: ‘where did the money go?’, all I need to do is to open my AceMoney installation and I know where each and every cent is going. The results are staggering, but really useful
- STOP SPENDING LIKE CRAZY – now I know that even the ‘small money’ is money after all. Don’t think I stopped treating myself with a nice cappuccino when meeting a friend or that I don’t ever eat anything out. I don’t support the idea of never doing something, since at the end of the day money is here for us to also enjoy it. But it doesn’t mean I spend it daily for these ‘treats’. Every few weeks, it’s OK, but not daily anymore.
So, before you slide that credit card or take the cash out for something ‘cheap’, think that, doing it often, will add up. Do enjoy life, but don’t squander your money. Whether your spent 500 bucks to pay for your car or eating out, it’s the same amount, even if eating out didn’t cost you much at once, only few bucks each day.