Thursday, January 1, 2009

Record Everything

If you are also on a journey this year to cut your expenses or to try to live more lightly on the earth, my first piece of advice is one I'll also be taking:

Record everything.

You'll need to put a system into place, if you don't have one already. I find it easiest to do the following:

1. I keep every receipt. Every single one of them. And I pay for almost everything with cash. When I make a purchase I shove them into my wallet (not into the shopping bag). Every few days I empty out my purse and deal with them. This gives me a record of almost every purchase I make.

2. I keep a spreadsheet for all my debit and credit card purchases. I record my credit card purchases at the time I make them so that I know how much money I "truly" have left. I never, EVER, make a purchase I can't pay off instantly.

3. I keep another spreadsheet to track my grocery purchases. This gives me a handle on the costs to feed my family; plus gives me a way to track the categories of food that cost the most. These are the ones I'm trying currently to "halve". You can see my food record here. It's ugly. It's not really a spreadsheet. I wish it was. (I will fix it soon, I swear).

4. My husband pays the rest of our bills. He keeps the bills for a year, at least. He has promised to bring them to me so I can go through them and get a handle on those costs. Frankly, trying to halve the electricity or gas bill (and our usage) scares the crap out of me. But I'm going to try.

Today I'm going to spend a little time gathering all this information together to get a snapshot of where we're at: income and outgo. Then I can make a list of priorities for trying to halve our bills and our consumption footprint.

Oh, and speaking of recording everything, I'm going one step further this year. Like I said yesterday, I'll be taking a snapshot of everything that comes into this house - purchases and gifts. At the end of the year I'll have a visual record of everything we've consumed as a family. I shudder to think, LOL. Those pictures will live at The Honest Consumer, a companion blog to this one.

That's all for now. I have to admit that after years of flying by the seat of my pants when it came to my finances, it feels very freeing and calming to be able to look honestly at all the numbers and know what they are. I have my extremely practical husband to thank for that. How about you? Do you have a method for recording everything?


L Harris said...

Yep, I record everything. We have no cc. and our renovations are going to help cut our costs and usage of our utilities.

Jennifer said...

Do you ever find there are things you miss?

I have to confess that my bank statement and my own records rarely match exactly.