Exactly 7 years ago today, my journey into addiction began. It was a beautiful Tuesday morning when it started. There were no signs that that day was gonna go down in history as the day I began this long journey.
I didn’t plan to get addicted, though. It just happened. So, they say it takes 21 days of consistent practice to form a habit. Well, I simply did it one day at a time and I am where I find myself today.
Through that month, we were being taken through a series tagged “Real Money” in church and I had learnt about the importance of making notes about the entry and exit of money in my personal space.
Listening to Pastor Sam Adeyemi (not my husband, but my Pastor) teach about expense-tracking, he shared the many benefits of writing down how much you spent on a daily basis. As part of his sermon, he casually mentioned how he was aware that many people listening will not take action, despite all they now knew. He also shared how some will start out but give up the exercise after only a short time. It’s just life; that’s how it is.
There and then, I made up my mind not to be part of that statistic. I decided to take his advice. More importantly, I resolved not to give up along the way.
So, on that Tuesday morning, I began tracking my expenses. I remember my saintly friend, Tosin Gbadamosi-Muritala had gotten married two days earlier and I had gone (alongside her sister) with her to her in-laws. I returned from the trip to create a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that not only allowed me to track my expenses but went further to analyze same.
I figured it made more sense to, by the same effort, find out what I really was spending money on, rather than just knowing I had spent a certain amount of money in any particular month.
For someone who has lived her life not only refusing to get addicted to any thing or person, but empowering others to do same, I can say this addiction is one I am proud of any day. And, I’ll tell you why…
Expense tracking helps you to come to terms with reality. You break out of the illusion of your economic status, and can then go on to apportion your resources appropriately – in line with your dreams.
During the first month of tracking my expenses, analysis at the end of the month revealed that I had spent about N3,000 on Fried Yam and Akara. My dear Mama Aisha lived in the same compound with me and fried these as an additional stream of income. So, nearness to market worked in her favour and against my goals. Lol!
There I was, priding myself as a distinguished youth who knew the importance of personal development and had it written down as one of my goals for the year. But, tracking my expenses from the 13th day of the month till the 31st revealed that my written down ‘goal’ was a mere wish. I was investing more in, not even healthy food but, a snack than I was in personal development.
The least I could’ve done is buy shares in Mama Aisha’s Yam and Akara frying business. That way, when she declared profit at the end of the year (or month or week), I could at least benefit from my investments. Analysing my expense pattern revealed to me that I merely admired rather than valued personal development.
Again, expense-tracking helps you to prepare for the future. When you decipher how much exactly you need monthly to exist, you can put away that sum for a couple of months and then go on to invest the rest of your money along the lines of those things you must achieve or experience during your lifetime.
Expense-tracking also empowers the budgeting process. One reason people give up on budgets, claiming they don’t work, is that the budgets are unreasonable ab initio.
If you do not know that you typically spend up to 20% of your income on entertainment monthly, for example, suddenly deciding to reduce your spending on entertainment to about 10% or 15% of your salary is an exercise in futility. This is so because there is no basis for that figure. You may try at first, but chances are that you will give up along the way.
Personally, tracking my expenses acts like a pseudo auto-biography. Since I began this activity (sorry, addiction, lol), I realized that I only need to go through my trackers to know what I spent money on on any particular day. Once I do this, I can tell where I went, who I interacted with, what happened to necessitate those expenses on my tracker, etc.
As you may have realized from my account thus far, the benefits of tracking your expenses far outweigh the initial discipline you need to make it a habit and, hopefully, like in my own case, an addiction.
I’d love to hear from you…what addiction of yours has proved to be a virtue?
And, how can I help with regard to tidying up your finances?
Kindly share your story in an e-mail to me via: firstname.lastname@example.org or, simply leave a comment below.
LIMER Personal Finance Coach