Journey-Man here again,
Last time on the LSJ* (It’s just like Survivor!)
I am on the way now. I’ve spent time on introspection and analysis and I’ve started putting one (financial) foot (carefully) in front of the other. I received my first salary payment and I am being intentional about what I am doing with it. I have set up a scoreboard to keep track of my progress (emergency fund, killing debt and saving) and I know I need to spend less.
Hmm, spending less…
Wow, spending less is more complicated than I imagined.
I am going to deal with the issue of spending in two parts, firstly, in this article I am going to deal with what I am spending and then, in the next article I will cover how I am spending.
As part of the Late-Starter Journey, I am trying to be intentional about every cent that I spend, every purchase that I make and every cent that I save and invest.
Being intentional takes time and involves slowing things down. Every time I am making a decision to spend, even for the small things, I must be intentional. I must ensure that my brain is awake and aware and that I must not pay for anything unless I am fully engaged. That may sound crazy and you may be thinking that this is obvious but I have noticed (and it isn’t just me) that we (apparently intelligent) humans can switch the sound off when we don’t like the truth.
I will be intentional!
I am not the kind of person who ever worried about the rands and cents as I spent them, as long as they were in my account (pretty much any account of mine), I would spend them.
Much, though not all, of my unnecessary spending was on what I assumed, were insignificant things; coffee and breakfast, trips to the local grocery shop for ‘treats’, online software and apps, books (both online and from the bookshop) and dinners for the family (take-out and sit-down). These minor expenses never bothered me at all. The truth is that every cent I spent on these ‘little’ things was wasted. I have been robbing future-me. Confronting the truth is difficult (actually wondering how I ended up being ‘this guy’ is difficult) – but as we know, the Truth shall set us free. And He did!
It seems to me that I was in a haze for a long time. I have been like a drug-user, oblivious to the signs, unable to resist and completely addicted.
Track it? Track it!
I decided that, in order to build (improve, encourage, regain) self-control in terms of my spending habits, I need to work on my discipline (that sounds scary for some reason).
I can’t believe it but I started tracking my expenses. It was a strange decision for me because I always said (mainly to myself) that I didn’t want to become ‘that guy’, the frugal guy counting pennies! But desperate times…I am sure you can insert your own cliche here.
I like simple stuff so I found a free App, downloaded it and started using it (I am using Spending Tracker but you can find one that suits your tech-appetite). For the next few months I will be tracking my spending sharing the results as I get there. My friend at ‘Take Charge’ has written a cool post on using the YNAB expense tracking app in South Africa.
For now, I can share, that it has already been very enlightening and has shown me some important things (like how much it really costs to have a coffee and breakfast every other day – that lasted two days!)
The main lesson that I have learnt (even though I have only been tracking for two weeks) is that my brain is an amazing machine. It can be completely deceptive when it comes to keeping me happy! It is as though when I don’t consciously consider a purchase (especially with my credit card, which I will deal with later) my brain gets very hazy. I can easily forget what I have spent in a day.
Thankfully, that becomes a lot more difficult when I track my expenses. That has been my experience thus far.
I am not sure that tracking expenses can be a life-long habit but I believe that it can build the life-long habit of being consciously aware of where your hard-earned money is going. I can already see that tracking expenses wakes up my brain, wakes up the disciplined-me who sees the future-me and reminds future-me that every cent I spend now, cannot be invested (so that it can grow) for future-me (I will chat about future-me in later articles – he is a fascinating guy).
Tracking expenses is not new, I know that for many of you reading this it will indeed be old news. But for some, like me who have left things very late, this is a fundamental step in the right direction. Understanding, analysing, curbing and fixing our spending will be foundational to savings and investments.
There are other ways.
You could, for example have a spend-free month (I may do that next) or you can choose other ways. The point though, is that you need to admit the problem, you have to see the addiction and you need to take drastic action. If you are a disciplined person this may be easy. For most of us though it will be quite difficult. But that is where persistence and consistency pay off.
Keep at it! If you fall off the horse, shake the dust off and get back on quickly. Forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes and move on. Your Late-Starter Journey is all about forward momentum, going in the right direction for as long as you can.
Don’t let the falls stop you.
Have a look at this one too, Track it or Lose it
Until next time, this is the Journey-Man.
Working hard, walking hard and taking drastic action. Not just for myself, but for my kids and the next generation of Journey-Men and Journey-Women.
Next time on LSJ* : It’s War! #creditcardsmustfall
*LSJ : Late-Starter Journey (of course)