Solving the Mystery of Where All of Your Money Goes

Some years ago my husband and I started tracking our expenditures to get a handle on what we were spending. This lasted, oh, about 3 1/2 weeks. It’s not unusual to lose steam with this task. In fact a colleague, Sandi Martin wrote a hilarious post about it, you can read it here and here’s another and another about trying and failing at budgeting. My hubby and I have since tried again (and again) and I think that’s the main point: Keep trying. One time he emailed me asking, “Where does it all go and what does it all mean?”

I’m putting together a money management and budget work book; a judgment-free, mindfulness-enhancing, Biblically based version. It includes some pages to track your spending by category and then by sub category.
Guess what I left off of the original list?
Laundry detergent.

You know what else? (This is kind of embarrassing since so many people are committed to this ongoing purchase.)
Cell phone bills.

Yes sometimes these things of life go unnoticed while we journey through the typical financial cycle of working, earning money, trading money for goods and services, and repeating this cycle for what seems like forever.

I think most people assume that retirement means
they’ll be free from this cycle when, in fact,
you must actually change the steps of the cycle
and replace earnings from working with withdrawals from savings.

Perhaps people are afraid they won’t be able to make this change
and cannot figure out how to save money, any way, and therefore plan to go on with the current cycle indefinitely.
This is not inherently wrong, it’s just something to be aware of: Your perception of your own choices. After all, saving for retirement is about living for today.

I read a curious blog post by serial entrepreneur James Altucher, it was about how he lives no where and owns almost nothing. You can read it here. An element that is missing from the author’s experience is providing for a family (be it children, siblings, parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents and friends that are like family); a major component of most of our lives when it comes to money – how we earn it and how we spend it.

Speaking of spending, here is a sneak peek at the categories and sub categories I’m including in the work book so you can start to get an idea of where all of your money goes:

_____property taxes
_____Snow plowing/Landscaping
_____Cleaning (service, supplies)

Child care 
_____babysitters/daycare/afterschool programs

_____Car payment
_____Maintenance/car wash


_____Purchases (work, play, special occasion, footwear, outerwear)
_____Cleaning/detergent/fabric softener

Personal care
_____Hair cuts/color/products
_____Spa treatments
_____Life coaching/therapy
_____Gym memberships
_____Yoga, pilates etc.

Medical, dental, vision, Rx
_____Insurance premiums
_____Alternative modalities

_____Student loan(s)

_____Movies, theater
_____Cable, satellite

_____Transportation (flights, car, bus, train)

Charitable contributions
_____Via payroll deduction
_____Random school fundraisers

Miscellaneous (wait until you see this list!)
_____Cell phone
Pet expenses (totally worth every penny)
_____vet/meds (our beloved dog just had 31 teeth removed)
_____wedding / shower / baby shower
_____cards/wrapping paper/shipping
Hobbies, sports
Professional advisors
_____Tax preparation
_____Financial planning
_____Long-Term Care

Overwhelming, isn’t it? And this is only personal expenditures, I didn’t even include income or payroll taxes! I also didn’t include credit card payments or savings (short term or long term). This is because, unless you do the savings automatically and first, there will be nothing left in your budget by the time you run through this list. Don’t you wonder how your parents managed? But look at the list; so many things didn’t even exist then.

There is an exercise I ask my clients to complete which is helpful in determining what and how to change based on each of their WHY: Their individual motivations and drivers.

Getting to WHY is a matter of determining your core values (i.e. family, kindness and health) and your core needs (i.e. acceptance, harmony, and physical activity).

Once you know your WHY (what your core values and needs are, and those of your spouse and/or children if you’re a householder) you are in a position to make better choices going forward with the HOW.

For example, if one of your core values is health and one of your core needs is security, you may choose to allocate more of your spending to health and wellness as well as health insurance and savings, and choose to reduce spending in categories that may conflict with your desire to attain or maintain your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health and/or compromise your feelings of security.

It’s not easy, but you can do this.

To live is to choose - Kofi Annan

Email me if you’d like a free copy of my New Year’s Resolutions Worksheet “Re-Solutions” and/or a copy of my quarterly newsletter.

About Amy Jo Lauber

I help people who are overwhelmed take control & make good financial decisions with confidence and experience peace and abundance. Are you ready to say goodbye to working hard but not having anything to show for it? Go to "Let's Talk" tab to schedule your complimentary initial consultation and take the first step on the path to financial empowerment.
This entry was posted in Budgeting, Personal Finance with a twist, Saving, Tackling debt and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Solving the Mystery of Where All of Your Money Goes

  1. Pingback: What I See in My Work as a Financial Planner | LIFE: Live Inspired, Financially Empowered

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