Budgeting: How Much Honesty Can You Take?

Putting on the coffee pot at home requires no confessions to Quicken!

…Putting on the coffee pot at home requires no confessions to Quicken!

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article today.  The article compared daily tracking of expenses (with Quicken or Mint, for example) with periodic budget assessments.  It won’t come as a surprise to you that I am a firm believer in the daily tracking method to keep my finances under control.

The article mentioned that one of the reasons people aren’t successful with daily tracking is that it “takes more honesty than many people can muster.”  Honesty, though, is the main reason that daily expense tracking works!  We have a set amount of money we can spend each week, and every lunch out, trip to Starbucks, or tank-top from J. Jill comes out of that pool of money.  When we confess to Quicken at the end of the day, we can immediately see that those small expenses do add up, especially with two people drawing from the same pool of money.

Daily expense tracking is like the Weight Watchers method of dealing with finances.  I imagine that the food points-system that Weight Watchers uses helps prevent mindless eating, and certainly daily expense tracking helps prevent mindless spending.  Daily tracking probably saves us a minimum of $100 a week, or $5200 a year. Unless I become “Oprah Rich” someday, I need that daily dose of honesty to do my part in freeing up money for the bigger goals we have in life.

I would love to hear your take on the article, or learn about your system for knowing what money you have to spend.


8 thoughts on “Budgeting: How Much Honesty Can You Take?

  1. Heidi @ lightlycrunchy

    I have a schedule of monthly expenses (insurance policies, mortgage, investments, bills) that lists their exact or approximate amounts, which I check against our overall income for the month and then can watch our discretionary spending to make sure we are staying on track. I’ve been doing it for long enough now (and my spending is minimal) that I don’t check it more than a few times a month, but we are usually always right on track.

  2. Becky

    This is a tough one for me! I often face a burnout of tracking my expenses because it is tedious (and I am a little scatterbrained!), but I always come back to it because it keeps me accountable for my actions. Sometimes, I don’t want to ‘muster the honesty’, but then I have to take a deep breath and just do it, because I know in the end that’s what will keep me on track for savings!

    1. healthfulsave Post author

      Some days I wish I didn’t have to muster the honesty either! We do have a his and hers “mad money” category in our budget which is for “just because” spending, as in “just because I felt I needed it!” As a couple, it prevents tit for tat spending… you know… he bought a new tie, so I need to get a new purse…” That can be a rough path to go down!

  3. Kris

    It’s funny you mentioned this–I did Weight Watchers several years ago (successfully!) and my impression was the same–the overall strategy used in WW to manage your food intake would be great for money management. The thing with WW that I have found to be necessary for me is that I have to keep up on the maintenance program–it’s so easy to fall off the wagon–but isn’t that true with our money, as well?

    1. healthfulsave Post author

      You are absolutely right… If I weren’t using Quicken every day, it would be far too easy to hide those trips to Starbucks or lunch out from my budget. Like WW, you can still have your latte (or buy it, in this case!) but you need to be a little more intentional about it. Sometimes it makes special purchases even better, because you aren’t just spending out of boredom. Thanks for your comment!


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