Try keeping track of all your income and all your outgo for a month. Get a small notebook and start writing down all of your expenditures, no matter how large or how small. Write down all of your income, too, including the pennies you find on the ground.
At the end of the month, go through your list. Where are you spending money? Do you spend it the way you thought, or is it being spent on things that you don’t care about? Are there easy ways to cut back or spend money so that it matters to you more?
Many financial planners recommend this as a first step with clients. You can do it right now, by yourself, without paying an hourly fee.
Recently, I made this recommendation as part of a client project, and the response was that this advice was too old-fashioned for the sophisticated audience for the piece. After I reminded myself that the customer is always right (hah!) IO pointed out that this advice is old-fashioned because it works. Sure, you could upload all of your financial records into a web-based solution and then download them into a spreadsheet and analyze the results with the help of pivot tables, but let’s face it – most people need it to be easy.
Our lives are complicated enough.
If you’re stuck, get out a notebook and start keeping track of your spending. It will make a difference.