I love a good money challenge. I find them a fun way to push and hold yourself accountable.

We’ve used them to also keep us motivated when we were paying off our non-mortgage debt, saving for a vacation, or find creative date night ideas.

Honestly saving money just to save money can get old. A challenge can mix things up and a great challenge can change your perspective and open up an opportunity to adjust a habit.

How Much are Your Wants?

Recently one of my favorite people – J Money – shard a simple (and eye-opening) challenge about tracking your wants that can help you control your spending habits.

I started it and even though I would say we’re pretty savvy about spending, this challenge showed us that we have some areas we need to stay on top of better.

Control Spending Habits by Tracking Them

We’ve all heard about how tracking your spending makes you aware of what you’re actually spending versus what you think you’re spending.

Years ago, we came face to face with how much our date nights plus lunches out were costing us.

Seeing those numbers gave us the clarity we need to make smarter choices. We found cheaper ways to have fun while still going out occasionally.

But sometimes it can seem overwhelming to look at EVERYTHING. So why not take a step back and try it from a very specific angle – just look at what you’re spending on your wants.

Skip the bills and just jot down (or use an app) and see on how much you’re spending on those extras.

Tracking Our Spending

I began the challenge last week and here’s how we’re doing so far:

  • Monday: $3.27 (bag of lollipops)
  • Tuesday: $8.75 (busy morning -car got inspected and I grabbed lunch on the way home from a doctor appointment)
  • Wednesday: $0
  • Thursday: $0
  • Friday: $25.25 (I meet up with a friend about every other month for lunch plus we picked up some sides for a get together)
  • Saturday: $53.12 (Our family went out to eat with friends after helping with a move. )
  • Sunday: $8.17 (grocery run for the week – grabbed smore sticks for our fire pit (2x $1.70) plus snacks)

Total for the Week: $98.56

Daily Average: $14.08

One thing I want to highlight to you that it’s not bad to spend on wants. This challenge is not about deprivation.

We all have things we like to spend money on that aren’t essentials.

Now if you’re going over your monthly budget, you should start by knocking out your excess spending.

However even if you are sticking within your budget, there is a fantastic reason to still take this challenge.

The real benefit of this challenge is to review and analyze how much value you get out of your purchases. 

We feel good about our dinner out on Saturday. We enjoy hanging out with our friends.

Now that trip to Hardee’s on Tuesday….that’s something that has to stay once in a blue moon. If we did that more often our waists and wallets would break.

for you, you may find that eating out isn’t really a big deal for you, but

Easy Money Apps for Tracking

I kept it low tech last week and just kept receipts for everything. It allowed me to quickly scan and see those little extras tucked inside those grocery and Target runs that somehow get missed.

You can also use an app like Personal Capital or Mint to see how you’re doing or if you prefer to keep tabs on this for a bit, you can use a spreadsheet.

Tiller can be a smart option for that as they can automatically pull that data from your bank and put it into your spreadsheet for you.

However you decide to do, just try it out for one week (or month) and then review the results on your next money date.

I think it’ll be a fun and eye-opening conversation that can identify those wants that bring you a lot of joy and you want to keep and those ones that could be trimmed back or even eliminated.

Thoughts on Controlling Spending Habits

How many of you have tracked your spending? How long did you do it? What did you learn about yourself? What changes (if any) did you make?

What money challenges have inspired you?

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About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

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