I hope day 1 of the February Challenge was successful for you thus far!
I'm thrilled that a few of you have pointed out that using the website Mint.com is a great way to automate part of the February Challenge- and you're right! For those of you who don't yet have Mint accounts, I highly recommend doing so. It's a free online tracking service for your personal spending, and has lots of great bells and whistles to take advantage of. I've been a Mint subscriber since early 2008, and have found it to be a very integral part of my personal finance journey.
Feel free to use Mint as a tool in your Challenge toolkit, but I want to point out a couple of things before you let Mint do all of the work for you this month.
The first may be a little obvious, but is worth making note- Mint cannot track any cash that you spend out of your pocket. It may be able to log that $40 ATM withdrawal you made yesterday, but what you ultimately spent that $40 on will remain a mystery to you if you don't track it. Did you buy lunch with that cash? Pay for parking at the airport? Get a Diet Coke from the office vending machine? Buy some new chapstick at the drugstore? Each behavior is different, and important, so please make sure your Challenge tracking reflects where your cash goes as well.
The second thing I want to draw attention to is that there may be more to tracking your spending with pen and paper than just learning where you put your hard-earned dollars. Some studies show that writing things down may help you learn better. You can read an interesting article on LifeHacker here about how you may learn better by writing things out instead of typing, as an example.
I'm not trying to get all psychological here and quote studies I don't know too many things about... I just know that for me personally, the act of taking notes by hand helps me connect more to the topic I'm actually writing. If you're the kind of person who benefits from hand writing your To Do lists, work notes, or the like, doing the whole month of pen and paper thing might help you to connect with your spending behavior in a new way.
That being said, you know yourself better than anyone else, so feel free to track your spending using the best method for *you*!
How did day 1 go thus far? Let me know!