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February Finance Challenge - An Update

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 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!

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kLl said...

I don't use Mint but my credit union has a thing where it shows you where your money is going and how much of it.

My dad tells people that if they need to be accountable for the money they spend they can call home and leave a message with the amount and where it was spent or text the information to their significant other. (he's a psychologist so this would be something he would tell couples or someone with perhaps a compulsive spending problem).

naomi said...

i love this challenge. i just created my spreadsheet and update it every morning with everything i spent money on the previous day. i know this will be an eye opening experience for me.

Lauren said...

I’ve jumped on the bandwagon and so far, so good!! This is a wonderful idea!!

Glitterista said...

I am so excited to see what a difference budgeting will make! Seeing my purchases on mint has already been very eye-opening.

Karissa said...

I downloaded the Mint app inu iPhone but never signed up online. I found a free app called Spending lite and I like it so far. I like it even more that it's on my phone that I have with my pretty much all the time so tracking is super easy.

Barefoot in the Park said...

seeing as all i bought yesterday was a bag of chips...its going great! ha. i'm getting my husband to do it too so we can see exactly where our dough goes! i have a feeling i'll splurge less so that it doesnt get written down "into the book!"

Michie said...

So far so good-- I can already see how this is going to be a big help!

Newlyweds on a Budget said...

I made one of my Jan goals to use Mint. However, I quickly realized I am just more of a pen and paper kinda girl. Ive always tracked finances on paper and I have a system that works so I just said goodbye to mint!

Q said...

Now that our house is paid off, we really need to beef up our retirement investing. Just maxing the company match of our 401k's will not cut it. But savings and paying off debt are my forte. Investing? not so much...

Seriously, if my money wouldn't lose value or possibly get stolen, I'd stash all my money under my mattress.

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