Aquiring a mortgage and other massive expenses makes it so that I really have to watch where my money goes. One of the best tools I've found for that is the "pro" version of the TrueBill app on my iPhone. For $3 a month, the app helps me to track my spending and plan for expenses, all while keeping me on top of my bills and credit cards. It also makes it easy for me to squirrel away the money I save for my Black Friday Shopping day... and my vacation. It's surprising just how helpful it's been and I wish I had started using it earlier.
One of the things that surprised me most after tracking expenses was how much I was spending on groceries. I knew they're expensive every time I end up at the store. What I didn't expect was how much it was all adding up to. The monthly total was staggering and caught me off guard when I saw it. A trip here... a trip there... the amount going towards groceries was absurd.
That's when I started buying generic or store brands instead of name brands... making my own meals instead of buying prepared... and, of course, only buying something when it was on sale (unless I had no choice). In short order I had cut my grocery bill by 30%. After a while I was pushing 40% because I got smarter about buying ahead, freezing, not buying stuff I don't need, and hunting down sales and specials.
And then there was eating out at restaurants.
I used to eat out at least twice a week. Sometimes much more when work was piled up. Which, this time of year, is often. I never gave it a thought. I never kept track. I never kept a total. But TrueBill put the expense in vivid relief. If the money I was spending on groceries was surprising, the money I was spending on restaurants was downright shocking. Once I had it spelled out for me, I stopped eating out.
From there it was only a short reach to canceling magazine subscriptions, cutting cable, and reducing the amount of money spent on entertainment.
So now, all these months later, I've gone from having absolutely nothing at the end of the month and wondering where all the money went... to not having to stress so much and being able to set aside a few bucks for when unexpected expenses come up. Which is almost certain to include a new water heater or (shudder) a new HVAC system one day all too soon.
It's a far better feeling than I ever got from the money I was tossing at things I didn't need to be spending it on.
All it took was finally taking a look at what I was spending. And finding an app to help me do it.