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Utah Saves Challenge: Keep a spending log

By | Posted - Feb. 25, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- In conjunction with Utah Saves Week, Utahns are being challenged each day to make simple changes that will help improve their financial health. Friday it's all about spending and keeping track of what you buy.

Friday's Challenge:

Write down every single thing you spend money on and report your most surprising expense at the Imagine a Happier You website.

Imagine a Happier You blogger Stephanie Leavitt tried the spending log and said it invites a shift in perspective from passive awareness to active awareness.

She suggested using a notebook or your mobile phone to jot down real time spending (active) versus online bank or online budgeting to review spending (passive). The shift highlighted her triggers for going outside of her spending plan.

Triggers for going outside the spending plan

  • Hungry: dinner hour, no menu, no groceries, no preparation. "We're going out!"
  • Unprepared: Valentine's Day treats for the fifth graders came from the grocery store on the way to school.
  • Emotions: Brother bonding time; one leaving for college sees a limited window for connection. "Take the debit card and go have a good time."
  • Environment: "What else should I pick up while I'm here?"

She loved the feeling of actively managing her money and said it can be a little addicting. She enjoyed taking control so that she uses her resources in a way that aligns with her values. Small refinements lead to big victories, she said.

Kevin Townsend with Merrill Lynch also talked about the money to be made and saved through tracking expenses.

He said something as simple as bringing your lunch to work can save $40 a month. And $40 a month invested in a global flexible savings portfolio can generate $30,375 over 20 years.

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