Expense tracking

I've been doing some thinking lately about frugality.
Wilson Jones Account Book, Double Page Format, 12 Columns, 9.25 x 7 Inches, 80 Pages, 30 Lines per Page, (W74112A)(Come on, Penny, who do you think you're kidding. You? Frugal? Haha.)
No really... Lately I've been pondering the ins and outs of frugality, but more than just the details of what I do and how I do it, I've been wondering as to the whys and the wherefores. (Ok, I just used that word because it sounded big and pompous, but I'm not sure it actually conveys what I want it to.)
Yes, I'm frugal, but how did I get here? What made me be who I am today?

I am frugal by necessity, but there was one specific tip given to me once by a friend that reaffirmed my frugality... and then fell by the wayside. When writing an article about beginner's frugality, I realized just how life changing that little tip was, and how helpful it would be to start doing it again.
That tip? Keeping track of my spending. Down to the last cent. Last time I did that I realized where exactly my money was going, but I quit it once I realized that I was spending more than I was bringing in... Now that we've got our spending more under control and budgeted, I decided to try this once more.

I have a budget now, and I'm sticking to my budget. What I'm doing now is tracking my expenses in detail, leaving space for a little note, like what exactly I spent the money on. Bus money to go on my bi-weekly shopping gets marked as that, and a bus to go to town to hang out with a friend gets marked down as that. It no longer gets lumped into the "transportation" category.
But most importantly is that little box that I put, giving me the option if that spending was frivolous or not.

In the past 12 days that I've been diligently tracking my expenses... we made a grand total of 6 (Yes! Six!) frivolous purchases, money spent on nonsense. Like when I didn't feel like putting together lunch for my husband to take and he needed to buy lunch instead... Or that chocolate bar I picked up from the grocery store as a treat for me and the kids... Or that soft serve ice cream in the bus terminal.
Yup, I do spend wastefully at times.
I did not spend a lot though. Even with that, my budgeted grocery money is still staying in check and I don't think I'll be going over the budget...
But this expense tracking, it just makes me more aware. Of just how much money I'm spending that I don't need to spend. How much money could be spent on paying off debt, but instead I'm using it to buy soft serve ice cream.

Do I regret it? Honestly, no. I do think I can have some enjoyable things in life, even if they're not needs.
But I do need to remember that this is a choice I'm making and I'm choosing little luxuries over getting out of debt faster.

Tracking expenses? Definitely a terrific thing, even if you budget, even if you're frugal, and even if you think it can teach you nothing about your spending habits. This is, in my opinion, the number one most life changing frugal tip I've ever been given, and the one I suggest to everyone out there.

Do you track your expenses? In detail, or just a general overview?
What was the most life changing frugal tip you've been given?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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