UNITED STATES—This weekend I did something I hadn’t done in quite some time: I evaluated my monthly expenses and I was slightly stunned by the result. For the past 2 years, I have kept receipts for everything that I purchased. It was my way of being able to examine what was being spent and on what. I broke down my expenses into 4 categories, specifically leaving out utilities, house note, taxes and car note/insurance, and focusing my attention on the things I can control: groceries, clothing, entertainment and other people.

Any guesses as to which category was the highest according to my budget? It was GROCERIES, which slightly surprised me. I spent nearly $500 dollars in 6 weeks on groceries, which stunned me because when I look at the fridge it seems I’m heading to the supermarket once a week, which I feel causes me to spend more than I expected. So to curb those expenses, I’m planning to cut my visit to the supermarket to TWICE a month, and focusing my attention on doing a large amount of shopping each time, versus small purchases here and there and not buying groceries to craft a specific meal.

Next, I discovered that I’ve loaned out way too much money and not seen any of it come back. To the tune of over $250! This is all because I have a big giving heart and people who say “Can you loan me” are actually hoping for you to ‘give’ them money. I have to go back to uttering the word NO. It sometimes sucks to say it, but if I don’t my bank account will be depleted at the expense of others, which leaves me in a bind not them.

Third, I spent around $200 in clothing, but this is in the midst of unexpected funds that I received back from property I rented. So in the long run, I really didn’t spend much and according to my receipts I got a major bang for my buck, which is something I always like. I mean I calculated over 4 pairs of jeans, 5 fleece, 2 pairs of shoes, a designer T-shirt and 3 jackets all under $200. I think that’s pretty impressive shopping to say least.

Now the one category that surprised me the most was the amount of cash I’ve spend on entertainment (this includes eating out, trips to the movies, extracurricular activities and purchasing electronics). Considering I’m a movie buff, I was stunned to discover I’ve only spent around $150 in the past 3 months. I felt I had spent much more, but came to the realization that I had plenty of gift cards, discounts and bonus perks that significantly cut the cost of entertainment to more than 50 percent people.

So what has this told me? Documenting your expenses can help one control what it is he or she is spending. In addition, if I find a way to grocery shop where it’s efficient not just for myself, but for my budget I can probably increase what I buy and save a ton more in the process. For example, I seriously have to stop grocery shopping around planning a meal for dinner; that alone could cost me $20-$30 for just ONE meal. I can change that mentality to purchasing items that will last much longer and help me stretch my dollars at the same time people!

Look at this as an experiment to help you calculate where your funds are going and ways that you can possibly curb unnecessary expenses to place yourself in a position to save more and spend much less.

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