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"Know Where the Money Goes" Challenge

“Write down every penny I spend? That would never help me.”
“What a waste of time.”
“I already know where all of my money goes.”
“Tracking every purchase is obsessive.”
“Money is the root of all evil – if I pay that much attention to it, it will consume me.”
“I don’t spend any money!”

All of the above are excuses I’ve heard for not following my #1 personal finance tip. I think they’re all crocks. But hey, that’s just my opinion, based on how much tracking my own spending has helped me the past two years.

Want to prove me wrong? Agree with me and want to prove me right? Want to experiment and see if it could help you? Or maybe you’re just the kind of person that likes to take up random challenges you find on the internet?

No matter what your situation, outlook, financial standing, creed, or political affiliation (I’m looking at you, Libertarians!), I want YOU to take part in my “Know Where The Money Goes” Challenge!

Obligatory Uncle Sam Picture 
Obligatory Uncle Sam Picture!

How To Participate

  1. Declare your awesomeness! Post a comment on this entry pledging your commitment to track your expenses (all of them!) for the month of August. Using the word “pledge” somewhere in your comment will help keep it out of the spam filter.
  2. Track everything you buy (and how much you pay for it!) for the month of August.

Yeah, that’s really it. On the 1st of September, I’ll make a wrap-up post and I invite everyone to come back and post comments about their progress.

How should you track your expenses? That’s up to you! I use a combination of an Excel spreadsheet and a piece of paper in my wallet for writing down cash purchases. I’ve heard of many people having success carrying a little pocket notebook and using that. A Smart Phone, PDA, or iPhone will work, if you’ve got one. Heck, carve it into stone tablets if that works for you (but I demand you post pictures!).

Already track your expenses? Sweet! Pledge to… keep on doing that! This should be fun, no matter what. We’ll all encourage each other, remind each other, share techniques… and hopefully brag and boast about how awesome we are.

Added bonus: if anyone asks why you’re writing down everything you buy, you can tell them it’s because some girl on the internet told you to. (To which you’ll probably get the response “There are no girls on the internet!”)

Bloggers: Tell your readers to come on over and take the challenge! The more the merrier!

47 responses to “"Know Where the Money Goes" Challenge”

  1. Eric

    I use Mint.com to track all of my spending. It is easy and free. It is a great budgeting tool.

  2. Laurel

    Sounds good – I pledge to do this for the month. I’m pretty good, but could be better. See you in 31 days!

  3. Gail

    Count me in too! I had been doing it but sorta fell off the Wagon in July (it was my birthday month so lots of celebrating!) Last night I set up my budget envelopes for August and my expense notebook is all set up. I pledged to myself I would track EVERYTHING in August so this challenge is perfect timing. Good Luck everyone. Gail

  4. SavingDiva

    I’m in!

    SavingDiva’s last blog post..A New Book for Harry Potter Fans

  5. Kimberly

    Sure, I’ll take the pledge. I keep track of everything in Excel already, so I’ll make extra sure that I’m up to date this month.

  6. Becca

    I’m in on the pledge. I track non-cash stuff by store already (used to do cash but got lazy) so I’m going all out and am going to track it by item, or at least try to. This ought to be interesting…

  7. TwoFish

    I’ll take the pledge. I used to keep everything in Quicken, but I became very passive about it. And when it was time to reconcile at the end of the month, I usually had too many “what the heck was that?” purchases that I couldn’t really identify. This challenge is right on time!

  8. Gareth Cook

    I Pledge to track all my savings for this month of August. Hopefully I learn something good.

  9. Lonnie

    I hate tracking expenses and blogging, but the good of the people and for competition sake…I’m in! However, this is going to be a very depressing ordeal when its done. Support group anyone? j/k

  10. Lonnie

    I hate the idea, but in the spirit of competition…I’m in ( I pledge ). I know I’m going to be ashamed of myself when the smoke clears.

  11. Brenden

    I pledge to keep using my YNAB spreadsheet to record all of my expenses this month.

  12. Millie

    I’m so there! I use Buxfer, so it’s super-easy.

  13. Slinky

    I pledge to track all my expenses this month (just like I’ve done for the past couple of years). Why? Because I do it anyway and you pointed at the Libertarians. Someone has to represent!

    P.S. I hate that stupid penny that always gets rounded the wrong way.

  14. Ashley

    I pledge to track all my expenses this month.I hope I can stick with this habit!

  15. Ben

    I’m totally gonna do it to it!
    pledge

  16. E.C.

    I pledge to get back into the habit of tracking every penny I spend.

    E.C.’s last blog post..If you are a renter, you need renter’s insurance.

  17. QL Girl

    I’m so in! I pledge to track all my expenses this month…EVEN cash spending!

  18. Know where the money goes! « QuarterLife Finances

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  20. Phillip

    I pledge to keep track of my expenses. I did this for a year, but stopped about 4 months ago. Hopefully this give me some motivation.

  21. Suzy

    I’m taking the pledge too! I’ve been keeping a budget in a spreadsheet but not keeping track of my spending along the way. At the end of the month, I’m somehow always surprised that my mental tally strategy didn’t work and I went over again!

    This is my kick in the pants to get smarter. So far so good!

    Suzy’s last blog post..Part-Time Professionals

  22. The MSN Money Effect and Weekly Roundup — Broke Grad Student

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  23. diningoncents

    I actually already planned on doing this for the month of August, since I need to track where I’m spending my money! I already started by saving all receipts and writing down my cash purchases on ATM receipts- mostly I am going to try to use my Amex so this is easier to track. I pledge :)

    diningoncents’s last blog post..Easy Macaroni and Cheese

  24. Yuyato

    Done it once, but got too frustrated with it to keep going. However, I like the idea of taking up random interwebs challenges so:

    I hereby pledge to keep track of my August expenses. May they be non-existant :D!

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  26. Vanessa

    I hereby pledge to take responsibilty for my spending…so help me God. No…seriously HELP ME GOD!

    Vanessa’s last blog post..Our Deepest Fear

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  28. Danielle

    I’m doing the pledge too! I just started tracking all my expenses on dimetracker.com I can just send a text to dime tracker and it keeps track of everything for me, then I can export from the site to Excel. So easy!

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  30. Niki

    I’ll take on the pledge. I need a kick in the butt.

  31. Sally

    I pledge to keep track of my spending this month!

  32. Tiffany

    Hey is it too late to join this challenge? If not, I pledge to keep track of ALL my August expenses! Here’s to figuring out where all my money goes!

    Tiffany’s last blog post..3 days late …

  33. My Journey From Debt

    Funny I should find this, I used to never think it would make a difference, but after realizing how bad my financial situation has become, I knew I needed to do something. I decided to start blogging about my situation in an attempt to make my self own up to my problems. I then figured I should track all my income and expenses to show the world (and myself) that I am actually trying to do something about my situation. This pledge really won’t make much difference to me as that is pretty much what my blog currently is :D

    My Journey From Debt’s last blog post..Eatin’ Out….Again!

  34. 6 Cool Ways To Track Your Expenses Online — Broke Grad Student

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  36. Cora

    I too will pledge to track my expenses. I do this anyway with a couple of excel sheets so it shouldn’t be hard. I’m going out of town this month so there will be some random cash expenses and receiptes to save.

  37. Stephanie

    I’m in- I am trying to rearrange my direct deposit (just paid off my car, hooray!), so this works perfectly. Like your site.

  38. Angie

    I also track my money through Mint.com, but I pledge to track my cash purchases through the month of August!

    Angie’s last blog post..How fitting!

  39. KillerRoo

    I’ll pledge to track every penny for August — I’m already pretty good about keeping track of my finances, but I want to consciously track everything!

  40. Sammy Finkelman

    I have been keeping track of all cash expenditures for years. The problems I see are: How do you account for utility bills – in what mionth do they go and 2) credit cards. I could miss some of them. I might like to be in this. I woukld submit an ASCII file but you have to tell me how to account for monthkly expensies and interest and the like.

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  42. Marv

    I use Abassis Finance Manager to keep track of every expense I make. I save all the receipts for the day and enter them into the program. The ones I charge with my card has a “pending” status until it has been confirmed on my online banking account.

    I also keep my monthly expenses allocations and net worth goals in excel files.

    It helps me know where my money is going and where I want to go with it.

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  46. Dave

    We’ve been tracking our spending every month since February, but this is mainly because we moved locations every month and need to compare each place. It does make us spend quite a bit less than before we started doing it though. Even just the laziness of knowing I have to write something down later is enough to stop me buying something out of impulse!