It’s the little things that add up

Eliminating minor excesses can reap large savings.

Do you ever ask, “Where did all my money go?” Do you spend your money on spontaneous items? Every day we are surrounded by constant temptation and endless advertisements, all vying for us to spend our hard-earned dollars. Many of us neglect to keep track of our small, everyday expenses. Impulse spending can add up quickly, even if it is on fairly inexpensive items such as coffee, gum, candy, bottled water, soda pop and snacks. Here are a few tips to help you reduce impulsive buying and increase your savings.

Record your spending

Write down everything you spend in a week. Every time you swipe your debit or credit card or use cash or coin, record it on paper, through an app or with software. Keep all of your receipts and put them in a bag, box, folder or envelope. The trick here is that recording it needs to be convenient. After just one week, you should begin to notice spending patterns: what, where and when you buy. The act alone of recording your spending will increase your awareness of your buying habits.

Calculate the money wasted on unplanned items

Calculating the money spent on impulse purchases can show you why you should break these money-wasting habits. In the recent past, I spent $1.70 daily on coffee Monday through Friday. This equated to $8.50 a week, $34 a month and $408 annually. Not until I realized the amount of money I was spending did I ever consider making a change. Although I have yet to break my caffeine habit, I now make my own coffee and save over $300 each year. offers tools you can use to input the amount on money you waste on a particular commodity and it displays how much money you could have saved. Plug spending leaks worksheet, developed by National Endowment for Financial Education, provides an easy-to-use form to calculate all the little things that add up over time.

Develop a spending plan

Take inventory of all your income and your living expenses and compare the two. There are many tools to help you do this. The Great Balancing Act: Income and Expenses from provides a worksheet to help stay within budget. Michigan State University Extension also has many tools to help you track your spending, develop a spending plan and manage it.

Put these tips into practice and watch your savings grow!

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