How to Audit your spending (& why it’s important)


Do you know where your money goes?

How often do we spend money on frivolous things without even considering that they are frivolous? Writing 10 Things I Quit Buying (to Save Money) really made me think hard about that. It didn’t take me long to come up with ten things I STILL spend money on that are “wants” and not “needs”.

Things that I over look in my spending regularly, just because I’m not being mindful enough, or because I’ve got a good “excuse” to buy them.

If I don’t even realize that the things I am buying are frivolous, how will I know where I can cut back if the need arises? I think it’s imperative that you are conscious of what you could cut out of your budget tomorrow if you were faced with a financial crisis, because financial crisis DOES happen.

Because I am committed to intentional living – actively deciding where I will spend my money instead of just letting it leave me – I wanted to see if I could justify these things I still buy even though they are unnecessary…  a self-audit. Where am I spending foolishly? Where am I prioritizing the “wants”? Do I know where I could cut back right now if I had to?

To preform this self audit, I asked myself three questions: What am I buying on a regular basis that is not necessary? Can / should I justify continuing to buy this based on my current financial situation? Is there a way that I can reduce or eliminate this cost right now?

10 things I still spend money on – that are not needs

1. Gym Membership. My house is too small for a treadmill & I hate running outside… But running outside is free and I can do all the other gym stuff at home (I don’t use many machines). Conclusion > I won’t give up exercise because it has changed my life so much for the better and even helped me to beat anxiety, but I am gonna give outside running another shot this summer and see if I can reduce this spending by 5 months.

2. T.V. Subscription. I fear I might be the first blogger in blogging history to suggest that I know how to save money and spend wisely who is gonna admit to a TV subscription. I would give this up in a heartbeat, but my husband is really attached to it, and honestly the man spends a grand total of almost nothing in a year. And he makes 80% of the money! Although, with options out there now like Amazon Prime, where you can access TV and movies for literally a fraction of the cost of cable I can definitely see us doing something that like in the future. ← Update! I’ve been thinking about trying Amazon Prime, and now is the time to do it, because you can Try Amazon Prime with a 30-Day Free Trial. YAY! Conclusion > If we need to find a way to pinch the pennies, I’ll give up some of my many indulgences long before I ask G to say goodbye to his T.V., but we can at least SAVE a bunch by finding a cheaper way to do T.V.

3. Wine. I have recently reduced my alcohol consumption pretty drastically, but there’s still almost always a bottle of wine on the weekend. I love wine. Conclusion > in light of the amount I am already saving by cutting back, I’ll still allow myself one bottle. But this is probably the first thing that I would give up if we were really strapped for cash.

4. Paper towels. I know I know. But I don’t use them that often and I love having them in the house for really “icky” situations. I spend less than 15$ a year on paper towels and I don’t feel bad about it. (Once I read a blog post where the author claimed to be saving 250 bucks per year by not buying paper towels. That would be different. I would really have to think about just throwing away that much money.) Conclusion > the 15$ is worth it to me.

5. Washing towels in hot water. I don’t feel bad about this either. When we were backpacking and couldn’t get a hot water wash to save our lives, our towels stunk. I asked a guy in New Zealand once if I could pay him extra and get a hot water wash. He called me a fanatic. Conclusion > I am a fanatic, but my towels smell good and I like it.

6. In wash scent booster beads. Maybe I have taken the nice smelling towels too far. Conclusion > I may actually have to give this one up on principle alone.

7. Some Essential Oils. They’re nice, they don’t all save me a bunch of money on painkillers and creams and stuff – I hardly spent anything on those things before! Some of them are very useful, and some of them are just for enjoying. Conclusion > I like my essential oils, but if I was in a financial crisis then I would need a reality check here. There are 4 I would still buy – lavender (for bug bites & itches), cedarwood (for sleep and anti-anxiety), peppermint (for headaches & muscle aches), and thieves (for colds and flu) because THOSE are the ones that I use all the time and have seen the benefits of. I absolutely love stress away and aroma ease, but they are a luxury for me.

8. Cell phone. Yes, a phone is practically a necessity now, but I know for a fact that you can have a cell phone for 10$ a month. My mom does it. She has no data, but she makes due without it. Conclusion > I dunno, how do we all justify our cell phones? You know I’m not giving up data. I spend $75.00 per month on my phone, but I fee like I use it 75.00 worth AT LEAST.

9. Flowers. I mean bedding plants I guess, or planters, for the summertime. I spend around $250.00 a year on bedding plants, that DIE every fall. But I LOVE gardening, and sitting on my deck surrounded by my flowers in the evening is one of my favorite things. Conclusion > This year I will be starting petunias, snapdragons, marigolds, and poppies from seeds I saved last year. If they grow I’ll save most of that $250.00. Fingers crossed! If they don’t, I’ll reduce the amount of plants I buy.

10. Holidays. I love to travel… and as long as I can afford it I will GO! Our holiday budget is usually $3000.00 (read about how we visited Hawaii in 2015 for $2995.37!), so even tho that’s cheap for a holiday, that’s more than a months worth of expenses covered if we aren’t working. Conclusion > The economy is really down this year and we are considering not going on a holiday because we recognize that if things get worse we will need that holiday money for living. Boo.

Taking the time to identify and evaluate the frivolous things I spend money on definitely helped me to see where I can further cut back now, and it’s helped me to prepare a game plan for the uncertain future. I know where I can trim costs ASAP if need be. I also recognized that I really appreciate most of these things, so that made me feel a bit better about the money spent. I don’t believe that I’m working and being mindful of my money to just store every saved penny in the bank. I think a few indulgences are ok as long as you keep them in check. What are the indulgences in your life? Could a self-audit be useful to you?


23 thoughts on “How to Audit your spending (& why it’s important)”

  1. I think it is very important to have a few things that are considered frivolous in your life, otherwise what is the point? Why all the hard work if you enjoy nothing?

    And just a thing to consider with the T.V. if your husband is a sports fan, he may still need the cable as most of the services like Amazon and Netflix=no sports.

    • That’s so true Dara! I think it’s one of the reasons that things like flowers for the garden and wine don’t get chopped completely off my list. It’s important to know where you could save if you absolutely had to, but as long as you can afford a few indulgences, choose them wisely and enjoy, right?

      I’ve never considered that there isn’t sports on Amazon or Netflix (cus I never look for those…lol) yes he would really miss football, so we probably can’t do that to him! Thanks for the heads up 🙂

  2. Thanks for the cool blog and great post!.. I’ve been spending more and more consciously for about 10 years now, and I have cut my expenses by more than 50% in that time… It’s a subject I’m continually interested in, though, because there is always something to learn from others’ experience and from looking at one’s own life and gaining further clarity… What interests me now: is it possible to spend an appropriate amount of money for one’s life and pleasures, AND save a truly “enough” amount, AND intuitively sense that good kind of balance?? Can we over time consciously adjust our inner “money thermostat” so that we are truly living and not feeding that materialism which only makes us want more and more?? Can we teach ourselves to sense healthy balance and feel good and clear?? I hope so, because I think that would be so nice! !! p.s. Have you ever considered some perennials for your garden? Great that you made your own seeds!

    • Hi Nancy! Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your thoughts! It’s interesting that you mention finding a balance and knowing intuitively what that is, as I am planning two posts in that vein coming up! One on how to know when you have “enough” money, and one on how you shouldn’t HAVE to budget if you can figure out what “enough” looks like!

      It’s amazing that you were about to cut your spending by 50% just by being mindful. That just goes to show how much we spend without really thinking about it! WOW!

      I do have some perennials in the garden, but I really struggle with “accidentally” weeding them out in the spring. Two years ago I took out all the poppies I had so carefully brought over from my grandma’s farm… she has since sold the farm and I couldn’t get the seeds again – broke my heart! My mom has a few at her place this year so I’m gonna try again. The seeds we saved and started did amazing! Almost all the plants I put in my containers this year (and I have lots of containers) are ones we started from seeds… I spent about 100$ vs the 250-300 I have spent other years. Huge success!

  3. We have Hulu (the free version), Amazon Prime, Netflix (streaming only), and a Roku device. My husband isn’t into watching sports much, so this setup works great for us. This costs us $16.32 per month, plus the one time ~$80 Roku 2 purchase. The Roku is great, as it lets up use our non smart tv like a smart tv, but if you already have a smart tv, you would likely not need one.

    • Hi Sarah! UGGGhhhh yes it’s the sports that are the real trick! We pay about 65$ / month, I know that’s less than many, but it’s STILL a lot. $16.32 for TV…is amazing! (Think of all the stuff you can do with the extra cash you’re saving – like have a weekend getaway, or pay down some debt. Well done girl!)

      • May I please make mention that if you do not have a television that is connected to internet it could cost you quite a bit to change to Netflix and Amazon. I was going to change until I learned how much more I would need to pay for additional data on my internet bill. It was the same as my cable bill and there was no DVR. I enjoy my DVR so I kept my cable. I got the lowest cost and I pay approx. $50.00 a month. That works to $10.00 a week which is less than going to the movies.

      • Good Point Donna! I guess if you don’t have the internet that would certainly have to be factored in!

  4. For the towels, I use cold water but add some white vinegar every time and always air dry out in the sun. They won’t smell moldy.

    • Hi! Yes the sun does make a huge difference. I think there are bugs that UV light kills that nothing else can fix! I bought a clothesline at a garage sale recently, and looking forward to trying that. We can only line dry things here for 6 months of the year, but it’s still worth it for those 6 months 🙂

  5. Love reading your blog. I find the biggest expense is probably my cell phone. I will never give that up. I use to get manicures until I moved to the country and have my hands in dirt all the time. Love planting just like you talked about in your blog.

    • Hi Carol! Thank you so much for reading! Our cell phones were crazy expensive, until we switched to a company where you own your phone (so no plan) and now we pay 50% less…Shop around for a better plan if you can. We are’t giving ours up either!

      And the dirt is so much more worth it than the nails anyhow 😉

  6. I got my cell on my husband’s plan (family) for an additional $20/month to his bill. It was about $110/month when I had my individual plan. I felt like a fool for not knowing this sooner.
    My biggest frivolous squander is facial fillers and botox. Not sure how to let go of them. I look more refreshed when I keep volume in my cheeks (I have a thin face) and have a smooth forehead.

    • WOW from $110 to $20? That is seriously winning… I’m not honestly sure if I would have known about it either. Don’t feel bad just be happy you know now! I’m also not sure you can’t keep a few splurges… if you feel ten times better about yourself with botox (and you’re not going into debt to have it), then why not? You’ve probably saved enough on the cell phone to pay for the prettifying anyway 😉

  7. I recently changed our phone service from ATT to Cricket. Cricket is owned by ATT so the service is essentially the same, but it’s prepaid. We went from having a $250 month family plan to $100 month plan and that includes adding a fifth phone line. I’m very happy with the change. You should look into switching.

    • HI Marilyn – great tip! We switched a few years ago from telus to kodoo which is sort of a similar situation (they are owned by telus) and it saved us a heap! I think we have fewer options in Canada then in the states…

  8. Thanks for this post. I’ve always been frugal as that’s how I was raised. I definitely think vacations are worth it. That’ why you are frugal and save money to afford them. Now I’m in a different situation. We now have incredibly high medical bills. Now I HAVE to be frugal just to be able to pay regular bills and make ends meat. I liked this post and your other one about cutting back even more. I need to step up my savings. I can cut back on wine. With water bottles I found I would leave my refillable one places or it would be in the dishwasher when I needed it. I’m going to try again to stop buying water bottles. My cell phone plan is up for renewal soon. Going to find one cheaper.

    • HI Kerry 🙂 I’m sorry to hear about your medical bills… it’s so frustrating when you have to spend like that on something you have no control over. I used to leave my refillable ones behind too. I’m getting SO much better. Sometimes it’s a matter of clipping my car keys to them so I CAN’T get away without my water bottle 😉 I know there’s a hundred more ways I could cut back. I just have to be honest with myself and make it happen!

  9. Check out Republic Wireless!!! My husband and I are saving over $100/month (and he already had a ‘cheap’ $50/month plan). I found out about it after the “Don’t Waste the Crumbs” blog reviewed it, if you’d like a review first.

    • Thanks for the tip Ginger! I will have to check them out… I wonder if they’re available in Canada?

  10. One of the things I do to save is to only put my clothes like t-shirts,jeans, pj’s etc in dryer for only 10 minutes then they get hung on hangers and then on the shower rod in the bathroom to finish drying (we only have a laundry closet). I also find that if you purchase a piece of clothing that is on a hanger most of the large chain stores often throw them out so I ask if I can have them, especially the ones with clips to hold pants (free is good). Anyway, any items that need to be dried that were in the same load only take 10 minutes or so. All the wrinkles come out when I hang clothes so no ironing and I get extra humidity in the house especially in the winter when the air is dry, I also spend less on electricity (better for the environment too), and less wear and tear on my dryer so hopefully it will have a long life.

    • HI Judi! I swear I thought I was the only one who loves the free humidity that drying clothes can give my house! lol I hang mine up right behind the couch, which looks cluttered but it encourages me to PUT THEM AWAY – my biggest laundry fault. And my living room smells awesome. Great tip!!


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