3 Things I Learned After Tracking My “Wants” for 30 Days
Recently, I decided to reevaluate my financial “wants.” I’m talking about those expenses related to entertainment, dining out and so on; you know, the fun stuff. Before I began, I was confident that I was managing that particular strand of our family budget well. We weren’t lavishing our guests and ourselves with 11-course meals or renting a dozen movies per week. At the same time, we weren’t living like we were in the Dust Bowl circa 1936. In short, I thought my “wants” were reasonable and a relatively small chunk of my total budget.
I was wrong. Here’s what I learned.
1. I Was Still Paying for Stuff I No Longer Want
A while back, our household went through a British murder mystery phase. As a result, we signed up for a streaming service dedicated exclusively to British TV, and it was wonderful. Eventually, our penchant for solving murders with Poirot from the comfort of our couch waned, and we moved on to a new entertainment obsession. Meanwhile, I’m still paying for a streaming service we once wanted and no longer use.
Or at least I was. Tracking what I want revealed that I no longer want that service, nor do I need my subscriptions to several magazines now that I read them on my tablet. Those monthly or annual fees seem small, but they really add up. A regular check-in can help you identify and eliminate wants that have changed alongside your tastes.
2. Some of My Needs Were Actually Wants
It’s important to be honest with yourself when you categorize your expenses. For example, I can’t live without my morning coffee. The baristas at our local coffee shop know me well, and I initially categorized my morning coffee expenditures as “needs.”
Turns out I was half-right. If pressed, I could rattle off a dozen cogent reasons why I need two cups of strong coffee to start my day. I could not, however, justify it being delicious yet expensive coffee from our local coffee shop. I may truly need coffee (just ask my family), but I want the fancy stuff
I also want to rein in my superfluous spending, so I made a compromise with myself. I still get my usual takeout order on Saturday mornings. The rest of the week, however, I rack up savings by brewing my Joe at home at a fraction of the cost.
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3. Apps That Require Subscriptions Are Silent and Sneaky
Remember when you bought an app one time, and that was it? It was yours for life or maybe just the duration of that build or operating system, but it was a single, simple transaction. Today, more and more apps that would’ve been a one-time buy a few years ago are shifting to subscription models that can slowly bleed you dry.
In tracking my wants for a month, I unearthed a treasure trove of app subscriptions I no longer wanted, either because I didn’t use that app that much anymore, if at all, or because I had forgotten to turn off auto-renew or officially cancel my subscription before the free trial period ended.
If you use apps on your mobile phone or tablet, take a moment to go into your account settings and toggle off all auto-renew features. When you sign up for a complimentary trial of a new app in the future, make a note on your calendar the day before that trial is scheduled to end, reminding yourself to cancel it or commit to it. Don’t get caught paying for digital goods you don’t want. They may not take up any physical space, but they can really gum up the works of your budget.
Tracking your monthly expenses, and especially your perceived wants, is an excellent way to get your spending under control and identify weaknesses in your budget. Whether you’re saving money for a specific expense or simply want to check in and recalibrate as needed, getting real about what you think you can’t live without will help you reach your goals faster.