Forgotten Purchases

Forgetting purchases is my number one personal finance challenge.

How does one “forget” a purchase, you might ask? It’s pretty easy. I’ll buy something, but then I’ll forget to take note of it later on where I keep track of my personal spending. Then, later on in the month, it will appear as though I have more money left to spend than I should.

Recently, when Sarah and I were digging through some bills, we found a recent month where I had clearly exceeded the amount I set aside for free spending, but according to my own recollection and notes, I hadn’t come close to exceeding that limit.

This wasn’t enough of a problem to cause any sort of financial chaos – I don’t spend recklessly. However, it still remains a problem.

The Problem of Forgotten Purchases

Somewhere along the line, my system for keeping track of my purchases is failing me.

Identify the Cause

The first thing I did was look carefully at how I actually spent my money that month. When I review the purchases, were there any that stuck out at me as being unusual for some reason? In particular, did I forget those purchases?

I noticed two distinct groups of purchases that I had overlooked during that month. One was a one-off stop at a local hobby shop where I had purchased two items and forgotten to note it. This was mostly just accidental.

The other was the one really worth noting. I had purchased several Kindle books and failed to keep track of the expense.

So, I found the cause of the spending problem.

How do I solve it?

The first thing I did was start a moratorium on Kindle purchases. I have a number of unread books on my Kindle, so I’m going to focus on reading those before buying more.

To ensure that this happened, I also deleted the credit card associated with one-click purchasing for my Kindle. In other words, I eliminated my ability to acquire new Kindle books.

Why do this? It’s simple. I’m trying to break a spending habit and the easiest way to do that is to eliminate that “path of least resistance.” If I make it much more difficult to buy a Kindle book, then it’s going to be much easier to establish a pattern of not buying such books.

Eventually, I’ll restore that password, but not until I’ve strongly re-established that buying such books is an occasional treat.

What’s the lesson here?

It’s always worthwhile to be diligent about your spending habits. It might seem as though you have your finances completely under control, but it’s incredibly easy to fall into a spending trap.

When you do, put the clamps down on that bad habit. Find a way to make continuing that pattern difficult and make it so that better habits are easier to follow.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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