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Experiment: April on $10/day

So . . . I’m not an accountant.

I’m trying to get a better handle on my “spending cash” which is managed through my personal account and credit cards. Most “needs” type expenses are covered through our joint finances, so the personal account is mostly discretionary. The problem is I want to reduce my personal credit card debt, and these days the personal account doesn’t get much money to play with, which means I need to be smart and aware with my discretionary income.

About a decade ago I tried managing my spending by writing the date on a series of $20 bills. If I was breaking a bill with today’s date on it, things were going alright. If I was breaking yesterday’s date, I was doing well, and if I was spending a bill with a future date on it . . . well, time to cut back, eh?

This time around I’m thinking to allow myself $10/day. ATMs don’t give out tens, and these days I make some small purchases with the credit card, so I’ll try a different solution: a Google Spreadsheet!

I thought it might be neat to share the progress here, in case other folks are curious to see how this experiment works. You should be able to see the results tally up over the course of the month on the right.

This is by no means a comprehensive thing: I’m not tracking automatic withdrawals (charity, web hosting) or interest on the cards: I’m merely trying to keep my personal spending (the “burn rate”) in check by maintaining an awareness of what’s up. This is pretty much lunch money, small gifts, and entertaining the sweetheart. My rule is going to be that any personal spending I have to initiate I will track. So, I’ll count the $50 mobile phone bill, for the sake of a healthy challenge.

Technical note: I don’t know for spreadsheets, but the formula for setting up the balance column was to start at cell D3 with this formula:


This basically means that if the date (A3) on this row is filled in, add the amount (C3) to the previous total (D2). I was then able to “copy” that cell, multi-select all the cells below, and “paste” and the formula got updated each row, as my Excel Guru colleague expected.

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