Back in October, I set out to do the impossible. Something so crazy that everybody I told either said “good luck” or “that’s really aggressive.” I wasn’t sure I’d make it either, but it’s something that I’ve needed to do for a long time. And after giving it a go, I realized that even though I only got to 90% of my goal, Jesus still loves me. There’s nothing like being patted on the head by an almighty invisible hand and hearing a thunderous yet calming voice say ”I’ll let you have better luck next time.” Thanks Jesus. You always know the right thing to say.
So what exactly did I set out to accomplish in October?
I made it a goal to keep each and every receipt that came with a purchase or ATM withdrawal. At the end of the month, I wanted to do an in-depth review of my spending habits and see where my money was going. You are what you spend. So I wanted to see who I am. And in 31 days of stuffing 90% of receipts into ziplock bags (I was moving paper weight), I noticed something that I hadn’t thought about before. But first, let me ask you a question.
How many times per week do you think you swipe your debit card? Go ahead. Take a second and reallllly think about it.
After a week, I was like “Damn. I’m a swipe monster.” After two weeks, I was like “Is this really what I do every month?” After a month, I was like “Yo Slim. You need to stop spending money and start spending time with the Amish.”
I swiped my card around 12 times per week, meaning that I had around 50 transactions for the month. And since I got tired of receipt paper cuts, I went into my online account and sorted everything to get the real story. I wasn’t too happy with the results, particularly since I hadn’t thought about regularly paid bills as I was swiping away. 60+ transactions in a 30 day period? Really? Really though? Needless to say, it was a real eye opener.
So I sorted again by purchase type to see who I was — well, am. If I were to just print out my transaction history and show it to someone as a way for them to learn about me, it would reflect very little of the person that I am today. If I were to blindly send it to someone that’s never met me before, they’d deduce that I’m an obese party machine that hates to cook. Part of this is true, but not enough for me to be comfortable with it.
Fast food was the most frequent purchase, followed by night outings and beverages. I knew that I’d be going hard in the trans fats over the last few months as I’ve become busier, but I had no idea it looked like this.
I started thinking about what I tell people I really value versus what my bank account said about the way I live my life. Spending speaks louder than words and my account definitely said “You lie.” We had a few heated exchanges before I realized I was just talking to the financial version of myself.
So what’s the plan going forward?
Start small and start asking myself a basic question. When I make a purchase, the question will be ”how does this align with the person I say that I am and the person I wanna be?” Of course I’m not going to cut out all fast food and meal purchases, or beverage consumption. The point is to use a repetitive question to change a costly trend and inaccurate portrait. Sustained change is never easy. But I’m hoping that by putting spending in the context of what I really value that the transactions will slowly decrease and the quality of those that I do make will go up.
Most importantly, if you decide to give this a try, remember that the purpose of refining your portrait isn’t so that you can impress someone if you turn over your transaction statement for them to look at. It’s so that you can be confident that you’re living the best life you can for yourself. And when you do that in one aspect of your, it starts to spill into the others. That’s the real progress.
If you were to print out your transaction statement or summary of spending and give it to someone that knows nothing about you other than what’s on the page(s), what would it say about you? Is it a reflection of who you really are?
One Purchase at a Time,
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P.S.S. Check out my latest post for UPTOWN Magazine: 5 Things You Don’t Want to Hear Him Say in Bed