It's a question that we all ask ourselves at some point: Where did the money go?
The daily business of living can add up, which is why one of the best things that we can do for our finances is to track spending—down to the last dollar.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Whether you use a notebook, a spreadsheet or a free app, knowing exactly where your money is flowing is the first step toward fixing problems, recognizing weak spots and celebrating the things that we're doing right.
So we challenged four people to jot down every dollar that they spent in a full day, and report back with their results.
Inquiring minds want to know: How does your daily spending measure up?
Steven, 39, Private Equity Executive Managing Director, New York, NY
Wine: $304.14. I needed to restock my collection for entertaining, so I took the opportunity to explore lots of new wines.
Ticket to the Semifinals of the Oliver Metro NY Open: $21.49. I got to support a worthwhile charity, StreetSquash, and watch one of my favorite players win one of the best matches I've seen all season ... the gods are good.
Squash Tournament Registration: $130.00. I've been playing squash for six years, and it's starting to add up. Really, I need to stop playing so much.
Lunch: $18.00. I try to eat lunch every day—today it was sushi.
Dinner at Po: $75.00. I also like dinner, especially if it tastes good.
Cabs to and from Dinner: $42.00.
Groceries: $238.73. My wife and I split the grocery shopping duties, and we make a trip or order from Fresh Direct about once a week. My kids (there are two) need to stop growing ...
Kindle Book: $10.33. I bought "Glow: A Novel," by Jessica Maria Tuccelli. I'll let you know how it is!
Replacement Glass and Ceramic Pitchers for my Country House: $93.96. Who doesn't need another glass pitcher?
Microwave for the Country House: $150.55.
New Furniture for the Country House: $4,740.77. We bought our country house in Woodstock, NY, in 2005, and we've been adding to it ever since. Apparently, marriage is a constant flux of furniture.
Total: $5,814.64. I'm not at all surprised by what I spent today. Delis, as opposed to restaurants, are typical go-to lunch spots for me and my wife, and I almost always eat out or order in for dinner. Although we don't keep a budget, we're fairly regimented about our finances, and agree on our spending priorities.
Genma, 46, Pest Control Company Owner, Nashville, TN
Breakfast Meeting: $96.41. Someone once told me that if you ever want to know where your heart is, look at your checkbook. My heart is in volunteering—I was hosting a breakfast to thank ten other fellow volunteers for helping out at a nursing home. I bought fruit, muffins and coffee, but it was all the different kinds of creamer that really added up!
Gifts: $103.87. My radio show, "Living Your Best Life," is one of the sponsors of a first-time conference of young academics who present research on historically black colleges and universities, and I wanted to give the presenters frames to remember the moment. Later that week I sent them pictures from the conference.
Office Supplies: $57.28. I normally order invoices for my pest-control company in bulk, but I realized that we ran out and wouldn't get a shipment for another week.
Gas: $63.00. It's not the most economical, but I drive a big pickup that I use for my business. People call it the neighborhood moving van.
Snacks: $147. I was creating gift baskets for about 20 conference attendees, and I filled them with snacks made in Tennessee, like Goo-Goo Clusters and King Leo Candy. Instead of having a company charge me an arm and a leg for baskets, I made my own.
Baskets: $47.14. I went to the Goodwill to buy baskets for 99 cents each. I still have a bunch left over, which I'll use for Mother's Day gifts.
Crafts: $104.83. This was also for the gift baskets. I bought note cards, a glue gun, ribbon and shrink-wrap—each roll was $20 and I bought enough for 30 baskets.
Lunch: $15.56. My son is a Marine and he doesn't return to active duty until later this month, so we try to get together every other week or so for a mother-son lunch. Since he's military, he almost always eats for free.
Printer Cartridges: $23.14. I needed ink to run off (more) invoices on my home printer. My company has been around for 28 years, and I don't separate home and office expenses anymore.
Blank CDs: $19.48. I burn songs to play during my radio show. A friend was coming on the air to talk about friends of hers who raised money for a woman with cancer, so that day I burned The Golden Girls theme song: "Thank You for Being a Friend."
More Frames: $10.98. Once I put the baskets together, I felt like I didn't have enough frames, so I ran out to grab more.
Total: $688.89. I spent more today than I would on an average day, but it all fell within my giving budget. At the beginning of the year, I budget how many events I'll work on per quarter or per month. I learned how to manage money and not be impulsive thanks to my three kids—two of whom I've put through college. Even though I spent a lot today, I planned it out ahead of time, using coupons and sales to keep costs down.
Bryan, 52, Maritime Captain, Rye, NY
Gas: $98. I drive a rather large SUV, which I use to transport boats up and down the East Coast (I'm a professional boat captain). It takes a lot of fuel.
Starbucks: $22. I may have to rehab from this place—and caffeine altogether—but, for now, it's how I start my day. I get a venti nonfat latte and a venti chai tea (for my wife), and then pick up two more drinks for myself during the day.
Doctor's Appointment: $250. I've been dealing with two herniated discs in my neck, and this was a follow-up visit. I have a pretty high deductible.
Home Depot: $242. I needed a few new tools for my arsenal, like a lithium-powered drill and an impact driver. I made that grunting noise that Tim Allen made on Home Improvement when I was paying at the self checkout: ar-ar-argh!
Fishing Gear: $625. I custom-build my own fishing rods, so I bought rod blanks and reel seats, along with some other pieces.
Magazine Subscription: $48. I renewed my two-year subscription to Rod Builder.
Food Shopping: $78. Lunch and dinner for me and my wife.
Total: $1,363. Slow spending day! No, but really, this is a huge day for me. I spent much more than usual to buy the materials for my rods. Plus, I bought that portable impact driver to use on the many vehicles sitting in my driveway—my kids won't help out, so I'm going to be the one changing all of those tires!
Laura, 43, Commercial Mortgage Brokerage Owner, Denver, CO
Groceries: $116.80. I shop at my neighborhood Safeway early in the morning, usually three to four times a week. My fridge is mainly full of fruits and vegetables, and although I'm aware of what produce should cost, I mostly buy what I want, when I want it—regardless of price.
Metered Parking: $2.00. I had to pick up a package at the Fedex office downtown, and there's no garage nearby. I usually park in a "no parking zone," and put on my hazard lights, but I saw a cop on a Segway making the rounds. For some reason, it charged me for two hours, even though I only wanted 15 minutes.
Gas: $60.00 ($4.09/gallon). I fill up approximately once every three weeks. My car gets about 25 miles per gallon, and I don't drive that much.
Canadian Stamps: $0.96. I lived in Calgary for a year, and I still keep in touch with a few people, so I wanted to send some postcards for Easter. Canada Post is notoriously slow, so I usually Fedex cards and packages, but I figured they would get there in time ... but they didn't.
Event Parking at the University of Denver: $8.00. I'm a season ticket holder to the Pen and Podium writer and artist lecture series at the university. There's no street parking there, unless you have a permit. Since the garage always charges the same amount, and it's right next to the auditorium, I usually go this route.
Dinner: $41.00. I met a friend who was going with me to the lecture at a new Italian pizzeria in an expensive neighborhood before the event. The bill was higher for a pizza dinner because it was half-price bottle Monday. It was cheaper to buy the bottle than two glasses of wine—and you can cork it and take it home if you don't finish.
Total: $228.76. I wasn't surprised to see my total spending for the day—it was actually on the low side. I rarely check prices on anything based on a "budget mentality." And if I do look at the price, it's more out of curiosity. But I definitely dislike spending on parking in Denver—it's a pretty spread out, third-tier city that should offer reasonable street and surface lot parking for less!