January is the longest month of the year

So it’s the 9th of the month and already my bank account looks like it’s actually the 24th (i.e. the day before payday). I thought I was good with money!

Actually, I’m being a bit dramatic. I am good with money – good with the big stuff at least. I’m good at setting aside big chunks of it for retirement and paying off bonds in eight or nine years instead of twenty. I’ve always understood the raw yet subtle power of compound interest (thanks Dad) and so I’ve always acted accordingly. And in general that’s made my financial life calmer, saner and more predictable.

Where I really fall down is in the day to day stuff. I’m incorrigibly impulsive when it comes to small to medium purchases like daily coffees and sandwiches and weekly restaurant trips or takeaways.

As a result a lot of money that I could otherwise be saving or using for something more memorable (like a trip overseas) is gradually frittered away on fleeting comforts. An unpleasant side effect of this is that my credit card debt has slowly crept up from effectively nothing to very much something. Yuck.

It’s like I’ve built myself a nice, stable, well designed house in a good part of Money Town, but then I haven’t bother to clean it more than once a month, or to replace the ripped curtains. My financial bones are strong, but my money muscles are weak.

As such when December rolls around and I’ve got all this free time to wander around and get tempted by treats (both edible and wearable), my willpower is not exactly iron. I don’t regret these treats, and I’m not expecting (or even wanting) to give them up completely. But I know I can do a lot better.

And so I’m setting myself a challenge. As of tomorrow, I’m keeping a daily spending diary for the next 14 days. Every evening I’m going to look at it and internalise how much I’ve spent and where I’ve spent it. I’m then going to give myself a rating out of five for three measures:

  • Planning (i.e. I planned and expected to spend this money)
  • Mindfulness (i.e. I didn’t just spend without first thinking about the consequences)
  • Enjoyment (Money is just a tool for living – it’s not an end in itself)

My aim is to average above 3.5 (because 70% is a first class pass), but we’ll see how I go. Right now Enjoyment is sitting at a 5 most days, so that’s definitely going to have to come down a bit.

This challenge would have been a huge pain in the arse ten years ago. I would be carting around grubby slips of paper and downloading statements from my bank in horrible formats (password protected PDFs anyone?). But luckily for me technology has come to my rescue.

Instead of hours of manual work, I can just log into my 22Seven account. Because it automagically pulls in data from all my bank and investment accounts, I can just log in and see a summary of everything I’ve done that done. I don’t even need to open my laptop – the mobile app has everything I need to check my progress while lounging on the couch or running on the treadmill (hopefully more of the latter than the former).

I’ll be posting again tomorrow afternoon with the results of my first day. It’s really more for me than any of you folks, but hopefully some of you will be interested in following my little foray into financial weight loss. I’m aiming to have my bank accounts bikini ready by July this year. Then we can go to Europe together and enjoy the sun.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I work for Publicis Machine, 22seven’s advertising agency. That said, I was using and writing about 22seven long before I moved here.