Yesterday I reported that despite tracking every cent of my spending for a whole month, I could not account for ten dollars and twenty cents. That is a minuscule part of my monthly spending, but it still bugs me. There was a time when I couldn’t account for $50-100 a month and I just wrote it off as “Cash.” I clamped down, and now I only have $2 or $3 a month of unexplained spending. I am not beating myself up over the $10.20, but I thought I would post about how I got to this point.
I collect receipts. I have mixed feelings about it, because they are printed on evil thermal paper. I find if I refuse a receipt, it is usually printed anyway and thrown out by the cashier. So I would rather take them. If I’m out shopping and don’t get a receipt, I jot down a note and put it in my wallet. If I buy stuff on my way home, I try to remember it until I get in. About twice a week, I enter my receipts and notes into my budgeting software, and check for accuracy. Once a month, I reconcile the bank accounts, and pay off the credit card bill in full. The system should be air-tight, but life isn’t like that!
The biggest problem is cash spending in places that don’t give receipts. I could control this by writing everything down, but I usually miss a few purchases and assume I’ll remember later.
Some of the places and occasions that cause my cash to vanish are:
- Farmer’s markets
- Flea markets
- Craft fairs
- Coffee shops
- Corner stores
- Snacks and souvenirs at concerts and plays
- Parking meters
- Bridge and highway tolls
- Leaving $1 and $2 coins in the car for parking and tolls
- Collections at work for departure gifts and the like
- Fundraisers at work – sponsoring a Fun Run, buying flower bulbs, buying raffle tickets
- Fundraisers at the front door – Girl Guide cookies, donations for school trips and sports teams
- Seasonal charity purchases – daffodils for the Cancer Society in April; poppy lapel pins for the Veterans in November
- Admissions to museums, sport centres, etc.
On the other hand, some of my cash leaks no longer exist:
- I don’t buy magazines and newspapers any more
- As a library staff member, I don’t have to pay library fines
- There are no DVD rental stores any more
- With no kids at home, I am no longer shelling out money for school trips, school supplies, bus fares, etc.
- No one ever asks if they can borrow money from me
And these ones are very rare:
- Alcohol – my parents give me homemade wine!
- Postage and courier fees – because I hardly ever use the postal service
- Dry cleaning and tailoring fees – because I buy in such a way as to avoid these
When my money counting is “off,” I have to think about where my cash actually is:
- I have a separate envelope for the Entertainment Fund
- I have a jar where I throw all coins under 25 cents
- I have some coin rolling tubes where I put loonies and toonies ($1 and $2 coins) if they are weighing down my purse too much!
- Last week I set aside a $1 bill for my 12-year-old nephew, because they were phased out in 1987 and he’s probably never seen one
- I have small amounts of UK and US cash left over from vacations
- When I go for a walk, I slip a $20 bill into my phone case for emergencies
- But I never find money in my coat pockets or under the sofa cushions!
So here’s how far I got with my search for that missing $10.20. Because of the $1 set aside for my nephew, the amount is actually $9.20. And $9.20 is the exact cost of a $7.99 purchase with our 15% sales tax on top (rounded up, because we don’t have pennies any more). I have absolutely no idea what I bought for that $8, but here’s what $8 can buy where I live:
- Expensive magazine or nail polish
- Cheap CD, DVD, wine or earrings
- Kitchen ware, like a travel mug
- Hardware, such as light bulbs or batteries
- Drugstore items, like vitamins or sunscreen
- Grocery store brand cat food
- An automatic car wash
- A little collectible toy at the comic shop
- A package of socks
I didn’t buy any of those things, so it remains a mystery. Aargh!
How do your little bits of cash get frittered away?
Happily, I remembered what I spent the $9.20 on. I am embarrassed to report that it was two of these: