Friday, August 07, 2009

My Life in Transactions

The other night I had dinner with an old friend I'll call "Ace." We were really close back in college, then grew apart for a few years, but reconnected a few years ago and now have a great long distance friendship. Fortunately she comes to New York on business sometimes, and we always have a great time whenever we hang out.

This time, we had dinner at a restaurant in Chelsea. As a side note, it's just amazing how many businesses are turning over in this economy. The first restaurant I wanted to go to had closed. The second restaurant I wanted to go to had closed. But fortunately, its space had been taken over by the third restaurant I wanted to go to, which had moved and expanded.

After finishing dinner, we lingered for a while as Ace sipped a $16 glass of single-malt scotch. I'm usually glad that I do not enjoy such things given the expense, but this time I took a sip and kind of liked it-- uh oh! Anyway, the check came and we all started trying to figure out the bill. Sweetie, who was with us, wanted to use a credit card, as did I. Ace wanted to pay cash, so this led to a bit of befuddled calculating as we tried to figure out how to split the bill on the two credit cards and split Ace's cash, which involved making change, etc. Afterwards, I of course whipped out my Treo and entered the cash received into Quicken. Sweetie made some sort of "oh, there she goes" remark and Ace laughed and asked what I was doing. As I explained my extreme cash tracking habits, she grabbed my Treo and started looking at it.

First Ace was just amused at her own inability to figure out my Treo-- she kept swiping her finger across the screen as if it were an iPhone. But once I showed her how to scroll down, she started making fun of all my cash transactions! Here's some of her remarks:

Whoa, you need to spend less on food! Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast, lunch, lunch, lunch. And were you drunk when you entered some of these?? "HOok?!?!" What's up with that? You have a breakfast problem and a capitalization problem! Wait, you really were drunk, look at this one! "BEer!!" And "HOse thing??" I don't even want to know! Haircut $100, wow, I can't believe you spend that much, but they used to be a band... "Amanda-- French," hmm, who's Amanda French and what are you paying her for? Sweetie, did you know about this? And let's see, Girl Scout Cookies $4... oh, and here's another one where you were drunk, "DUpe keys," ooh, was that so Amanda French can get in? And earrings $4.31? What the hell kind of cheap shit earrings did you buy for $4.31? And windshield fluid, what? You don't even have a car, you must have been drinking it when you made all those typos...

It seemed to go on like that forever. It was just hilarious hearing her spin all these crazy tales about my life out of my misinterpreted cash spending! I'm just glad she didn't figure out how to switch to viewing my credit card transactions!
Have you ever showed your spending records to anyone? Did you ever think about how your life would look to someone who saw them?


Gord said...

I used to do all that entering on Quicken. When I did it, there was no mobile device though, so I eventually got tired of the little (sometimes big) piles of information slips to be entered into Quicken. I also got to the point of being able to download all the transactions from the bank. Yes, most people thought I was being, well, anal. Maybe this would be easier now, but for me at least, I don't see the value in doing that.

But it all got so onerous that I quit. Eventually, I fell onto to something much simpler. It was really like taking a yoke off my neck.

I use percentages. I never, ever, spend more than 70% of every dollar I get. Usually, it's less. The other 30% is allocated in a special way that builds wealth and serves others. After 4 years, this has really worked for me.

Amy K. said...

I think her commentary is hilarious - I love it!

I still have my checkbook register from 1999, and under each cash withdrawal I noted what it went for. I can mentally recreate those times from that register, but I wonder what stories others would make up.

Fish tacos
Stir-fry Fixins
Audio cable
Dinner at Dill's

Ah, the life of a 21 yr old!

Stacy said...

I'm a big fan of writing jokes in my check card register. Examples:

Overpriced Outfitters (Urban Outfitters)

Dental - FML


F__king Plumber


It makes me laugh when I have to pay some of those yucky old bills.

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Mrs. Smith said...

I love to look back at my old check registers, they're like the scrapbooks I was too lazy to make.

SuperCop said...

I enter all my checking, savings, credit card, and brokerage account transactions into Mobile Checkbook on my Blackberry. Reactions from friends, family, and coworkers has ranged from slight amusement to "but you're a MAN!, men don't mess with checkbooks!! Why not just keep 4 grand in checking and not worry about it?"
It took a little while to get in the habit of recording every transaction at the point of sale but whenever Bank of America has tacked on some crazy fees or the rare time there has been an issue with my account its amazing how quickly the CS rep's tone changes when I tell them that I DO balance my checkbook and i can email them my transactions that very moment.
Its totally addicting to be on top of every penny and if my friends want to laugh and call me be it. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't focus on individual transactions to much, but I do make a cash flow plan every payday. This works because I use the cash system. I know what percentage of my money is going to any particular group prior to actually spending.

It takes about 15 minutes and my friends are surprised that this is all it take to manage my money. According to a couple of friends, my system makes it look easy.

Anonymous said...

Your friend probably isn't so funny when she isn't drinking. On the other hand a $16 single-malt scotch is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Bronx Chica...I've showed 1 person and told a couple. Some don't want to listen but keep complaining how broke they are.

Rachelle said...

I pretty much try to avoid showing people my finances. If they did see they would know about my three addictions, Chipotle, CVS, and "LNO (Ladies' Night Out). During any given month, about 80% of my spending money is devoted to that. I know I should probably calm down, but life without CVS is practically no life at all.

Crystal said...

I have a monthly Excel sheet with budget categories like Mortgage, Car Loan, Groceries, Restaurants, Entertainment, etc. It has our target goal for each category in the left column and I manually enter every single thing I spend money on in each category in the right column (yay credit card statements).

The few people who have seen it either say something like, "Wish I was that organized", "What a waste of time", "Wow, you really are that anal". Oh well, I like it and it only takes about a half hour a week to enter stuff. My husband LOVES it since he can just take a glance when he wants to see how we're doing...I love my lazy man.