Dude, Where's My Money?
In the 2000 sci-fi comedy "Dude, Where's My Car?" a young Ashton Kutcher asks a simple question after a night of hard partying, "Dude, where's my car?" While most of us can remember where we parked the car, too many times we're left asking a very similar question, "Dude, where's my money?" After all, the advances in banking and technology the last few decades have made many aspects of our lives much easier. We can order groceries, hail a cab, even order a mattress with just a few taps on our phones. And that says nothing for the "Customers who bought x, also bought y" suggestions we're inundated with. It's all so easy. There's no pain involved and almost no effort. The unfortunate side effect of this click, swipe, or insert process is that we no longer have the same cognitive recognition of the impact of our choices that we once did. The effects of these purchases don't register with those who don't track their spending and that means for many, they have no understanding of just how much money they're bleeding until the credit card bills show up weeks later. What's more, while in the past most people had one main source of funds (usually a checking account), now we have Paypal, Venmo, multiple credit cards, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Google Pay and maybe even an investment account we use for spending. Because these purchases are splintered across multiple platforms most people aren't adding them up to understand the overall impact until it's too late. Amplifying the issue is the fact that we tend to spend more when using a currency not immediately tied to our checking accounts. We need to reconnect with our money. But, how? First, start tracking it closer. Whether it's a software program like Quicken, a website like Mint.com, an app like YNAB (You Need a Budget), or just a simple Excel spreadsheet of your own creation, start by simply becoming aware. Next, become a "gatekeeper." Think twice before buying an item or purchasing a service. It seems easy, but it can be challenging as we go about our lives. It may help to find a trigger that reminds you to do this. For example, use a photo of your next travel destination as a screensaver on your phone. Hopefully, this positive reminder will help you to be more purposeful in your spending. Lastly, simplify. You don't need eight credit cards and a profile with every payment processing service. Cut a few off if you know you have too many. Ultimately, it's not about NOT using technology to make your life easier. It is about creating awareness of its cause and end-effect. By taking these steps, you should be able to make smarter spending decisions going forward. And that, dude, should lead to a sweet life!