Many years ago I read the book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominez and Vicki Robin. In the book, along with a lot of other really helpful techniques, they advocate tracking your spending. Writing down every single cent that you spend and review it at the end of the month. They said, “You’ll be surprised.” Well, I was pretty sure I knew where my money went, but I did it anyway. At the end of the month, I knew that I was spending 40% of my take home pay on child care, that I spent more on gas than I did on groceries (though I got reimbursed for the work miles, I still had a 32 mile on-way commute) and that there was no money in the checking account for a trip to the movies. I had wanted to see Paris before I died, and it just didn’t look like it was going to happen.
It didn’t happen overnight, but I reduced my commute to 8 miles and then to 2, the kids got older and the day care costs went down. We went to the movies now and again. And I continue to track every cent I spend because it is such a useful tool in finding out if my money (and therefore time and life energy) are being spent on things that I value.
A couple of years ago, I figured out I had enough money to go to Paris. My daughter said she wanted to go too. I talked with the other kids and we came up with the idea of each of them taking a big trip with me before they leave home. My daughter went with me to Paris. My middle son and I are planning a trip to Italy in 2012 and my youngest son and I a trip to Australia sometime after that.
All because I watch what we eat.