Today you are going to figure out if you suffer from financial numbness.
Habits are a funny thing. Whether they are good or bad they become second nature. You become numb to them, and they become part of who you are. As you know, that is why bad habits can be so dangerous. There is one financial habit that I think is incredibly dangerous, yet it often goes undetected. That habit: numb spending.
Numb spending occurs when you become completely oblivious to the inordinate amount of expenditures that you have. In other words, you live in front of a cash register. The problem is that the more transactions that you have, the less discriminate you are in your spending. Smart people consider all of their purchases quite seriously. I’m not suggesting that you get into some sort of Lincoln/Douglas debate with yourself over a pack of gum, but if you are looking for change, then grab the podium, Abe. How many times per week do you purchase something? Go through your bank and credit card statements and count your transactions for three previous months.
What is your average monthly transaction total? To get your weekly total just divide your monthly totals by 4.33. Controlling your transactions will be a significant part of your success. This is why cash can be a tricky way to pay. You never really know how many transactions that you have when you use cash. This doesn’t mean that you get to skip your cash usage when totaling your transactions. You are going to have to take some serious time thinking about your cash spending habits. If you don’t have any earthly clue how many transactions it takes to eat up your cash, then you already have your answer.
How do you stack up with the weekly transactions below?
20 or more transactions – You are way out of control. There is simply no reason to spend money three times per day. Seriously.
15-19 transactions – This is damn near unacceptable. If you have this many transactions, then chances are that you often get to the end of a calendar year and wonder where all of your money went.
10-14 transactions – You seem to have a pretty good grasp on the importance of frugality and economic efficiency, but you have room for improvement.
5-9 transactions – This is pretty tough to do, but if you are serious about turning things around then I believe this is the right amount of transactions. This probably means: grocery store, gas for you, gas for your spouse, one dinner, two lunches.
1-4 transactions – You are either really broke, really boring, or awesome.
There is a misconception that if you reduce your number of financial transactions, then you will simply spend more per transaction. It won’t happen. A majority of the transactions that you will eliminate are completely unnecessary expenditures. You won’t miss them one bit.
Reducing transaction require forethought and effort. It means that you need to take lunch to work sometimes. It means that you can’t go out to eat on a whim. It means that you need to start solving problems with something other than a piece of plastic. If you have a transaction “issue”, then most likely you try to solve many daily “problems” by simply making a purchase.
Set your new transactions goal. Having between 5-9 transactions per week is ideal. Remember, if you are trying to change your life significantly in just short amount of time, then you must make some really tough decisions.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.