2013 Challenge Week 3: Plug the Small Leaks

Controlling your money flow should start with a good review of your spending habits. So this week’s challenge is to take a few minutes to review your spending by looking at your debit card transactions on your online statement or other spending records (i.e. check register, receipts).

Look back over the last few weeks, then write down the 2-3 things that you could have done without and answer our online poll.  Here are a few examples to get your started:

  • New pair of sneakers
  • Movie rentals
  • New purse
  • Eating lunch out

Remember what Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beware of little expenses, a small leak will sink a great ship.”

Most important! Don’t forget to post a comment about what you found right here on $tartwithChange to be entered for a chance to win a $25 gift card*!

What’s the Difference between a Want and a Need?

When reviewing your spending, it’s helpful to consider the differences between real needs and wants.  When you think about it, people really only need four things to survive:  shelter, enough food and water to remain healthy, basic health care and hygiene items; and just enough clothing to remain comfortable and warm.  Everything beyond that is a want.

But let’s face it, few if any of us want to live that frugally, and good money management doesn’t mean that you have to deprive yourself of all the things you may desire.  It’s really about finding the right balance between what you want to spend your money on and what you can afford after you have taken care of your basic needs.  Everyone has different goals and priorities, so what works for you may not work for someone else.  Asking yourself some of these questions may help:

  • What are the things that I never regret spending money on?
  • What are the things that would be nice to have, but really are not that important to me?
  • What are my fixed expenses each month such as rent, car payments, health and car insurance, or cell phone charges?
  • Is there a way to decrease my fixed expenses each month (i.e. lower cost cell phone contract) so I have more money for saving and/or spending on the things I really enjoy?
  • How can I reduce the amount I spend on groceries each week and still maintain a healthy diet?
  • Are there ways to reduce my commuting costs (i.e. take the bus, ride-share)?
  • What is the amount I can comfortably afford to spend each month on eating out and/or entertainment?


*Details and official rules here


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Showing 18 comments
  • melissa.g.tukes@gmail.com

    No extra spending this round. Great comment: Good money management doesn’t mean that you have to deprive yourself of all the things you may desire.

  • AlexisElac18

    I recently bought a sketchbook and colored permanent markers. I had bought them to draw. Since drawing is one of my hobbies, I decided that I wanted the appropriate supplies in order to get started. But after a few days, I began to realize that what I had bought was a want, not a need. I didn’t think it through so now I am learning to manage my spending on needs not wants because in the end , needs are more important and saving money is essential.

  • mwilliams36

    I looked over my spending in the last week and realized that I ate out at Chick-fil-a. I started thinking about it and maybe I could have held out until I got home. I would have saved $6.00 and put it towards my gas bill. I realize that it was a want and not a need. I should just buy the things that I need and not what I want. I also need to do that with my children and buy them what they need and not what they want, unless it is for a special occasion like birthday and Christmas. That’s how my family raised me.

  • vfisher9

    My husband and I keep a WANT and NEED list on our counter, one for the house, one for him and one for myself. That way we take care of necessities first and then when special events or holidays come about, we get exactly what we want too. That way neither of us our deprived and get presents we desire.

  • OrlandoAAlfaroJr

    As I reviewed my spending this past week and this week currently, I noticed that the majority of it was for a race registration, new running shoes, and small snacks. The new running shoes were a necessity because my old running shoes were falling apart and the sole was worn down significantly. The race registration was a necessity because I, along with my fellow club members, will be representing our junior college at a triathlon this May. The little snacks, on the other hand, were just a craving, a want. If I had made my own snacks at home, I would be $11.35 richer. Now $11.35 might not seem like much, but let’s add that up for three months, every week and a half. Now my expenses aren’t a mere $11.35 anymore. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beware of little expenses, a small leak will sink a great ship”, and if I don’t watch these minor expenses, my ‘ship’ will sink. I’m glad that I recognize my spending, but my decision-making skills about the snacks I bought are what has left me embarrassed a little. In the future, I plan to think ahead when buying something as small as a bag of peanuts. “Will this purchase hurt me three months from now, or will I be okay?”, is a question that I will be asking myself from now on.

  • tavia8910

    I ate out a lot over the past few weeks and that’s definitely a want and not a need Lol. I could save a lot of money by not eating out & maybe spending that on gas & groceries instead. I already know about wants vs needs, but I just have a hard time following through. I need to work on it tho!

  • nicoletta0607

    I am unemployed right now, and have a significantly lower income than before. Being a single mom I have had to literally force myself to stop spending. At first it seemed like “I was going to die”, because I am used to being able to have money for everything-well, not enough to save but everything I WANT. Since I have lost my job in March I have forced and graced to see what my kids and I REALLY need, and what I don’t need. I have done this by window shopping a lot! I also will pick something up, put it in the cart, and continue to “window shop” and by the time I have gone around the store I look closely at the cart and the kids and I decided what, if any of it, we need/want. That way we get our shopping fix, but go home with less if any and it still feels like we satisfied our need to shop.
    However, my down fall has been groupon, amazon, any “click of the button” purchase. Theres no thought behind it. That’s where a need vs want list will come into play. And the above listed needs, will be above all.


  • EnuffSed

    what is amazing the simple things are the most forgetful aspect of spending. My problem is trying to cipher between what is a need and want. i spend too much money on my wants and then my needs are also costing me a lot of money. Im broke now because of my spending addiction. I dress nice and have nice things but at times I be so broke, I find myself at the pawn shops. I admit i need a lot of help but reading this has gave me some pointers, its just hard to stop spending when you like spending.

  • Melina

    this is so true, i like that example of benjamin fraklin. everything in costco is so cheap until when it comes the time to pay, little things build up to like $200 in that one trip to costco. you need to spend your money wisely

  • shdwnightcrawler

    In the last month, I realized I eat out a lot. If I just buy more groceries and snacks, that will be enough to cut back on my spending greatly. I’ve also noticed it’s the little things that get me. The ease of being able to click on a song and just download it, I’ll just start adding things to my wishlist so I don’t forget them and see how bad I really want them or if I can just live without them.

  • Bettyr

    I only work 16 hours a week so i don’t make a lot as it is. Most of my money goes to gas money and bills but a couple things I noticed was the Reese’s cups. I buy 2 king size packs a day. They are on sale most of the time for 2 for $3. That seems like a trivial amount of money but if you add that up it is $15 a week. $60 a month. That is a lot. I can do so much with that money. I plan on cutting out the Reese’s cups. Something else I noticed is I spend a lot of money on gas running around on the weekends. If I decided to do things with the kids at home on the weekends it would be a lot cheaper. This really helped me decide what I have been spending that is just not necessary.

  • BeAllen

    It is a simple choice, Do you need it? or Do you want it? I just spent a small bit, less than $20 buck on the kids for toys which will be forgotten in 2-weeks.

    Instead of impulse buying, dig into the toy box, dust off the older kid’s discarded (but nice) toy and re-acquaint it with a new owner! Write a new name under it’s foot.

    Buzz Lightyear’s new owner “R” andy… Andy was through with it anyhow.

  • nikki0220

    I try to keep my spending to a minimum. Only for classes and books. Occasionally, I do have to use my card at the grocery store. Sometimes when I am short on cash, I will use my card to get my nails done. I do feel guilty when I use my account. I figure that once in a while won’t hurt, will it?

  • docplove

    After looking back, I could have certainly gone without the $80 tie I bought. What was I thinking??? I spent nearly $20 on nothing at 7-11 ( one of my random shopping trips at night) and I could have done without that. I have a few small leaks to plug up indeed!

  • c.wood.colorado

    It’s easy to spend money on things that we want but don’t need. I am very bad at this myself. However I once heard someone say that we always pay the people we own money to first, but we never pay ourselves. Which refers to saving money. My problem is that when I pay myself I buy the things that I want I don’t save it. If I ever want to own a home this is something I definitely need to work on, but my bills are always paid.

  • luncsfordn

    It’s really easy to make excuses for being broke when we spend small amounts of money several times a week on things that aren’t necessary. I was amazed when I started looking more closely at my expenses and cutting out the things I didn’t need. I still don’t have a lot of money but at least I know I’m spending my money on the necessities now than on luxuries.

  • bertha

    Wow, I hadn’t though about what I’ve been spending these last few days and now with this challenge in front of me it seem a bit senseless because yesterday I bought pizza I didn’t want, hair products I didn’t need and put jewelry on layaway that’s definitely not needed at this time because I just moved here to Texas and I need a job and a place to stay first. I kind of put the cart before the horse so to speak and now I feel 92.68 worth of stupid…lol

  • amberpatrick1

    I spent almost $5.00 on Wendy’s. I could have used that money for something more important. Figuring out whether something is a need or want is a struggle for me because somethings seem like they can be both a need and a want at the same time.