Almost 2/3 of the way through the Transaction Cleanse and the April Writing Challenge, and a few things are abundantly clear. Overall, I’m doing better in both areas than I would otherwise be doing: spending less, writing more. So that's pretty exciting. And it’s all because I’m a) paying attention, and b) measuring.
But I must confess. I’m paying attention and measuring in a loosey-goosey kind of way. First of all – and how laughable is this? – I rely on my memory of what things cost if I don’t get a receipt, if I buy on a weekend jaunt, if I pay cash. Secondly, I monitor only those things that I have to make a conscious, real-time decision to buy, e.g. banana date smoothie at local treat shop but not rent payment, new shoes but not cell service, cross country ski pass but not iPhone storage charges. The underlying assumption is that I don’t have any control over the outflows associated with decisions already made. True to a point, but I have a strong suspicion that there's a lot of good information being missed by excluding these transactions.
But even in the areas I’m supposedly paying attention to, things are slipping through the cracks. For example, I was driving home on Saturday, pleased to glance down and see I had a nearly full tank of gas. But then wait… how can that possibly be, when my Transaction Cleanse spreadsheet doesn’t include a single mention of gas? Here’s how. I did, in fact, get gas. Oops. And I used the exact same credit card as when I buy something from Target or Amazon. So it was a conscious, real-time transaction.
Then how did it manage to escape being noticed? It happened for two reasons, I think. One, I long-ago stopped getting receipts for gas purchases (“one more thing to throw out”), thereby relegating such purchases to the “stealth transactions” category. It is simultaneously a member of the “presumed unavoidable transactions” category. But who’s kidding whom? There are many ways to reduce, if not avoid, fuel costs and this MO ignores them all.
But wait! I just realized I did it again as we speak. Mentioning Amazon made me realize that I failed to record paying for any of the 30 pounds worth of items that just arrived in my monthly Subscribe And Save shipment. Here, I could *almost* make an argument that it’s not a conscious or real-time choice. That is, I could argue that if I didn’t go in to review it before it ships and get multiple notifications about what it cost afterwards. Oh, those “stealth transactions” are insidious!
So chalk up another triumph of awareness for the Transaction Cleanse. At least I’m going to get through today transaction-free… that I’m aware of.