This post is in collaboration with Cinch Financial.


Money can be somewhat of a scary topic. And for many people, it’s a highly emotional topic as well. One thing we believe about personal finance, though, is that we should be intentional with our money.

Intentional spending makes all the difference when sticking to your budget and making the best financial decisions for you personally, regardless of what phase of life you’re currently in.

Plus, creating awareness around where you are spending every dollar is what will help you put your money where your goals are when it comes to your financial decisions.

To put this philosophy into practice, five GenTwenty contributors agreed to mindfully track their spending for a weekend and answer a few reflection questions on how mindfulness impacted their spending.

Let’s take a look at a weekend edition of mindful money diaries:


Allison

Saturday

Today I enjoyed a mini “staycation” in my hometown.

5pm I’ve been at my best friend’s family reunion all day, so this is the first time all day I’ve needed to buy anything. It’s a beautiful day and my friend, her aunt, and I decide to sneak out for some ice cream. I pay $3.54 for a kiddie cone, but they gave me a lot of ice cream so I didn’t feel guilty about spending that much on an ice cream. Total: $3.54

7:30pm My parents left for vacation a couple days ago and left my brother and I $50 for dinner and snacks. We spent $20 at a concert on Wednesday (concert food prices are outrageous!) and I left $20 for my brother to buy groceries if he needs to. I save the rest for miscellaneous expenses like coffee and vending machine snacks at work. (I also vow to stop buying so much food at the vending machine at work). Total: $0 (because my parents paid).

8pm I need to get gas. I wish I could afford to fill my tank every time, but I need to do some grocery shopping when I get back to my apartment. I only put $10 in my tank, but that’s enough to get me through the rest of the weekend. Total: $10 

11pm My friend texts our group chat to see who’s interested in going to a concert on Thursday. It’s only $5 and comes with a voucher for one free drink, so I decide to go for it. Total: $5

11pm I’m tired from a long drive home, so I decide to stay in and watch Netflix instead of going out and paying $15+ for drinks.

Sunday

Today I’m back at my apartment and getting ready for the work week.

1pm I stop at the store to pick up some beauty items I’ve been putting off because they aren’t essential, just nice to have. Total: $12

5pm I need to pick up a few things to make a beef casserole. I have the meat but not the rest of the ingredients. I wish to myself that I could keep my fridge a little more full. I spend more than I budgeted for, but I bought things on sale and used my loyalty card so I feel better about my purchase. Total: $16.92

6pm On my way back home from the store I stop at the new pizza place around the corner from my apartment. I’ve been waiting for months for this place to open, excited that it’s the first pizza place I’ve seen that offers drive thru slices, so I stop through and get three slices.  Total: $9

Weekend Total: $56.46

Reflection:

1. Did you feel more mindful of your “why” behind your spending?

I definitely feel more mindful of the “why” behind my spending. I have to give myself a solid reason why I need something, ask myself if I can live without it, before I pull out my debit card.   

2. Does your money go where you want it to go?

My money doesn’t always go where I want it to go. I spend a large majority of it on snacks and groceries on an as-needed basis. I have a freezer full of bulk meat, but my fridge itself is usually pretty empty. I need to go to the store often to buy snacks and ingredients for side dishes, and I end up overspending because I want to fill my fridge. I’d like to start using this money toward paying off credit card debt and building a savings account.

I think I’d like to start taking a little bit of cash out at the beginning of the week and seeing how far I can stretch it before I need to pull out my debit card again.

3. Did mindfulness keep you from spending anything?

It made me more aware of my spare change and extra dollars. I like to use those toward small purchases so I don’t have to have to use my debit card on purchases that are $5 or less. 


Marina

I’m a grad student. I don’t have a job this semester–my long-term internship I obtained in January ended unexpectedly after some departmental restructuring (aka, our department was closed after the company was bought). I’m job searching, but babysitting whenever I can to earn some cash.

Saturday

9:00am I take a muffin that my mom bought at Trader Joe’s and cut it in half to heat up in a skillet with butter. Pan-fried muffins are delicious! Total: $0

10:45am I go for a run. I’m trying to work on my health and fitness and the world is a free gym! I am out of shape, though, so I run-walk around my neighborhood for twenty minutes. I get back and stretch and do sit-ups and push-ups. I wish I had a gym membership but I just can’t afford it. Without any income coming in, I’m trying to spend as little as possible. Total: $0

12:00pm For lunch, scrambled two eggs and put them in a tortilla for a breakfast taco. I also had leftover salad and some peanut butter cookie dough bites I made the other night. Total: $0

1:30pm  I head down to a friend’s before I check in to the Airbnb where I’m staying for class.

My school is about two hours away from my house, but because my program is designed for commuters and people who work full-time, we do most of our work online and meet twice a month for weekend classes. I stay at an Airbnb near my campus so I can walk to and from class. Typically, I take the train down and a round trip ticket costs $53 with my 10% student discount. I grab Lyfts to and from the train station to my Airbnb and using Lyft Line, it usually is about $7 per ride, including tip.

Today, I drive down instead. Round trip I’ll just need half a tank of gas. I topped off my car before I hit the road! Luckily, I live in California and there are very few toll roads. Total: $20

3:00pm I arrived at my friend’s house for a birthday party. As a gift, I made an embroidery she can hang on her wall. Materials cost me just $5 total so it was a special but inexpensive gift to give! Total: $5

8:00pm I arrived at my Airbnb. I stay here every class weekend and have gotten to know the hosts. It’s worth the more expensive cost to stay in a house where I feel comfortable. I ate at my friend’s party but packed snacks for when I got to my Airbnb because I knew I’d be hungry and I didn’t want to have to run out for food or order delivery. Total: $115

Sunday

6:45am I wake up to get ready for class. I brought granola bars from home for breakfast and munch on those while I pack up, check out, and head to my 8am class. Total: $0

9:15am  I stopped at the campus cafe for a larger breakfast. I wasn’t sure when I would be able to have lunch and I didn’t want to get hangry while walking around the museum. I grabbed eggs, bacon, fruit, tater tots, and a hot green tea. Total: $6.46

10:15am I met my professor and classmates at the museum. Admission is free but parking is not. We had originally planned to carpool and share the expense of parking but I wanted to be able to drive home right after the museum rather than double back to campus and add an extra hour to my trip. Total: $15

5:30pm I went to a friend’s for dinner. We take turns having dinners at our houses so we can save money and spend time together. We were celebrating one friend’s birthday and I brought a gift. Their house has a pool so I bought him an inflatable pizza slice to relax on! Totally worth it. Total: $25

Weekend Total: $186.46

Reflection:

1. Did you feel more mindful of your “why” behind your spending?

This exercise definitely helped me see where my money is going and why I’m spending the way I am. School expenses are sort of a fixed cost but I do try to be mindful in spending when I’m on campus for food and snacks. I pack as much as I can and try to avoid indulgences like coffee… I drink decaf anyway, so I’m not even drinking it for a caffeine boost!

2. Does your money go where you want it to go?

I try to stay in line with my set budget but recently I’ve been slacking when it comes to eating out. I don’t eat out often, but when I do I tend to overspend. I definitely want to dial it back!

3. Did mindfulness keep you from spending anything?

Mindfulness helped me think ahead of time so I could prevent myself from buying extras like coffee or random snacks. I always carry a big purse which means I always have room for snacks anyway!


Natalee

Saturday

6:30am Saturday started as it has for most summertime Saturdays over the past few years: my momma brought me an iced coffee before starting work at the family business at a local farmer’s market, saving me the $2 I’d usually pay for an iced doppio in the morning. She also got my husband a coffee, and he’d usually get a cold brew for about $3. Total: $0

10am Later in the day on a break from work at the farmer’s market, I decided to splurge on some nicer groceries than usual because we’re moving out of the state soon. I wanted to soak up some Wisconsin goodness while we still could! Naturally, cheese was a big part of the equation. Total: 30.73

10:30am After vending outside at the hot and humid market for a few hours, my husband and I were parched so I decided to hit up a nearby coffee place. Total $7.58

We didn’t spend anything for the rest of the day.

Sunday

10am An unusual Sunday for me, my husband and I took a short trip out of town with my father-in-law. We stopped at a gas station and I grabbed an iced coffee, which my kind father-in-law insisted on paying for. Total: $0

12:30pm We wanted to take my father-in-law out to lunch, which would have cost about $60, but he had a busy Sunday and didn’t have the time. Bummer. We spent most of our day packing to move, so we didn’t spend anything. Total: $0

9pm We were thirsty from packing in a muggy house all afternoon and evening, so we went to Walgreens for some drinks and essentials. Total: $18.20

Weekend Total: $56.51

Reflection:

1. Did you feel more mindful of your “why” behind your spending?

Definitely! Especially when it came to “special purchases” like the Wisconsin cheese, I kept in mind why I was buying it. I wanted it specifically because I won’t be able to get Wisconsin cheese in my new state, so it was important to choose wisely.

2. Does your money go where you want it to go?

I do not have a set budget, but I try to be frugal more often than not. This weekend was definitely in line with what I try to spend in a given weekend.

3. Did mindfulness keep you from spending anything?

Nope, I lived my life as usual. I rarely buy things that I don’t really want or need. However, I was more mindful of why I wanted or needed each item.

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Nicole

This was an unusual weekend of spending for me. My in-laws were in town so we knew we would be eating every meal out and also going on a two day trip to Portland and considered it a mini-vacation.

Saturday

9am We go to brunch at a local place nearby. We don’t come here often but I love their food so I get an omelette with a side of bacon. We also get donut holes and split them with our table. Total: $25

10am We stop at Starbucks on our way out and I use a reward for a free drink. Total: $0

2pm I pick up a water bottle. Total: $1

3pm We stop for lunch at a local place on the way to Mt. Saint Helens. I have a salad and a soda because I’m tired from driving. Total: $22

4pm We stop for gas. My in-laws picked up the hotel and we booked the rental car so we are taking care of all of the related expenses. Total: $13

7pm After checking in to the hotel, we decide to go to a local brewery for dinner. We decide to Uber over because I don’t want to worry about driving home. I pay because the app is on my phone. Total: $11 with tip

7:30pm For dinner, I have a black bean burger and a bad glass of wine. Total: $20

8:30pm We take a Lyft back to the hotel. Again, I pay because the app is on my phone. I tip extra because the driver said he recently lost his job. Total: $13 with tip

9pm We stop at Powell’s on the way back and my husband and I buy 10 books. Total: $45

Sunday

9am We head to a spot we discovered accidentally on a previous visit. My husband and I split the chicken and waffles and an omelette. I also get cold brew. Total: $20

10am We stop for another coffee before going for a walk at a nearby park. Total: $5

11:30am We decide to go to the Japanese Tea Garden. I managed to get a spot right out front and the person who was leaving gave us his parking sticker because he paid through the end of the day. I passed it along to the person who was taking our spot when we left. Total: $15

1pm I buy a water bottle because I’m ridiculously hot. Total: $2

3:30pm We stop for donuts. Because we skipped lunch, I get two but only end up eating one. Total: $3

7pm We go out for dinner and I have a salad with a split side of fries and water. Total: $15

Weekend Total: $212

Reflection:

1. Did you feel more mindful of your “why” behind your spending?

This weekend was treated as a mini-vacation because we knew that we would be eating out a lot. Because my in-laws were coming to town, we purposefully did not eat out the two weeks beforehand. My in-laws usually pay for us but they are retired now and we don’t feel they should have to cover everything for us.

2. Does your money go where you want it to go? (i.e. did you spend in line with your set budget if you have one?)

For the most part, yes. We set money aside for travel related expenses and this was no exception. Other than food, we didn’t buy much (just books and a travel activity). I want to be more conscious when ordering at restaurants. Since we don’t eat out often, I get overly ambitious.

3. Did mindfulness keep you from spending anything?

Yes. We went to a lot of our favorite places and I feel like we ordered more than usual. I always get soda when I’m tired even though water is the better choice, so I tried to be more mindful of that craving when we went out.

Also when shopping for books, I originally picked up a few more than I ended up buying. I realized that I didn’t really need everything I was holding.


Tori

Saturday

9:15 am I took my once-a-month, Saturday morning Barre class with friends. I had already purchased my ClassPass ticket (it’s a monthly, automatic charge,) but I’ll include the spend here. I use ClassPass because it saves me a ton of the cost of the workouts (I saved $12 on this class, for example.) I’m also subscribed to Barre3 online, which is way cheaper than in-person classes multiple times a week. Total: $10

10:15 am Barre is over (and omg I’m so sore), so my friend Brittany and I partake in our regular post-Barre routine: organic donuts from the shop next door. I usually only have one, but I pushed myself really hard so I reward myself with two. Total: $4.80

1:00 pm Brittany is getting her hair done today (a 3.5 hour process, whew!) and I’ve been debating getting mine cut for awhile. I call to see if there is an appointment: lo and behold, they can get me in this afternoon! With tip, it comes to $50, which is honestly a cheap haircut (I got 9 inches cut off!) Total: $50

4:30 pm I managed to score free tickets to John Mayer (had a friend who couldn’t go) so Brittany and I were planning to drive to Portland for the concert and drive home the same night. She got out of her hair appointment a bit too late for us to make it (and we know how tired we’ll be), so we make the wise decision to stay home. My hometown theater that my family is involved in is doing “The King and I,” so we decide to go to that instead. It’s dinner theater, so a meal (plus dessert!) is included. I love to support this organization — my parents are extremely involved, and I spent my summers growing up acting in the shows. We sleep over at my parents’ house, which saves us money and gas. Total: $27

Sunday

I have a pretty chill Sunday, because I spent quite a lot on Saturday (this whole week has been really expensive, honestly!) I go out for drinks with this great guy I knew in Ireland (where I studied abroad.) He buys the first round, I buy the second. We end up staying out for about 5 hours, and have a really good time. We both get fancy cocktails and take our time sipping them. Total: $26.42

Weekend Total: $118.22

Reflection:

1. Did you feel more mindful of your “why” behind your spending?

Honestly, I’m usually really good at spending mindfully, so if anything, tracking my spending for a weekend reinforced that tendency.

2. Does your money go where you want it to go?

I knew starting this week (the weekend being at the end) that it would be a huge spending period for me (I had networking dinners, drinks out with friends, and events planned for almost every night.) So I will work this next week on curbing my spending, especially for the rest of the month.

3. Did mindfulness keep you from spending anything?

There were these great leggings on sale (I already have a pair and want 2 more!) that I was planning on purchasing, but with the rest of the week’s expenses looming in the back of my mind, I put them on hold for another time.


Mindful Money Diaries Results

As you can see, mindfulness impacted each of our weekend spends in one way or another. In some cases, that meant splurging on specific items for a specific reason. In other cases, it means not buying something, even when spending the cash would be more convenient. And even in others, it meant realizing we had spent mindlessly without thought of the why behind the spend.

We all have different lifestyles, situations, and goals that impact the way we spend mindfully. Cinch Financial has developed software that you can think of as your personal CFO. First, Cinch analyzes your data on your income, spending, debts, etc. Then they aggregate personalized advice based on your lifestyle, cash flow, and financial goals to help you identify which services and plans are best for you for things like car insurance, your phone plan, and even your bank.

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