Gallup is a research and analytics firm that gathers information through polling to help understand many behaviors globally. One of the subjects that Gallup researches is the spending habits of U.S. citizens. By collecting this data monthly, Gallup helps spot trends in the economy. Economists and businesses like to watch these trends because it helps them measure whether the economy is in—or headed toward—a period of contraction or growth.
In March, Gallup reported that the 1,500 Americans they polled reported spending or charging an average of $83 per day throughout the month of February. This number did not include amounts for any bills paid or home or vehicle purchases.
Gallup probably doesn’t call you to ask what you spent each day, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to track. Because by watching your own daily spending habits, you can see how your attitude toward your money is changing and see if you’re trending toward making good financial choices, or bad ones.
Within your budget, you have a certain amount set aside for things like grocery shopping, entertainment, recreation, gas, clothing and so on. When you add those numbers up for the whole month (excluding anything you have designated for bills or the purchase of a home or vehicle) and divide it by the number of days in a month, you can see what you intend for your average daily spending to be. How does this number compare to that of the current U.S. average of $83? Do you think you could still live happily if you reduced it?
Next, you can track your actual daily spending and compare it to what your budget says you should be spending. Remember that the daily number is an average, which means you may spend much more on some days (such as when you go grocery shopping) and much less on others.
While working through these exercises, keep in mind that the less you spend each day, the more you have for savings and debt repayment and the more control you’ll have over your financial future.