I have been swamped lately — absolutely buried. I’m busy at the box factory, busy with my blogs, and busy with holiday social activities. It’s been nearly impossible for me to juggle everything. Now I’m getting sick, and I can’t help but think it’s due to the stress.

But the stress has done more than affect my health. It’s leading me to spend without thinking. You know how busy people justify their Egg McMuffin or their pastry-from-a-package by saying they’re too busy to make a real breakfast? I get like that with money when I’m under stress.

Under normal circumstances, I’ve learned to ask myself questions about every purchase I make:

  • “Is this a want or a need?”
  • “Would I buy this if I had just lost my job?”
  • “Why don’t I wait thirty days to see if this is still important?”

I also track my finances at least once a week, sometimes more.

Lately, though, I’ve been slipping into old habits. I’m not accumulating debt, but I’m buying on impulse. Today I did my finances for the first time in two weeks, and I was shocked by all the little indulges I’d been allowing myself. It’s not that I’m going shopping — I’m not — it’s just that I’m buying whatever comes to mind when I’m in the store. I spend a lot during the Christmas season anyhow, and it’s as if this has made it easier to spend on myself.

I’m not worried. Balancing my checkbook this morning was enough to alert me to the problem. This is one of the great benefits of tracking every penny you spend. By keeping tabs on my expenditures, I’m able to catch and correct small mistakes before they become big problems.

I just wish I was smart enough not to buy Star Trek DVDs in the first place! (Oh well — at least I’m enjoying them.)