Spending can be joyful when it's done intentionally, but you need a strategy for the moments when you're operating on autopilot. Being a money manager means going to Target prepared! I'm not talking about austerity. I'm not against spending, or the thrill of buying. I just want you to explore your habits in more depth. When you spend with intention, I hope you'll buy less and save more.

Let's have some fun, shall we? I have a challenge for you.

This experiment isn't designed to reactivate your money story. When you hit those rough patches—and you will—observe, breathe, and keep going. Don't indulge the drama. By the end of the exercise, you will have a very good idea of where all that money goes and how to make mindful changes to your spending.

Ready to play?

Challenge: What Did You Buy in the Past Three Days?

From memory first, think about where you've been the last three days. Did you drive anywhere or take the train? Were you at work, with kids, friends, or family? Did you eat at home or at a restaurant?

Write down what you bought and how much it cost (exclude fixed expenses like bills). Don't get lost in the rabbit hole of analysis. Include food, groceries, transportation, a pack of gum, emergency mascara, new sunglasses because you left yours on the train, iTunes or Amazon purchases.

Now, log in to your accounts and see how close you are to what you wrote down from memory. What have you learned about how much you spend and why?

It's enlightening to see where your money goes. When you write down what you spend, you start to see how often you spend on impulse. Who are you as a spender? That's what we're investigating. It's a key exercise that gives you deeper insights into your own habits and mind-set around spending.

Remember, Money Buddhas don't judge. They just observe. Humans have known for thousands of years that material gain does not create happiness. Austerity doesn't, either. Padded savings accounts? Ecstasy. I swear.

This is an adapted excerpt from Worth It: Your Life, Your Money, Your Terms by Amanda Steinberg (published by North Star Way, an imprint of Simon & Schuster).

Want more stories like this delivered to your inbox? Sign up for the Oprah.com Money Newsletter!


Next Story