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This article is an account of the author’s individual experience. It is does not constitute any form of financial advice. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not represent CIMB’s views. The reader is advised to speak to a qualified financial advisor before making any important financial decisions.

 

In the first months of lockdown, I expected a higher-than-average credit card statement balance—after all, nearly all of my regular cash purchases were now on my credit card—but each month I was repeatedly surprised by the numbers. Seeing almost everything I spent over the month totalled and presented as one lump sum was a bit of a shock. Did I really spend that much every month?

Tracking My Expenses

Nevertheless, I let things remain unchanged for a few months. I told myself that this spending was just me adjusting to the lockdown and it will stop eventually. Well, that didn’t happen, and finally one weekend I sat down and analysed my credit card statement.

 

Nothing forensic, mind you. I just grouped my expenses into how much I spent on food deliveries, online shopping, entertainment, etc. I was quickly confronted by some unexpected spending patterns.

 

Shopping to Feel Good

 

One detail about my spending that came as a surprise was that I was still buying board games—between 3 to 5 games a month. Cooped up at home, I wouldn’t get to play these board games anytime soon, and yet I was still buying them.

 

I took a deeper look and found I shop mostly on Fridays and Saturdays, when I usually meet my gaming group. I realised that my purchases were a quick-fix emotional pick-me-up, that I missed my friends and the fun we had together and was reacting to feeling lonely and disconnected by buying new games.

 

Nowadays, I plan online gaming sessions with my friends using any one of the many digital board game platforms. It’s so easy and convenient that we even ‘meet’ on weekdays after work. After addressing this, I now feel more connected and I haven’t bought any new board games in the past few months.

Eating More Than I Realised

I’ve always struggled with my weight and lockdown has only made this more difficult.

 

Tracking my spending on my credit card showed me that I was eating far more poorly than I otherwise thought. I was having food delivered 2 to 3 times a week, but because I wanted to be “smart” about it I always ordered more than I needed for a single meal.

 

So here’s what I do now: I found recipes for meals I can prepare in advance and freeze, and I arrange it so that these make up 8-10 of my meals throughout the week. I still order food deliveries but now I only order what I will eat for that meal. No more leftovers and no more unwanted calories.

 

Today I’m eating healthier, feeling better and my weight is trending downwards. And, yes, I’m spending less on food, too.

 

Strategically using my credit card

 

Having found two significant revelations through reviewing my credit card statement, I now put as much of my spending as I can on my credit card. I try to use only one credit card so that it’s easier to review and analyse my spending each month.

 

There are some bonus benefits of paying for things using my credit card that I didn’t really consider before I started tracking my spending this way:

 

Bonus Points – these are a nice reward that builds up as you spend on your credit card and by consolidating my spending on a single card my points are building up that must faster. CIMB offers attractive Member Rewards that you can check out here.

 

Deals – most credit cards also have exclusive offers and deals. These are usually special discounts or extra bonus points. You can view CIMB Deals here.

 

Cash Rebates – Some credit card can give you cash back on groceries, petrol and utilities. You can view CIMB cards that offer cash rebates here.

 

Some must-have habits when using your credit card:

 

Using my credit card as an expense tracker has required a few key disciplines:

 

  • Never spend more money than you make:

    Your credit card is not free money. Plan a budget and strictly follow it. Check your credit card balance regularly to make sure you’re keeping to your budget. Stay in control of your spending.


  • Always pay your bills on time:

    Late or missed credit card payments will cost you in penalties and fees. Furthermore, these late payments may adversely affect your credit score and might negatively impact your ability to successfully apply for credit in the future.

  • Always pay off your full statement balance:

    Credit card interest rates are among the highest in the market. Always pay off your entire credit card balance on time each month so that you don’t pay any interest on the money you’ve spent.

 

 

This article is an account of the author’s individual experience. It is does not constitute any form of solicitation or financial advice. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s and may not necessarily represent CIMB’s views. The reader is advised to seek professional advice, including speaking to a qualified financial advisor before making any financial, credit or investment decisions.