$mart Money: Track Pennies Like You Track Calories

Struggling to make ends meet? Dieting strategies make sense when saving money.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    U.S. Mint
    Every cent counts.

    The principles of watching your weight can also apply to watching your finances, one Naperville woman discovered.

    Modeled after Weight Watchers, Alice Wood's Wealth Watchers just might be the perfect fat buster for your budget.

    Alice Wood said she gained weight following a brain injury.  Shortly afterward, she says her finances tanked.  But when Weight Watchers worked to help her shed 20 pounds, she thought it just might work for money, too.

    And it did.  In just the first year, Wood and her husband saved $12,000 dollars; enough for a family vacation.

    The trick, Wood says, is tracking spending the same way dieters track their calories.

    "It can be ten dollars a day," Wood explained.  "Ten seems like nothing, but it’s $10 times 365 days, and now we’re talking real money!"

    Wood's new book, Wealth Watchers, explains how to journal all your expenses.

    Here's the gist:

    1.) Evaluate:  Collect all your bills and paycheck stubs and figure out how much money you really have to spend each month.

    2.) Create Daily Budget:  Divide your spending power by the number of days in the month to learn your daily allowance.

    3.) Track it: Write down every penny you spend and what it's for.

    Wood says immediately you will start noticing all the money you waste.

    Big spenders with iPhones can let an application do all the math.  Red and green arrows let you easily see if you're within your daily budget allowance.

    Chicago Public School students will next month get their own journals from Wealth Watchers. Visa is sponsoring the effort to improve financial literacy during Money Smart Week. Teachers will assist students with setting a goal and tracking their students progress.

    McDonald's and the City of Chicago have also participated to help their employees.