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Finances & Money

Writing Your Autobiography Through Spending

My First Checkbook

Here’s an interesting concept:

Every time you write a check or use your credit card, you are writing your autobiography“.

That means that part of your legacy is how you spent your money. Do you buy fancy shoes and plasma TVs, or do you give your money to charity? How you spend your money says a huge amount about you.

For us, most of our spending now goes towards debt, but looking back we’ve (I’ve) spent quite a bit on cars and not a huge amount on charitable donations. Some of our friends spend quite a bit on outdoor gear, while others spend on their children. But we all didn’t spend the same throughout our lives, and that’s why the expression really holds true.

Growing up, I couldn’t save a single dime. I had to spend it. It shows how impatient and childish I was back then. It wasn’t until the last 2-3 years that I finally learned the value of saving, investing, and giving. I’ve also noticed a marked change in my maturity level. Even though I’m still impatient and can be rather childish, I have stopped trying to impress others with outward gestures, and instead I’m trying to set and accomplish real goals.

Granted, I can’t interpret your personality from just a single category of spending, but try taking a look at your entire spending for a month or longer and see where most of your income went (perhaps other than for housing). Was it on dining out? Clothing? Charity? Pope Benedict Action Figures?

Recall how you spent your money through the years and you’ll probably be able to match up the stuff you bought with what you were going through in your life at the time. Maybe back in college you spent a bunch of money on gasoline, flowers and fast food. You were a busy guy trying to get a girl. Or maybe you bought a lot of stuffed animals and Tiger Beat magazines. I’d say you were a girl who probably didn’t get out much, but that’s just a hunch 😉

What we buy and when we bought it really does contribute to our autobiography because it’s material proof, through real stuff, bank records and check stubs, of the events in our lives and even how we were trying to live. Just think, did you spend more with cash or credit? How long did you carry those balances? How many years did you write monthly checks to pay down that debt? For us, it’s thousands of dollars per month to pay down our debt, not even counting our mortgage. That shows at least how I lived (maybe not Stacie).

Your budget also reflects your future goals, or at least it should. Your budget should have categories for saving, spending, investing and charity. For spending, that’s your bills plus fun money, while saving is for emergencies, vacations, Christmas or any other relatively short-term goal. If your budget is mostly travel and dining out, perhaps you’re being a bit too short-sighted. You won’t have much of a legacy when you’re 65 and have no retirement savings, right? So start saving and investing while you have a chance. Remember, you’re always writing your autobiography every second that you live, and with everything that you do.

Photo courtesy of MrBill

About the author

Clever Dude


  • “Every time you write a check or use your credit card, you are writing your autobiography“.
    I love that concept… what an interesting perspective! I can’t wait to share this with my hubby!
    Thanks for the terrific post!

  • When I look at our transactions on line, I definitely see the story of how our month went.

    Oh look, there’s the week we kept running back to the grocery store because I made a defective shopping list. Oh that’s right, we had to buy new tires–good thing we comparison shopped.

    My story’s not that exciting, but it’s kind of frugal.

  • It is funny with kids. Two of my kids spend every dime that hits there pockets. My middle one is a saver. Already the other say to her, that well shewill always have money!

    My oldest is actually getting better and starting to ask herself those good “do I need it questions”

  • This is very interesting. I’ve had to review my old credit records (starting in 2000) and they show someone who drank a lot of Starbucks’, visited Target frequently and travelled. Hmmm.
    The image of the ‘My First Checkbook’ reminds me of when I got my first account at age 15. My mother was trying to teach me to be responsible, but my primary memory is of bouncing a lot of checks and paying $30 each time because I didn’t read and understand a letter from the bank.

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