Personal Finance Columnist Loses $10,000

Personal finance columnist M. P. Dunleavey lost $10,000. Her year-end financial review showed an inexplicable, gaping hole in her bank account. Where did the money go? Large hidden bank fees? Identity theft? Drugs?

I ran through the numbers again with my husband, and he reached the same conclusion: approximately $10,000 was missing in action. That was the vacation we didn’t take, part of the new roof we might need, some terrific wine we didn’t drink. Now we really wanted to know where that money went.

It wasn’t long before it showed up. After sitting there for a while at the kitchen table, stunned, my husband said, “Thirty dollars.”

He explained his theory. One day, we were about to visit friends and had offered to pick up dessert and wine — which came to about $30 . The next day we had a birthday to attend and a prescription to pick up, and we spent about $30. We took out the calculator: $10,000 divided by 365 is about $27.

It wasn’t that we spent $30 mindlessly every day, but once we started digging for the “we’re not really spending any money” money — a trip to Lowe’s, new shoes for my son, iTunes downloads for my husband, a new work outfit for me — all the little things fell into place.

M. P. Dunleavey lost $10,000 to teach us a lesson about nickel and diming our savings away. Her loss is a reminder that every time we go to the ATM, every time we stop for take-out, every time we reach for our wallet, money seeps from our bank account. There is a line between ascetic saving and carefree living, but as Dunleavey points out, it will shift between people and bank accounts: “It’s too stressful to monitor every dime you spend — yet it’s vital to know where your money is going, so that it goes toward what matters most.”

A Little Here, a Little There and It’s Gone [NYT]