Financial Wellness: Pay attention, but don’t obsess over your pennies

A lot of my frugal ways seem to be ingrained, habits I’m not always aware I have. Recently I realized I don’t approach the store checkout lane the same way others do.

I prefer to find a lane that isn’t completely empty. I want enough time to unload all my cart’s contents onto the conveyer belt before the cashier starts ringing me up. That way I can watch the price of each item as it pops up on the register’s screen to make sure it’s correct.

It’s a learned behavior. As a child, I remember my mom doing this.

I suppose it’s not as necessary nowadays, considering the advances in bar codes, scanning and point-of-sales systems. But you’d be surprised how often something doesn’t ring up at the proper price, especially if it’s on sale.

A month or so ago, a clearance Christmas gift set that had been slashed an additional 50 percent didn’t ring up with the extra discount. The cashier was able to manually adjust it when I pointed it out. My husband bought a dress shirt a couple of weeks later that didn’t register at the promised half-price. Again, the sales clerk changed it.

Sometimes the price discrepancy is my mistake. Maybe I grabbed the wrong item or didn’t meet the purchase requirements to trigger an advertised discount.

By paying attention, I make sure I don’t spend more than I intend.

Being attentive to your money, even in these small ways, adds up big. It’s like the saying, “if you watch the pennies, the dollars take care of themselves.” But that doesn’t mean you should obsess over every penny. I don’t think that’s the way to financial health.

Instead, analyze your spending while making your saving automatic. Monthly bank transfers from checking to retirement and savings accounts ensure we’re preparing for a solid financial future. It’s called paying ourselves first.

All of our fixed expenses – the mortgage, utilities, etc. – are paid automatically, too, meaning I don’t have to worry about missing a payment. That just leaves those variable expenses – including money spent at the grocery or discount store – for me to concentrate on, one register at a time.