Picture this: you’re logged on as yourself on your partner’s tablet, looking to score the latest deal on GrabOne, the online coupon site. The tablet then gets passed around a bit, back to your partner, then to friends. A couple of days later, who ends up staring at a $90 purchase for canvas wall prints and wondering how that happened?

You, that’s who. Between online sites keeping your credit card details and web browsers holding on to your password information – all in the name of convenience – it’s far too easy for friends and family to pull the trigger and buy something on your account, whether they realise it or not.

Ever happen to you?

The above real-life episode comes courtesy of my colleague Paula here at Sorted, who to her credit was vigilant enough to spot that purchase on her statement. It’s one thing to make a plan for your money, it’s quite another to stay on top of where it actually goes. After she discovered the mysterious $90 spend, her partner’s friend fronted-up and paid her back straight away.

Money is already too invisible these days without it vanishing altogether.

At home I’ve avoided unplanned movie purchases on iTunes by keeping close watch over my password, but the GrabOne model is definitely a worry. On Trade Me, I keep wondering how long it will be before the kids hit the bid button and I end up legally liable to buy some scooter parts from Oz.

With teens it gets even harder, even if you think you’ve got things locked down with a password. As they spread their wings and challenge you on everything, how long before you end up, in some harried moment, letting them log on as you?

It’s only a matter of time, and they are certainly not going to forget that very enabling password. Another member of the Sorted team decided to avoid the issue entirely by cutting up a credit card and not subsidising her teenage son’s music habit.

This new web reality makes it more important than ever to track expenses. If you’re someone who naturally plays a vigilant money script in their heads, this probably comes easier than for the rest of us who either avoid money or use it for status.

Sure, the web makes it easy to spend, but thankfully it also makes it easier to track expenses with online statements and tools to check your balance on the fly.

Not long ago I followed a friend’s lead and downloaded three months of statements to look at our spending patterns from a different angle. You’d be surprised how easy this is to do from an online account. And because we all tend to visit the same places over and over for our regular shopping, it was easy to see what we typically spend on food, clothes or movies each month by sorting by the shop.

Thankfully I didn’t find any purchases that we hadn’t made. I guess my tablet didn’t get passed around enough. But the kids are still young, so I bet it’s only a matter of time…

The more we are alert, careful and watchful over our money, the more we’ll know where it’s going. And the more likely we’ll catch those times when it’s not flowing where we deliberately want it to.

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