4 Easy Steps To Track Your Monthly Spending

 “Where did all my money go?” “How did I go through my paycheck already?” Often times, we find ourselves staring at our bank account balance wide-eyed wondering what we spent our money on. Wondering where our money went is often a warning sign letting us know that we need to regain control of our financial situation. So how do we figure out where our money is going?

 1. Pick A Budget Tracking Tool

The choice is yours! Tracking where money is spent can be as simple or as detailed as you would like it to be. The key is that it is written down in a place where you can readily see where you are spending your money. Keeping track of things in your head is what led you to wonder where your money went to begin with. Seeing where money is disappearing to is quite shocking.

The simplest thing to do is to carry a little notebook and write down transactions as they are done. When carrying around a notebook is not an option, be sure to save all of your receipts throughout the day. Once home, be sure to record them right away.

If you prefer to use the computer, there are plenty of websites available to track spending online. A simple Excel spreadsheet even does the trick.

 2. Start Tracking Your Daily Expenses

Begin by listing your regular monthly expenditures. For the rest of the month, continue to write down every transaction that you complete. Whatever method you prefer, be sure to at least include: the date, amount, and a category. Categories can include “transportation,” “food,” “entertainment,” etc. Other details to include can be the method of payment, the store, and a general idea of the item(s) purchased.

 3. Evaluate Your Monthly Spending

Now that you have been writing down your expenses for the past month, it is time to find out where the money “went.”  Begin by totaling up each spending category.  This step is usually where the “ah-ha!” moment comes.  You will be able to see how much was spent on eating out or how much was spent on clothing.  Depending on how detailed you were with your tracking method, you can even notice trends in your spending habits that you weren’t aware of.  After looking at the numbers, you’ll be able to identify  areas to cut back on spending can now be identified. Maybe that means eating out less. Maybe it means making some larger changes like cutting back on the cable bill

4.  Take Action To Cut Overspending

Knowing where your money has been going and what areas of spending can be adjusted, gives you the power to regain financial control! The next step is to create a spending plan. Relax! You now have the hard part out of the way! The spending plan simply tells your money where to go at the beginning of the month rather than waiting to see where it went at the end of the month.

Tracking expenses can seem very scary when we actually have to face on paper what we do with our money. Our money should not be in control of how we feel or what we do. We should be able to know exactly what amount is going where so we can live a little more stress-free.

 

 Image from 401kcalculator.org

14 thoughts on “4 Easy Steps To Track Your Monthly Spending

  1. Joyce Knight

    Hi, I found this very interesting. Have actually been trying to get my husband to do this with me for quite a while now so HE can see where it is going….I have already figured it out.

    1. Kara SchulteKara Schulte Post author

      It can certainly be a challenge to get a partner on board when it comes to planning and budgeting; and even more frustrating when you can see what beneficial changes can be made! My husband will tell you that nagging is not the answer! Showing the other person the “what’s in it for them” can help, or turning spending tracking into a game. Being creative to get a partner involved can really make tracking your spending more fun!

  2. Ashley

    Umm. Uh-oooh. I halfway lost this calnlehge today, because I already made plans to go shopping when I woke up this morning, because I’ve gained some weight. (I’m still working on the IChoose2move calnlehge). But I must say that in the past two years, since I have made a life change and moved to another state, I am more conscious of spending. I moved into a smaller place(no more walk through closet), and now I see how much I’ve been blessed and didn’t even realize it. In my new place I had nowhere to put alot of my things, so I’ve attempted to cram them all into a closet and under the bed. For instance, I had a whole garbage bag full of purses,some with the tag still on them,that won’t fit under the bed. (We won’t talk about the shoes). I can only carry one purse at a time, so this has forced me to be a more giving person giving to others who could use.

    1. Kara SchulteKara Schulte Post author

      Thanks for sharing Ashley! It sounds like you have made some great changes over the past couple of years and have really looked at your spending habits to make improvements. Sometimes it takes big life events to make us see how much we have and how we can share that with others who are not as fortunate. In the end, becoming a more giving person really helps us feel a lot better and brings more joy, and longer lasting happiness, than a new purse will.
      On the other hand, if you add clothes shopping into your budget (and I mean a reasonable amount here), then that is okay. We all need new clothes every so often and when you budget for it, you know you still have money to pay for your other monthly obligations without feeling guilty. The trouble can happen when you are out and about and randomly see a shirt that you like and buy it. Then a couple days later you decide you need new shoes to match the shirt you just bought… then the cycle continues from there. Before you know it, your money has disappeared from unplanned spending! Having an accountability partner can really help control those urges and help keep you on track.
      Keep up the good work Ashley!

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