Today I will be discussing the tracking of expenses.
Do you track your expenses? Creating a plan for your money and determining where it will go is a great first step, but it won’t help much if you don’t track your expenses.
When you think about it, creating a diet and exercise plan doesn’t automatically mean you’ll become healthier. You need to track your workouts and meals and develop healthy habits.
It’s the same thing with personal finance. While creating a budget is a great first step, you also need to track your expenses if you want to gain any traction.
Tracking your expenses can also be helpful early on if you need to identify certain spending patterns and triggers.
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Why bother tracking your expenses?
Keeping track of each and every expense is key to creating your budget, also known as a spending plan if the word budget makes you cringe.
You need a starting point as to what you are spending on things in any given month so that you can decide whether this aligns with your goals, or if the money would be better spent somewhere else (or saved).
It also makes you acknowledge how many little things you spend money on and how they really can add up.
We’ve looked at why you need to track your spending, now let’s look at how to track it.
Want to know more about why tracking your expenses is important? Then see our post below:
Would you like to know how to create a budget, but don’t know where to start? Then see the post below:
Tracking of Expenses
Look at your account statements
One of the easiest ways to get started is to look at your bank or credit card statements.
If you use a debit or credit card for most of your purchases, your statement will show you each transaction over a set period of time.
You might want to compare month-to-month which means you’ll need to save a few months’ worth or statements.
Another route you can take that may be quicker is to use a site like Mint.com to track your expenses from various different sources.
For example, if you have a debit card and tend to rotate between using 3 different credit cards as well, you can connect all your accounts to Mint and receive a view of your transactions all in one place.
Categorise your spending
As you go through all the transactions on your statement, you’ll likely start to notice some trends and patterns.
For example, you may notice that you have some subscriptions or tend to dine out each Wednesday and Friday night.
It’s important to create spending categories based on your actual spending.
If you’re using a service like Mint, your spending may already be categorized somewhat and you’ll just need to go over the categories to ensure everything is accurate.
Once you create those categories, you can use that information to create your own realistic budget.
How can I track my expenses?
So, tracking your expenses is really simple. You just need to record every single time you pull out your credit or debit card, spend cash or write a cheque.
The key is that you need to track every single expense!
If you just track some of your expenses, it’s not going to get you anywhere.
To be most effective, you need to record the date of the expense, what the expense was and where you purchased it (for example, Groceries – Asda) and how much the expense cost.
The tool you use to track them totally depends on your personal preference.
Here some options below.
Would you like advice on cutting down your monthly expenses, but don’t know where to start? Then see the post below:
Pen and paper
There are plenty options for expense trackers on Amazon, or you can just purchase a cheap notebook for the pound/dollar store and use that instead.
I’d recommend that you pick up a small spiral bound one and stick a pen through the spiral. If you’re going to use a notebook, the best place you can keep it is in your bag or car (if you don’t carry a bag), so you always have it with you when you’re spending money.
On your phone
You could also track your expenses on your phone. You could do in a note app (I use the note app for so many things- I love it!) or an alternative note app.
There are also a TON of apps out there that you can use to track your expenses.
Most of them cost extra to use if you want to link them to your bank account or credit accounts (which you really don’t have to do if you’re just diligent about keeping track of things, by the way).
I think good old Mint.com is a safe bet if you’re looking for an app.
One word of warning about using any kind of tracker that’s linked with your accounts:
Make sure you manually track any purchase that you make with cash!
Back in the days when I wasn’t so great with money, I considered the purchases I made with cash to be free because they weren’t coming out of my account.
Unfortunately, it does not work that way. Track those cash purchases too!
Use a spreadsheet
I love a spreadsheet!
If you are going to use a spreadsheet to track your expenses, you have to be super careful to make sure you don’t miss any.
Personally, I use Excel.
Set aside a time every day or every few days to add new expenses to your spreadsheet.
And either use a paper and pencil or phone method in the meantime. You could even text yourself about expenses that you don’t want to forget.
Be consistent and organised
Tracking your expenses is not something you should do once or twice. You should continue to do it if you want to see long-term results. Tracking your expenses can help you spend and save more intentionally and avoid getting into debt.
Yes, it does require a little time and effort to get into the habit of doing it but it always pays off in the end.
In order to keep up with it consistently, I recommend organising a spreadsheet where you can track both your income and expenses throughout the month.
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Putting it all together
In the beginning, tracking monthly expenses is waiting game. Calculating every single item, you purchase can be tedious.
On the flip side, once you have your expenses calculated, your monthly budget, and sticking to it, becomes much easier.
You have a set amount in each category, and once that money has been spent, you wait for next month.
In the beginning, I had no clue how much I spend on household items but after a few months of tracking and analysing our budget, I know the exact number to put into my budget each month. Plus, once you have a good hand on your expenses you will know where you can cut things and really save some money.
Figuring out your expense amounts will take some time. You have to be patience and it isn’t easy.
Know it will take some adjusting. Budgeting and tracking expenses aren’t something that happens overnight.
You have to be in it for the long haul. But I promise you, six months from now you will be so glad you did and you will find budgeting gets much easier as you keep doing it.
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Tracking of expenses – Final thought
Now it’s time to get started tracking your expenses!
Remember that it’s super important for you to record every single expense because just tracking some of them isn’t going to get you anywhere.
And record your purchases as you’re making them, because it isn’t easy to remember later. Decide on the tool that’s right for you and start tracking your expenses today!
What your method for tracking expenses? I would to hear them.
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Hello! My name is Adam and welcome to my space on the internet. Here you can find me writing about topics such as lifestyle, self-care, self-development, finance, saving money and making money. Come and join the community!