Tracking Your Expenses
So you have balanced your budget – fantastic! Now how do you know if you are following that carefully thought-out spending plan?
Tracking your spending is key to successfully managing your money. If you do not track, how will you know if you are staying within your budgeted amounts? For example, you may have allotted $150 for groceries this month, but actually spent $225. Spending more than the budgeted amount in one area means you will need to decrease spending in another area. The only other options would be to borrow money or use credit, and those strategies can be expensive.
Let’s take a look at some easy ways to track spending. Generally, the most accurate way to track spending involves using a combination of methods.
Use a notebook. The most basic tracking method involves writing down what you spend in a notebook on a daily basis. If you choose to track your expenses using a notebook, carry it everywhere you go or keep it in a handy place at home along with a pen or pencil. If you have to search for your notebook and a pen or pencil, recording what you spent that day can be --- and will most likely be --- forgotten.
Save your receipts. Another tracking technique involves saving receipts from your purchases and documenting that information in a notebook or on your computer later. If the receipt is hard to read, you may want to write the date, amount and item on the back of the receipt. When you spend money on items for which you don't receive a receipt, it is wise to continue using a notebook to write down those miscellaneous expenses.
Monitor checks and electronic transactions. If you write checks or use a debit card or credit card regularly, monitor your statements. Most financial institutions have secure websites that allow you to view your checking and debit transactions.
Consider an online program. If you want to try a more advanced system for tracking expenses, look for budgeting websites or software programs for your home computer. Some programs can even be linked to your accounts, which allows for immediate, automatic expense updates.
Regardless of the method you choose to use, the most important step is that you develop a process for tracking your daily expenses.