You have heard financial expert after financial expert harp over it: track your spending. We always hear it said because it is (without a doubt) one of the most important aspects of financial health.
By tracking our spending, we are able to evaluate where we’re allotting too much money, and how we can better budget each month. This shows us our strengths and weaknesses financially, and helps us to improve our financial well-being.
The good news is that this isn’t complicated at all! Here are 5 very simple steps you can and should take to start keeping a better eye on where your money is going.
Keep Your Receipts
Although many people today view keeping up with receipts as “old fashioned,” the simple act can help us keep a running tally of how much we are spending, and where our money is going. Having a hard copy in front of us makes tracking our purchases easy. It also helps with making returns and exchanges. You will only make your life easier by keeping up with your receipts.
The Envelope Method
This is an old-school trick that is still helping masses of people keep their budgets intact today. The envelope method can be explained very easily, and is simple to carry out. You keep all your money in separate envelopes for different categories of your budget. There is a utilities envelope, a groceries envelope, a rent envelope, and so on. When you get paid each month, you budget out what you plan to spend for the next month.
The correct sum of money goes in each envelope. At the end of the month, any leftover money is a reward for your smart spending. Use it for something special, or add it to your savings account. Be careful not to cheat–do not steal money from other envelopes during the month. If your groceries envelope is empty, scrounge up leftovers from the fridge. Try to stick to your budgeted amounts.
Don’t worry, we aren’t going to avoid technology altogether! EveryDollar is a money-tracking app created by Dave Ramsey and his gang. If you prefer to do your budgeting online, this is a free and easy way of doing so. You create a budget and allot spending for different categories, similar to the Envelope Method. EveryDollar helps users better evaluate their spending habits and focus on their financial goals, such as paying off debt.
Level Money is another free financial app that you may find to be an incredible help while tracking your spending each month. It is designed to subtract your recurring expenses from your monthly income, so that it can divide up what’s left each month. It then tells you what you can afford to spend each month, day and week. This is a great tool for those who need strict guidelines and assistance to curb their spending.
Write Down Each Online Purchase
An important part of tracking your spending is to catch the bad habits you have created. Many of us struggle with online spending, due to popular and convenient shopping sites such as Amazon and Etsy. I encourage you to take a notepad and write down each and every time you buy something online. This act of tracking may encourage you to buy less; if so, the process is working. As the month progresses, check the notepad. Do you have an online spending problem? Is it breaking your budget? If so, you know what to focus on next month.
It is so important to track your spending so that you are able to evaluate your habits, and work toward meeting your financial goals. The only way to do better next month is to know what you did wrong this month. Resolve to adequately track your spending so that you can come up with a plan to accomplish each of your financial goals!