We think we know how much we spend but does what we think actually match the reality of what we are spending? Sometimes you need to stop and do a reality check. Keeping close track of your actual spending habits for a period of time not only verifies your spending habits but also makes you acutely aware of just how much we spend each month.
Just how often do I stop for takeout during the week? How much does that walk around the mall with friends actually cost me? Do I actually know how much all my utility bills add up to each month or do I seem to forget about the cell phone bill or the extra Netflix when calculating these monthly charges in my head?
Keeping track of expense can be done from the simplistic to the modern app, to fit your comfort level.
The Notebook –A small notebook to write each day’s expenses in was my first method as I started my first job. At a time when I needed to learn quickly if my spending matched my new income, if I would still have enough at the end of the month for rent, a small notebook in my pocket or purse kept me acutely aware of what I was spending. It is simple but effective.
The Envelope –Keeping dollars meant for each category of spending in a different envelope makes each expense visible with real dollars. It also reduces the likelihood of buying on credit. But in this day when so much is done online, with debit and credit cards, envelopes with receipts work too although slightly less effective as seeing the actual dollars leave the envelope.
The Spreadsheet –Most people have access to a spreadsheet whether Excel or Google Sheets. These programs now have budget templates that make it even easier to create budget categories. While it requires more of a time to sit down and enter the information, it provides the most detailed, organized information that can be looked at over different time period and examined for particular areas of spending in detail.
The App –There are numerous apps available to help you keep track of your expenses. One of the most popular is Mint created by Intuit who is also the maker of Turbo Tax and QuickBooks. Mint links with your bank accounts and credit cards to keep your budget at your fingertips.
Whichever level of budget sophistication fits you best, there is a way to keep track of your expenses. Having a firm handle on what you spend, keeps you mindful of each expense and keeps your eyes on the road to financial success.