I manage all of the finances in my household. And I’m pretty darn good at it. I keep track of spending like a boss! No, I’m not an accountant, or a personal finances professional. I do have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from way back when, but mostly I’m a Wife and a Momma.
In our eleven years of marriage, my husband has not paid one single bill. He probably doesn’t even know the names of our utility companies. And I don’t mind. I like numbers and budgeting. And I find it comforting to know exactly how much money is going in and out of our bank account each day.
I feel empowered taking on this role for my family and YOU can keep track of spending too, by implementing the simple strategies that I use.
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1. Write It All Down
The first step in taking control of your personal finances is to know HOW MUCH money you are spending.
Did you spend $50.62 at the grocery store? Write it down. Did you stop at the gas station to fill up? Write it down. Did you give your kids $3.00 for lunch money? Write it down. Did your husband go a little crazy at Academy Sports and buy way too many fishing lures? No, that was just my husband? Write it down.
You get the idea. Write down every purchase, big or small that you make throughout the week. My general rule is that if more than $1.00 leaves my bank account or wallet, then I make a note of it. IE – If I give my kids two quarters to throw into the mall fountain, I DON’T write that down.
Don’t forget about deposits!
Keep track of the exact amounts of any deposits into your account also. Track Paychecks, paypal deposits, credits from merchandise returns, etc. You want to know exactly how much money you are bringing in each month so that you can compare your deposits and your withdrawals.
Where Do You Keep Track of Spending? –
I use a Blue Sky Weekly Planner, and I LOVE it! No expensive Personal Finances planner or budget app needed!
On the monthly pages, I document our income for the month along with any recurring payments (car payment, insurance, utilities, etc).
For our other expenses, I use the weekly pages and write down all expenses on the day that they occur. This allows me to keep track of spending each week. Here is just a sample of how it should look… (except not typed – I didn’t want to subject you all to my chicken scratch writing).
And be sure to note EXACT amounts. On average, my family makes about 30 purchases per week. Rounding up or down on this many transactions could be the difference in $20 per week, or roughly $80 per month.
The Blue Sky Weekly Planner is definitely the best planner that I have come across for this method to keep track of spending. For my needs, it has the perfect amount of space to document all of my transactions. Plus, it comes in all sorts of cute designs. Bonus! I prefer the 5″x8″ size because I like to keep it in the side pocket of my car door, but it also comes in a 8″ x 11″ as well. Grab your own Blue Sky Weekly Planner here:
With What Time?! –
Don’t have the time for that, you say?
Sure you do. If you keep track of spending each day, you won’t be overwhelmed at the end of the week or month.
My secret – I keep my Blue Sky Weekly Planner in my car in the compartment on the side of the driver’s door so it is nice and handy. And I have the apps for my Bank and Credit Card companies on my iphone. Whenever I have a spare 5 minutes in my car, usually in the pick up line at school, or when I am waiting to pick up Kay from Art Club, etc. I check my two apps and write down all of the transactions from the previous day. Personal finances tracking doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, you just need to commit to it.
Once you get in the habit of checking your finances before your Facebook, it becomes much easier to find the time.
And, if you check your account balances each day, you are much more likely to catch errors made by your financial institutions. They make mistakes too! In fact, just last spring I discovered that my bank had withdrawn the funds for my daughter’s preschool payment twice. That was an extra $320 that was taken out of my account. I called the bank and was able to tell them the exact day and amount of the mistake and they credited my account. It pays to keep track of spending!
2. Add It All Up
Now it’s the end of the month, and you’ve written down every amount that you have spent and deposited. Bravo! Get out your calculator, and add it all up!
If the word “Yikes!” comes to mind, you’re welcome! You now know that you have room for improvement! All of those gas station sodas, restaurant lunches, and impulse purchases (“It was on Sale”) really add up. And you probably didn’t realize the amount of your hard-earned money that you had been spending on things that you don’t really NEED.
Now is the time to add up all deposits also. This will give you a good picture of your actual income for the month, especially if it fluctuates because of commission-only income, etc.
3. Compare Income to Expenses
Next it’s time to compare the money coming in versus the money going out. Subtract the total amount of money spent (bills, entertainment, groceries, etc.) from the total amount of money earned. If your income is greater than your expenses, good for you! Maybe consider investing some of the excess or setting aside a recurring amount for a “rainy day”. If your expenses for the month are more than what you brought in, you need to seriously look at where you can cut back.
Is it necessary to eat out for lunch three times a week, or can you pack a healthy (and cheap!) lunch from home? Do you use all of the channels in your current cable or satellite tv package, or can you switch to a lower priced option? Do you really need that gym membership that you only use once a week, or can you do a workout from home with fitness DVDs that you can check out for free from the library? There are a TON of ways to save money, even it it’s only a few dollars a week. If you purge some of the unnecessary purchases from your spending, the savings will add up. And you’ll be one step closer to Personal Finances perfection!
Once you know your net gain or loss (Hopefully gain!) for the month, record that amount somewhere on the month page of your weekly planner. (Check out the graphic above to see where I record my amounts.) That way, you can easily go back and reference how you did for the month. Also, at the end of the year go back and add up all of your monthly net amounts to keep track of spending and get a total picture of your financial health for the year.
Personal Finances Don’t Have to be Hard!
This is the EXACT and SIMPLE method that I use to keep track of my personal finances. I know exactly what we can and can’t afford because I keep track of spending and always have a thorough picture of our financial health. And you can too! Don’t get trapped in the vicious cycle of spending money over and over again without knowing that you’re actually spending more than you make. As the saying goes, “Knowledge is Power”. So take the few extra minutes each day to KNOW where your money is going, and have the POWER to make more informed financial decisions!
If you want to save this method to keep track of spending for later, or want to share it with a friend, please PIN me! And thanks for stopping by!