Easy Ways to Track Your Spending
As a consumer, you must track and review your financial information regularly to remain aware of your spending patterns, including unhealthy spending habits that could be hurting your wallet. The key to tracking your spending is using safe, effective tools that offer convenience, security and organization.
Tracking apps and websites on the Internet are one option. And if you are already using online banking, you can continue tracking your spending that way. Otherwise, you can always use the tried-and-true method of using paper and pen to track and evaluate your spending. Of course, if you use a spending diary or other tracking tool on the Internet, be sure the Internet connection is secure.
There are many ways to track your spending, and the using the Internet to do this is an increasingly popular one. From Mint.com to SpendingDiary.com, there are a number of websites where you can download your bank transactions and categorize your expenses in minutes.
Using an online tracking tool is effective and convenient, and many sites allow you to automatically track debit and credit card transactions with the click of a button. This no-nonsense approach to tracking your expenses can save you time and energy. Because many online tools offer mobile apps that offer instant access to your information, you can even track your expenses and spending on the go.
Paper and Pen
You don’t have to turn to the Internet or an expensive software program to track your spending. As long as you have a paper and pen, you can write down and track your expenses in minutes. Office supply stores sell blank spreadsheets and ledgers, which offer a template for budgeting and tracking expenses. Microsoft Excel is another viable option; however, you must pay a fee to download or purchase the software.
Evaluating Your Spending
When tracking your spending, you want to be aware of patterns and trends. For example, review the amount of money you spend for everyday or regular expenses, such as food, clothing, transportation, vehicle upkeep and maintenance, entertainment, and rent or mortgage. Also look for seasonal spending changes – such as increased costs at Christmas time or during summer vacations – or splurges that pop up from time to time. Being mindful of such increases could help you reign in your budget and save more money throughout the year.
The key is to look at your spending over at least a six-month period. That way, you have a solid view of how you spend money, when you spend money, and the rate at which you spend it. If you see gross inconsistency, figure out the most reasonable amount of money you need for a specific service or product. For example, if your food bills fluctuate widely from month to month – reaching as high as $1,000 in some months and dropping as low as $500 in others – sit down with your receipts and determine what is the most reasonable amount you need to spend to meet your needs. Remember, if you can cut out excess spending across the board, you can save money and free up cash for items you really need!