|Chapter 3: Track Spending
Many financial problems, such as not being able to pay bills, having credit card debt, and not being able to save, stem from not following the golden rule of money management: spending less than you earn. Are you currently following the golden rule? By tracking your purchases, you can see how much and what you are spending your money on.
Accuracy and commitment are vital. You should track your expenses for a minimum of one month. However, because expenses can fluctuate, the longer you do it, the better. The following are some tracking techniques:
- Write it down – Record your purchases in a small notebook you carry with you, or write them down using the Fritter Finder. At the end of the day, list your total purchases in the Tracking Worksheet or a computer spreadsheet.
- Keep receipts – Get and keep receipts for all of your purchases, and tally them at the end of the day.
- Stick to plastic – Just use your cards, and refer to the statements your financial institutions provide. You can also check your account activity online. (This is not necessarily the best option since you statement does not show what you purchased.) If you do ever use cash, it is important to record it.
- Use budgeting software – If you have a computer with budgeting software, you can input the information you have gathered into it. Some programs even link to your checking and credit card accounts and automatically report your purchases.
Examine your findings
After you have tracked your spending for at least a month, examine your findings. Begin to sort out your “wants” from your “needs”. If you are like most people, you’ll be able to identify areas of spending waste fairly quickly. When you build your budget, you can use the results of your tracking work to make sensible and reasonable changes.