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Life

Why (and How) We Use A Monthly Expense Tracker

Looking to Budget? A Monthly Expense Tracker Might Be For You!

Since money is kind of important these days, there are plenty of good reasons why you should have a personal expense tracker. We know that managing money is never an easy task – it takes effort and a good system. Once you set it up, however, you can result in long-term success with staying on top of your financial situation.

Knowing your financial situation can help you make better decisions with your money. It can be as simple as having a budget and sticking to it. Having a monthly budget is a good idea – it might even be one of your New Year’s resolution ideas.

When it comes to actually tracking expenses, there are plenty of great ways you can do it – from free printable templates or excel templates to new budgeting apps that you can use. We prefer to use a Google Spreadsheet, and we’ll tell you how exactly we use it down below.

Why We Track Our Monthly Expenses

glass jar of change spilling out monthly expense tracker

Look at all that money – better get counting! // Photo: Unsplash

Below are just a handful of the reasons we track all of our monthly expenses. We’ll give you the rationale behind them since we have learnt quite a lot over the last few years. We’re sure you have had your own experiences as well!

Keeps Us Accountable

There’s no reason people should be running up debt or be unable to pay for essentials because of of their spending habits. There is A TON of unnecessary spending in people’s everyday lives that can absolutely be stopped. For us, it was coffee. We would usually get a coffee out on the way to work. It’s a small cheap purchase – right? Yes, but THOSE ADD UP.

Once we started logging all our expenses we realized that buying coffee each day for a whole month was raking up a big total. That total ate into our rent money – so we looked for alternatives. Even today, we make our own coffee at home. In fact, we love brewing coffee at home. You should give it a try. The point is that we saved quite a bit of money per month – and then per year – but it took a sheet of paper with the total coffee money spent to come to the realization that we were wasting money.

Helps Us Budget

Another reason we love keeping track of our monthly expenses is because it allows us to look into the future with a clearer idea of what funds are available. We like to travel – and when we can get away it’s nice to know exactly how much money we have to work with for that trip’s budget.

Budgeting also lets us know how much we could save and thus how much we can put away into different funds and accounts per month. This is assuming we know our income (which varies) but you get the idea. Keeping track just gives us a better overview to budget and this can be a very good thing.

Gives us Control

We think that these days people worry about money because it can get “out of hand” and seem like a daunting thing to track/manage. While making sure you have enough to meet your lifestyle and basic needs is one stressor, worrying about tracking it doesn’t have to be.

Even if you are feeling short on money, tracking it properly can go a long way to calming your situation and help you take control of it. Only have X amount for groceries this month? Make a meal plan, buy what you need for that, and stick to it! This way, for example, you don’t overspend and make your situation worse.

In the end, think of it this way – realizing you have little money is stressful, but knowing that AND not knowing what you are spending it on is MUCH worse. Start tracking, planning, budgeting, whatever you call it – it’ll help.

How We Track Our Monthly Expenses

calculator and pen and paper bills on table monthly expense tracker

We don’t use a calculator – but you might! // Photo: Unsplash

If you want to give monthly expense tracking a try, there are loads of good ways to do it. It really depends on your style and available resources which method you choose. You don’t have to have a fancy phone or computer to track expenses – all you need is paper and a pen if that’s what you have!

Personally, we do use a computer to track monthly expenses. We actually use a spreadsheet in Google Drive. If you want to use a computer but don’t have a Google account, you can also use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and template. Here’s how we set up ours:

We make a column for date, the store/company, the product bought (and/or a description of what that thing was, who paid (we do this not because we don’t trust one another – we just like to know the money source but it doesn’t always matter), the price and any additional notes about the purchase. That’s it – it doesn’t take much to set up. It does, however, take time to track and you have to be consistent for it to be effective!

Keep in mind, you don’t have to track everything you spend. If you only want to understand your spending habits for one item (like morning coffee) then just do that. You can track whatever you want – just so long as it gives you control over your money situation. If you get the chance, we recommend that you do track everything for a while – it can be a real eyeopener.

The Best Expense Tracker Apps

iphone with apps held up monthly expense tracker

There are plenty of good apps these days for managing money! // Photo: Unsplash

If you are more on the tech side of things, you might want to use an app to track all your expenses. This is a great idea since usually you can set things up to automatically tag any payments with bank cards/bank accounts you have.

Wally

Wally is a good looking, fun app that bring tracking expenses into the digital age and is geared towards millennials. You can take photos of receipts, set financials goals, and more!

Mint

Mint is probably the most popular of the expense tracker apps – but for a good reason: it works. It’s one of the oldest out there and helps you to stay on top of budgets, bills, and even helps you check your credit score.

YNAB

Short for “You Need a Budget”, this app is a tool for strict budgeting. This means marking money in and being accountable for money out. YNAB is also unique because you can allocate funds to something ahead of time but if you overspend you can move the money in your dashboard to other items so as to stay in your overall budget. Pretty neat!

And there you have it – just a bunch of reason why we tracks all our expenses and a little more about how we do it. We think that basic budgeting is something everyone should do – unless you have just so much money that it doesn’t matter. In this case, great job! For the rest of us, it’s important to take control of your money and it’s not that hard to do it. Got a great system in place for tracking your expenses? Get in touch and let us know!

As always, Stay Curious,

-B&L

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Why track monthly expenses