Tracking My Spending

Tracking your spending is important. As I explained in my book:

How do you know how much you’re spending and saving unless you keep track of it? How can you improve without a starting point? What spending categories contribute the most to your overall costs? You also need an accurate spending number to build a financial plan.

Track your expenses, at least temporarily, to know where your money is going.

Beyond the Basics: Maximizing, Allocating, and Protecting Your Capital

A key phrase there is “at least temporarily”. It’s time consuming and not something I do every year (much to my family’s relief). It’s been a while, and I want to update my financial plan this year which requires having accurate spending numbers.

But the tool that I used to use and recommend – Mint.com – is no longer available. Here’s what I did instead and a few things I learned.

Tracking Spending

  • I’m going month by month, so I downloaded January’s checking account activity into a spreadsheet and summed up activity within my tracking categories.
  • I opened my Venmo app and added the spending to that sheet.
  • The expenses for the credit cards we use and pay off monthly I deleted since those bills were based on transactions from the prior month.
  • I went to each credit card online and did the same thing I did with our checking account and added those totals to the sheet.

Voila. I had my depressingly high January spending numbers broken down by category.

Immediate Lessons/Benefits

Tracking your spending helps catch problems in your accounts, or halt unnecessary expenses. Here’s what I found:

  • Two college related expenses for my son we incurred in the rush of getting him back to school that I’d forgotten about that I can get reimbursed from his 529 plan.
  • A monthly digital newspaper subscription no one remembers subscribing to or currently uses.
  • Airline ticket prices are adding up. I plan on using of the ideas we discussed in this podcast episode to load up on some air miles to lower what we spend on plane tickets for a while.