Tracking one's spending

Where’s the Money, Honey? Why You MUST Track Your Spending


If you’re determined to live a financially stress-free life, the first question you must answer is, “Where’s the money, honey?” Do that, and you’re well on your way to becoming conscious about your money and how you’re using it.


Don’t even know where to start? Grab your last month’s bank statement(s), credit card statement(s), and line of credit statement(s). Now, break every transaction into one of the following categories:
  • Shelter (mortgage, rent, hydro, heat, taxes, maintenance)
  • Services (cable, telephone, security, home-cleaning, cell, internet, childcare, health, pets)
  • Food (everything you put in your mouth and swallow, including restaurants)
  • Shopping (any Stuff you bought for yourself and anyone else — everything)
  • Transportation (car payment, gas, repairs, highway tolls, taxis, bus, train)
  • Entertainment (movies, books, magazines, hobbies, gym, club, sports)
  • Bank fees (service charges, ATM fees, NSF fees — don’t include interest)
  • Interest costs (from everywhere)
  • Debt repayment (don’t worry about splitting out interest and principal, just add all your debt repayment amounts together)
  • Savings
In the best of all worlds, you’d do this for six months’ worth of your paperwork. Why? Well, a half-year is just about enough time to catch all the things that only pop up periodically. Less than six months will give you some insight, but not clearest picture.
  • If you've never watched Til Debt Do Us Part, I highly recommend it!
  • My 90 year old Mother, a trained bookkeeper, keeps a detailed accounting of every penny spent. She does this month by month - MANUALLY! It can be done! (I've encouraged her to use Excel but some habits are hard to change!
  • We use an account aggregator service called Yodlee. Our little process is that we have a weekly meeting (Tuesday nights) where we review all of our finances. It only takes about half an hour. We view our online banking account, our INGDirect account, our three credit cards, and Yodlee. I maintain a spreadsheet of our checking account showing the last time the checkbook was balanced, activity up to today's date, and anticipated bills going out 3 months.
  • We are basically "pay-as-you-go" (the practice of paying debts as they are incurred.). Plan, save for, execute, pay. For example
    • We just returned from a 10 day vacation to Dallas (to see my Mother). This involved three nights in a hotel, approx 2000 miles driven, meals on the road, some entertainment, etc. We saved for this. Now have returned. And all bills paid
    • Christmas is coming up. We have it budgeted and saved for. (We are modest in Christmas gifting!)
    • I have to have oral surgery in December. We have an estimate of the cost. And a plan to save up for it by that time.
    • My middle son is getting married on January 1st, 2011 (exciting). We've budgeted the wedding gift and the rehearsal dinner. We have that already saved for.
    • We have planned to replace the battery and tires on my truck (2002 Chevy S-10) next Summer. We will save for that and when we have the money execute the plan we will purchase using a CC, and then pay off the CC at the end of the month
    • We have a short term saving account for the "pay-as-you-go" system.


  1. Observations (from Pastoring in 3 churches, and being a Deacon in 4). Most churches have a lot to learn about budgeting, tracking of spending, and savings.

    You don't hear very often, "let's save up for that project". My wife says that most churches have ignored the 7 fat cows / 7 lean cows lesson of Genesis 41! "The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years; the dreams are one. And the seven thin and ugly cows which came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty heads blighted by the east wind are seven years of famine. ... Indeed seven years of great plenty will come throughout all the land of Egypt; but after them seven years of famine will arise ... let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up ... that the land may not perish"

  2. Amen. I've asked my current pastor if I can start presenting some lessons in stewardship, and he mentioned he hadn't learned a lot about it, either. I'm thinking of starting very simply with Exodus 20:17, pointing out that one can covet something as small as a Coke--leading to fiscal bondage.


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