In my last financial post, I said I would talk about tracking expenses. I know this sounds tedious, boring, and like something no one wants to do. But humor me through this because I have found, over time and through many mistakes, that tracking expenses is an essential first step in one's financial education process on the way to financial independence.
I remember, back before we got our finances in order, saying things like, "I make an ok wage, where the heck does it all go?" And "How on earth do others, making less money than me, live - I mean I am spending all I make and I have so little to show for it?"
After asking these questions, I started asking even more questions. Like, now what? And how can we take control of our "money river"? If you don't spend a little time watching where your money is going you can not control the flow of the money river.
It was time to read, research, and find some answers.
I started by reading books by Dave Ramsey and David Bach. Both gentlemen have great financial information and I highly recommend both of their books. I will say, however, I do not agree 100% with either gentleman and I think everyone has to find and develop their financial style.
So let's begin by putting on our big girl and boy pants and take some responsibility for where our money goes and track it ... it's ok! You got this!
The actual tracking is only for a short time. In later posts, we will talk about automating everything to make this whole process of financial responsibility, MUCH EASIER.
The actual tracking of expenses should only take a couple of weeks. There are several ways to track your spending. Here is how my husband and I did it.
We started with the bills we knew happened regularly.
We wrote down all the "every month expenses". These are the ones that don't change and are necessary. Examples: Rent/Mortgage, Utilities, car payment, etc.
Then we wrote down what we call "periodic spending". The items that come due every year, or every 3 months. Examples: Auto licensing, auto insurance, trash pickup, etc.
The next step was a little more complicated but because we used our debit cards for everything I was able to go through our bank statements and write down and group each expense. Don't cheat here! Actually handwrite every expense down on a sheet of paper. Every lunch out, every coffee, every dollar, every penny.
There are other ways to do the tracking process, especially if you are having a hard time remembering what each transaction on the bank statement is. You can save every receipt from every purchase each day and write them down each night on your paper. Or carry a notebook with you every day and write each transaction in the notebook as you do them. The important thing is to track EVERY dollar and EVERY penny.
Why is all this tracking so important you might be asking?? The ultimate goal is twofold. One reason is to know exactly where your money goes and to stop the money leaks. And the second reason is to help you with the all-important BUDGET. Yes, I said the "B" word, and yes, we will be going over how to budget in a couple of posts from now.
But for now, go out there and write down, aka track, your expenses and see where all your money goes. Leave comments on how it went and if you found something that might help others in this process.
See you back here next post, until then Happy Meandering!