Tracking your spending is a way to take control of your money. Knowing exactly how much is coming in and going out can help you spend less and save more.
1. Understand where your money goes
Taking the time to make a note of every dollar you spend can give you a clear view of where your money is going.
You may be surprised by how much all those small things add up. You might also discover hidden costs, like account fees, subscriptions you don't use, or mistaken transactions.
Just knowing where your money goes may be all you need to start spending less. You may even start saving more.
2. Track your spending and expenses
Start small by recording your spending every day for a period of time (at least a week). This way you can see all the money going out.
If you have some weeks or months with more expenses, then track over two weeks or two months. This will give you a more realistic picture.
Don’t worry about changing your spending habits straight away. Just track day by day.
It might be easier to track with your partner or a friend: you can encourage each other and stay on track.
How to track your spending
Use a phone app
A phone app is an easy way to track your spending at the time you spend.
Some apps offer more options, such as setting spending limits and reminders, and seeing your expenses at a glance.
Look at your statements and receipts
When you use a debit or credit card, every transaction is recorded for you.
You can view or download these transactions using online banking, or look at your hard-copy statements or receipts.
Write it down
Write down every dollar you spend. Include the amount, item (or store name) and date. You should do this for both cash and card purchases.
Do this as you spend, or set a reminder to do it once a day, using your receipts.
3. See how you're tracking
At the end of your tracking period, look at your recorded transactions to see where your money is going.
You might find that just by being aware of your spending you start to spend less. Take a moment to ask yourself: Do I need this? Would it be cheaper somewhere else? This can help you think twice about buying something.
See where you can save
A good first step is to look at any small items that add up over time. Try cutting back on small, frequent expenses, such as takeaway coffee or lunch. This is a great way to start a savings habit. See simple ways to save money for more ideas.
Separate needs from wants
Look at all your transactions and highlight what are 'needs' — essential items you need to live.
This will give you a clear picture of what are 'wants'. These are the things you could cut back on or live without to save money.
Set limits and reminders
Seeing how much you spend on certain things can help you set a realistic limit for the next week or month. This can help you avoid overspending.
Knowing when regular expenses are going to pop up means that you can set reminders and put aside money to cover these payments.
4. Do a budget
Knowing where your money is going day to day is great first step to creating a budget. The next step is to see where it's going over a month, then a year.
Having a budget can help you feel in control of your money, prepare for big expenses, and save. For a step-by-step guide, see how to do a budget.