Even the best budgeters have a mishap from time to time. Learn the simple trick that helps us stay on budget each and every month!
Budgeting

One Simple Trick to Help You Stay On Budget All Month Long

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It’s that dreaded “B” word again: Budgeting.

Look, I’m not going to pretend that budgeting is always rainbows and roses. We’ve tried to make it easier for you by creating this sweet step-by-step guide to budgeting, so that should help. But, even if you’ve made it through the budgeting process and are gung-ho to make the most of your money, it can still be tough to stay on budget every month. Even the best budgeters, including myself, have a budgeting mishap from time to time. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true.

However, I’ve started using a really simple trick to keep me on track each month. It takes about 5 minutes to set up and 2 minutes of work every week. For me, it seems to do the trick, and I’m pretty sure it can help you too.

My Super Simple Budgeting Trick

Here’s how it works:

  1. Click here to join Personal Capital today. (It’s FREE!)
  2. Link your accounts.
  3. Use the expense tracker tool twice a week to help you stay on budget.

Voila! Simple. Don’t you just love when simplicity can save you thousands?

Why Check Your Expenses Twice a Week?

You know how every month you keep making money but can’t figure out where it’s all going? I’ve been there. I did it for years. Money came in, money went out, and I was left holding an empty savings deposit bag. It sucked!

If you don’t track your money, it gets gobbled up by a giant black hole just waiting there to eat every last bit of your savings! Let’s call it Dave.

Dave’s a sneaky little bastard. You know he’s there, but you’ll never root him out unless you take the time to hunt him down. His success lies in the fact that you aren’t paying close enough attention. He profits because you aren’t aware of what’s happening. But, when you make a point of keeping a closer eye on your money, Dave has a harder time sucking it down…and you’ll find a lot less of it disappearing.

Using an Expense Tracker

Dave will bleed you dry if you let him. That’s why you’ve got to go to battle with him! But how do you defeat a creature as evil as Dave? Simple. You’ve got to choose the right weapon for the job: The Expense Tracker.

Tracking your expenses is a great way to find the holes in your monthly budget. When your expenses aren’t written down, they remain invisible. You spend money without thinking, and any additional savings you may be able to keep flies right out the door.

However, when you track your expenses, all of your expenditures are right there for you to see. It makes it super simple to see where the leaks in your budget are springing from – which also makes it a lot easier to plug those holes.

Learning how to track our expenses changed our lives. Within a matter of months, we went from struggling to save to debt free! Once we started tracking our expenses, we quickly found where our extra money was going – which, in our case, included over $1,000 spent on food every month – and easily plugged the gap. You can do it too. You just need to start.

How to Track Your Expenses

When we first started tracking our expenses, we did it the old-fashioned way. Holly and I busted out a pencil and paper, looked at all of our banking and credit card statements, and wrote it all down. It worked like a charm, and it’s still a great way to do it.

However, technology has made things a lot simpler. Now, there are plenty of spreadsheets and budget templates you can use to enter your monthly expenses. But, the thing with spreadsheets is that you still have to add all of your expenses in manually. They work great, but why not automate it if you can?

That’s why I recommend using Personal Capital and their free financial tools. We’ve used them for years, and it makes expense tracking super simple. Just open a free account, link your bank accounts and credit cards, and Personal Capital’s Expense Tracker will automate your expense tracking for you. No need to manually enter your expenses. Just automate the process and monitor your spending.

When Should You Check Your Spending?

As I said earlier, I recommend that you check in with your expenditures twice a week. It only takes a minute, especially if you’re using a budgeting app, and it will give you a great idea of where your budget stands for the month.

Personally, I check our spending on:

  • Monday – This gives me a good idea of what I spent over the weekend. Did I spend more on dinner than what I was planning? If so, I know that I need to tighten my belt during the week. Did I spend less on entertainment than I expected? Great! I can stick that money in savings or have extra to spend later in the month.

and

  • Friday –  By checking in with my expenses on Friday, I have a clear picture of how much I am able to spend over the weekend. If I did well throughout the week, I may be able to spend a little extra and do something fun on Saturday. If not, I might have to cut out the matinee I planned for Sunday afternoon.

By taking just a couple of minutes each week to check my spending, I’ve been even more successful at sticking to the budget I worked so hard to create!

Wrapping Up

Going over budget can be frustrating and can cause you to stop budgeting all together. That’s the last thing you want to do! By using an expense tracker to regularly track your spending, you give yourself the best possible chance to stay on budget each and every month. If you can do that, you’ll start reaping the financial rewards in no time at all!

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46 Comments

  1. We love Personal Capital, not just for the expense tracking but also for all their free tools such as 401(k) fee analyzer. It’s pretty sweet that all those awesome tools are free to use.

  2. I love Personal Capital !!! As someone who doesn’t have a credit card, I have to check my bank accounts regularly. I would be blind if I didn’t!

    1. Yup, yup. As you mentioned, some credit cards can help you do the same thing. Of course, you run the risk of going into debt with them. Personal Capital is nice because you can track all of your accounts right in one place. I love those tools…and they’re free!

  3. Well, I try to control my budget once per week but when I do a control in the middle of the week I notice if I am doing a good job or not with budget…I’m sure I will have a hate-love relation with it FOREVER!

  4. I probably should switch to Personal Capital. So far, a little spending tracker app, my spreadsheets, and my neuroses get the job done 😉 I do think it is important to review your spending/finances more frequently, especially if there is more than one person involved in the spending.

  5. Another big Personal Capital fan here. They just make it almost too easy to stay on top of your finances. I used to have the daily reports sent to me, but love the twice a week check in to keep Dave at bay. 😉

  6. There is really no reason not to track your finances because Personal Capital makes it so simple. They even send you emails telling you if you spent more or less than last week!

  7. Personal Capital is awesome. I really need to start using it more though!

  8. Personal Capital definitely makes it easy for you to stay on top of your budget. And honestly makes it easy to set-up a budget, which is something that holds many people back because it feels daunting to get everything organized.

    1. That’s true. People are afraid to start because it seems so overwhelming. Apps like these can really give you a kick start in the right direction!

  9. I am a late bloomer when it comes to budgets. I used to avoid them like they were a Kardashian. 🙂 Eventually, I became a fan but haven’t used Personal Capital. It sounds easy! And I like your budget check-in frequency. It’s like Goldilocks, not too often, not too little, but just the right amount to make sure you’re on top of everything.

  10. Dammit, Dave!

    But yeah, expenses sneak up on us. I try to check every 2-3 days to see where exactly all our money’s gotten sucked away to. “Oh yeah, co-pay. Oh yeah, groceries. Oh yeah, Pizza Hut’s sriracha chicken still has its hold on us.” Lately, the surprises haven’t been too bad. I plan to enjoy it while it lasts.

  11. I had asked you some questions regarding two of my credit cards and their rewards and have misplaced my email about it. I thought I had a few more months until I had to pay the annual fee ( I never have had a card like that) but found out I was charged on one of my cards a few days ago. It was Chase Sapphire. I was wondering if that is one worth keeping. Thank you.

    1. Hey Chris,
      I’m going to send you a private email since this is a little off topic for this article. Make sure you look for it!

  12. I signed up for Personal Capital but still haven’t gotten around to linking all my accounts. I need to verify that all my credit cards feed in properly, but if they do it could be a big win. Victoria and I do still use a spreadsheet (going strong for 3 years now!) and it takes me about an hour a month to update. I’m an Excel geek so I like it in that format, but I’m sure other people would prefer something that doesn’t require a spreadsheet.

    1. I like spreadsheets too, but PC makes it super simple. You might need to sift through it a few times to make sure the categories are what you are used to, but it can be a really big time saver.

      1. Do you know if there are any accounts that WON’T link? I know some banks are starting to block software like Personal Capital from getting data. I assumed if anyone knew, you guys would with all your credit cards 😉

        1. Not that I’m aware of, but I’m guessing that there are probably a few. As far as I know, all of the major bank brands are connected.

    1. It really is a great app. Of course, you can use this same strategy with a pen and paper…but why not make it easy since it is free?

  13. “Dave” was the reason we got into debt in the first place. Not big purchases, but endless, little black hole purchases. Spend tracking has changed everything for us!

    1. Yep. Just simple awareness can make a huge difference in your overall financial picture.

  14. Great tips! I think taking a few minutes out during the week to check in with your budget regularly is way better than trying to run through everything and make sense of it all at the end of the month.

    1. Yep. Just a few minutes a week can be the key. Nobody wants to fail, which is why so many people get frustrated with budgeting. Why not make it easy on yourself?

  15. Okay, I admit I’m not tracking my expenses as much as I should but I just signed up with PC. There were too many good things you mentioned!

  16. I suggest that my clients review their expenses at least once a week. More would be better but the simple process of making it a habit really does have an impact on your choices and overall expenses.

    1. That is what this strategy is all about – creating good money habits. If you can create good habits and become intentional with your spending, you are bound to see results!

  17. I think I\’m the only one here who checks their expenses on a monthly basis. Oops. But I do have a basic system where I make a mental limit on how much I should spend overall during the month. Sometimes I go over the limit, sometimes I end up saving. So that\’s mental budgeting for you. But I think I\’ll have to give Personal Capital a try so I can be more active in my budgeting efforts.

  18. Gretchen E. says:

    I’ll have to check this out. Thanks for the info!

  19. I think the 2 times per week trick is great, because it really gets people in the habit of keeping their budget in mind. It’s easy to slip up on all the little expenses here and there and blow the budget for the whole month!

  20. Your twice-per-week budget check-in plan is sound advice. As a type-A budgeter, I prefer to check in a bit more frequently, particularly if I have had a week of many expenses. I find the longer I wait to check the budget, the more likely I am to overspend in a category and throw everything off.

    PersonalCapital is a great tool, and while I use it as a cross-checking mechanism, I still love my spreadsheets. 🙂

  21. Is it bad that I have gotten into the habit of checking daily or every other day? I just love making sure I’m staying on track. This is SUCH an easy trick that anyone can use to stay on budget.

  22. Personal Capital is really good money tracking. I suggest all my friends to use this and they love it. Just keep doing this and start enjoying your life. By your description in your blog post, its good that you are not restricted in 9-5 job. It’s good that someone follows their passion.

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