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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:
- Click here to join Personal Capital today. (It’s FREE!)
- Link your accounts.
- 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.
- 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!
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!