While many of us know the importance of expense tracking, this is something that many people feel is too overwhelming. In addition, many individuals and families worry that tracking their expenses will take too long, or they do not want to see how bad their current habits are. But it is the most effective way to reach all of your financial goals.
If you want to gain control over your money and reach your financial goals, it is time to start expense tracking, and an expense tracking spreadsheet can be the best free resource to help you get this done. It will help you know how much money is coming in, how much you spend, what you spend it on, and where you can make some changes. So, let’s look at how you can track your expenses to help you get more out of the money you earn.
How to Track Your Expenses?
When you want to keep within a budget and be in control over all the money you spend, the first step is to track your expenses. You can do expense tracking from the very beginning to ensure that your money is in the right place at the right time and that you do not misspend it.
You can use some of the following steps to get it done:
Check your account statements
It is hard to know where you are going if you do not know where you have been. An expense tracking spreadsheet gives you a snapshot of your current money habits. You will get a chance to look at your current monetary accounts to see how much money comes in and goes out throughout the month. Then, with a clear picture in mind, you can make some easy changes to control your spending.
Before you can start expense tracking, you must get a good idea of your monthly cash flow. This cash flow includes the money coming in through your income and other means versus spending money on bills and fun. You need to look over the last three to four months for the best results.
Know your spending habits
When you first start looking at creating a budget and getting your finances in order, it is hard to have a clear picture of how you spend your money. Do not become tempted to jot down the number you think you should be spending when you fill out your categories. You can do that later when you try to cut out expenses to free up money. You need to fight that urge and continue spending the way you usually would.
It isn’t a process that should make you feel guilty and miserable. Instead, it is supposed to be a method to highlight some of your choices so you can see where to make changes later, if necessary. But it is hard for you to get a good idea of your current spending habits if you start to make changes before you even get started.
You can start this process by utilizing an expense tracking spreadsheet to help track two or three months of your current spending habits. If you do not want to wait two or three months, print off your past three to six months of credit card and bank account statements. Then, write down how you have spent your money and how much money is coming in each month to give you a good overview of your current money habits. Both can be eye-opening and show you some of the habits you may need to change with your current spending habits.
Use a budget planner
You will not need to track your spending forever personally. However, expense tracking it for one or two months can be a great start and allow you to set up a monthly budget to get you ahead in your goals. There are also a lot of unpredictable expenses that will show up in life, and if you do have a change in circumstances, you can always go back to expense tracking for a little longer to help you get things organized again.
A budget planner maybe is an excellent tool to help you manage these expenses. It can do the expense tracking for you each month, separating everything into the categories you need, or you can do this on your own. Then, at the end of the month, or even the week, if you would like to be right on top of it, you will be able to check into each category to ensure that you are staying on the budget that you created.
Categorize your expenses
With a few bank and credit card statements nearby, you should start to group your expenses. Some credit cards will help make this easier by separating your expenses into things like automotive or department stores. When you separate all of these expenses, it is easier to see how much it costs you to go out to eat, have a recurring subscription service that you no longer want to pay for, and even how much your utilities cost you.
All of your expenses will consist of either fixed or variable expenses. Fixed expenses are ones that you must pay each month and will stay relatively the same from one month to another. For example, your house payment and utilities will fit in here. Fixed expenses will be set in stone. These are the ones you have to pay each month and include your debt payments. You can’t eliminate or lower these to help your budget stretch further. It would be best if you made enough to cover your house payment. Write down all of your fixed expenses and the dollar amount of these costs every month.
Variable expenses may be necessary, but you will have some leeway in the amount you spend. Grocery bills, entertainment, and eating out will fit into variable expenses. Variable expenses will have a little breathing room. You can cut out how often you go out to eat each month, for example. You can look for coupons and meal plan to help keep your grocery bill lower. This is the category that you will work to lower or cut down to help your money stretch further.
Create a summary tab
Once you have all of your expenses inputted and ready to go, it is time to create your summary tab to help you out here. This can all be done on one tab to make life easier and give you a complete overview of all of your spending. Using a formula like =SUMIFS() will help you to get the sum of all the expenses you have incurred in a given category over a given timeframe. With this information organized for you, it is easier to create graphics that help you visualize all of the numbers to see their actual impact.
Make adjustments (if needed)
This process is not a one-and-done thing. You do not do expense tracking for one or two months, make a few changes, and then ignore them for the next ten years. This will lead to a big disaster when it comes to your finances. It requires a lot of adjustments and changes as necessary during your lifetime.
It is usual for your budget to change as time goes on. If you get a big promotion at work, this means an influx in your cash flow, and you must decide how you would like to spend it on preventing it from going to waste. The same thing should be done if you get a second job or switch jobs to earn more money.
You can also make adjustments if you need more money in one category over another. As your kids get older, they may need to have more snacks and eat more, need money for sports and activities, or you wish to set money aside to pay for their college education. You can make changes to your budget to account for these changes in each category.
Your financial situation is going to change quite a bit during your life. Be open to making any adjustments as necessary to help you keep your spending habits up to date.
Expense Tracking Spreadsheet Templates
Writing all of the numbers for your budget down is one of the best ways to ensure that you can take care of your budget and that it will not get out of control. An expense tracking spreadsheet will make this easier to accomplish. However, it does not have to be complicated. With one of the free downloadable expense tracking spreadsheet templates provided on this website, you can keep a close eye on your expenses and put your money to work for you.
It is easy to overspend the money and live paycheck to paycheck each month. This makes it hard for you to reach some of your financial goals and see the success you desire. An expense tracking spreadsheet can help make a difference. When you start to write down your spending habits and track them over time, you will see some of the patterns you can cut back. Without this, you continue to spend without any good plan for your money. When you are ready to gain control over your spending without sacrificing your quality of life, see what an expense tracking spreadsheet can do for you.