Do You Track Your Day to Day Expenses?

On and off again for the past few months I have tried to track my daily expenses. A lot of personal finance books, including Your Money or Your Life, recommend this technique as a means to track purchases and to rein in unnecessary and unplanned spending. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried this technique, I’ve tried at least two other times, but have yet to maintain the practice for longer than two weeks at a time.

I’ve decided to try again beginning November 1st. I’ve set a rather small goal for myself, only one month of tracking. So far I’ve been able to keep track of my expenses, but it’s only been five days. Originally I was writing down each expense in a small notepad, but I couldn’t seem to stick with this technique, so now I’m simply holding all of the receipts in my wallet and writing down the tally of those receipts at the end of the week.

I was wondering if anyone out there keeps track of their daily expenses and if so if you’d be willing to share some tidbits of helpful information that might help me stay focused on this task.

14 thoughts on “Do You Track Your Day to Day Expenses?”

  1. I always try and keep track of everything but like you I sometimes fall off and forget for a few days and then quit until the next month.

    Starting this month I’ve dedicated to start again but am trying something different. I am keeping track of each penny by separating into categories such as essentials, eating out, groceries, clothes, etc.

    It’s a bit more time consuming but I think it will give us a great look into EXACTLY where our money goes at the end of the month. I’m excited to see the results and hopefully I will keep it up.

    I am simply using my online checkbook. I just added another account called budget.. It’s right there with my bank accounts so it’s easy to get to and the program adds and subtracts for me so all I have to do is enter the amounts.

    There is a summary feature so I can click over to see how much money went to eating out or whatever… plus how much money came in and went out for the month.

  2. I’ve been doing this for about 12 years – ever since I was asked to do it by some survey of other and found it was very useful.

    I tally each day if I can, especially for cash expenses but also once a week for receipts in my wallet. The running total is kept in the back of my (fake) Filofax).

    There’s nothing better than grumbling “why do I feel so broke?!” and being able to answer “that’s because you spent $748 on sponsored children, $300 on winter gas and electricity, $110 on washing machine repair and $100 on taking the cat to the vet this month”

  3. My husband has been tracking our family’s expenses to the penny for almost 2 years now in an excel file. He records the cash expenditures daily, or if we’re on a trip away from home, he records it on a scrap paper and inputs it right when we get home. He also inputs the credit card expenditures at the end of every month while comparing the statement with the reciepts.

    Next to every expenditure, in addition to the store, he also has categories such as “groceries,” “entertainment,” or “baby”

    Then when we want, we could make a pivot table/graph and track our spendings by month, category, etc and pinpoint places where we overspend.

    He puts all this information in the same excel workbook as our annual budget and income tracking from 401k, mutual funds, etc.

  4. Yes, I track our money! I call it simply, “tracking”. I have a spreadsheet for each month and I write down every expense and every deposit. We operate out of only one checking account and leave the other accounts for special purposes. I log into that checking account online each day and transfer each transaction over to my spreadsheet. I lets me know exactly where I am for that month. I don’t keep track of every little expense, but I do keep track of cash withdrawals, etc.

    My spreadsheet keeps a running balance, which is nice. If you want an example, you can email me.

  5. I’m starting my 2nd month tracking expenses. October went well, I’m pretty sure I got everything. I keep all receipts, or remember amounts (I remember numbers easily), and input them into a Google Documents spreadsheet when I get a minute while at the computer.

    I started using Google instead of Excel because it allows me to quickly input an entry no matter where I am (work/home).

    I’m going to wait a few months and do averages before making any budget adjustments from my expense tracking.

  6. I get a receipt for every penny I spend, which goes into a “current receipts” envelope in my purse. Every few days I enter the receipts into an Access database that I created myself (I hate Excel, and you can perform Excel functions with an Access file). The receipts get a red checkmark and then go into a month-specific “recorded receipts” envelope, also kept in my purse. The envelopes are generally saved from my pay stubs for this purpose.

    I created my own database because it allows me the exact categories I need, and I used Access because of its flexibility. I can create a query and separate any category out to compare actual expenditures to my budgeted amount. I keep one huge database, but have a separate query for each month. There is a corresponding Word document with my budget, with spaces for budgeted and actual amounts. I print the Word document at the end of the month and file it with the envelope of recorded receipts. This has the added benefit of quickly finding a receipt if I need to return something or dispute a charge.

    I pay for almost every purchase with a rewards CC (paid off at the end of the month, of course), which in turn provides a receipt for almost every penny I spend.

  7. Thank you all for all your great ideas. I’ve decided to keep a special envelope in my purse just to collect the store receipts.

    Then I will do my best each night or every couple of nights to transfer the totals from each receipt into a spreadsheet.

    I love the idea of marking each receipt with a red pen, because I often forget, which receipts I’ve already journaled.

    It’s also a great idea to use a credit card for as many transactions as possible so that I can simply log in to my account and track each purchase online (in case I lose any receipts along the way).

    I guess now I just need to figure out how to categorize all of the expenses. Green3 I might be taking you up on your offer.

  8. My husband calls me a “nerd” because I keep a spreadsheet of all of our expenses and expenditures. I save the spreadsheet to my thumb drive and carry it around with me everywhere I go. If I am not near a computer, I put all receipts (cash, credit card, check card) into an envelope and then update my spreadsheet as soon as I can. It really helps us get a grasp on our expenses and shows us where we are spending the most money.

  9. I keep an Excel spreadsheet with my budget, how much I’ve spent in each category, and how much I have left (or went over) on one side, my list of expenses on the other side, and below it all, a running tally of each category. There are probably easier ways to do this but it works for me. When it comes time to blog for the day (I try to do it every day), I review the receipts I’ve stuffed into a certain compartment on my backpack, and enter them in my Excel spreadsheet.

    Additionally, I blog all my purchases for the day, as you can tell from my blog. I’ve been doing this for about a month now. A) it keeps me accountable if I have to tell people I spent $55 on junk food or random crap, and B) I can go back and review it if there’s a question on my spreadsheet.

    I haven’t really changed my spending much due to the tracking, but it’s really helped me see which categories in my budget I am vastly under/overestimating.

    I also put everything on my rewards credit card and pay it off every month. It’s a fabulous way to get cashback and track your purchases.

  10. I’ve tried tracking in the past and found it too overwhelming. I now do what sense to dollars does and use my rewards cards for purchases to see what I’ve purchased and then pay it off every month. It’s convenient and doesn’t lead me to a nervous breakdown by having to keep track of every little thing. I’m also considering using online billing for those monthly bills (phone, insurance, etc.) and then everything’s in one place.



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