Ideas for Tracking Household Expenses

Keeping a household budget requires that you know where your money is going each month. If you’re not keeping track of these details, you really can’t know your financial situation all too clearly, and you won’t be able to do a budget. Keeping track of your expenses, whether daily or monthly, will help you stay within or under budget and help you manage your money more wisely.

You can't budget unless you know what's going on with your money. All your spending should be tracked, and here are 4 simple ways to do that.© Syda Productions / Dollar Photo Club

4 Ways to Track Household Expenses

If you are not tracking your expenses currently, try one of the following ideas to get you started.

Write down your expenses as they happen

When I was single, I would carry around a notebook (about 5×8) and write down any time I made a purchase. Now that I have kids, this has gone by the wayside, but I am sure I could get back into the habit if I wanted to. If you decide to write down every time you purchase something or pay a bill, be sure to write the date, the store or company, the amount, and what it was for. This will be a huge load off your shoulders when it comes time to go through all your expenses for your budget.

Save all your receipts

I have always had a hard time balancing our monthly budget because someone in my house (cough, hubby) doesn’t keep track of his receipts all that well. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal since I can always check our bank and credit card accounts, but when it comes to cash, I have no idea how much he spent or how much he had in the first place. It’s all a mess, basically.

After 7 years of marriage, you’d think we would have things pretty well under control, but we don’t. I need to help him find a way to keep all of his receipts without me saying anything. These are some ideas to make it easier to keep every single receipt.

  • Put all receipts in the dash of your car. The minute you get home, gather the receipts and take them into your house and place them in a basket in your home office or by your computer.
  • Put the receipts in a box labeled, “Receipts.”
  • Put the receipts in envelopes – clearly labeled by month or category.
  • Take a screenshot if the purchase is online. Keep all the screenshots in a folder on your computer titled, “Online Expenses.”

Check your credit card and bank accounts often

If you only use debit and/or credit cards to pay for things, checking your credit card and bank accounts will probably be the easiest way for you to track all your expenses. Most likely, though, you will be using some cash here and there, so you probably want to use this as a second method after one of the first two above.

Use a Personal Financial Management Service

Keeping track of spending with one of the following services can make your life a whole lot easier. I personally don’t use any of them. It seems like when I have tried to sign up for them, my bank account won’t sync and I give up. In fact, I just tried to use the other day, and I tried to sync my bank account at least 10 times with no luck.

The one service I would love to try in the future is YNAB. It costs money upfront, but once you have it, there are no more costs and I know it would make budgeting a lot easier.

  • YNAB (You Need a Budget) – free 34 day trial
  • Personal Capital
  • Moneytrackin’

When you finally decide on one way to track all your expenses, you will discover exactly where your money is going each month. It might surprise you, or you may have already known all along. Either way, doing a household budget will be so much easier when you have this information at your fingertips.

Do you have a trick for tracking all your expenses?

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  1. We try to keep all of our receipts and input them into our phones. We’re trying to get better at checking our money app BEFORE whipping out the credit card (we use a program called MoneyWell). Hoping to start really taming that beast and maybe even pay off the mortgage faster. My grandma used to keep a notebook of expenses. It was awesome to look through her notes and see how carefully she spent every penny.

    • I think if I had a smartphone, I would love to use an app to help track expenses. It would be so helpful to see at a glance how you’re doing with your budget while you are shopping. Your grandmother was dedicated! I bet it’s interesting to see how much things used to cost.

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