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Step 1: How to Track Your Spending

Tracking your spending is the first step toward greater financial awareness and, ultimately, toward financial health. However, mastering this skill is easier said than done. How can you track every dollar you spend when you make multiple purchases each day?

We’ve outlined how to track your spending in 3 easy steps:

1. Choose your tools

Tracing every dollar’s journey isn’t easy, but with the right tools, you can make it quick and simple. Choose from one of the following money-tracking techniques: 

Budgeting apps. If your life happens on your phone, you can download a budgeting app like EveryDollar or Goodbudget to help you track your spending. Both apps allow you to allocate a specific amount of money for each spending category for each month, and will enable you to track your spending with just a few clicks. For a link to download the free version of EveryDollar or to try the premium version free for 14 days, visit If you're looking for an app you can manage with your partner, try Zeta. Unlike most budgeting apps, Zeta is designed for couples and families who want to manage their finances together.

Spreadsheet. If you like to see everything spelled out clearly, a spreadsheet might be a better choice for you. You’ll need to record every transaction, but if you prepare the sheet with all the spending categories you think you’ll need, this step shouldn’t take long at all. Many spreadsheet applications like Excel also feature free budget templates that can you can customize and adjust to meet your needs instead of starting from scratch.

The envelope system. If you’re a big cash spender, consider withdrawing the cash you think you’ll spend in a month (or in a week) and keeping it in an envelope designated for each category. When you need to make a purchase, just use money from the envelope. This visual aid of seeing your money disappear as you spend it can help temper those of us who may tend to overspend more than just watching numbers in our online banking app change, especially if we have a feature like Courtesy Pay available.

Receipts. Hold onto every receipt from the purchases you make this month to help you track your spending. If you're not a fan of paper, there are receipt scanning apps available. Most of these are geared to business use, so make sure you find one that meets your needs.

Pencil and paper. Recording each purchase the old-fashioned way can help you make more mindful money choices throughout the day. Be sure to keep a steady supply of both writing instruments handy at all times so you never miss a purchase. 

2. Review your checking account and credit card statements carefully

Along with one of the tools listed above, you can track the purchases you make using plastic by reviewing your monthly checking account and credit card statements at the end of the month. You may receive these in the mail, or you can access them online by logging into your account and downloading. If you're not the type who likes to wait for the end of the month, you can also keeps tabs on your transactions in real time, logging into online banking whenever you like.

3. Review and categorize your purchases

At the end of the month, use your chosen tool to review all the purchases you’ve made throughout the month. If you’ve used an app or a spreadsheet, adding your purchases to find the total amount of money spent will be simple. The app or spreadsheet may have already helped you divide the money spent into separate categories as well. Similarly, if you’ve used the envelope system, you should know how much you spent on each kind of purchase this month. However, if you’ve chosen another method to track your spending, you’ll need to crunch some numbers to get an accurate picture of your spending habits.

When completing this step, don’t forget to include any automated payments you may rarely think about, such as streaming/gaming subscriptions, gym memberships, and insurance premiums.

Tracking your spending and identifying your money drains is the first step toward greater financial awareness and responsibility. Use the tips outlined here to successfully master the skill of tracking your spending. If you would like to schedule an appointment with our Certified Financial Counselor to help you get started, call/text (814)946-0857 or email