9-Feb

Tracking your spending on a regular basis can give you an accurate picture of where your money is going and where you’d like it to go instead.

Here’s how to get started tracking your monthly expenses.

1. Check your account statements
Pinpoint your money habits by taking inventory of all of your accounts. Looking at your accounts will help you identify where you’re spending, how much you are spending and how often you spend it. That way you will know where your money is going and where incomes are coming from.

2. Categorize your expenses
It’s important that you start grouping your expenses. You could find that impulse buys at the mall are costing you a lot. Or maybe you’ll realize you’re paying for recurring subscription services that you could do without.
Your spending will consist of both fixed expenses and variable expenses. Fixed expenses are less likely to change from month to month and may include rent, utilities, insurance and debt payments. You’ll have more room to adjust variable expenses like food, clothing and travel.

3. Use a budgeting or expense-tracking app
Budgeting apps are designed for on-the-go money management, letting you allocate a certain amount of spendable income each month depending on what you’re taking in and what you’re paying out. These types of apps will work if you’re willing to log your purchases, put in the time and stick to your budget.

4. Explore other expense trackers
If you are not a fan of apps, a spreadsheet is another valuable money-tracking tool. You can find a variety of free budget templates online. Or, if you have a more complex financial portfolio, you can buy software like Quicken Premier, which lets you import your bank transactions and monitor your investments.

5. Identify room for change
As you track your expenses, be ready to make adjustments. It’s worth your time to keep tabs on your monthly expenses because of what you’ll uncover. Tracking expenses can be very valuable for finding out what’s really costing you, and what is not as bad as you thought. Lowering the big fixed expenses in your life, like the cost of housing, vehicles and utilities, can make a significant impact on your budget.