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Easy Ways to Track Your Expenses

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Awareness is key to being in charge of your finances; you can't curb spending habits if you don't know what you're spending your money on to begin with.

You may recall from a previous post that tracking your expenses is the first real step to creating a realistic budget. We discussed the principle of tracking your expenses, using a spreadsheet as an example.

But spreadsheets aren't the only way to go. Here are a few easy ways to track your expenses so your inner budget-guru can flourish.

Envelopes

As a budget technique, the "Envelope Method" is a way of budgeting and tracking your expenses. Record each expenditure on the appropriate envelope and you can see your spending habits at a glance. Transferring this information to some sort of spreadsheet (see below) is the best way to analyze month-over-month data.

Spreadsheet

If you can work your way around a spreadsheet, this is a great way to track your expenses since you can manipulate the data to suit your needs and analytical style. Some expense-tracking programs and applications rely on exporting data to a spreadsheet for custom analysis, so working a spreadsheet is a good skill to have.

But manually entering expenses on a spreadsheet or organizing envelopes is onerous, and a tough system to stick with. Here are some other ways to track expenses that automate the process a little more:

Online Money Management Programs

Online money management programs like Mint.com aggregate all your accounts and financial information to give you an ongoing picture of your finances. With their accompanying mobile applications, these programs are quite powerful in helping you organize and manage your finances.

Mobile Apps

I like to track my expenses in "real time" with my smartphone. As soon as I spend money - on anything, even if it's $1 - I record it in an expense-tracking app. I monitor my spending as the month progresses, and I export the data for spreadsheet analysis. I believe this ongoing participative process creates ownership over my budget, and seeing updated balances throughout the month allows me to readjust on the fly.

Mobile expense-tracking apps vary dramatically; with the ability to synchronize budgets across multiple devices and draw account information from the cloud, some mobile apps can be powerful personal and family budgeting tools.

Here are some mobile expense-tracking apps:

Home Budget

Home Budget  tracks your income, expenses, bills due, and account balances. You can analyze expenses with charts and graphs, synchronize with other family members across devices, attach photos of receipts, set up recurring expenses, and more.

Spentable

Spentable (for Androids and iPhones) allows you to track and monitor expenses easily, categorize everything as you like, and export your data for further analysis.

EEBA

Following Envelope Budgeting principles, EEBA (for iPhones and Androids) has a few different plans (ranging from free to $8/month) so you can synchronize budgets, import bank statements, and balance your chequebook.

One Receipt

One Receipt  helps you store your receipts and generate spending summaries. Take pictures of paper receipts and email e-receipts for storage in the cloud via the desktop and/or mobile version. You can categorize your receipts, and even set return alerts and track packages.

How do you track your expenses and analyze your budget? Please share in the comments!

RELATED POSTS:

Automating Finance for the Undisciplined and Disorganized

Find the Power in Tracking Your Expenses

Budget Technique #99: The Envelope Method   

Nora Dunn, Guest Blogger for CareOne Services, Inc., Debt Relief ProviderNora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under the CareOne Debt Relief Services Life Balance blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services. You can follow Nora on Twitter @hobonora

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  • The smartphone app is the best and very handy as it is always in our hands lol! but back it up in a flashdrive incase its lost or stolen.

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