Today we have a few free resources that can help with your own money management by tracking your expenses. There is a printable PDF spending log that makes it easy to record your expenses. The same spending log is also available as a Google Docs spreadsheet it you prefer a digital version over pen and paper. And there is also another Google Docs expense tracker spreadsheet allows you to keep track of your income and expenses (by category) for every month of the year.
Why Should You Track Your Expenses?
Let’s take a look at why you should track your expenses and what you’ll gain from doing it.
1. Know Where Your Money is Really Going
Creating a budget is great, but a budget doesn’t show you where your money is really going unless you are tracking and recording your expenses. When you’re tracking your expenses you will know exactly how much you are spending, and how it is being spent.
2. Know if You’re Staying Within Your Budget
The budget is an ideal scenario that you want to follow, but do you know if you are really sticking to the limits you’ve set with your budget? The budget and tracking expenses go hand in hand. Each one is important to the other.
Tracking your expenses will hold you accountable for each dollar that you spend. I first started tracking my expenses in my last year of college, which was the first time I was living on my own and responsible for paying bills every month. It’s amazing how much it impacted the way I spent money. I knew I would have to record every purchase, and that made me very hesitant to spend money on anything that wasn’t necessary because I didn’t want to regret it later.
4. Identify Problem Areas
Tracking expenses will help you to immediately identify problem areas where you are spending too much money.
If you haven’t tracked expenses in the past, chances are, you’ll be surprised at some of the things that you see immediately with the help of this habit. For example, you may be shocked at how much money your spending at restaurants each month.
When you see the totals from the different categories of expenses, you’ll probably see a few that stick out to you right away as being too high. Once you know where your problem areas are, you can make the necessary changes and start saving more money.
5. Motivation to Save
The combination of budgeting and tracking your expenses will give you plenty of motivation to manage your money wisely, and save more of it. Seeing your expenses going down and your savings going up is rewarding, and will probably make you want to save and invest even more.
The spending log and expense tracker are available in our free resource library, which is accessible to our email subscribers. If you’d like to download these files, please use the form below to subscribe.
Easy Ways to Cut Back
Now that we’ve covered everything related to tracking expenses, let’s take a look at a few easy ways that you can reduce your monthly expenses. These are “easy wins” that help you to free up more room in your budget. You’ll be able to save or pay off debt faster. Here are a few of my favorites, but for a much more detailed look at the subject please see 40 Smart Ways to Reduce Your Monthly Bills.
How much do you spend on TV service each month? Both cable and satellite TV can be very expensive, but there are some much more reasonable cable alternatives.
My wife and I canceled cable several years ago, and we’ve saved a ton of money over that period of time (a few thousand dollars from my calculations). My favorite cable alternative is Sling, because you get live TV and your selection of channels at a very low monthly price. Hulu is also a great option. Netflix is an amazing deal too (even after the rate increases), but some people don’t like how TV shows are released once per year.
Lower Your Bills Easily with Trim’s Help
Trim is a free app that can help you to save money each month. Trim will negotiate on your behalf to get your cable and internet bills reduced. There is no upfront cost. Trim will keep 33% of whatever they are able to save you, and if they can’t save you any money, you pay nothing. I’ve used Trim and they were able to reduce our Comcast bill. Try Trim here.
Cell Phone Service
How much do you pay each month for mobile phone coverage? If you’re using one of the leading providers, you could probably save some money very easily by switching to a discounted carrier. A few years ago my wife and I switched from one of the leading carriers to a discount prepaid provider and our monthly bill was cut in half. We saved more than $800 per year! We use Cricket Wireless and the quality of service is excellent (they use AT&T’s network).
If you sign up for Cricket Wireless through my referral link, you can get a $25 account credit.
Another excellent option is FreedomPop. They have extremely low-priced plans available.
Cashback apps make it easy to save some money on purchases that you need to make anyway. My favorites include Dosh and Drop (they are super easy because they are linked to your credit card), as well as Ebates.
- Drop is currently offering a $5 signup bonus if you sign up here. All you need to do to get the bonus is link your credit card.
- Dosh is also currently offering a $5 signup bonus. Sign up here and link a credit card to get the bonus.
- Ebates is offering a $10 signup bonus. You’ll need to make a purchase of at least $25 within 90 days in order to receive the bonus.
For more, please see 15 of the Best Cashback Websites and Apps.
Start a Side Hustle
Aside from cutting back, another way to free up more money for saving is to start a side hustle. There are countless ways that you can make extra money outside of a job (see this list of side hustle ideas).
A side hustle can even be fun if you choose something that you enjoy. Several years ago, I started a photography side hustle and I was able to make money doing something that was fun for me.
If you’re not sure what side hustle to pursue, try our free side hustle quiz that will help you to find some options that are ideal for you.