Track your spending

If you are having trouble making ends meet, it helps a lot to know where your money is being spent so you can make good decisions about where to cut back. You might be surprised at what you learn about your spending habits.

There are a lot of ways to track spending, just use trial and error until you find what works for you.

The Notebook Method – Write down everything you buy.  You can use a check register or a notebook,  but if you forget to bring it with you, it doesn’t to a lot of good.

PDA or Cell Phone –  Keep eletronic notes about all of your purchases in your phone or PDA.  Everyone can remember to carry their cell phone even if they can’t remember to grab a notebook and a pen.

Keep Your Receipts – This is what my family does.  It was hard to remember at first, so we only kept gas and grocery receipts, but now we keep all receipts, no matter what.  A great way to keep receipts organized is with an accordion file with 12 pockets, one for each month of the year.  Just get a new accordion file at the beginning of a new year.

Spreadsheet -No matter how you are tracking purchases. a spreadsheet will help you see the bigger picture. Simply divide your receipts into categories at the end of a month, and add up the total of each category.  You will easily be able to see what groceries and gas cost you from month to month.  If you need more detail, you can dig into your receipts or your notebook to see what was purchased.

Once you get into the habit of tracking your spending, keep going with it. Having a good idea of what you are spending at all times is very helpful in setting a budget and sticking with it. You’ll be able to recognize really good sales by tracking your purchases, too.