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Day 1) Where’s My Money Going?

Welcome to Day 1 of “Where’s My Money Going?” Month. This February, I’m challenging readers (and myself) to track spending manually every day. This means somehow keeping a tally of every penny you spend.

You can gather receipts and write them on a piece of paper or document, use your online banking or financial software to copy information into a spreadsheet (don’t forget cash purchases). There is no one right way to track your spending, whatever works for you is better than not doing it at all. At this point, you don’t have to budget, just record. If you want an extremely basic spreadsheet, you can use this to track amount spent or earned, description, store, and category for each item: [download#12#nohits]

The purpose of this month is to make you aware of your spending habits and patterns. Using financial software to keep an eye on your spending and even following a budget isn’t the same as being really aware of where your money is going and evaluating whether or not you like where it’s going. Staying with the same budget year after year may keep you from thinking creatively about your financial life.

What you choose to do after this month, whether you continue manual tracking, change spending habits, keep doing everything the same way, I hope that it gives you a chance to think about your financial life. Knowing where your money goes means that you can control it.

If you want to track your spending manually this month, let me know in the comments! The best way to get the daily updates is to subscribe to the site’s free “feed.” If you want to get new articles via an RSS reader, click here to subscribe. If you’d rather get them in your e-mail, click here to subscribe.

Other ways to get involved:

1) If you’re a blogger, write about what you’re doing and update your progress. I’ll include you in periodic roundups (and if I don’t, e-mail me a link to the post).

2) Share your story here! I’ve already had several people submit their stories and guest posts. I’d be happy to have more, either stories about what you’ve learned from tracking your spending before now or what you’ve discovered this month.

This post was part of Where’s My Money Going? Month. Tomorrow, I’ll post about what method I’m going to use to track our spending.

{ 4 trackbacks }

Weekly Personal Finance Links- The Terrible Towel Edition | Think Your Way to Wealth
February 1, 2009 at 10:49 pm
The Weekly Roundup | Master Your Card
February 2, 2009 at 2:43 am
Tracking my spending : Both Sides of the Pond
February 2, 2009 at 10:25 pm
Tracking My Spending For 1 Month, Maybe More
February 3, 2009 at 8:27 pm


Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet February 1, 2009 at 11:47 am

Me me! I want to play. I have a pretty good idea but we also have a large “spending category” would be interesting to see where that goes, specifically.

Avdi February 1, 2009 at 12:07 pm

I’m looking forward to the next one article. For a long time I tracked our family finances in detail with software, but I found that I simply was not able to keep up with the influx of receipts and still have time for my other commitments. I’m now looking for a practical mid-point between obsessive tracking and no tracking whatsoever.

mrsmicah February 1, 2009 at 12:37 pm

@Ashely, I know! One thing I’m going to try to keep track of is not just how much we spend on the bigger categories like groceries, but what we buy.

@Avdi, I find myself fluctuating like that as well. This month I’ll be talking about some automatic programs which can compile your spending habits without your having to enter every receipt. At the same time, they only “work” if you look at them (but you can spend less time on them).

Phil February 1, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I’ll be playing along 🙂 This is something I’ve been wanting to do to see how accurate (or not) my current budget is.
This is always a good exercise for finding those little “leaks,” or uncovering opportunities to save or pay down debt better.
And always less tedious when making it a group project – lol.

mrsmicah February 1, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Glad to have you on board, Phil! 🙂 I hope that if we look at things more in terms of spending we may be able to rewrite budgets which fit our lives where they are now, vs. where they were when we first came up with them.

Kristy @ Master Your Card February 2, 2009 at 1:44 am

I’m in! I’ll see if I can get Jonathan on board with this, too! Maybe we can track it over at Master Your Card for us, but I’ll definitely check in with updates! Great idea Mrs. Micah!

[email protected] February 2, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I just posted my commitment to do MORE tracking for Where’s My Money Going Month! Thanks for the idea, and the inspiration. I can’t wait.

calgirlfinance February 2, 2009 at 9:58 pm

I’m in. I decided that I wanted to track my spending on my blog and then I read that you were going to do it too!

I’m a subscription reader, rare commenter.

Jermaine February 2, 2009 at 10:52 pm

This is something that I do off and on (more off) and have not done in a while. I’ll definitely participate in this challenge in an attempt to make it a habit. I know where the large amounts go each month, but it will be interesting to see how much is spent on groceries, gas, and the elusive miscellaneous.

sfordinarygirl February 3, 2009 at 3:03 am

I’m in just to track more carefully the misc I enter without a note like the $54 from last month …

PK February 3, 2009 at 11:57 am

I’m in for this month. We have a goal to put almost triple our normal amount into savings for an emergency fund. By playing along I hope I can keep it there.

Miss M February 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

This is wonderful timing, I’m writing a get out of debt series and one of the steps is to track your spending. Hope you don’t mind, I’m linking this post as a place to get more information on tracking spending. I confess I hate doing it, you can be the good example that I am not!

Rob Lewis February 3, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I’m in, posted about it briefly here:

repo2riches February 3, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Aloha from Kaua’i! I started tracking our spending mid January (after our car got repoed) and I’m so excited to have found ur blog!!! I look forward to tracking and learning as much as I can. The one thing I’ve noticed is that if I don’t log everything daily I’m always short or over $. I know it’s probably because my dh doesn’t turn in all of his receipts so I’ll just wait for tomorrows posts about spouses. Thank you!!!

Denise Fisher February 3, 2009 at 7:40 pm

I’m up for the challenge. I just started a blog 2 weeks ago that’s focused on getting fit, getting organized, and getting one’s financial affairs in order (it’s especially aimed at the baby boomer generation and the NPRme). I’m still in “beta” mode while I get up to speed with my online endeavor. And in my exploration of blogs on similar topics, I was amazed to find so many sharp bloggers with excellent sites on the subject of personal finance (present company included). I will also include a post on this specific venture in the upcoming week. Cool.

Maureen February 4, 2009 at 11:28 am

I like this game! I will be tracking in February also. I love tracking. It’s positively obsessive but I enjoy it. I have records of what I’ve spent since 16 and now four years on I am managing to keep up. It’s incredibly helpful. It really irritates me when people say that they don’t know where their money is going. I always suggest they write it down and find out but alas that’s too much effort apparently!

I get heavily criticized by many of my peers for my ‘excessive’ behaviour in saving so it will be interesting to see how beneficial this exercise turns out for the players on here! All I know is it’s never a bad thing to know what you’re spending.

La BellaDonna February 4, 2009 at 12:03 pm

For the folks who’ve tried to track their spending before, but had some problems, this is what I finally have wound up doing:

I try to track my expenses in a chart (not even a real spreadsheet, sorry!); I make a new version each month, one document for the year. Each version has a row for each day (January has 31 rows, February 28 – except for leap year!); there are only 7 columns, including the date column, but I itemize every purchase in its column.

And because I may forget to track something, I carry an 8×11 envelope, with the name of the month on it. I stick it in my tote and carry it every day, and I put the receipts for that day in that envelope. Makes it easier to track stuff, and I can just file each entire envelope in an expandable folder for the year.

The Ory's February 4, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Count us in (coming to the party a little late!). This is just what we need to get past that unorganized stack of receipts that only gets entered once or twice a month.

DIY Joe February 10, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I may be late to the party but I’m in. I hope I can play, but I’ve been tracking everything since the beginning of the year. So I hope I haven’t jumped the gun.

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