As I counsel people in becoming debt-free and in teaching them how to handle money the way God intended, I’m often met with resistance when it comes to tracking your expenses. People do not want to take the few extra seconds it takes to write-down what they just purchased or the bill they paid. To them, it seems like a waste of time.
However, it is anything but a waste of time. You see when you begin to track your expenses, you see exactly where you are spending your money. Let me ask you one thing, “Did you go to the ATM or request cash over at a store from your debit card purchase?” If so, can you say exactly what happened to you that cash? Chances are you cannot.
What happens is that you become careless with the money. You take out a twenty, go to the restaurant, pay for your food and get change back. Maybe you use some of the spare change to buy a candy or coffee or soda. You give your kids some of the cash for something they want. Before long, the twenty is gone and you’re wondering where the money went.
Another scenario is this, you like electronics or you like eating out or you like music. You think nothing of buying a thumb drive or some other electronic doodad. You eat lunch or even dinner out everyday because it’s quick and convenient. One of your favorite artists puts out a new CD or a CD you want is on sale, so you buy it. How much money have spent over the past month on these “wants”? Do you know? Probably not, why? because you did not track your expenses.
Tracking your expenses is very easy and most important very revealing. Take a small (3×5) notebook, like the one shown above, and each day write down the date, the store, the item purchased, and the amount you spend. If you use a debit card, credit card, or check, write them down as well, include any bills that you paid too. Keep track of your expenses for 30 days, preferably 60 days.
You will be surprised at where your money went. This simple task will help you not only when you prepare your budget, but it will reveal what you like to spend your money on. If you are married, both of you should have your own notebook to track your expenses.
The people I counsel often decide to keep tracking their expenses after the 60 days. They want to ensure that they don’t waste their money.