How to Keep Track of Your Finances
In the last post, we addressed our fears, took a deep breath, and prepared to move forward in our financial journey. Honestly, it is a little scary to think about what the future might bring financially. It is even more frightening for people in the middle generation. Gen Xers in their 40s have the highest amount of average debt. The jobs that we have are not covering the debt or allowing us to feel secure in our financial future. And while we may watch a few of our counterparts going viral on tik tok and other social media platforms that doesn’t seem like our best way out of the binds that we feel like we are in. But there is hope.
However, this hope comes with a price. You have to do the work to get where you want to be financially. First things first, you have to pay much more attention to your finances and start tracking your expenses daily.
Find a Daily Expense Tracker
If you have ever been on a diet plan one of the main things you are asked to do is to keep a journal of what you are consuming. Why? Because many of us move and act instinctively. We don’t pay attention to what we put in our bodies allowing our health to get out of control. The same is true for our finances. The introduction of credit and debit into our society has numbed us to the need and value of our dollar. When you are not acutely aware of your spending you tend to overspend.
To get started you will need something that allows you to write or enter as much information as possible about your purchases. You will be tracking the date, name of business or individual where money was spent, the amount, and a category. If you would like to get even more granular you can track things like the time and even your feelings about spending. This can easily be done in a notebook but you can also click here for a daily expense tracker template.
What Should You be Tracking
EVERYTHING. Going back to the diet plan analogy, everything that touches your lips should be tracked. Why? Because everything contributes to your health and the changes in your body. Same with finances. No amount is too small or trivial to be tracked. With an everyday expense tracker, you will quickly see where your money is going and can begin to determine if that is really how you want to be distributing your wealth. (Yes. I said wealth. While it may not feel like it, you are a wealthy individual you just need to learn how to manage your money.)
Let’s look at it from a business perspective. Businesses have accounting departments and firms tracking all of the money that comes in and absolutely everything that goes out. Whenever there is a discrepancy between what’s come in and what’s gone out it is because of the mismanagement of funds. And no matter how small it must be accounted for. Have you ever heard of a cashier whose drawer is a little short at the end of the day? If you have had that experience you know that calls for an audit. The managers don’t just let it go. That has to be reviewed and accounted for because a drawer short here and there can end up costing a company millions.
Now just imagine yourself as a business, a profitable one no less. You bring in millions, but whenever you walk down the street money just falls out of your pocket. Would your first thought be oh it’s just a few hundred or would you fix your pockets? Well if you are sticking with me you are fixing those pockets and becoming a more intentional spender/giver.
When Should I Track My Expenses
My suggestion is daily. And in the beginning as immediately as possible. There are several personal monthly expense trackers out there, even weekly versions. But just like a cashier, I would close out my finances daily. Remember, this part of the process is just getting you to be more aware of your spending. We will do some analysis later. Right now it is important to get the information all in one place.
When I first started on my financial journey to freedom this was the hardest part, simply because I was not used to that level of discipline with my finances. I would keep all my receipts from everywhere in my wallet with the intent of putting them into a spreadsheet later. After a few weeks, I would just throw them out and start the process all over again. When I got serious, I got myself a journal and every evening I had scheduled time to just write things out in a planner. Then I found a small notepad that I could just keep with me in a bag or my car and bingo. That was it. I could write things down immediately. I eliminated the reasons for not getting it done by making it easier to do.
Find what works for you. You can have a daily scheduled time or do it in the moment. You can even do it weekly or monthly if you feel you are that disciplined, but I have a feeling you are here because you could use some help in that area.
How Long Will I Need To Do This
Ideally, you will be keeping track of your finances henceforth and forevermore. Remember, we are redesigning our financial lives. Businesses are profitable for a reason. That reason is not that they pay little attention to their money. Businesses that flourish know about their cash flow intimately. Eventually, when you get to that point you can hire someone to manage your expenses. But that does not mean that you should ever leave it as an aside.
Even when you hire others it is important to “close out your drawers” regularly. People who decide to turn a blind eye to their finances are often swindled by those they rely on to manage their funds. There is no shortage of articles about celebrities or wealthy individuals who have faced court hearings or jail time all because they did not pay attention to the money. But that won’t be you because once you start practicing this habit now when you finally start enjoying the wealth that your creating you will be very conscious of making sure that you have a balanced drawer.
I know the future can seem a bit bleak. And I do realize that this is asking you to take on a task that you have not had to do yet in life. Believe me, I understand the challenge of trying to create healthy habits in your life. So I would encourage you as you get started to ask yourself this question, which is more important to me staying on my current course and hoping for the best for my future, or pushing myself to make a change for a more positive future? Me, personally, I choose the latter.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Do you have any good tracking tools that you use? Always feel free to drop me line at firstname.lastname@example.org