Whether you budget or not, knowing where your money is going is incredibly important and without this information you’re like a rat lost in the rat race. Unfortunately tracking your finances for some people is the same as asking them if they want to be tortured. I know because I used to be one of these people. The fear that grips you when you are forced to go into your own financial details can be palpable.
But if you really want to get yourself on track this is a necessary evil. You simply have to know what you’re spending your money on and more importantly if you’re overspending.
In its basic form the concept of tracking your finances is pretty simple – know where your money is going. You can do this any number of ways:
- Pen and Paper
- Spreadsheet on your computer
- Tracking software
- Online tracking software like Mint (my preference)
- Even tracking it on your phone.
How you track your spending isn’t really an issue other than you need to do it. The details shouldn’t be scary but too often they are.
The fear behind tracking your spending.
For me it came down to two pieces the first was a fear that came up when i tried to track my spending manually, I kept getting overwhelmed but the sheer volume and then the second item kicked in and that was the realization of where my money was actually going. That fear and frustration is part of what has been holding me back all these years.
Yes tracking your spending will uncover some potentially ugly truths; you might be overspending or not budgeting correctly. But this is a fact and the tracking is what you need to do in order to make sure you’re living within your means. It’s simple information to be used, don’t make yourself feel guilty. I struggled with this because I did have a nagging feeling of guilt – I’ve simply had to remind myself that its information as a result of my actions and I can use this to fix these actions.
Finding the right amount of information to track
Everyone will be a bit different but at the end of the day you need to find what will work for you – if you track too much information then you can easily become overwhelmed and lose momentum. To illustrate this I started off by writing everything down in a little notebook, keeping receipts and then transferring everything into a spreadsheet that had an elaborate system for categorizing each spend. If I fell behind by a few days it became a large task to keep this up to date. For me the solution was pretty simple – I now use Mint to track virtually all of my spending.
While this might not work for you finding a system that will work with just the right amount of information is key. Not too much information that it becomes difficult to track things but enough that you know how you’re spending your money.
At the end of the day you make your financial bed and have to lie in it, taking responsibility for your actions and pushing through the challenges is what will make the difference. Perseverance and small steps.