Tracking Monthly Expenses

Raise your hand if you think the hardest part of adulting is finances? I promise I just raised my hand! I’ve been doing a “daily” check log to track my expenses in my checking account for the last year or so. I put daily in quotes because I should be doing it daily, but it’s more like I do it when I start to panic about my spending and have no idea where my bank account is at. So I update it approximately once a week.

One of my November goals was to actually update it daily, which I have not done. This month has been a bit crazy financially because it’s the first month my husband and I have had a joint account, and I’m still using my individual account for some things. This means I’m trying to manage two check logs, and the joint one is really difficult. We just spent thirty minutes arguing about whether one of his charges was for gas or groceries (he couldn’t remember). Before we had a joint account, he didn’t keep track of his finances as meticulously as I have, so adjusting to how I’m doing it is a bit challenging for him. We’re only a couple of weeks into doing this jointly, so my hope is that he learns to start saving receipts or making notes in his phone.

My budget and check register are the only things that can make me feel somewhat sane when it comes to money. I use an Excel spreadsheet for my check register, and it automatically calculates everything for me. Here’s a blank one:

I do an individual one for each month, and I do a big running total one. This allows me to see how closely we stick to our monthly budget, and what our entire year looks like.

At the start of the month, I add the beginning balance of the account, and I put in the monthly bills we have (based on our budget). It looks like this:

Let me just note that all of these numbers are examples. I would literally cry out of pure happiness if we could find a rental for $250 a month.

I also use a highlight system. So once a bill is paid, I highlight it blue. Once it is pending in the account, I highlight it yellow. Once it is done pending, I highlight it green. Here’s an example:

So this means that rent has been paid but is not reflecting in our account yet, Comcast has been paid and is no longer pending in our account, and our Amazon Prime and Sephora Play! subscriptions have been paid but are still pending. The remaining expenses are not highlighted because they’re not due until later in the month, so they have not yet been paid.

As the month goes on, I add in our additional expenses that are not a “fixed” amount or due date. This includes things like gas and groceries. We do have a budget for things, but obviously the dates and amounts are sporadic throughout the entire month. Further into the month, my check register looks like this:

The reason I want to be updating this every day is because it gives such a clear picture of where our checking account is at during any point in the month. It’s easy to see that by November 5th we have spent $30 on gas. If our gas budget is $50 then we already know we’re in trouble. However, if our gas budget is $300 then we know that we’re still doing fine in that category.

I love that looking at this spreadsheet tells me that my checking out is at $1472 on November 5th and will be at $1232 after my remaining monthly bills are paid. This provides me so much peace of mind and organization.

This is what I have found to be a really successful way for me to track my monthly expenses. I do slack off on updating it sometimes, but even doing it once a week is super helpful.

Have you found a successful way to track your finances? Share in the comments!

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54 thoughts on “Tracking Monthly Expenses”

  1. Oh this is so boring but necessary. I always say I will keep my track of expensed, but I always forget to make a book. That is why my bank helps me in my expenses. But I think I should make it for my own as well.

    1. I find this helpful since charges can take a few days to show up on my bank account. My spreadsheet is always more accurate than my bank account!

  2. i don’t do well at tracking my expenses. I have all my bills on auto pay and just keep a big cushion in my checking so I dont have to worry about money.

  3. Tracking expenses is boring and nobody likes it, but it must be done. Great example of how you are doing it. I use a similar program in my phone. Every time I spend money, I track it. Helps keep me accountable.

    1. I try to give myself a bit of incentive to make it more fun! A yummy treat or a glass of wine… Whatever it may be, it gives me some motivation to get the tracking done!

  4. I hear you finances make me want to cry LOL. But the great thing about blogging is that it has taught me to track my expenses so that I can work out what exactly I am spending my money on. Finances is definitely something that I struggle with x

  5. I keep a track of all of my spending on a spreadsheet too. Its so much easier to see what is going out of my account and when so I always know where I’m at financially xxx

  6. When I started working, this was the first thing I had to learn! And you’re certainly on the right track. I keep an eye on every expense, up to the last penny!! And it really helps us budget.

  7. Yes! It took a few years but I think I’ve finally got our system down. I even “prettied them up” so I could sell them on Etsy. I find I have to use paper and pencil. I love using computers for just about everything else, but when it comes to tracking stuff like this, I have a much easier time using paper.

    -Mama from Mama Writes Reviews

    1. I’ve been working on making a shareable and pretty version of my spreadsheet also! I’m hoping I can get a few people to give it a try before offering it through my blog though.

      It’s so funny how different we all are… I would go crazy trying to budget or track expenses on paper! I love that excel just calculates all of the numbers for me 🙂

  8. These are some awesome ways to track your monthly expenses and I believe this is the most important thing to do as it helps in keeping track of savings. I am an old-school girl when it comes to finance…I keep a diary and write each and every expense in it and then do the calculations at the end of the month. 🙂

    1. I know so many people who track their expenses like that! I personally like that excel calculates for me. It’s so important to find a system that works for you.

    1. Let me know if you’d be interested in trying out my spreadsheet and letting me know what you think! It seems to help me track things so much!!

  9. Thanks for sharing! this is quite a motivation to start saving and maintaining a log o expenses. Tracking expenses every month not only helps keep track of expenses but also promotes saving.

  10. This is such an important post! I am terrible at keeping track of my expenses, but I have found out it really does pay to. I love how you use the Excel spreadsheet, I think it would be easier for me.

  11. These are really great ways to make sure that you are tracking your expenses. It is so important that we know where our money is going.

  12. I love the formatting and highlighting system you’ve put in place for your spreadsheet. Great organization! You motivate me to be more organized!

    1. Congrats on not being behind! Getting caught up can be so tough, but I’m convinced that budgeting and tracking expenses will help us get beyond that!

  13. Really informative post! I am not too good at keeping track of my expenses, but I have found out it really does pay to. I have tried out a few budget tracker apps.

  14. Tracking my expenses better is something that I have been working on. This looks like a great way to do that!

  15. I give you so much credit, your system looks like it is definitely working for you. I think it can be hard when there are 2 of you to make sure you are both recording in your ledger. I also really like your spreadsheet. I rely on our online banking to keep track of our purchases, and income with the help of my Self-employed program from Turbo Tax.

    Thank you for your information! Your post is wonderful.

  16. I used to use a paper planner for mine, but have switched to computer based. It’s so handy to have years worth of expenses right at my fingertips and accessible any time and any where.

  17. It’s nice to know where you are at on your budget, and this is one of the best way to do it. I have done this before and will try to do it again.

  18. I really need to get in the habit of tracking my expenses. (Although I did at one point find a really good phone app for it). I tend to do it for one or two months, then decide it’s way too much work and stop keeping track and then the spiral starts again.

  19. My husband and I use and really the software called “You Need a Budget” Every month, we’re able to allocate money to each budget category and then track our spending against it. It has an app for his phone, software for my mac and helps us stay in sync. No matter how you track it all, the hardest part is having the discipline to stop spending once we’re reached our monthly limit! x

  20. This is such an informative post. I am glad to see how you track your monthly expenses. I think this is one of the hardest parts of being a teenager to track their monthly budget and expenses. But it’s really good to do it so we know how much we spend every month. These are great tips for everyone.

  21. Tracking expenses is the first step to making a change in your financial life, and as we know, the first step is the hardest. Tracking expenses isn’t something that happens over night It’s like any change.

  22. Yeah, there is no $250 rental, I realize that was just a number for an example. I am much older than you, and I remember my first rental post college, it was a studio apartment in a large city, and it went for $300 per month at that time. So even more than $250 way back then! But I digress. It is very hard for many people to deal with budgets. It is not just a matter of math or organization, it is also a matter of fear and to face realities of life when you are first starting out as an independent adult. But it is better to have awareness and make good choices financially than to be in denial and get yourself more into debt. An important topic here.

    1. I wish we could find something even close to that amount… We’re just outside of Seattle, and rent is almost ten times that!
      Also, I completely agree. I spent multiple years pretending finances didn’t really exist, and not budgeting or spending well. Now I have to clean up the pieces of that, but I wish I had just been smart from the beginning! It can be hard to face the realities of finances when you’re young and don’t know what you’re doing.

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