A recent study showed that 19% of women think of sex daily, if not several times per day, and two-thirds of women surveyed were thinkin’ about it at least on a weekly basis. If only we were thinking about our money that much!
It might not be as sexy, but tracking your finances is crucial. It’s the only way you can get the lay of your financial landscape and take a careful inventory of what you actually have and what you owe. According to a recent study by Capital One, more than a quarter (27%) of Millennials say that establishing a solid nest egg would give them the biggest feeling of financial accomplishment; the only way to get there is to align your goals with the money you actually have…and how much more you might need to get there! Here are questions I get all the time about tracking your spending — and a little tough love for why it’s so important:
I have a general idea of what I spend each month, Why do I need to keep track?
Because a general idea is not enough. A financial diet is like a regular diet; you need to track your consumption to get lean and mean and stick to your goals once and for all. That includes tracking the fun stuff, like your monthly gym membership or mani/pedi. You need to be able to see all of your spending to keep yourself on track—not just the “typical” stuff like bills and rent.
Okay, fine — so what’s the best way to track spending? Why?
You can start old school on a piece of paper or put it on a spreadsheet on your computer, as long as you do it! Or you can use my Spending Plan, which will help you to organize your spending into categories so you can reallocate funds as necessary (or as you make more money!).
Do I need to analyze my spending every single day?
Analyze your tracking at the end of each week; not every day, you’ll make yourself crazy! As you begin to notice trends in your spending, you can relocate funds. For example, saving on transportation since you started biking to work? Throw some of those savings into your housing budget, or better yet, your savings!
Should I include fun money in my tracking?
Yes, you should and you MUST build fun money into your budget. In the end, money is there to enjoy. It’s not worth your valuable time to get overly bogged down in the small expenses. Allow yourself the small indulgences—lattes, lipstick, a Netflix subscription—while keeping an eye on the bigger picture. Just be sure to jot them down along with everything else.