Budgeting: When You Track It, You Get Better at It

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While you would be shocked to hear of a business running their operations without a corporate budget or the ability to account for how much is spent on marketing versus how much is spent on utilities, we live our lives in just that way. We don’t how much we spend on groceries, eating out, or if we can really afford to go on that next weekend trip.

We don’t know because we’ve turned away from tracking our spending. Isn’t that complicated? Doesn’t that require software? No, but if you feel you need help, here is a good list of budgeting tools and software.

Photo by Dave Dugdale via Flickr

No matter what you call it: a budget, a spending plan, financial plan, or simply how you track your funds… it’s important.

There are many financial gurus out there that promote their own system of budgeting whether it be the envelope system, a fancy spreadsheet, or a simple piece of paper. Frankly, I don’t care how you do it as long as you do it.

Here’s the kicker: tracking your money is important for one simple reason. Not because it guarantees you to be rich or frugal or anything.

No, it’s because what we track, we get better at. If you are serious about improving your finances, track them.  If you are serious about losing weight, start tracking how many calories you eat, how long your can run, and how much weight you can lift. Your tracking method doesn’t have to be complicated and full of 37 different categories. Find the metrics that work best for you.

It might be as simple as starting with:

  • how much money did I make this month
  • how much money did I spend this month
  • how much money is left, or did I go into debt because I spent too much?

You can add different measurements after the fact. Maybe you feel like you are spending too much on groceries. Instead of wondering, why not spend a month tracking your spending at grocery stores to see what the total is?

If your grocery spending shocked you during the month you tracked it, you would feel incentivized to change. You’re looking at hard data and realizing you were spending more than you thought.

The following month you would then be aware to try and find ways to decrease your costs: maybe it is buying in bulk, using coupons, or buying a few generic items. Or maybe you discover the root cause is you cook once and throw the remaining food out because it goes bad in your fridge.

You won’t know unless you track it.

Run your life more like a corporation. Expect to know where your expenditures are and how much they change on a month to month basis. Come up with your own system or use someone else’s; it doesn’t matter as long as you spend just a little bit of time learning where your money is going each month.

Further Reading

Your To Do List

  • Know how much money you are bringing in each month
  • Track your expenses

When you do these two things, you will essentially have a working budget; and with a working budget, you can make changes to improve your cash flow.

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David SneenLuluCharlotteLance@MoneyLife&More Recent comment authors
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It is definitely easier to start small then continue Ito a more specific budget. Something is better than nothing.


Good post. I never thought of treating my family finances as a business, but you’re right. Thanks for nudging me in the right direction.


I think many people think that budgeting is complicated and time consuming and that is why they do not want to start it. If you can simply track the total coming in and the total going out that is still budgeting. When you get the hang of that then you can get more complicated if you wish.

David Sneen
David Sneen

Seriously, you make a compelling argument for tracking your expenses. Good bookkeeping allows us to see the big picture. Exactly where is that money going?

Budgeting: When You Track It, You Get Better at It

by Kevin Mulligan time to read: 2 min