Personal Finances: Do You Know Where Your Money is Going?

Posted by: Chris Bocchicchio - September 5, 2013

Do you actually know how much money you spend? Do you know what exactly you spend it on? Knowledge of where your money is going can be crucial when planning to purchase a car, buy a home, or pay off student loans. Here are a few ways to help keep track of where your money is going and ways to save more.

Track Your Finances

To get the most in-depth knowledge of your finances and money you can use a receipt recording system. This is the simplest way to find out how much money you spend and on what. Every financial transaction you complete you record in a central location. There are many ways to do this. You can use a journal, excel document or note pad on a smart phone. The key is doing it for every transaction. At the end of each month or period, categorize all transactions and this will give you an idea of where your money is going. Categories commonly used:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Gas
  • Other car expenditures (oil changes, tire rotation, service checks, etc.)
  • Clothes
  • Entertainment

An alternative method to tracking your finances would be to use Mint is a website that connects to all of your financial accounts and keeps track of all your expenditures. The one drawback is it cannot record cash transactions. not only tracks all electronic transactions but can help set a budget and warn you if you are getting close to going over budget. Also, the site allows you to plan out large purchases and how to achieve the savings for those purchases. Take some time to experiment on the website to see if this is a possible tool for you.

Simple Ways to Save

Once you’ve tracked your expenses for several months, it is easier to target areas of potential savings. Cutting back on several small, unnecessary monthly expenses can add up to a large pile of savings over the course of the year. Would you rather have that caramel macchiato with whipped cream and an extra shot three times a week or have paid of your student loans in half the time? Here are ways to cut back on superfluous spending:

  • Brown-bag your lunch. Foregoing fast food lunches for lunches you’ve prepared at home could easily save you $25 a week and $1,300 over the course of the year.
  • Walk or bike. If you’re close enough to walk to work or school, not only will you be healthier, you will save a good chunk of change as AAA estimates daily drivers spend roughly $4,000 on the work commute a year.
  • Make a grocery list. Sticking to a list of specific items you need to purchase instead of winging it at the grocery store will prevent you from overspending on unnecessary items.
  • Ditch the cable television. Cutting the cable cord can be difficult, but with online streaming video service providers like Netflix and Hulu, thousands of shows and movies are at your fingertips for a mere $7-8 a month instead of $50-60 with your local cable provider.
  • Go generic. In most cases, there is no discernible difference in taste or quality and you’ll save money with each grocery trip.
  • Avoid impulse buying. Initiate a 30-day rule on all major expenses by waiting a month before pulling the trigger. This gives you time to reconcile needs vs. wants and also gives you ample time to check pricing and ensure you’re getting the best possible deal.
  • Pay your bills on time. This may seem like a no-brainer, but by having several different utility bills, rent, car payments and student loan payments all due on different dates, it can be easy to slip up and miss a payment and incur late fees in the process.

There are many small adjustments that can be made to daily and monthly spending that could save you thousands of dollars in the long run, giving you more available resources for important purchases, i.e. a house, children, vacation, etc.