Getting a Handle on Your Spending
In most American households, the wife is in charge of the checkbook. She pays the bills, and keeps the tabs. Now that you’re solo again, you’ll have to take on that role yourself and figure out where the money is going. If you need to save, you’ll have to make adjustments to your spending to get your saving on track.
Chances are, if you’re like most people, you have no idea how much you spend. If you manage to save anything, you probably consider it a happy accident. If you want to save more, you have to know where you’re spending, and that can only be done with the dreaded budget.
Lucky for you, there are some free or low cost tools to make this chore a little easier. If you like working with pencil and paper, look at the spreadsheets that Bankrate.com and Kipplingre.com have online for free downloads. These are basic, plain vanilla spreadsheets that let you enter all your expenses manually. I suggest doing this weekly for at least a month so that you really pick up most of your expenses.
If you’re more techno-savvy, take a look at some of the free online expense tracking services, like Mint.com (brought to you by the Intuit folks, the TurboTax people)which lets you link up your checking and saving accounts to pick up every expense in real time. They’ll also categorize all your expenses for you into groups. Mint.com also has a cell phone app to help you enter all those little things during the day.
It shouldn’t be long before you get a pretty clear handle on where your dough is going. From there you can make adjustments to let you reach your saving goals. Cutting just $6 a day in coffee shop charges can net you over $2000 a year toward vacation! Now that makes this exercise worthwhile!
Lynn R. Najman, CFP®