Now it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice. In this topic, you’ll create your own Spending Record. Download the spreadsheet below as the first step.
Next, you need to decide whether you will use this spreadsheet on a computer to track your expenses or whether you will print it out and write your expenses on it. As you decide which format of the Spending Record to use, the key factor to consider is which one you’re more likely to use on a daily basis. The key to an accurate Spending Record is consistency. If several days go by with no updates, you’ll lose track of some of your expenses and the value of the Spending Record will be reduced.
Do you tend to prefer working on a computer or using printed forms? If you opt for the electronic version, do you use your computer daily or will it take extra effort to start it up each day to record your expenses? If you don’t use your computer each evening, you might want to consider a paper form. Will more than one person (eg, yourself and your spouse) be using the form? If so, which format will best support multiple people updating it?
Transfer the numbers from your “What I Spend” form in the pre-work to the first (shaded) line of the Spending Record. At the end of the month, you’ll compare your actual spending to your estimates.
The Spending Form is meant to document a full month’s worth of spending. If you’re in the middle of the month, don’t worry – start where you are. Don’t wait until the beginning of the next month – start today! You won’t have a complete month of data for this first month, but you will establish the important habit of recording expenses daily.
Even if you’re in the middle of the month, it’s likely that you have records of what your monthly bills (utilities, etc.) have been for the month. If possible, try to fill in a complete month on the second page of the form even if you can’t fill in the full month on the first page (daily expenses). Having a full month of records for bills will be a good starting point.
With this exercise, you are beginning a lifelong journey of gaining insight into your finances, which will lead toward greater control and increasing financial freedom! Don’t worry if your expenses don’t match up to your estimates from the pre-work; the point isn’t to be perfect the first time but rather to learn and to become more accurate over time.