I have a notebook that I keep all of my purchases in. I call it my Spend Log. The reason for this is so that I can take a monthly account of all the purchase I have made and see were we are spending money. It is also very useful when trying to set up a budget, which you can read more about here.
Setting Up to Use the Spend Log:
First make a list of the things you spend money on regularly. These will be the categories you divide your purchases into.
It is really helpful if you have a “Needs List”. A needs list is everything that you purchase for your household with cost and approximate time frame in which you buy it. My needs list includes weekly, bi weekly, monthly, and every 3 months. The things on this list may include: toiletries, baby items, paper goods, cleaning supplies, laundry soap, anything you NEED to purchase on a regular basis. For spend log purposes I call this category “Household”.
My categories are: Bills, Groceries, Pop, Energy (I separate pop and energy drinks from groceries because it’s nice to see how much we actually spend on these items each month), Eat Out, Household, Fuel(vehicle 1), Fuel(vehicle 2), Vehicles(for maintenance),Entertainment(date nights, movie rentals), Animals (food, health, other needs), Tobacco(I hate to admit it, but I used to smoke. I use an electronic cigarette now, but I still label it under tobacco as an expense. It makes sense for me to do it that way, especially since my husband chews so we have that expense as well.), Additional Needs(any needed items that are not on my needs list), wants, unexpected expenses, and other(for birthday presents and things of that sort). I will also be adding Kids Activities back to my list soon (this is for things like sports and classes that I put my kids in).
Setting up Your Spend Log:
Like I said, I use a notebook. You could make a worksheet if that would work better for you, but I like the notebook method so that’s what I use. In my notebook I use a ruler to make 3 sections. Date, Category, and Amount. (Make the category sections big enough to fit the category plus any additional details, if needed).
Using Your Spend Log:
I use my Spend Log daily after I have logged my transactions into my register. Read more about the use of registers to keep better track of your finances here.
I get a receipt for every purchase I make, this includes cash transactions. If I don’t get a receipt I will get into my notes on my phone and log the purchase with date, what, and the amount. That way I have record of it.
I go through each receipt and add up my purchases by category. In example: Add up all the groceries (don’t forget to add tax) and write it in your log with the date, Groceries(as your category), and the amount. Then, add up the next item. Say you bought some toilet paper, diapers, and some cleaning spray. Add those up (with tax) and put them into your spend log under Household, with the amount. Do this until you have written down all categories dealing with that receipt. For things like Additional Needs, Other, Unexpected Expenses, and Wants I will write a short description of the purchase. Remember to write each category as a separate entry in your log. After you are done with your receipts, you will also need to log any bills that you paid. Don’t forget anything you might have put in your phone.
As a convenience to myself, each time a page is filled, I total my categories and write it on a sticky note. This way at the end of the month I already have my totals ready and all I have to do is write them in my worksheet.
At the end of the month, pay period, etc. you can write all of your totals into a worksheet, I’ve devised a monthly one that you can download/print here, and see where you have spent your money.
Let me know if it works for you, any changes you might make to make it work for you, or if you have any questions you can contact me here or in the comments. If you found this post useful please feel free to share on social media or hit the like button.
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