How to track your spending

Loaf of bread cut into slices

In this how to article we give you some straightforward advice on how to make a record of your spending.  Only by doing this will you have enough information about your spending habits to be able to manage them.

First and foremost you need to be honest with yourself by recording every penny you spend over a defined time period. This includes cash, credit and debit cards, standing orders or direct debits.

Decide your timeframe

Decide the period over which you are going to record your spending: a month, three months or longer. We recommend three months to start.

Ideas to help you record your spending

  • Get a notepad, keep it in the same place, and jot down everything you’ve spent at the end of each day
  • Ask for, and keep your receipts to help ensure you forget nothing
  • Use your smartphone notepad and enter the amount you spend when you spend it
  • Speak to your bank and get access to online banking, or an app, both these will help you see what you’ve spent directly from your bank account. You can use this to cross check your notes
  • Speak to your credit card provider and get access to your online credit card statement to see exactly what payments you’ve made

TIP: Setup direct debits to pay your regular bills a few days after your income comes in. This means your regular bills will be paid first and your balance will reflect the money you have left to spend.

Group and categorise your spending

Group your spending into categories, for example, food, travel, entertainment. This will help you see when you spend your money and what you spend it on. 

Use a financial tracking app

  • Some apps connect to your bank and other accounts, taking details of your spending and organising them into categories
  • Look out for add-on tools that you may have to pay for
  • Read the reviews and check the ratings before you chose an app
  • Some apps let you input your payments manually. This takes more work, but you might prefer the security and accountability of entering your transactions.

Use a pre-designed spreadsheet

There are various pre-designed templates that you can download and edit to suit your needs, look at sites like Pinterest for some ideas. Armed with this information you’ll have a clear idea of how much you have available to spend, and where your money goes. This’ll help you finalise your budget

Use an online budget planner

Having worked out how much you spend, you can use the Money Advice Service free online budget planner which lets you to enter the details of your income and spending against different categories.