Track finances daily. The idea of tracking your finances daily may seem ridiculous or sound like something only Ebeneezer Scrooge would do. But in reality, it’s one of the easiest ways to ease any stress we may be feeling about a major area in our lives – money. If you set aside 10-15 minutes at the same time each day (in other words, make it part of your routine), it will become a natural part of what you do. I suggest that you not only “balance your checkbook,” but that you account for everything that was spent since the day before.
I do this by having a monthly budget spreadsheet that already includes my expected expenses, so all I have to do is go in and fill in the “actual” amount beside the “projected” amount as money goes out. If there was an unplanned expense, I still add that as a line to the budget so that every cent can be tracked as much as possible. I don’t get crazy if I can’t get it down to the cent, but as we all know, every cent adds up. In a day and age where it’s so easy to just pull out a card and insert the chip, it’s easy to lose track of how much we’re really spending and what we’re spending it on. This exercise lets me see exactly where our money is going and if we’re truly spending it in a way that fits with all the other expenses we have and if we’re spending it in a way that aligns with our goals. I don’t get too hard on us or go on a tirade if we’re not, because what’s the use? That money is already spent. But if we’re not using our money in a way that we had intended, keeping regular tabs on it makes it much easier to self-correct sooner rather later.
For me, I’ve also found that it makes me feel much more in control of our financial situation and in turn, life in general. Even if we’ve gotten off track, it still helps to get rid of some of the stress that can come with finances because we know where we stand. We know immediately what an unexpected expense might mean as opposed to waking up in the middle of the night worrying about it. It’s just like anything else, awareness of where you are is the beginning of making any changes or accomplishing any goals.