One of the best ways to ensure you’re not abusing a credit card is to track your spending. You’ll see the things you spend the most on, what unnecessary purchases you’re making, and you’re most apt to notice if someone has hacked your account and may be using it.
Research shows that people who track their spending are all around healthier, not to mention wealthier. But this wealth comes from tracking your spending as your spending it – so don’t wait to get your account statement and then review your purchases. This can lead to guilt and unwanted money spent, so be sure to write down your purchases either as you make them or, at least, daily. This will give you a better idea of how you’re spending, and give you room to make changes before you regret a purchase.
To simply get started, there are certain habits that, if you don’t already have them, you’ll need to pick up.
1. Make sure you save all receipts and organize them accordingly. This will help when comparing them to your account statement. You’ll notice any purchases that are out of place that may be from someone stealing your information.
2. Use your card, rather than cash, as often as possible – even for small purchases such as coffee or snack at the office. This way, your spending habits are digitally recorded for you in your account, just in case you forget a receipt or two.
3. Review your results. Sitting down to organize and then react to your spending is important – it’s the whole point of tracking. You want to see the impact of certain habits, like grabbing coffee five days a week or bi-weekly shopping trips. You’ll be able to see that maybe it would make more sense financially to make your own coffee, or skip the mall more often. So, either weekly or monthly, try to sit down (with yourself, your spouse, your child who now has their own card, whoever the spending impacts) and review what you’ve been spending on.
Now, how do you track? Well, this part is up to you. Some like to keep it simple – paper, pen, and a calculator. But, this can get messy and make it hard to categorize spending, as well as automatically calculate totals. Thanks to the web, there are now tons of websites and apps to help you track your spending, many within your own bank.
Bank Budgeting Tools
Wells Fargo offers My Spending Report: an online, free money management tool that tracks all your spending on your Wells Fargo accounts. This software helps you track all spending and automatically categorizes it, so you can see where you’re spending the most. Your income and deposits are also recorded, as well as helpful graphs and charts to visually see how your money is being spent. You can also set up your own budget goals with Budget Watch so that once you know the budget you want to be within, you have some help policing your spending to get you there. With the tagline, “you do the spending, we do the math,” Wells Fargo has a really convenient way for you to start changing your spending, changing your life in the process.
If you don’t use Wells Fargo or your bank doesn’t offer such savvy budget tracking tools, then grab your smartphone. There’s a whole world of money-tracking apps that can help you see where your money is going.
Xpenser made the top 5 apps for tracking your spending on CNN Money. The app is available on iPhone, Android, and WebOS devices, and lets you record all your expenses, as well as forward in receipts from online purchases. The app is free, but there’s also another version for $9 a month, after a free 30-day trial, that lets you import your credit card statements as well as export your data to budgeting software. The only downside to this app, and most budgeting apps not directly from your bank, is the service isn’t directly linked to your bank accounts, so this means you have to manually let it know what your starting balance is each month.
Other apps like Xpenser that offer similar services include Pennies, PocketMoney Lite, and Mint.com’s iPhone app. Trying out different apps and seeing which one you’re comfortable using can make for fairly simple tracking. Just whip out your phone whenever you make a purchase.
Bottom Line: However you track your spending, it’s a must for a safe and healthy bank account, and life. You’ll feel more organized, more secure in your budget, and you’ll be able to rid yourself of bad habits that may be affecting your financial stability more than you realize. So, take the time to focus on and record what you’re spending, before you regret what’s on your account statement.