The Simplest Way to Track Your Money
By Julie Jaggernath
Keeping track of our money can be as simple or as complicated as we make it. It comes down to how you view your budget. Do you think of it as a way to plan how to spend your money, or as a way to keep track of your money?
If you think of your budget as a planning tool, a traditional budgeting system will work for you. However, if you think of your budget as a way to keep track of your income and how much you spend, you might need an alternative way to manage your money.
Our Income and Expense Running Total Tool
With someone like you in mind, who thinks of a budget as a way to keep track of what you spend, we created our Income and Expense Running Total tool. It’s a simple way to not spend more than you have. When you can keep to living within your means, relying on credit to make ends meet becomes a thing of the past. Keeping a running total of where your spending stands in relation to your income is an alternative way to budget.
Download the Income and Expense Running Total Tool (Microsoft Office Excel Worksheet .xlsx file)
When Should You Use a Running Total Tool?
There are times when everyone needs a simple way to keep track of their money. Some of the times when an income and expense running total tool is useful include:
- You’re just dipping your toes into getting started with a system to manage your money and want to start with something easy.
- You’re living through a serious financial challenge and creating an emergency budget is too stressful or more than you need.
- You have fluctuating or irregular income and use a holding account to make sure you don’t overspend during the better months.
- When you consistently pay yourself first, have a healthy savings account, and live on the rest.
- Your budget works and is on autopilot, and you just need to know where you’re at so you can adjust week to week.
How to Use Our Income and Expense Running Total Tool
To use our income and expense running total tool start by downloading the Excel file. It’s yours to keep and use; feel free to personalize it so that it works best for you. We’ve filled in the first few lines to show you how it works. For example:
- You have $110 in your bank account.
- You add income of $1,000.
- Your partner’s pay cheque of $1,700 is deposited.
- You pay your car insurance and $233 is subtracted from your running total.
- You have two smaller expenses, the drug store for $15 and groceries for $27. Enter each one separately, as shown, or lump them together and just enter the $42. It’s up to you.
The running total rounds up or down to the nearest dollar to keep things as simple as possible. Once you see how it works, delete the information that is already there and fill in you own.
Treat Your Credit Card Like a Debit Card
You might be thinking that it would be hard to keep a running total when you pay for most things with your credit card rather than your debit card or cash. However, this is a great time to keep a running total of what you spend. Treat your credit card like a debit card and don’t spend more than what you can afford to pay off immediately with cash in your bank account.
Every tap or swipe of your credit card will cause you to really think about your needs versus your wants, and how much money you’re actually spending.
What’s a Holding Account?
You’ll notice that there are two tabs in the file you download. The first is the running total for the bank account you use most often. The second worksheet is for those who use a holding account to even out fluctuating income. A holding account is one of three ways to budget with irregular income. It’s basically a way to give yourself a steady pay cheque when your income is irregular or unpredictable.
The running total for your holding account will let you keep track of your overall funds, while the tally list for your chequing account will keep you on top of how much you can spend on your weekly expenses, including dinners out, gas, and bill payments. If you use the holding account method, keeping running totals for both bank accounts will ensure that you always know where you stand. This is one way to break the cycle of living from one pay cheque to the next with nothing left over.
A further use for a holding account is that it can be used effectively by someone who saves aggressively and keeps most of their money in a savings account. If you manage your money by only moving what you truly need to spend into your chequing account, then this second worksheet will work for you as well.
How Does Simply Keeping Track of Your Money Fit with Budgeting?
The huge benefit of keeping a running tally of your income and expenses is that you can see right away how much you’ve got to work with. That makes creating and using a realistic household budget much easier. However, if you want to get a better idea about where you’re spending your money, then you’ll want to use an expense tracker for a few weeks to identify your spending habits. Once you know how much money you’ve got to work with and what your expenses are, you might want to use our interactive budgeting spreadsheet to build or adjust your overall plan for your money.
Get Help with Managing Your Money, Creating a Spending Plan, or Dealing with Debt
Figuring out the best way to manage your money can be a challenge. If you’re facing a financial emergency or just want to get a better grip on your finances, reach out to us toll-free at 1-888-527-8999, send us an email, or chat anonymously online. A credit counsellor will review your situation with you and offer you guidance and suggestions to make it easier. Whether you want to create a spending plan, deal with debt, or just keep track of how much you have, a credit counsellor in your corner would be happy to share their expertise with you.