NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Tracking Income and Outgo

Tracking Income and Outgo


          When you don’t have enough money to cover your expenses, you’re under stress. You’re concerned about falling short. You worry about emergencies. You struggle with replacing major items like a vehicle or appliances. And you are uneasy about creditors.

          Managing money takes planning and that’s something many individuals dislike. But managing your money can help relieve the constant stress of worrying about paying bills. Have you ever had $20 in your pocket and found a day or two later that it was gone without you knowing where it all went?

          Tracking expenses is useful for anyone who wants to develop a spending plan to help control expenses. While a spending plan lists what a person expects to spend, a list of actual expenses shows where the money really goes.

          Receipt Method- This is an easy and convenient way to track your spending. Obtain a receipt every time you pay for a product or service. Next, label all receipts with expense categories, such as food, transportation, or clothing.  If you use credit or debit cards, be sure to file those receipts also.

If you don’t receive a receipt, make one, label it, and file it in the proper category. At the end of each week tally the receipts for each category.

          Envelope System- The envelope system works well if you like

to pay for things with cash and it requires little paperwork.  Make an envelope for each expense category (rent, utilities, food, etc.). Label the envelope with the category, amount, and date due.  When you cash your paycheck or receive other income, divide cash into envelopes for each expense category.  Pay bills right away, so you won’t be penalized for late charges or be tempted to spend the money for something else.  If there is money left in an envelope at the end of the month, you’ll know you’ve done well.

          Calendar or Notebook Method- Use a calendar or notebook to list income on the date it is received and to also record bills and expenses on dates they are due. How each bill is paid – by check, in cash, by automatic withdrawals – is up to you.

          Checkbook Method- This works best if you use checks or debit cards for most bills and purchases. In this system, you track your expenses in a checkbook register. By recording each check or debit card transaction, you keep an accurate record of what you’ve spent.  You should include the date, check number, name of the person or business, and amount plus a note of the spending category. At the end of the month, you can track what you’ve spent by totaling expenses for each category.

          Computer Software - Tracking your expenses on a computer is an easy way to identify spending in different categories. It also supplies you with accurate records for tax-time. You can buy personal finance software, use a program provided by your financial institution or develop your own categories on a spreadsheet.   Remember though to update your spending information on a regular basis – the program can only work with the information you provide.   Besides helping you track your spending, programs such as Intuit Quicken or Microsoft Money can print checks, balance your checking account, and provide graphs to help you analyze your spending habits.


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