NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Where is My Money?

Where is My Money?


          Having more dollars to spend, save or donate is a common “I want” for many people.   A good first step to increasing the outgo in your budget to determine what is already going where.  Once you know where your money goes, you can easily spot areas where change is needed. Chances are good you will find several spending categories where change is needed.

          To see if you need to pay more attention to where your money goes, try this simple activity. Without referring to any records, write down how much money you have available for spending in a typical month (your take home pay). List your usual monthly expenses, including the amount you normally spend every month for each expense. Add up all your expenses then subtract the total from your income.

          How much money do you have left over? Is this money actually left over each month or is it that you just cannot account for it?  To find those missing dollars, start with your bills.  Most of your money probably goes toward bills for utilities, debt payments, and services such as cable television or telephone service. The nice thing about bills is that you can easily find out exactly how much you spend each month. The amount is printed right on the bill!

          The biggest source of leaks in the family budget is the cash you and other family members carry around each day. Keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse. Use it to record all your spending as it happens for a few weeks. The longer you keep track, the more you will learn about where your money goes.

          After you have recorded where your money goes for a month, add up how much you spent in each category. Take a look at each expense category and decide whether the total is too much, too little, or about what you think it should be.    Especially if this is your first hard look at family spending, there are usually one or two categories with totals much higher than you might expect. These categories often include things you do frequently, perhaps even daily, such as smoking, picking up coffee to go, or eating out.

          Once you know where your money goes you can easily identify areas that need attention.  Target one or two problem areas at a time – preferably for a month or two.  Once your new spending habits become an established part of your routine you can tackle additional problem areas as needed.

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