Where Did My Money Go?

01.03.08 | Money | 3 Comments | by junger

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You know you have to save money. You'd like to start investing. You'd like to go on a vacation.

But you don't have the money for it. Each of these scenarios leads you to the question: where did my money go?

This is the fundamental question to beginning your financial responsibility. The first step in simple money management is to spend less than you earn.

Chances are you know how much money you make. But do you know exactly how much money you spend, and where it goes?

Being as detailed as possible in tracking your spending is a huge first step to proper money management.

Here's how I do it.

I keep receipts for nearly every transaction I make, both cash, debit and credit card purchases. When I get home, I put them on my desk to add to my budget notebook, which tracks all my spending.

The most important receipts to ensure that you get are for purchases with tips and gas purchases. You'll find out why in a minute.

I also log onto my checking account online all the time, to double check that my transactions are correct and to find out when my monthly bills have been automatically deducted.

Online banking also helps when I forget to get a receipt or lose it somewhere in the process.

As I said before, certain receipts are more important to keep: gas and purchases with tips. This is because, when you buy things with a debit card, the correct transaction amount does not appear until the payment has cleared.

When you go out to a restaurant and pay (with tip) on your debit card, you'll notice that the pending transaction only deducts the amount for the meal: not the tip. So you can't rely on this number instead of a receipt — at least not if you add the purchase to your budget that day.

On the gas side, funds do not get deducted from debit cards (even those acting as credit cards) automatically. The process normally takes a few days.

So, I always keep my gas receipts to add to my budget that day, so I don't wait for it to appear online and forget about adding it.

In addition to keeping a budget with my monthly spending, I track my expenses online via Yodlee. The number isn't as precise as my hand-written budget, but once you've categorized a few of your transactions, Yodlee does the rest.

Want to start saving more money? Find out where your money is going first.

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