Tracking Your Spending Digitally
For Americans of all stripes, saving can be difficult. Temptations abound and sometimes it seems like large expenses pop up as soon as you’ve gotten to a comfortable position. Many people have debt and feel like there’s just no realistic way to start saving. However, the internet and mobile phones have made a wide array of spending trackers available, which can help people like you intelligently manage money. Getting prepared to use a new tracker may feel like a chore at first — but in the end, the eventual savings and peace of mind generated by these tools is well worth the effort.
Things to Know
For anybody interested in tracking their spending digitally, there are some steps that need to be taken in order to make the process go more smoothly. The first step is to sign up for online banking and statements. This has a number of advantages; among these is that community banks have particularly friendly user interfaces and offer free online banking along with low-cost accounts. In this way, every user who is tracking their spending can see exactly how much money they have in each of their accounts. They can view how much has gone out of their account and how much has come in over a period of time. This baseline will help users establish the parameters of their bank account. Another important step is to lay out all of the baseline expenses and income streams that an individual or family has. Starting out with these critical steps will help save time later on.
There are two main approaches available that orient digital spending trackers. One of these is category spending, wherein the user splits their spending up into different categories where income is added and spending is subtracted. This process helps users keep to their budgets by segmenting different types of income and expenditures. With category spending, you can allocate a certain amount each month to each category and track your spending within that category as the month progresses. Another common approach is cash flow tracking. This approach is more helpful after major expenses are accounted for, when the individual just wants to see how much money is going in and how much is going out.
Numerous digital spending tracking tools are available. Several companies offer free iPhone or Android apps that allow a person to create a budget and track their spending. These companies also offer premium services, which add identity theft protection or other fee-based services. Alternatively, digitally tracking your spending can be done entirely in software like Microsoft Office. Users can open up a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and use tools and formulas to practice either category-based or cash flow tracking. This approach tracks spending with a tool that almost every user already has available.
What it Means For You
Tracking spending digitally does not seem helpful at first. However, it keeps a person thinking about their money. Sooner or later, that person will find different parts of their budget they can tweak or income sources that they can optimize. Eventually, a spending tracker can be the first small step towards building a strong financial future.