Living on a budget – or: how to keep track of your spending

mintcom1 Have you guys heard of I’ve read about it on several different websites and it seems to be really useful tool if you’re trying to get a grip on your monthly expenses.
I’ve never really made a budget for myself, but I do know our fixed monthly expenses and what is left for flexible spending each month.
I know that there are usually a lot of unexpected expenses every month, so I find it kind of hard to fit those into a budget… but to know what your fixed expenses are, does help a great deal.

I used to be someone who preferred to carry cash, rather than just my bank card. I still always have a little bit of cash on hand, but I have come to love the convenience and simplicity of expense tracking when it’s done online through your bank account and therefore all fixed expenses like groceries, bills, and such go through my bank account.

I used to collect receipts and tried to keep a housekeeping book, but to be honest, I wasn’t diligent enough. I would do it for a couple of weeks, and then the plan would fall by the wayside. I had good intentions, but not enough endurance with this. But this is where comes in. combines all your accounts (loans, bank, credit cards, etc.) and keeps track of your spending and your financial goals for you, plus it displays the information in one convenient user interface. You can neatly organize all your expenses in categories and create  a budget based on your fixed expenses and then it will tell you in big letters how much is left every month for fun spending saving.  Now that’s something I can get on board with. It’s easy to use, conveniently laid out and overall just fun to play with.
And, what is really convenient: You can even split and categorize expenses that usually show up on one receipt. Like, say, you bought some groceries and a birthday card at Trader Joe’s, will let you split that receipt into one booking for “groceries” and one booking for “stationary/gifts” (or whatever you want to call that category) – which makes it really, really easy to completely sort out where your money is going. Excellent!

I thought, I would also share a few simple things that help me keep my budget in check.

  • I have four credit cards. I use my bank credit card for bigger expenses. I use my American Express (Costco) Credit Card for groceries and gas (because I earn cash back on every purchase) and I use two store credit cards whenever I buy at a certain store, because I get some % off. The important thing is: I (almost) never buy stuff on credit. When I come home, I immediately transfer the spent amount from my bank account to the credit card account and therefore treat the purchase like a “cash” purchase. The money is instantly gone from my account and I don’t end up with a huge, unexpected credit card bill the next month.
  • I am using coupons and I pay attention to sales when I go shopping. I usually make a shopping list and (try to) just buy the items on my list. If something is not “immediately” necessary and it’s not on sale, I will wait until it is.
  • I do pay attention to store deals. Last week you could get a $10 coupon for Kohl’s for every $50 spent at the supermarket. I stocked up on “on sale”-items that we usually buy anyways and got the $10 Kohl’s rewards. Pretty neat, yes?
  • J and I collect our spare change in a jar. You might think it doesn’t make a big difference, but when the jar is filled up, it always holds between $40-60 and that’s some nice extra cash (or a nice dinner out :)).

What are your budgeting tips, if you have any? Please do share!

[Disclaimer: By no means am I getting paid to promote this site, I just thought would share a tool that I found to be very useful and that some of you might like to check out as well.]

  1. very interesting. Haven’t heard of that one (
    I am a cash person. Always will be. Just makes me feel saver not spending too much money :-)

  2. Justin and I did the jar thing before we went to Germany. We got like $150
    I never thought it was gonna be that much :)
    .-= Tinka´s last blog .. =-.

  3. You know we use two CC. Our American Express we buy just about everything with and our major bills go onto that. Only our phone and electric goes onto the Visa Card.
    Well, the cruise we are taking in December is mostly being paid for with the Amex Points! All we are paying for a week long cruise is $299.
    I love my Credit Card bonus points!!!
    .-= Maribeth´s last blog ..It’s That Time =-.

  4. I think I am doing about the same things you are doing. Collecting bonus points, check for coupons and things that are on sale. I basically go through the commercials leaflets on Mondays, check for stuff we like and buy regularly and make up our weekly dinner menu according to it. (at least partly)
    And the thing about cooking more dinner and bring left overs instead of going out for lunch.
    .-= Antje´s last blog ..RELAXING WEEKEND =-.

  5. I also tried writing down all of our expenses but I always gave up on it after a while. During the weekdays we usually don’t spend any money at all. We both take homemade lunches to work and cook meals in the evenings. Our grocery trip is on Sundays most of the time. This makes is easy to keep track of our spending. :)
    .-= Stefanie´s last blog ..There is always more. =-.

  6. I use and have been for almost a year! It truly helps…I love what it does. As far as tips…can’t say I have any that haven’t been mentioned.
    I’m not that great at it..booo!
    .-= Carolina´s last blog ..What Feelings Sound Like =-.

  7. I have been using mint for about a year now and absolutely love it. It reminds me when I go overboard on silly spending and there’s nothing like the accomplished feeling of staying within budget each month.

    Most of the tips you mentioned are tips I use as well. I’m anal about my grocery list – I look through the adds, go through my coupons and plan my menu for the week off of what’s on sale. I LOVE seeing that I’ve saved 25-30% on my grocery bill each month!
    .-= Terra´s last blog ..I might have smelled like a goat =-.

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