Having a hard time living within the constraints of a budget? Dislike the idea of budgeting altogether? I have a solution. I tried budgeting for six months and failed all six months! Not once we were able to stay within the limits. Which, to be honest is quite discouraging and makes you want to forfeit the whole idea. So instead, I have redirected my focus to TRACKING spending.

Tracking lets you know exactly where every dollar is going, how much gas you’re using each month, if you need to adjust the thermostat settings, maybe you’re just overspending in one category and underspending in another. I became so immersed in crunching the numbers and populating my excel sheet that I went through my backlog of statements up till February 2006. I wanted to have a clear picture of our average spending each month as well as annually.

Even though every month won’t have baby showers or graduation parties or property taxes or insurance, they should still be taken into consideration as these do occur consistently year to year. Below you’ll find a list of how I categorize and subcategorize our family spending. I find it helpful to break down even my annual expenses such as homeowners and health insurance premium’s on a monthly basis. I get a clear image of how we should allocate our spending each month while accounting for annual expenses.

Approaching your spending reasonably, you’ll be able to justify breaking budget one month if you know you have wedding and graduation gifts to buy. Tracking this info allows you to plan more accurately for the following year. A big problem area for us is that we were always exceeding our budget for eating out. But I noticed we weren’t using all the money allocated for groceries. So for us it balanced out. If we start spending more than what I consider reasonable, we hold back the next month. Make behavioral adjustments to curb any overspending.

Personally, I use two spreadsheets. One tracks our entire expenses, our credit card balances, the payments we make each month, utilities, taxes, insurance, loans, etc. The other I use on a more regular basis. This second sheet tracks our monthly spending habits. Once a week I pull up our bank statement online and categorize each dollar amount spent into a running total for the month. Half way through the month, I send my husband an email with an update of where we are up to that point. Maybe we realize we’ve been shopping too much the first two weeks and will try to postpone additional purchases until the following month to avoid overextending ourselves.

This method enables you to be more conscious of your spending habits, know exactly where every dollar is going and help control expenses if need be. And, you can’t fail at this. There will be no negative feelings or guilt associated with this process.

Happy Tracking!

Sample Tracking Categories


  • His
  • Hers


  • Mortgage
  • Vehicle 1
  • Vehicle 2
  • Student

Credit Cards (min payments)

  • Mastercard
  • Visa
  • Discover
  • American Express


  • Power
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Garbage
  • Cable/Internet
  • Phone

Insurance (annual premiums broken down to reflect average monthly cost)

  • Homeowners
  • Vehicle
  • Health
  • Life
  • Disability
  • Dental


  • Property (State and County)
  • Ad Valorem

Cash Spending

  • Groceries
  • Restaurants
  • Shopping
  • Entertainment
  • Gas
  • Health/Beauty
  • Car
  • Pets
  • Parties/Gifts

Income less Expenses equals your Accelerator Margin/Snowball Amount