You might think that big expenses make or break a budget, but the fact is, your day-to-day expenditures can either build your finances up or break them down. A dollar here and a dollar there soon equals $20, which morphs into $100. Before you know it, you’ve busted your budget and are in the red.
Try the following ideas to limit and track your daily expenses, and watch your savings account fill up.
1. Use an expense tracking app
Knowledge is power, and money management apps give you plenty of knowledge about your spending. Look for an app that allows you to track every last penny that you spend throughout the course of the day such as Track Every Coin, Expensify and Cashbook Expense.
Read more about essential personal finance apps for entrepreneurs here.
2. Try text message banking
Many banks offer text message service that allows you to text in a numerical message and immediately get a return text with a snapshot of your account balances and transactions. Seeing your expenses in real-time helps you make on-the-spot spending adjustments so you can keep your spending in line. Sound new? It’s not–the Times reported on the service back in 2010.
3. Watch for spending trends
Be an expense detective and analyze your spending to check for patterns. When you see a lot of your money going into a certain type of expense, this gives you the information you need to make adjustments in that area. For instance, if an analysis shows that 40 percent of your daily spending goes to food-on-the-go, you know where to focus your budget cuts.
4. Check and recheck your credit card use
Most people wait for their statement to come in at the end of the month, and only see their spending then. Make it a habit to check online several times a week to check on what you’ve spent on your credit cards. Seeing the balance rise is likely to help squelch the desire to spend more.
5. Calculate your expenses in wages
It takes 524 burpees to work off one large fries from McDonald’s. Shocked? Now let’s apply that to your finances. As you make purchases throughout the day, stop and determine how long it takes you to make enough money to cover the cost of each purchase. If you determine, for instance, that a new pair of shoes will cost you a day of work you may consider curbing your spending. Or at lease, take on a few side hustles for your splurges.
6. Set a daily spending limit, every day
We like to come up with spending limits for our kids, and when holiday shopping and on vacation. But what about your day-to-day spending? If you don’t want to track your spending to the cent, at least establish a stopping point. Calculate the maximum amount you can spend on daily expenses and stay in budget, and get it in cash. Even better, make sure your cash is in large bills so you’re less inclined to break them.
7. Challenge yourself to secret goals
Make a game of tracking and cutting your expenses. See if you can spend at or under your daily spending limit for a week—or even a month. If you’re successful, at the end of the challenge reward yourself with something inexpensive, or better yet free.
8. Go MacGruber on it!
MacGruber, Will Forte’s take on MacGyver, makes life-saving inventions out of household materials. Rather than buying something new and increasing your daily expenses, see how clever and resourceful you can be by using what you already have. Even if you only give new life to something for a few more months, that’s still money saved.
Check out some awesome items you can upcycle here.
9. Get a receipt for everything
One of the easiest ways to keep track of your expenses is to get a receipt for every transaction—no matter how small. Sometimes the sheer volume of receipts you’re collecting can cause you to stop spending. Hate having a wallet or purse full of papers? We suggest getting the OneReceipt app.
10. Process transactions daily
It’s easy to forget about expenses even a day later, so if possible, record your expenses in a financial planning system at the end of each day. Try Pam’s method of using her refrigerator to track cash in and cash out. Doing this keeps you on top of spending and helps ensure that you stick to your budget.
11. Have “needs” and “wants” categories
On your daily expense log, record two general categories: needs and wants. When you input your expenses at the end of the day, plug them into the appropriate category. Is your wants list overflowing? Or, are you funneling all of your cash into needs? Evaluating these categories may encourage you to make some serious changes.
12. Deny yourself credit
When you’re about to buy something on credit that falls into the wants category, ask yourself if you were a creditor if you’d okay credit for the purchase. See every credit card purchase as a micro-loan you take out with a bank. Would you be denied? If so, put the plastic down.
13. Check-in with a budget buddy
Okay, not all of your friends are after your funds. So find one who also wants to track their spending and team up. Talk on a weekly basis about your expenses over the past week, maybe follow a few blogs together. Knowing that you’re going to have to share your purchases with your budget buddy helps avoid major overspending and splurging.
14. Shoot for one deal per day
On a daily basis, make it a point to find at least one coupon, rebate or special offer for an item that you buy regularly, like toiletries and pantry staples. Use online coupon services, a cool app, or dig through your newspaper for popular coupon fliers. Keep these coupons on you for regular savings.
Julie Bawden-Davis is a widely published journalist specializing in personal finance and small business. She has written 10 books and more than 2,500 articles for a wide variety of national and international publications, including Parade.com, where she has a weekly column. In addition to contributing to SuperMoney, her work has appeared in publications such as American Express OPEN Forum, The Hartford and Forbes.