Millennial Money Mindset Series: How to Properly Track Your Spending
My friends always ask me how I’m so good at saving money and keeping track of my spending. Saving money is extremely important to me. That’s why I wanted to create this series of posts to explore and explain how I go about budgeting myself in this new, scary adult world as a recent college graduate. It’s honestly shocking to me how many people spend money without even realizing how quickly they’re just blowing through their bank accounts. Many young adults and recent grads especially aren’t aware of how to track their spending, and that’s why I’m here to share my personal advice on how to stay on track.
So, the first step to taking control of your finances is being aware of how much that you’re spending. It is so important to track your spending so you understand where your money is going and what it’s going towards. This way, you can decide what’s really necessary and what you could cut back on. I highly recommend that you do this first for a few weeks or a month to understand your personal spending habits and doing an audit.
Let’s go over how I track my money and why it’s beneficial.
I personally am obsessed with the app Mint. The layout is extremely user-friendly and very appealing. I love the way you can swipe through and see how much you currently have in all your accounts, in addition to automated categories to see where you’re spending your money, budgeting goal reminders, and charts showing your spending habits within the past few months. As a person who loves getting organized, this is a dream to use!
Once you open up Mint, you’ll be greeted with the amount of money that you currently have in your connected bank accounts. Hopefully, it’s a positive reminder and not a negative one! But if it’s not much, fear not! That’s why you’re here right?
Swipe left and you’ll find the “Recent Transactions” box, telling you about your 7-day spend or your last purchase. As you can see, my biggest purchase was at Trader Joe’s. That’s a pretty common theme for me. (Shoutout to Trader Joes!) That’s a little higher than usual for me, but I had to get gas this week, (which is wildly expensive here in Los Angeles) get some groceries, and also supplies for my new house. This section is just a great overview to know what you’ve spent in the last week. Keep it in mind so you can start to develop your own weekly spend average.
Personalized Reward Program Recommendations
This is a cool one. If you don’t have a credit card yet, you definitely should! I know it may seem scary, but having one and using it wisely is the best way to establish your credit. I can go into that in another post, but I’ve had my credit card since I first started college and was able to build up a fantastic credit score.
If you are looking for a credit card, Mint makes it super easy to provide recommendations just for you based on your age, spending, and reward desires. Travel alot? Get a card that has amazing points that can be turned into airline miles! Mint shows you how much you could be rewarded based on your spending. Just make sure you really look through all the details for each credit card before applying, as many often charge a yearly fee.
Track Your Monthly Budget
Mint will automatically set a monthly budget for you, which you can go in and edit as you please. You can change it based on how much rent you owe each month, how much you typically spend on groceries, dining out, entertainment, clothes shopping, gas, assorted bills, and much more. It’s great because it’s a quick little reminder of how much money you have left for the month, or if you overspent. Like me. Whoops. (To be fair, I moved this week so my budget was all out of wack due to my deposits, new rent, etc.)
Check out the breakdown to see exactly where your money went and if you notice you’re majorly overspending in one of them, scale that back! Really try and challenge yourself to cut down if you notice you’re spending a scary amount on eating out or clothes shopping. Think about where that money could go instead!
Chart Breakdown of Monthly Spending
Finally, check out this awesome pie chart of your monthly spending. This is just another visual way to see where your money is going. Obviously, certain categories will naturally be larger, such as rent money or maybe gas/auto spending. Just make sure your food and shopping sections aren’t ridiculously large. If they are, just understand that those are areas where you could cut back. Rent and bills cannot be changed, so it’s up to you to decide what’s truly necessary and what’s just mindless spending.
- Download Mint and track your spending habits for a month.
- Throughout the weeks, monitor where your money is going and take note of your highest spend categories.
- After the month, use the charts to compare your monthly spend to the two months prior. Were they around the same?
- Look at the categories and decide where you could save some money. What’s necessary and what’s not. Be serious about this!
- Edit the maximum spend for your categories based on next month’s goals. Be realistic, don’t decrease your budget so extremely that you set yourself up for failure.
Need an example? Here’s my personal monthly breakdown. Keep in mind that I live in Los Angeles, a very expensive city with high gas and rent prices and I do a lot of driving.
- Gas & Fuel – $110
- Music (Spotify Subscription) – $10
- Coffee Shops – $30
- Groceries – $175
- Car Insurance – $50
- Restaurants – $60
- Personal Care – $25
- Clothing – $20
- Rent – $1,000
This is my basic breakdown. I didn’t include other personal bills in there just so you could understand the basic idea.
It’s never too soon to start saving and budgeting your money. I started learning how to do this in college before I had all these crazy bills of my own. Take control of your spending and learn healthy spending habits now. You’ll thank me later and so will your bank account!
Want to make some extra money? Check out my recent posts:
Go download Mint and start exploring your budgeting options. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!