In previous articles, I talked about the importance of tracking daily expenses and of closing the month to plan for the next one. In this article I show you how I bridge the gap between my daily tracking and monthly reviewing with a weekly expense report.
To reduce the amount of work and time my end-of-the-month review takes, I schedule weekly expense reports. At the beginning of the month, I plan out the days for each weekly expense report and write them into my calendar so I don’t forget. Don’t worry if you don’t always have a full week (or, conversely, have slightly more than a week) between expense reports. For example, in August, I only have 5 days between my third and fourth expense report. The point is to have them occur regularly, but they must also make sense with your bill cycle and pay day(s).
An expense report is a very simple thing: you go through your daily expense tracker and add up all the expenses for each of the subcategories of your variable expenses. I go through my daily expense tracker one subcategory at a time, making little check marks beside each entry I calculate so I don’t double-count an expense. When I’ve added up all the expenses for that week, I draw a horizontal line across the table so I know exactly which entry to start from next week.
I write each total in its “what I actually spent” column in my monthly bill tracker form, which looks like this:
I take the time to do weekly expense reports for 4 reasons:
1. It makes my daily expenses data much more manageable. At the end of the month, I don’t find myself having to go through 4+ pages of daily expense recordings, which can be overwhelming and extremely tedious. By managing the data in small chunks at regular intervals, the work is much more manageable and takes MUCH less time. At the end of the month, I don’t even have to look at my daily expense tracker unless I’m looking for a specific entry for a certain reason.
2. It makes it easier for me to stay diligent about tracking my daily expenses. Since I know that I will be reviewing that information in (give or take) seven days, tracking my daily expenses remains a relevant task. If I knew I wouldn’t be looking at the forms until the end of the month, I’m pretty sure I would slack off and ultimately stop tracking altogether.
3. I am much more aware of how much money I have in all of my accounts (checking, savings, cash at home) at all times throughout the month. I’m not very good (yet!) at updating my account balances after each purchase, but I do balance updates without fail at each expense report, so I never end up having nasty surprises about having way less money than I thought I did. If I waited until the end of the month to review my account balances, I would probably have stress-induced panic attacks.
4. By doing a weekly expense report, I reinforce budgeting as a quick daily practice and habit, rather than a tedious monthly chore. If daily expense tracking is the repetitious exercise of my practice, then the weekly report is the reliable pop quiz that allows me to review what I’m learning, and the end-of-the-month review is the big performance or exam.
That’s all for this week—a short article, but a necessary one, and reflective of the nature of the expense report itself. Depending on how much you are spending, doing a weekly report should take no longer than 5 to 10 minutes, but it’s incredibly important to the strength of your budgeting habit and your overall financial health.
Head over to the series masterpost to start the series from the beginning or to find a specific article within the series.