6 Ways to Track Your Monthly Expenses (And Stick to Your Budget)

Nancy Messieh 21-08-2018

There’s a lot to consider when you decide to choose an expense manager. Do you want to manually track your expenses or do you want to connect your bank account to an online account? Do you prefer to keep the info entirely offline? Are you looking for an app that takes all that data and turns it into a visual chart? No matter what your needs, there’s a system out there for you.


1. Track Recurring Payments: Clarity Money

Clarity Money takes a very simple approach to tracking expenses.

When you first connect your bank account to the app, your dashboard will instantly be full of useful information. You can view a list of your transactions and view your spending trends in the current and previous month or week, broken down by category.

One of Clarity Money’s best features is the ability to see how much you’ve spent this year on specific subscription services, restaurants, and more. (This appears to be informed by the services or shops/restaurants you frequently spend on):

When you first sign up for Clarity Money, you’ll need to spend some time re-categorizing your expenses, and marking recurring expenses as such. This will allow you to get far more out of the app.


And as you use Clarity Money, the app will identify recurring subscriptions and payments you may want to cancel.

6 Ways to Track Your Monthly Expenses (And Stick to Your Budget) ClarityMoney Cancel

Download: Clarity Money for Android (Free) | iOS (Free)

2. Recurring Payment Calendar: Dollar Bird

Dollar Bird differentiates itself from other services listed here by relying on an online calendar interface for tracking your expenses. It’s also one of the options where you have to manually enter your transactions. As you add transactions, you can categorize them and add recurring payments.


You’ll begin by entering your balance, and then you can add expenses, accompanied by a label. Dollar Bird will use this label to auto-categorize expenses, but you should review categories to make sure the app got them right. You can also create custom categories.

6 Ways to Track Your Monthly Expenses (And Stick to Your Budget) DollarBirdDollar Bird is pretty barebones. But the calendar view is useful for gaining a sense of understanding of balance at any given time. In addition to the calendar view, you can also see your spending trends over any given period of time.

Other similarly simple apps include Fudget (which lists your transactions rather than presenting them on a calendar),

3. Track Online Shopping: Paypal, Amazon

If much of your online shopping happens on Amazon, you can easily find out how much you’re spending on the shopping website How to See Exactly What You Spent on Amazon Last Year (or All Time) How much do you think you spent on Amazon last year? Here's how to find out. But be warned, the answer may shock you! Read More for any given period. Just go to your Amazon Order History Reports page and fill in the details for the date range you’re interested in.


For the report type, select Items if you want specific details on each item you’ve purchased. If you’re only interested in an overview, you could select Orders & Shipments to see the data broken down by orders. (This means you won’t see what specific items were included in each order.)

6 Ways to Track Your Monthly Expenses (And Stick to Your Budget) Amazon Orders

Once the Excel spreadsheet is ready, you can download it to your computer. You’ll find a lot of unnecessary information you can delete. Just keep order date, title, category, and item total. (The total includes tax and other charges so you get a sense of exactly how much you spent on any given time.)

Amazon Expense Tracksheet


You can scroll down to the end of the spreadsheet and under item total, use Excel’s Auto Sum feature to quickly calculate how much you spent on Amazon in that time period.

Keeping the category listed will also allow you to filter your spreadsheet and see how much you’re spending on any given category of items. On the Data tab click the Filter button to toggle the feature on. (You may have to fix or add some categories first.)

If you tend to make most of your online payments using Paypal, you can track your online expenses and subscriptions by going to the Activity tab and clicking Statements. Select Custom Statements, and under Transaction Type, select Completed Transactions and enter the time period you’re interested in, and Paypal will generate a CSV file of your expenses.

Where else do you do your online shopping? Think about where you spend most of your money online and see if they offer a way to track your order history.

4. Keep It in the Bank: Online Bank Account

Most major banks offer online budgeting tools, so if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of connecting your banking accounts to a third party, you probably have access to expense tracking tools from your bank.

My bank allows me to view expenditures from my checking account, savings account, and credit card. I can choose which accounts to view in my overview as a pie chart broken down by category. And of course, I can see my expenses listed as individual transactions.

6 Ways to Track Your Monthly Expenses (And Stick to Your Budget) Bank Expenses e1533674765692

Many online banking tools will automatically categorize expenses, but it’s not always 100 percent accurate, but reviewing and fixing them should resolve future miscategorizations.

If you have multiple accounts across different banks, chances are you can add all accounts to the online banking tool that offers the best features and use that as a central tool for tracking your expenses.

Learn more about why online banking is so useful The 7 Best Online Banking Features For Simplifying Your Life Does money management stress you out? What if you could effortlessly alleviate some of that stress for good? Online banking offers a lot of benefits that can help to simplify the headaches of money. Read More  as well as some of the risks involved with online banking Is Online Banking Safe? Mostly, But Here Are 5 Risks You Should Know About There's a lot to like about online banking. It's convenient, can simplify your life, you might even get better savings rates. But is online banking as safe and secure as it should be? Read More .

5. Offline Tracking: Spreadsheet

If you’re completely against the idea of using online tools for your expenses, you could use a spreadsheet instead. Excel has a template for every occasion An Excel Template for Every Occasion Skip the steep learning curve and sort your life with the power of Excel templates. We have compiled a selection of auto-updating templates to track budgets, manage projects, and more. Read More  and expense tracking and budgeting are no exception.

Alternatively, you can also look for Google Sheet Templates 4 Ways to Find the Best Google Sheets Templates Looking for Google Sheets templates? Use these tips to find the right Google Sheets templates and use it for your work. Read More and save the file to your computer. Google Templates include a monthly and annual budget tracker with space for you to track your expenses in a pretty detailed fashion.

The spreadsheets are prepopulated with formulas that will take the daily information you input:

6 Ways to Track Your Monthly Expenses (And Stick to Your Budget) Google Sheets 1 e1533674963335

And create an overview to give you a better grasp on your spending:

6 Ways to Track Your Monthly Expenses (And Stick to Your Budget) Google Sheets 2 e1533675031213

Smartsheet also has a variety of spreadsheet budget templates that you can open in Google Sheets. If you want to log expenses, you can modify the Expense Budget Report template or if you want to include a budget planner in your spreadsheet, you can opt for the Simple Budget Template.

For a completely personalized budget and expense tracker, you could just create an expense tracker from scratch using Excel Make a Personal Budget With Microsoft Excel in 4 Easy Steps Do you have so much debt that it will take decades to pay off? Make a budget and use these Excel tips to pay off your debt sooner. Read More .

6. Track and Budget: Mint or YNAB

There are plenty of budget planning apps but two, in particular, are consistently recommended: Mint and YNAB. These popular budgeting apps connect directly to your bank account, automatically tracking your spending habits.

While not free, YNAB is a popular budgeting tool that is geared towards helping you create a budget YNAB Makes It Easy to Make a Budget and Stick to It Does your checking account remind you of a debt-burdened Southern European nation? You Need A Budget. We know it's tough to keep track of spendings. YNAB can help. Read More and showing you how to save money. Compared to Mint, YNAB is described as a budgeting system The Online Budget Battle: Mint vs. You Need a Budget (YNAB) When it comes to online budgeting and expense tracking, there are plenty of solutions, but two of the biggest names in the business are Mint and You Need a Budget (YNAB). Read More rather than just a budget app.

They differ in a few very specific ways:

  • Mint is free, while YNAB is $6.99/month after a 34-day free trial.
  • When you first connect your bank accounts, past transactions will not be included in YNAB, whereas Mint will pull in the past 90 days worth of transactions. This means you won’t be able to dive right into YNAB’s spending tracker.
  • Mint also offers a search functionality that is useful when looking back on your expenses.

Both platforms make it easy to review your spending habits.

With Mint, you can see a list of your expenses under the Transactions tab and see an overall view of your spending habits under the Trends tab.

Mint Spending Trends

YNAB’s Spending Reports also show how you spend on each category, your spending trends, and more:

YNAB Spending Trends

If your main concern is expense tracking, Mint is likely to best serve your purposes. If you really need a robust budget tool with a comprehensive dashboard, YNAB might be more your speed.

YNAB and Mint are undoubtedly popular. But, other online budgeting tools like Personal Capital and Mvelopes with expense tracking baked in are also worth considering.

If you’re looking for even more options, there’s no shortage of apps geared toward easy expense tracking 15 Cool Tools for Easy Expense Tracking and Budgeting Tracking your expenses and budgeting are two crucial parts of being financial healthy. These 15 apps make it easy to do both. Read More . You can even think outside the box. Trello that aren’t meant for tracking expenses, but can serve your purpose if you hate managing finances 6 Easy Tools for People Who Hate Managing Finances Do you hate managing your finances? Does writing out a budget fill you with dread? Check out these easy tools that make the process much easier and more enjoyable. Read More .

Related topics: Budget, Financial Technology, Money, Money Management, Personal Finance, Save Money.

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  1. Lulu
    August 21, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    I can’t believe this list included Excel before MoneyDance. It is cheap, works really well and works in every OS imaginable.

  2. Lulu
    August 21, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    I can’t belive this article recommends Excel before MoneyDance. It is an excellent (and cheap) offline personal finance tool and works in every OS imaginable (even Linux).