Writing Wednesday: Recording expenses

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Recently I started recording daily expenses, especially how I spend my cash, in an effort to stick to a budget. I’ve discovered it’s easiest to use a small planner so I can take it with me everywhere, which makes it more likely I’ll record expenses as they happen (instead of intending to record them later, and forgetting). Writing my expenses makes me more mindful of how much I spend and how often. I prefer a dated planner as opposed to just a notebook for this purpose. Having the dates printed and the pages structured means there’s less for me to do. Anything that makes the task easier makes it more likely I’ll actually do it.

In the book The Accidental Diarist: A History of the Daily Planner in America (which I’ve written about here before), author Molly McCarthy describes how early planners were used to record expenses. Pocket diaries were easy to carry everywhere to keep accurate records before the days when you could easily check your account balance.

My favorite planner to use to record and total expenses is the pocket-size Space 17 weekly planner, shown in the photo below. I like to record expenses on the day, then use the opposite notes page for my weekly category totals so I can see how much I’m spending each week on groceries, gas, and other variable expenses. I also like the monthly pages in the Space 17 to see big expenses coming up.

Space 17 weekly


Another great little planner to carry with you is the Miniweek. It is very tiny (only 2 3/4 by 3 3/4 inches) and easy to carry everywhere, so there’s no excuse for not writing your spending. It’s good if you don’t have many expenses each day, and has a small notes space for weekly totals.

Miniweek week


The day-per-page Textagenda is great if you have lots of expenses each day, especially cash outlays so you can see where your money goes. Its daily pages have plenty of space to write your expenses and make some notes. The 4 3/4 by 6 3/4 inch book is still small enough to go with you everywhere in your bag easily.

Textagenda 2015 cropped

Do you keep written track of your expenses, especially how you spend your cash? Have you found it helps you stick to a budget?

5 thoughts on “Writing Wednesday: Recording expenses

  1. Love the idea of using a Space 17 and might steal that! (Well the idea, I mean; I already have a Space 17). Right now I’m just putting receipts into a plastic pocket file in my FC classic with the ledgers into which I log them every Sunday. If I don’t get a receipt I make a note in my daily moleskine page and then every Sunday transfer said noted expenses into said log. Then I enter the log into Quicken. Yes, I know. Your system sounds infinitely simpler. Pen and calculator. Thank you for the inspiration to achieve yet another level of simplicity! PS I too was entranced by the ledgers next to the weekly schedule in those early agendas in The Accidental Diarist!

  2. I keep a small notebook in the pocket of my car door to keep the mileage and expenses for the car in one spot. I usually get a year or two out of something like a small Webbie.

    Household expenses on a separate pad as I have my business credit card to keep separate. If I don’t budget, I don’t happen!

  3. These are great ideas! I have been using a smart phone app to record expenses and track my budget, and I have consistent problems with it synching to my computer. Therefore, I am going back to a paper budget. Starting today for July, I plan to use the receipts & payments sections in the back of my President 2015 planner.

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