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Be a Spending Detective: Gather the Evidence

Magnifying glass paperBegin at the top of your bank statement (if you have more than one statement, repeat this process for all your accounts and combine them into one list).

  1. One by one, look at every item that took money out of your account — every bill you paid, every check, purchase, debit, cash withdrawal, etc., and put it in one of these three columns.
  2. Don’t overlook fees or other charges from your bank. For now, put these in the “Regular Payments” or “Needs” column.
  3. If you know you got cash back on a purchase, consider the cash as a separate transaction. For example, if you got $40 in cash on top of a $50 grocery bill, you might list the $50 groceries as a “Need,” but the $40 cash as a “Want.”
  4. Make calculations easier by rounding up or down to whole dollar amounts (for example, $45.36 would be $45).

Barbara’s Example: Spending

Here is a sample of Barbara’s Spending Detective exercise. If you want to follow along, download the Spending Detective Worksheet.

Barbara spending example

Barbara’s Example: Income

Next, make a list of all your income for the month (any deposits, interest earned) and add those up:

Barbara income example

Where’s the Interest?

Barbara’s basic savings account accrues interest, but at only 2 cents per month, the income rounds down to $0. If she invested some of her savings, she could grow that money faster.

Subtract your total expenses from your total income:

Barbara's income
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