Six ways to track your yearly and monthly expenses

Keeping on track of your expenses doesn’t have to be difficult or a chore. With some simple steps and useful tools, you can easily keep on top of your monthly and yearly outgoings enabling you to set a savings goal and achieve it.

We often ask ourselves questions such as: how am I spending my money, what are my biggest expenses and what have I left over to save?

In this article you’ll find six simple things you can do to keep track of your expenses – whether they are monthly or yearly, personal or household expenses. At the end of this guide, you’ll be able to learn how to set realistic saving goals and adjust your savings plan accordingly.

Zurich has been operating in the savings and investment industry in Ireland for over 40 years. Our award-winning investment team1are active investment managers who manage approximately €36.6 billion in funds2.

In this article we are going to look at practical ways to track your expenses. These include:  

  1. Budget calculator 
  2. Expense tracking app 
  3. Monthly or yearly expense tracking spreadsheet 
  4. 50/30 /20 budgeting rule 
  5. Mobile banking and finance apps
  6. Office and Google budgeting templates

1. Use a budget calculator 

Having a monthly budget can help you focus on your spending and might encourage you to get into the habit of saving and reaching a goal. 

A budget calculator is a useful tool to do just that as it adds up all your expenses and all your incomes and gives you the budget you have left to save.

Our budget calculator can help you with this. You can either calculate your expenses yearly or monthly to have a clearer view of where your money goes. It will also give you a better idea of where you can make cost savings throughout the month and how, by spending less, you can save or invest this money.

This is a good exercise to do periodically as it helps you highlight the areas where you are spending money and readjust your budget if you are spending or saving a bit more. 

2. Monthly or yearly expense tracking spreadsheet 

Similar to the budget calculator, there are budget spreadsheets available online. These can be helpful to see how much you are spending and define your financial goals for the year. We have created a budget spreadsheet you can use.  Our budget spreadsheet looks at your monthly income and outgoings and works out how much you are spending each month. It then looks at your expenditure for the year, shows you how you can plan for events throughout the year and where improvements can be made, which will help you meet your financial goals. 

An expenses spreadsheet is a great option if you are looking to customise the expenses you have, and it allows you to add or remove items accordingly. It also gives you more flexibility compared to online tools. 

3. Follow the 50/30/20 rule for budgeting 

The 50/30/20 rule is based on a very simple concept. With this effective budgeting system, 50% of your income should cover your essential expenditure such as your mortgage or rent, food, utilities and health insurance – all your ‘must have’ costs. Then 30% of your net income goes towards non-essentials that improve your quality of life, such as dining out, entertainment, gym membership, and other discretionary expenses.

And finally, 20% of your net income is for savings, an emergency fund and debt repayments. These include payments on debt such as credit cards, student loans, your pension contributions and an emergency or rainy-day fund.

So how does the 50/30/20 rule help you track your expenses? With this budgeting system you’ll have to sum up all of your expenses to make sure they fit within the 50%, 30% and 20% allocation of your income. This will help you to focus where you are spending and could show you where you could cut back on certain expenses and where savings can be made.

We’ve created an article on the 50/30/20 budgeting rule, which goes into more detail about how this practical and easy way to budget can help you meet your savings goals.

4. Mobile banking and finance apps

With the rise in online banking, more-and-more people rely on banking apps to track their expenses. Most of the main Irish banks have integrated expense trackers in their apps. This makes it extremely easy to see where your money is going as it done automatically on the app for you. 

In addition, fully digital banks such as Revolut and N26 offer fully mobile expense tracking features, which are very useful when it comes to managing your money. If you aren’t using your mobile banking app already, now may be a good time to start. 

5. Expense tracking apps 

Similar to mobile banking apps, in the last decade a number of expense tracking apps were launched to help users track their expenses and create budgets. The list is infinite and the best app for you may vary depending on the device you want to use it on, or the type of expenses you want to track. A good place to start is on the App Store by Apple where you will find numerous free finance apps for iPhone users. Equally, on the Google Play store there are also many free expense trackers for Android users. 

6. Microsoft Office or Google budgeting templates

If you like to work with spreadsheets, both Excel and Google Sheets offer out-of-the-box budgeting templates. 

Again, these are simple budgeting templates that you can follow to budget more effectively. The only thing you need to do is to customise them slightly to suit your individual needs. You can find a link to the Microsoft Office budgeting template here.

Expense planning

Hopefully this article and the six simple things you can do to keep track of your expenses has been useful and you are more equipped now to set realistic saving goals.

If you are looking for more help on creating a budget and tracking your expenses, you may want to learn about sinking funds. Sinking funds help you spread the cost of a big upcoming expense into smaller regular costs. Our guide to sinking funds might help with your yearly expense planning.

1Investment Provider Excellence Award, Brokers Ireland, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023. No awards held in 2020. Pension Provider Excellence Award, Brokers Ireland, 2023.

2Funds under management of approximately €36.6 billion, of which pension assets amount to €31.7 billion (as at 31st March 2024).

This publication has been prepared for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. You should not act upon information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional advice.

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