Your browser preferences are set to block location sharing.
Please adjust your preferences, or click here to view all offices.

Track Your Spending and Improve your Financial Life

By Stacy Paradise

Photo credit: Getty Images

If you have completed step 2, Create a Spending Plan You Love, then your budget spreadsheet should have all of your fixed expenses already listed. Next you will need to add a line item for each variable expense. Items such as gas, groceries, entertainment, personal expenses, children, pets, charities, and whatever else comes up. Determine the easiest way for you to track expenses. You may choose to use cash, your ATM card, a credit card, collecting receipts, or a combination of each. Track your spending over the next 30 days. The intention of this exercise is to help you be aware of where your money is going. Do not place judgement on yourself or your partner. Just be aware.

What I do is use my ATM card for all variable purchases. At the end of the month, I add up how much I have spent in each category. I know someone else who uses an envelope method. She determines how much she wants to allocate to each variable expense then creates an envelope for each category and puts cash in that envelope. Once the cash is gone, she has hit her limit. Another friend uses a small notebook, and many people use apps on their phones. Kelley Long, a former contributor to Forbes Magazine, explains how she uses a separate spending account as part of the way she tracks expenses. She puts a portion of her income into a separate account used specifically for spending. “The money in the separate account is “fun money,” where we just dial it back on spending when the balance gets low.” Do what works best for you and your partner.

Many of these variable expenses are not necessary to live but contribute to the lifestyle you choose. I believe we are meant to Live Richly℠ by experiencing love, beauty and joy in life. For some, living richly may mean spending money on spa services, health clubs, and designer bags. For others, living richly may mean spending time in nature, being playful with family, and eating healthy foods. United Capital has an HonestConversations® exercise that can help you identify your values and what is important to you. It also gives you the opportunity to get on the same page with your loved ones about your financial goals and intentions.

Once you have tracked your expenses for 30 days (or more), update the amount spent on each line item of your budget spreadsheet. Is your money flowing in the same direction as your values?

For more tips on how you can Live Richly℠, keep an eye out for step 3 of the 10 steps to improve your financial life!

References and Further Reading

Long, K. (2017). 6 Ways to Track Your Spending from

United Capital, a Goldman Sachs Company. (2019). Understand What’s Important to You from

Stacy Paradise

Stacy Paradise

United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC d/b/a Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management (“GS PFM”) is a registered investment adviser and an affiliate of Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC and subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., a worldwide, full-service investment banking, broker-dealer, asset management, and financial services organization.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered investment advice. GS PFM does not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. Clients should obtain their own independent legal, tax, or accounting advice based on their particular circumstances. Please contact your financial adviser with questions about your specific needs and circumstances.

Information and opinions expressed by individuals other than GS PFM employees do not necessarily reflect the view of GS PFM. Information and opinions expressed in this article are as of the date of this material only and subject to change without notice.

Ready to start a conversation? We’re here to listen.


Tell us about yourself at no cost or obligation.

  • An introduction to an advisor
  • A personal conversation
  • Your questions answered

Confirmation success!

Thank you for your submission.

By submitting this information, you hereby authorize and request that PFM contact through any direct contact and any automated means, including but not limited to use of an auto-dialer, pre-recorded/artificial voicemail and SMS, and by email to discuss PFM’s products or services and you are consenting to receive certain materials from PFM by email or other means of electronic delivery. In addition, you acknowledge that PFM will use your information as described in its Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. PFM may share your information with other subsidiaries of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. and they may also contact you directly through any of the same means listed above.

To withdraw your consent to receive calls or to change your contact preferences, please call us at 1 (800) 796-3315. To stop marketing emails, follow the opt-out instructions in the email received. To revoke your consent to receive communications electronically, please contact your GS PFM team.