Spending Spot-Check

How’s your spending lately? Are you on track with your expenses and savings?

If you don’t know the answer to that last question (or if the answer is “no”), it’s time to take a closer look at what you’re spending your money on to see if any of your categories are out of whack.

What should you be spending?

When it comes to budget categories, many people think that there’s some amount or percentage that you “should” allot to each category.

I don’t agree, because I believe budgets should be about getting what you really want — and that’s different for each of us. For example, I spend way below the norm on transportation and like it that way. There’s no reason I need to spend, say, 10% of my income on transportation just because that’s a percentage suggested somewhere. I also spend a lot on travel, and I don’t think that’s even a recommended category at all in many budget templates.

So what “should” you be spending? Whatever works for you. And that’s exactly what it’s important to spot-check your spending if things aren’t working out the way you’d like.

How categories can help

If you’re not reaching your financial goals — or you’re not even making ends meet, or are living paycheck to paycheck, it absolutely pays to examine your spending in broad categories.

For example, by the time you add up the costs of car payments, insurance, gas, parking, tolls, repairs, and maintenance, you might discover that you’re spending 43% of your take home pay on transportation. Naturally, that wouldn’t leave you much money for the rest of your expenses. So that would be a prime category to reduce expenses in, and would give you a target to focus on.

Make your budget work for you

The idea isn’t to fit into some specific mold, but rather to figure out what might be causing you to fall short of money or what may be preventing you from reaching your goals. Doing a spending spot-check — and then acting on the information you uncover — can help you do exactly that.


  • My spending is a little out of control right now. I just bought a house and am currently dealing with a remodel of two bathrooms. Definitely hoping to get back on track within the next month or two. Thanks for reminding me to stay on track.

    • We ended up remodeling two bathrooms a while back, that can be chaotic for sure, both household-wise and spending-wise!

  • Gas is guzzling our pockets but my wife works far and there is constant traffic. I tell her to walk the 26 miles a day but she never laughs. :)

  • We’re on track for our goals, but it still feels like our spending is out of control. It’s just lots of little things, with spending happening a few times during the week, instead of us just being able to do it all on the weekends.

  • Very helpful reminder. I just did a little spot-check myself, and had to plan my budget for the rest of the year. Over a third of the way through 2012, and my spending has been a little too high for this year. It’s been difficult to manage, but I think I can figure it out with careful planning and constant checking of the accounts.