Keeping a spending diary

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Saga know the importance of keeping a spending diary, and when they offered me the chance to keep a spending diary I knew that it would be something that would help to get our spending back on track. Lately the odd treat had turned into almost a daily treat and we really needed to get a handle on our personal spending. Here's how we got on


To get started, Saga sent me some useful tools – a spending diary, a meal planner, a book and some supermarket gift vouchers.

(The meal planner is AMAZING and you can get it on Amazon).

We wanted to stick to a £100 household budget in July and using the meal planner as well as the spending diary has helped us to keep on track there. In actual fact, that was the easy bit! We are meal planning pros and I loved the shopping list inside the meal planner. We are steadily working our way through the food we have in the house and challenging ourselves to cook new meals.

I also decided to keep track of my personal spending, and that is where things got interesting. I do by day to day spending on a credit card so that I can accumulate airmiles, and then I pay it off every month. Lately the bill has been getting higher and higher, and this was the perfect chance to find out why!

Here's what I learnt:

  • It takes some discipline to keep track of your outgoings in a spending diary – it takes time every day – if I don't do it every day then all my purchases won't get recorded.
  • You have to keep track of every purchase.
  • It is important to be honest about my spending – it is no good having a really frugal week whilst I keep a diary, because that isn't going to tell me anything.
  • I preferred having a physical spending diary – sure, you can keep track of your spending using your phone, but actually sitting down to write down my spending made it seem more real.

And most importantly, I found out where my money was going. Using this knowledge I was able to identify spending habits that I was happy with, and those that I wanted to change. For example, my spending at Starbucks had gone up, but I enjoyed the excuse to get out of the house and go and work in a different environment, even if that meant spending £3-£4 every few days on a drink! I did find that although we had free cinema tickets with the Cineworld Unlimited cards (get a free month here), I was buying cinema snacks every time we saw a film – which was sometimes 3 times a week! Although the Unlimited card gave us 25% off cinema snacks, I saw that lots of money was being wasted there.

Why it is important to keep on top of your spending

Quite simply, if you spend more than you earn then you could find yourself in debt. By keeping a spending diary, whether it is once or twice a year, or every single day, you are able to stay on top of your finances and identify areas where you need to cut back, or perhaps where regular spending meant you were going over your budget simply because prices had gone up. It is the first thing I would suggest that anyone looking to reduce their outgoings does.

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4 Comments on “Keeping a spending diary”

  1. This really is the way to do it Emma. I started a similar diary back in 2000 when we needed to look closely at finances. We still do it. We keep a spreadsheet to note down all grocery/household shopping and that really keeps us on track.

    Another useful tool is a “Price Book”. This helps you to keep track of the cost of items so that you can see if that offer on say tea at a particular supermarket really is a good deal as you have a price to compare it to.

    Well done and I also saw you on TV the other day, on a bus with the programme Right on the Money!

    1. They’re so useful, aren’t they? I’ll have to check Price Book out!

      Yay, does that mean I’m famous now?

      1. I thought that you were already famous! A Price Book is something that you just work out for yourself. I made up a template and just put in the things that I buy on a regular basis. Sort of Einstein Style as we say in this household – on the back of an envelope!

  2. I don’t keep a spending diary perse but I do review my account on a regular to see how I am doing with my finances. It is not very effective though for those expenses that I take cash out for. I think this is where a spending diary would be great.

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