I Tracked My Spending for 3 Months and This Is What I Discovered

Looking at her expenses opened this woman's eyes.

Did you know millions of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings? It’s true, and I used to be one of them. I blamed it on outside factors, of course. I had dozens of very real reasons, like the rising cost of healthcare, food, college and housing costs. But I also knew there was more to it.

I realized a deep dive into my spending would help me figure out where I was hemorrhaging money. So, I decided to track my family’s spending for three months. Here’s what I found out.

Click to read more about creating a budget for you and your family.

During the first month, I spent as I normally would, to get an idea of where my money was going. Using an Excel spreadsheet (I’m a paper-and-pen kind of gal, normally), I tracked every single expense, down to the stick of gum I brought before hopping on the train. It was an eye-opener.

Read: Why Micromanaging Money Works for One Woman

My second month was much more proactive. I used my log to categorize my expenses and weed out splurges. My top three splurges — food, Lyft and entertainment, in that order — weren’t surprising. What was surprising was how much I spent on my two Australian Shepherds that month: $992. It’s no wonder the pet industry will rake in an estimated $72.13 billion in 2018.

The third month, I really started cutting expenses. I canceled recurring subscriptions that I was no longer using ($275.25), canceled my cable service ($162.89) — we already had Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, so it seemed redundant — and reduced our food ($350), Lyft ($204.92), entertainment ($150) and pet upkeep/boarding ($350) expenses.

More on Expenses to Cut Now: Dumb Ways Americans Waste Money

Given that I live in a city and have access to public transportation, as well as safe walking spaces, I decided to take it a step further and sold my car. Doing so reduced my monthly expenses by an additional $733.39 ($408.39 garage, $125 insurance, $200 gas/upkeep), while also giving my savings a nice bump from the car sale.

Since starting this project, I’m happy to say I am no longer one of the millions of Americans that have less than $1,000 saved. I realize now that I was making choices every day that put my family’s financial future in jeopardy. I can’t change the rising costs of healthcare, food, college and housing costs, but I can take control of other expenses. Tracking my family’s expenses showed me where we could cut costs, without feeling too much pain. Now, I’m focusing on our household debt.

Click through to read more about budgeting and other topics Americans wish they’d learned in school.