My husband, Joe, and I have recently been putting the finishing touches on our 2009 expenses tracker. Well, to be perfectly honest, Joe’s doing most of the work (he’s crazy good at all the fancypants Excel programming stuff)…I just try to articulate what I want and he does the rest. It’s led to some tense moments as sometimes I’m not exactly sure what I want (ah, stereotypical female behaviour) but he’s done the best he can with my instructions.

I’m always very eager to track our spending habits and I keep quite a meticulous report of where each and every dollar goes and in which “category”. We have five: Housing (mortgage, insurance, condo fees, etc), Transportation (car payment, gas, parking, etc), Fixed Life for things we have a set monthly amount (internet/phone, food/household, etc), Variable Life for things that are a little more up and down (entertainment, travel, gifts, renovations, etc), and Investments (RRSPs and long-term savings). I like to keep tabs on all our variable spending to make sure we’re on track. Sometimes, it’s all too easy to go out for dinner, forgetting we’ve treated ourselves to restaurant fare four times this month already.

The best part about developing a budget (no matter how rough) and tracking expenses is that once you have an idea of the bigger picture, certain things start to happen automatically. And I’m not just talking about automatic transfers to your savings or retirement funds (although we do those, too). I mean actually becoming aware of your financial picture and thinking about your bigger goals (saving for a trip, starting a family, etc) can lead to subconsciously curbing your own “unnecessary” spending. I used to go out all the time and spend money on frivolous shopping trips. I still love clothes and shoe shopping, but now I only when there is something I truly need.

If you’re interested in more financial-themed blogging, check out The Simple Dollar. The “31 Days to Fix Your Finances” is a great place to start if you’ve never taken a serious look at your own financial situation.