How To Use A Simple Spending Log (Free Budget Binder Printable)

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A spending log is the least amount of work you can do to explore your money habits.

In all my time blogging about budgeting, I’ve learned that spenders hide behind minimum payments.

There’s no easy fix for reducing debt; however, owning it is a good start.

As you’ll notice below, Jack and his wife take ownership of their financial mess and seek advice.

Let’s read.

How A Spending Log Becomes A Gateway For Budgeting

Dear Mr. CBB,

My wife and I are up to our eyeballs in debt as Covid-19 has hit us hard financially.

We now know that we went overboard buying a house we couldn’t afford to impress family and friends.

Along with two credit cards that have been saving us from falling apart, I’m not sure what else to do.

Both of us are not interested in budgeting because we are in a predicament that needs immediate attention.

What would you do if you were in our situation?

Thanks for any positive or negative feedback.

Jack W.

London, Ontario

Today, I want to explore breaking free from financial fear and using a simple spending log.

How a spending log will help you save money and pay off debt.
How A Spending Log Will Help You Save Money

Spenders Hide Behind Minimum Balance Payments

Do you despise budgeting because you think it’s too much work?

Often it’s not the effort involved that pushes people away from budgeting to reduce debt.

What might come as a shock to some of you is that the truth hurts.

Does this sound like you?

I want to have it all, but I will live with debt for the rest of my life.

Many people who are spenders hide behind the minimum payment needed to pay bills.

Why? Because they don’t have the money to fund the luxuries they’ve purchased.

For example, when a credit card statement comes in, the minimum payment may only be $15.

Spend It And Forget It Syndrome

I have issues with minimum payments because they aren’t getting you anywhere fast.

The best part is that consumers know this and continue to spend money they don’t have.

It’s easy to accumulate debt and forget the money trail until it all comes to a halt.

If that’s, you put your foot on the brake and stop this habit once and for all.

It’s nice to have everything, but it’s not really anything when you don’t own what you have.

Let’s look at how a spending log could help you see where your money is going.

What Is A Spending Log?

Weekly Spending Lot Screenshot (see bottom of post for free download)
Weekly Spending Lot Screenshot (see bottom of post for free download)

A spending log is a lifeline for anyone in debt and unsure how to budget their money.

I am fully aware that it takes baby steps for many people when working with a budget.

The great part is that doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

If budgeting isn’t in your blood, start with a spending log to track what you spend every day.

Let’s look at how easy a spending log is to use.

  • You go shopping for groceries
  • Cash out and when the cashier asks if you’d like a receipt, say yes please.
  • Put the receipt in a wallet or safe place until you get home.
  • When at home use a pencil and fill in how much money you just spent and on what.
  • At the end of the week add up how much money you spent.
  • Do this for an entire month to get used to the process.
  • As you move forward and the process becomes second nature add all other fixed and variable expenses.
  • For example, mortgage payment, car payment, utilities and so on to see what that is costing you.
  • This is where the basic budget printable comes in and the budget mindset checks in.

Taking baby steps towards budgeting starts with understanding how much money you net each month vs. how much you spend.

Are you putting away money for your retirement?

Do you have life insurance?

Where can expenses be cut?

These types of questions will continue to make their way to your brain as budgeting begins to boil.

You’ve now taken a pot of cold water and turned up the heat so you can start the budgeting process.

Spending Log Pros and Cons

Typically a spending log is meant to do what it is intended, and that’s to track what you spend over a space of time.

Let’s have a look at some pros and cons of using a spending log.

PROS of using a Spending Log

  • You take responsibility for your debt
  • Baby step into the world of budgeting
  • Debt on paper hits you harder and is motivational
  • It gives you a paper trail to look back on
  • You see areas of spending that you can improve
  • Gives you an opportunity to explore and desire more data

I’ve never talked to someone about budgeting which hasn’t wanted to learn more.

By this, I mean breaking down the walls of a basic budgeting system into a data machine.

On occasion, we have people ask why our excel budget spreadsheet has so many budget categories.

Now you know why and that has been a lifesaver for us as it allows us to see the nitty-gritty.

People don’t think small expenses matter, such as the $1 coffee from McDonald’s or lunch with co-workers.

All of that matters because it’s money from your pocket and must be documented for tracking purposes.

CONS of a spending log

  • NONE

I don’t believe that there are any cons to using a spending log as a starting point for budgeting.

If it helps someone get motivated to tackle debt or dig deeper into their expenses, it’s a win.

Yes, it takes time to pick up a pencil and jot down what you spent, but it is time well worth it.

Basic Spending Log For Beginners To Budgeting

For those who are beginning to put together a budget binder, this is a fantastic starting point.

A spending log is the baby step to get into your groove and then move on to the big guns.

I honestly believe that pushing too hard to reduce debt fast is going to lead to failure.

Whatever financial mess you are in will take time, effort and money.

You may find you need to earn more money and spend less, which is almost always the case.

Increase Saving Opportunities For Your Spending Log

It’s important to consider side hustles, maximize savings through rewards cards and online cash opportunities.

Below are all ways to save money or earn extra money in Canada.

We use all of them apart from Etsy, and I’ve written reviews for many to give you more of a personal experience.

The above side-hustles and earning potential are out there as long as you look for it.

Learn more by reading our Money Savings, Rebates, Discounts page.

Make Money Matter

Every dollar counts. I can remember the many focus groups we’d participate in to bring in cash.

Some were fun, and others were boring, but money is money.

That’s how we went from earning minimum paying wages to debt-free so quickly.

Keep in mind our money-saving journey started in our teens and will end when we’re gone.

In our Will, we’ve asked our son and power of attorney to budget our money to make it last and make sure we get the best quality of life.

Whatever is left at the end is for our son, so money management is important when we can no longer handle our financial affairs.

In fact, even seniors who are retired should still budget with reduced income and relying on pensions, government funding, investments and cash savings.

Money can disappear like lightening as it’s easy to get triggered by the spending bug.

However, there is hope for you just starting to budget, but you have to work for it.

Start Your Budgeting Journey With A Spending Log

Don’t throw in the towel on one of the most important tasks next to earning money.

Debt equals stress, and if you’re not good living over top of the fire, then I suggest you turn on the hose.

So, for Jack and his wife, the only suggestion I have for them to start with a spending log and communication with the right people.

Find out where their money is going, stop spending and consider what ways they can reduce expenses.

Example: Sell their house and move to a cheaper part of town or a new city or town that is less expensive.

Talk to your bank or mortgage broker to see if there is anything they can do to help.

Debt consolidation may be an option, so you pay one debt instead of many and avoid debt collectors calling.

A financial advisor could also offer you tips on how to tackle your debt to income ratio.

Alternatively, sell the house and rent until the debt is paid off to avoid losing everything.

Discussion: What suggestions do you have for Jack and his wife? Would you please share them below?

Get a copy of the Free Weekly Spending Log!

Visit my Free Downloads Library to access all of the other Free Budget Binder Resources.

Thanks for reading,


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  1. A totally not connected question.::

    Hi, Mr.CBB.
    My computer broke and went in for repair, my son had appendicitis and went into the hospital, this happened, that happened, I got lazy and now , , , now I am quite far behind in entering my receipts into my monthly spread sheet.
    I have all of them, but it is overwhelming to think of entering them. If you tell me to bite the bullet, ENTER them! I will. But if a fresh start in August is fine, that would be OK too. What would you advise? I am 5 moths behind.
    Thank you for all you do, I’ve been able to share your articles and advice with my husband, so the money dialog is much better!

    1. Good Morning,
      You know what? I’d just start fresh with a new budget for August and not stress yourself out. It happens and life goes on. Budgeting is not supposed to be stressful but hang on to the receipts if any are important or just in case you need to look back on them for some reason. Thanks for sharing CBB with your friends and husband. Money is a tough topic to discuss but if both partners commit it makes the process easier. Mr.CBB

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