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How to create a household expenditure book

create a household expenditure book

A household expenditure book is used to record your expenses. It’s probably the best tool to find out where your money goes. Our guide shows how to create a household expenditure book and keep control of your money.

Running a household expenditure book is basically not difficult, but is often made unnecessarily complex by complicated templates and manuals. In this article you will receive a specific guide, the best methods and tips on how to get the most out of the process when you create a household expenditure book.

5 reasons why you should definitely create household expenditure book

Keeping a budget book sounds anything but attractive to most people. Nevertheless, it is my clear recommendation (and I have been doing it consistently for years). Here are my main reasons:

  • Knowing where my money is going makes me feel good. 
    I feel comfortable with being in control of my finances. My expenditure book is an important part of it.
  • Just watching makes me keep more money. 
    Only by logging my expenses do I adjust my buying behavior. I spend less money “on my own”.
  • I expose my secret money-eaters with it. 
    Through my budget book, I realize what spending a hole in my budget tearing. Only if I know these, I can decide for another way.
  • Through clarity, disputes are nipped in the bud. 
    In many relationships (families) there are always quarrels about the money. Why? Because no one really knows where the money is actually going. Providing clarity and transparency removes the basis of any dispute.
  • My budget book is the foundation of my financial success. 
    Knowing where my money is going is the basis for all my planning. Only from this knowledge can I make meaningful decisions and take bigger steps.

The biggest mistakes (and most common pitfalls)

The idea of ​​keeping a budget ledger is one thing to really do it and add value to it. Here are the most common reasons for failure when you create a household expenditure book:

  • It takes a good dose of discipline to run a household book. 
    You will have to build a new routine if you have not had your expenses in mind. Until your efforts are rewarded you will need a little discipline.
  • Getting bogged down is pretty damn easy. 
    Most budget book projects fail because people lose themselves in detail.
  • Reflecting on your previous behavior can also be painful. 
    Especially at the beginning, it can also lead to bitter knowledge: What so much money I spend? That may hurt sometimes.
  • You may have to reckon with incomprehension (and headwinds) in your environment. 
    In my experience, it is not exactly cool for many people to keep a household book. Not everyone understands the meaning and purpose behind it. The benefits show up only after a few weeks / months – unfortunately most people do not have the patience.
  • It only makes sense if you stick to it consistently. 
    If your data is incomplete at the end of the month, the work is not free, but much less meaningful. You have to devote some time to this project. (Tips on how to keep it up later in the article)

Guide the budget book: How to succeed (5 steps)

Running a budget book is not a one-time action, but rather a process that will keep you busy for a while, until you benefit from it.

Therefore, it makes sense to think in advance about how you want to approach the whole thing.

  1. Make sure what exactly you want to achieve. 
    As already mentioned, a household book needs perseverance. Knowing your specific motivation will help you stay tuned.
  2. Make it as easy as possible! 
    Most of the templates, apps and tutorials (found on the internet) are unfortunately very complex and heavily anticipated. So I recommend you look for a method that really suits you . 
    My advice: The simpler it is, the better! 
    Take the data for at least 6-8 weeks. 
    To really benefit from a budget book, you need valid data. In order to get these, you will have to reflect on your behavior for a few weeks. 
    Evaluate the data selectively and take stock from time to time. 
    The success of a household book lies in the correct evaluation. As you gain the best knowledge, you will learn later in this article: 
    Draw the right consequences from your evaluation. 
    Only when you have reflected and analyzed your behavior, you can take the next steps and benefit in the long term from your budget book. Here lies the true value of your work. 

Find the right method for you (5 examples)

So what options do you have to create a household expenditure book? I would like to introduce you to five methods:

Example 1: Handwritten budget book

create a household expenditure book

The classic! You write down all your issues in writing in a notebook or book (or just on a sheet of paper).

At the end of the month you then take stock and calculate (quite conventionally with the calculator) your expenses together.

There are various ready-made templates (in booklet and book form). Or you become creative yourself and decide for your own variant.


  • By capturing (and calculating) your expenses by hand you get a very direct relation to the numbers.
  • Your book / magazine is individually hoc (especially if you’re like creative).
  • A physical book can serve as a reminder (if you deliberately leave it somewhere prominent, eg on the bedside table or the desk).


  • No automatic calculation of your balance sheet
  • If you go traveling, you have extra luggage .
  • The evaluation becomes more error prone .
  • No nicely processed diagrams

My personal opinion: I consider this variant as optimal for getting started. You do not have to get used to it and get a good feel for working with a household book.

Example 2: Computer Software

Household book lead with computer software

There are several computer programs with which you can manage your expenses.

Most of them go beyond the functionality of a normal budget book. You could call her a financial planner.


  • typing on the computer is comfortable and convenient
  • Software offers a large range of functions
  • graphically processed evaluations


  • Training time due to high complexity
  • inflexible for travel, since entry only possible on the computer

My personal opinion: The biggest advantage is clearly in the beautiful and elaborate evaluations of your data. I would recommend a computer software nowadays only in combination with a smartphone app.

Example 3: Online Tool

A very quick way to start a budget book are browser applications (or online tools).

These are platforms on the Internet, where you have to create only one user account and then maintain your data online directly on the Web.


  • immediately available (without software to install)
  • not tied to your computer


  • you always need an internet access
  • Unclear data security (What happens to your data)?

My personal opinion: Online tools are very handy. Especially if you can use them in combination with a smartphone app

Example 4: Smartphone App

  a smartphone app

There is a huge selection of mobile apps that are made for managing your finances.

The functionality is very different. There are several free and paid apps in the app stores.

Most house banks now provide their own apps that can be automatically linked to your accounts.


  • you probably always have your mobile with you (even when traveling)
  • automatic evaluation (you only have to enter the data)
  • Data is typed in quickly


  • Finding the right app is hard as the offer is very diverse
  • Training time due to high complexity
  • a lot of distraction in between
  • What happens to your data?

My personal opinion: Smartphone apps are getting better and more powerful. I see here the future of the budget book. Optimal is an app that also allows the data on the desktop computer to maintain and evaluate.

Example 5: Spreadsheet

create a household expenditure book with spreadsheet (Excel, Google Sheets, Numbers)

Spreadsheet programs (like Excel, Google Sheets, Numbers …) are made for budget books.

You can use it to build your budget book (in tabular form) exactly as you like it.

But there are also various ready-made templates (including many free ones) that you can use.


  • great evaluations (diagrams) possible
  • you can build it exactly the way you want it (optics, evaluation, simple or complex …)
  • You are flexible and can grow and change your household book
  • It gives you full control , as you yourself have influence on the functions


  • unfavorable if you do not have internet access (eg traveling)
  • you have to know the program a bit
  • ownership can also cause the do too many things or to errors creep in

My personal opinion: My favorite variant, because I’m super flexible and I can evaluate exactly what I want.

Tips and tricks that make it easier to create a household expenditure book

Find your own style

There are many guides and options. The right one probably does not exist. There is only the right method that suits you. Choose a solution that is easy for you to implement.

Develop a routine

Most things become easier when they become a habit. So you should try to make your budget book a habit. Do it, just in the beginning, to a small ritual. You can use a fixed time (every evening after dinner) to reflect the day and your expenses.

At some point, running the household book will simply be part of your daily routine. Just as you know from brushing your teeth.


Remember with reminders

For example, put a reminder in your phone that reminds you in the first few weeks to log your expenses of the day. Or you stick your reminder notes to the fridge, into your wallet, to the mirror or on the bedside table.

Collect your purchasing documents

The simplest trick: In order not to forget an issue, it makes sense to take the receipt everywhere. Even where you are no longer asked for it. Otherwise, small purchases are fast “out of sight”. But if you have the receipt in your pocket, you will automatically be reminded to note the issue.

The evaluation trick

Every now and then there are moments when it is annoying to note each individual expenditure or to remember. For example, activities such as a zoo visit with the whole family, or a pub crawl.

For that you can do a simple trick. And although you do not care about each issue, but evaluate all expenses incurred as an issue. All you have to do is count how much money you have and afterwards how much is left over. The difference is then the output to be recorded. (Of course you can use this trick for a complete vacation.)

Lead separate household books

A household book can be kept both as a single person, as a couple or as a family. And that’s exactly what I would recommend to you. For clarity, you should never throw finance into a pot.

Joint issues are common expenses. Personal expenses are personal expenses. So it should be kept for each of these cases, a separate budget book. This gives a clear overview and makes evaluation much easier in the end.

Reward yourself for attained goals

What you need to do in the budget book is discipline to really stay tuned. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to set yourself clear goals. Goals that keep you motivated to record your expenses every day.

For example, if you manage to write down your expenses for a month, every day, then you’ll enjoy an extensive sauna visit (or something that suits you, of course).

If you have a clear and tangible goal (spending a month every day), it will be easier for you to stick to it.

Always keep it as simple as possible

My experience as a financial coach :

Most household books fail because people get bogged down in details.

To capture too many parameters, to use complicated tables or apps, makes the budget book annoying and costly.

Start small and work on the routine before you increase the complexity.

How the successful evaluation succeeds when you create a household expenditure book

A household book is worthwhile even if only by the fact that you reflect your behavior, but makes only limited sense, if you do not draw any concrete findings from it. Therefore, you should always evaluate your data from time to time:

Draw the balance

In a balance sheet, you face your expenses over your earnings. Taking stock shows you whether your spending behavior is even covered by your income. Always refer to the period of one month. You will see fluctuations from month to month, so the more data (months) you have collected, the more meaningful your balance sheets will be.

Based on your balance, you also notice quickly if something is wrong with your data. For example, if the balance sheet is positive, but the evolution of your balance shows something else. Therefore, the balance is also a kind of counter-sample for your budget book.

Where is the money going?

An important insight that you should consider in your evaluation are questions such as:

  • What are the expenses that may make you falter?
  • What is perhaps too short?
  • Where do you spend too much?
  • What were your priorities so far?

It is best that you divide your expenses into categories. Choose categories that you consider useful. I recommend a maximum of 5-10 categories to choose. Why? Read on…

An important warning (avoid this error in the evaluation!)

As already mentioned, household books often fail because people go too much into detail. Means too many categories, too many diagrams, too many evaluations. Note: Not everything has to be perfect, sometimes even rounded values ​​are enough.

The purpose of the budget book is to recognize your cash flows and then draw the right conclusions.

Draw the right conclusions and consequences

So you have it black on white where your money is going. And now? Three things I would advise you:

1. Adapt your expenses consciously

What was too much? What do you want to change in the future?

2. Define your priorities

You see through your budget book above all your previous priorities. Understand what is worth to you (car, home, clothing, groceries, hobbies) and change your priorities.

3. Plan your future

You will realize what expenses are coming to you. Use these findings and plan to consciously include them in the future.


The other day a reader’s question came: Why should I write this down – the money is already gone !? Answer: Yes that’s right, the money you have spent is gone.

Therefore, the pure writing of course not worth it. The value of a household book arises only with the evaluation and a resulting new handling of your money.

Bottom line: Keeping a budget book is highly recommended if you want to keep your money together.

Find more money control tips in our Personal Finance section

Author: Genevieve Dumas is a food, fashion and beauty stylist from New York, who has worked for a range of major magazines.

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