Looking at Your Spending and Debt

Expenses Line by Line

By this point, you should have gathered some information about your expenses. If you've kept an expense record, tally up weekly and monthly figures. If you haven't kept an expense record, get out your checkbook and any receipts you can find. Walk around the house to see what you've bought recently.

SUGGESTION: Try to find some old credit card bills. Keep track of your cash outflow for a few weeks to see how you are spending your money.

The more details you have, the more you know. The more you know, the better your decisions will be.

Think about expenses that don't occur regularly, like car repairs, and items that you pay only once or twice a year, like homeowner's insurance. Take a look at your checkbook to see if the amounts look right. Then put all that information into the "Cash Flow" worksheet. It is called a "'cash flow" because it shows how money flows in and out of your life.

You don't have to do a whole year; try a few months and see if a pattern develops. Your expenses are subtracted from your take-home pay to determine your cash balance. This amount may be negative. Don't worry about that yet; it just means you have some work to do.

We use the following categories for expenses. You can change them if you'd like. Think of the chart as a suggestion. We're trying to give you a feel for the kinds of categories you'll need if you're going to take a hard look at things.

These definitions will help you complete the "Cash Flow" worksheet.


Whatever amount you are saving or investing. We've put it here first, because saving should come first. Include the amount you put into your retirement plans.

Federal & state taxes

Put in the amount of state and federal taxes from your pay slip. If you think you've paid too little or too much, make an adjustment. Or use the amount from your last year's tax return, divided up into weekly amounts. Add a little if your salary's gone up, or if you have additional income.

Mortgage or rent

What you pay, not including taxes and insurance.

Home repair/maintenance

Any maintenance or repairs on your home.

Property taxes

Real estate (and in some states personal property taxes).

Life/disability insurance

Including any insurance payments deducted from your paycheck.

Home/renter's insurance

Premium payments.

Auto insurance

Premium payments.

Credit card/loan payment

Loans other than your mortgage, including car loans and credit card payments.

Utilities & telephone

Water, telephone, electricity, gas, garbage, sewer, etc.

Food (include eating out)

All food.


All clothes.


Hair, beauty supplies, etc.


Total amount paid for gas.

Auto repair/maintenance

Repairs, oil changes, new tires, etc.

Other transportation

Tolls, train fare, bus fare, etc.

Medical care

Everything not covered by insurance, including insurance premiums deducted from your paycheck.


Tuition, fees housing, books, etc.

Child care

All costs for babysitting and child care expenses.

Alimony/child support

Amounts paid.


Sporting events, hobbies, movies, etc.


Including plane fare.

Gifts/charitable contributions

Gifts to friends and family, charitable gifts to church, etc.


Amount spent.


Anything not included above.

Total Expenses

Total the amounts above.


Put in the amount of your gross earnings from your paycheck(s), and other income, such as gifts, investment income, alimony & child support received.

Cash Balance

Subtract expenses from income.

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