I fought a good fight . It was a tough battle; one that I was victorious in for nearly four years. But it’s over. I surrender. It’s finally time to bite the bullet. Soon enough, I will be the “proud” owner of a minivan. Yes, I fought the swagger wagon , and the swagger wagon won! Since my current car is on its last legs and won’t make it through another winter, my wife and I decided it was time to jump into the mid-life, soccer-mom (and dad) deep end of the pool, and buy a minivan. Over the next six months, we are going to save as much as we possibly can for this vehicle. Over the last few weeks we have performed a budget review , found areas to save money , and now have a plan for the van. We’ve got a new goal that we need to stay on track for, so one of the things we are going to do is start an expense diary. What is a Spending Journal? One of the things that I’ve found helpful in the past with our expenses is a simple diary. Yes, that’s right. An old-fashioned way of keeping track of expenses. There are many useful budget tools out there, and I suggest using any tool that will help you reach your goal. Recently, I just signed up for Mint.com as a way to help analyze our personal finances, but there’s just something about writing down (or typing in) your expenses every day. Right now my wife is using a simple excel spreadsheet. We are writing down every single cent we are spending each day. This includes things like a cups of coffee to food to gas. My wife is entering them into the spreadsheet and we are reviewing it a few times a month to see where we are with our monthly budget. Why is a Spending Journal Helpful? The benefit of a diary of expenses is that it helps you to understand exactly how much you’re spending every month – even on the little items that often get overlooked. This helps to determine any areas you can cut back on, which in turn helps you to give more and save more. Another benefit to the diary is that because you are entering you are constantly reviewing the diary since you are entering line items daily. When Should You Start? You should start as soon as possible. Ideally though, you should probably begin at the start of the month. It can be a little confusing if you try to start in the middle of the month when you’ve already spent money through the first two weeks. At the first of the month, begin writing everything down. This can really enlighten you to what exactly you are spending money on. It can be an eye-opening experience when you see just how much you spend on going out to eat, Starbucks, or clothes. The Bottom Line Whether you’re saving for a new goal, or just trying to tighten up the budget , jotting down your expenses to get your bearings is a great idea. I suggest doing this before you start a budget just to get a sense of reality. Too many times we set an unrealistic budget and then get discouraged because we always spend more than the budgeted amount. What the diary of expenses does is that is reveals exactly what we spend. If you do this for a few months straight, you’ll get a much better sense of what changes need to be made with your finances. Have you done a diary of expenses? What benefits have you found to be helpful? Related Articles: How Often Should You Review Your Household Budget Sheet? 4 Excellent Things You Can Do With Money Quit spending (Part 4) How to Secretly Spend in Your Marriage Practical Budgeting Tips to Manage Your Money Better 5 Tips For Saving Money During Vacations! 4 Simple Steps to Proactively Manage Your Money Jason writes at Redeeming Riches where he helps others Restore Their Money and Renew Their Minds . If you want to learn how to save money be sure to subscribe to to catch more of Jason’s posts! As a thank you for subscribing to our newsletter you can download our quick eBook ” 25 Ways To Save Money in 2011 ” for FREE! The articles on this site are for entertainment purposes and should not be taken as financial advice. Please contact a financial professional for specific advice regarding your situation. Also, many of the CPF articles help us pay the bills by using affiliate relationships with Amazon, Google, eBay and others. Find out more here .