Two female and one male students looking at one female student's smartphone

Do you know where your money goes?

Whether you get an allowance, do occasional jobs, or have a regular part-time job, you probably have some money to spend. Or, maybe it’s the opposite–you always find that you’re short of cash when you want to buy something.

If you’re earning money, it’s time to get handle on your finances. That starts with tracking your spending—every penny.

Try thinking about it this way: what you’re really doing is taking control of your money, and making sure that you’re spending it intentionally. Tracking your spending will keep those $20 bills from evaporating out of your pocket, because you’ll know exactly where they’re going.

How to get started

There are a variety of ways to track your spending—you can keep notepad handy and keep track of your spending by hand, or take notes on your smartphone. If you prefer a more guided approach, there are a variety of apps to help you keep track of your expenses, including Toshl, Dollarbird, and Spendee.

Once you get started tracking your spending, the important thing is to be diligent. Track all your expenses—even trips to the school vending machine. You’d be surprised how quickly the seemingly insignificant expenses add up when you’re not keeping a close watch on them.

Make a note of how much you spend and what you purchased. For example, if you stop at a gas convenience store and buy $10 worth of gas for your car, a soda, and slice of pizza, be sure to note what you bought, not just where you bought it. The more detail you track, the better information you’ll have.  It’s more helpful to know that you spend $40 a month on gas and $25 on food, rather than that you spent $65.

What’s next?

Once you have a handle on how you’ve spent your money for a month or two, you’ve got enough information to start making some decisions. Maybe you want to start bringing snacks to school rather than hitting up the vending machine and save your cash for something else.

Maybe you spent more money on gas than you want to, and want to start sharing rides to school and activities with your friends. It’s all about what you want to do to control your own money, now that you know where it’s going.

Tell us how you handle money, and see how you compare to other high school students.

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Caroline Hanson
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Caroline Hanson

Communications Consultant at Wells Fargo
Copywriter at Wells Fargo.

She’s experienced in planning and paying for college both as a student and parent. With one child through college and two more a few years away from it, she is right there with you on the college-planning journey. A creative pro with years logged in journalism, public relations, and marketing, she’s been writing for the College Planning Blog since its launch in 2006.
Caroline Hanson
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