Lesson 2

Track your expenses


Download PDF Version of Lesson 2

Your daily spending can be:

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My spending is planned
My spending tends to be enjoyable
I tend to under-spend
The following are benefits of being proactive with daily spending.
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Shielded from costly consumer debt.
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Express daily gratitude for your daily bread from God.
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Remind myself that I am a steward of God's money.
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Restful with a little spending margin.
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Track boundary Video

Proactively keep track

There are two primary reasons we should proactively keep track of how we are spending our money:

(1) We are Managers

“Imagine a father who decided to give his 21-year-old son some responsibility to manage a part of the family business. The father sits the son down and explains that $6,000 will be given to him every month. The father did not give much guidance about how to spend the money, and the son did not ask. 

Six months pass, and the father calls the son into his office and asks him what he has done with the family money. The son is surprised by the question, and sulks a bit. Without raising his eyes, the son quietly says, “I don’t know.” The father is shocked, “how can this be?” But the son shrugs and says, “I haven’t been paying attention.”

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” Luke 16:10-13, ESV.
  • If God asked you today how you have been spending His money, could you quickly provide an accurate account?

(2) Spending Exposed by Light Becomes Light

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” Ephesians 5:13, NIV
  • Bad habits fester in the darkness. The more we make our spending habits visible to the light, the more likely we will make better spendings where we are not spending more than we earn.

(1) Choose system

  • Cash every paycheck and place money into designated spending envelopes (e.g., groceries, gas, restaurants, etc..)
  • Many studies have shown this will save you 30% since you become more sensitive to the price of everything.
  • Hard to maintain since society is moving towards a cash-less system and carrying lots of cash and change around is not ideal.
  • Virtual envelope system.
  • $7 a month (free for a year as a student)
  • Highly recommended. I personally have saved hundreds of dollars from this service.
  • Free.
  • Good service, but missing bucket system.
    *bucket system will be discussed next lesson
  • Free for manual tracking, but subscription for automatic importing of transactions.
  • Good service, but missing bucket system. *
    * bucket system will be discussed in next lesson
  • $7 a month.
  • Very similar to YNAB with a digital envelope system.
  • Free and highly customizable.
  • Labor intense.
Track Spending with Paper PDF

(2) Find time

Find a time to import and categorize expenses:

3 minutes a day OR

15 minutes a week

(3) Savor

Treat the daily habit of categorizing expenses in a tracking software like a spiritual discipline, since you want to take seriously your role as manager of God’s money and also put yourself in a position to be generous through avoiding future debt. As you see God’s hand in every income and expense that you categorize, savor God’s goodness and care for you.

Consider reading the following liturgy from Every Moment Holy before, or after, you track and categorize your expenses,

O God who does provide all things necessary for our lives, be present with us now
For there is little in this life that will so starkly reveal our insecurities and our struggle to trust your tender care
As will the state of our hearts when we consider
The state of our finances –
When we are anxious about money, O Lord,
We can slip so easily into the downward spiral of believing that simply having more of it would guarantee our security.
As if our security could ever rest anywhere outside of you, O God.
So guard our hearts against that lie.
Let us learn to view money and all material things as an arena in which to learn and practice a more faithful stewardship,
And as a means by which to invest in things eternal – But never as ends in themselves.

Month-to-month you are teaching us –
In this paying of bills – the slow vocation of trust.
Do not abandon us to our anxieties over finances, O Lord,
But use those worries to turn our hearts and thoughts to you – then teach us both a greater contentment and a greater confidence in your constant care.

(4) Consider small adjustments

Small changes add up over time.

Buckets and Budgets Video

Guard against overspending

Most people will budget just their regular expenses, such as rent, groceries, utilities, and gasoline. Whereas, our lives also have highly predictable, irregular expenses that are critical to save for every month.

How do we save for all these things without it getting messy and confusing?

Slowly put everything in YNAB buckets (or MoneyWise envelopes) ahead of time!

Using buckets


  1. Determine the monthly expense of everything. For example, if you only get running shoes once-a-year for $120, the monthly expense would be $10. If you tend to replace your computer every four years for roughly $1,500, then your monthly expense for having a computer would be $1,500/(48 months) = $31.25
  2. After every monthly paycheck, allocate these monthly expenses to each relevant bucket.
  3. Only pay for things out of your buckets. If your bucket is empty, then don’t buy it.
  4. Make your budget names as specific as possible. The more you personalize the bucket, the less likely you will raid it (e.g., “Kindle” instead of “electronics” or “Florence trip 2023” instead of “vacation”).
  5. Here is an example from my YNAB budget:


  • The middle column are actual expenses this month where I have drawn out of my bucket for costs incurred this month (or budget/envelope).
  • I allocate $22 every month of my monthly income to ‘Apple Watches’ in order to replace my apple watch every 3 years, as well as my wife’s watch. This bucket has grown to $280, and is big enough now to replace my wife’s Apple watch. Since her watch still is working, I will let the bucket continue to grow.
  • I plan on replacing my iPad every 5 years ($400/60 months) so I contribute $7 per month of my monthly income to my iPad bucket.

Cash Flow Budget

Steps for a cash flow budget:

  1. Determine how much money goes out each week for bills and expenses.
  2. Determine how much you receive each week.
  3. Make sure your ending weekly checking balance is never expected to go negative.


  1. I’ll negotiate a new due date for my bills with the company so they’re due after I receive income. First contact companies where you have a good payment history and long-standing relationship. They are more likely to be open to adjustments.
  2. I’ll negotiate splitting a large monthly payment into two smaller ones due at different times. For example, if you can cover your $700 rent with a $350 payment on the first and fifteenth of the month, it might free up more money at the beginning of the month to cover other bills.
  3. I’ll change large lump-sum payments into smaller monthly payments on things like car insurance. There may be a small fee to pay monthly, but it can still make handling these payments more manageable by breaking them into smaller chunks.
  4. I’ll check to see if I qualify for an energy assistance program in my area (
  5. I’ll explore level payment plans for utility bills. This averages your annual use over a 12-month period, so that you pay the same each month and avoid seasonal spikes in cost. This is especially helpful for budgeting in extreme climates where you have high bills in the summer and winter months. Check with your utility providers to see if you qualify.



  • Stick to a shopping list. Use coupons, but only for products you normally buy. 
  • I will join with other family or friends to buy groceries and supplies in bulk (if the cost per serving saves money).
  • Bring your lunch and snacks to school and work instead of eating out.
  • Avoid buying snacks at the gas station, corner store, and vending machines. Plan ahead and buy at the grocery store. Buy in bulk when cost is cheaper.


  • Buy clothes at thrift shops – especially for children who grow quickly.
  • Don’t buy clothes because they are on sale if you don’t need them.
  • Have clothing swaps with friends and family.
  • Buy clothes in the off-season – good winter clothes during summer.


  • In winter/summer, set the thermostat cooler/warmer.
  • Install weather strips around and under doors and windows to prevent air leaks.
  • Dry your clothes on a clothesline outside.
  • Get subsidized internet for free (


  • Buy high quality items and take care of them well.
  • Exercise regularly and eat right to avoid future medical expenses.
  • Use the library to borrow books, magazines, movies.
  • Use OfferUp and other resale services to replace furniture.
  • I will request a new due date for some of my bills to make them better align with my

Activity: Know Your Lifestyle Costs

Complete Activity on PDF Worksheet (High School)


  1. Fill out the lifestyle worksheet to see how much it costs you to sustain your life over a long period of time.
    1. Find out how much it costs for you to live given what you are responsible paying for.
    2. Find out how much it costs for you to live if you were completely on your own.
Lifestyle Cost Worksheet PDF

Activity: Do you have enough cash?


  1. Fill out the cash flow budget worksheet below for your next month.
  2. Make sure your ending weekly checking balance is never expected to go negative.
Cash Flow Budget PDF


The greatest enemy to a spending plan is the misuse of credit. In the next lesson, we will explore the dangers and benefits of credit.

Next Lesson