Where Did All My Money Go?

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Are you wondering where all of your money goes by the end of the month? Have you ever done a budget or spending plan and discovered that after all of your monthly bills and expenses, you should have money leftover at the end of the month, but you don’t? This is what we call “lost” money, and you may not be sure where the money went. If you still had the “lost money” at the end of the month, what would you do with it? Save it? Use it to pay down debt? Spend it?

So how do you find out where the money went? One way to do that is to track your expenses. Tracking your expenses means recording everything you spend. Write down everything you spend money on for a period of time, preferably a month. You can use a notebook, a smart phone, or keep receipts from every expense; the important thing is to keep track of every time you spend money, whether you spend $1, $10 or $100.

You may find the lost money is spent in very small increments. One dollar for a soda, two dollars for a late fee, five dollars on lunch, one or two dollars on coffee, a candy bar or other snack. Over time, all of these small expenditures add up to a surprising amount of money! Check out the “Plug Your spending Leaks” worksheet on the Michigan State University Extension financial management website, to help you find all of those tiny expenditures.

At the end of the time period you choose to track spending, add up all of your expenditures. It is helpful to group expenditures into categories such as food, clothes, utilities, gas for the car, etc. Subtract expenses from total income for the period of time. Do you still have money left? If so, could you save some or all of the money? If not, is there a way to decrease expenses?

Making a spending plan is a good start to taking control over your money. Start the process today by tracking your expenses and find out if you have any “missing money”!

This article was written by Beth Waitrovich, Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit






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