New Daily Spending Form: Introducing a Prettier and Better Printable

Remember the black-and-white daily budget table that’s been on my site since it launched?  Never Ask Again: Where Does All the Money Go?, the post where it first appeared, continues to be my most-trafficked page, and the chart is still one of the most well-loved tools in our household.

However after doing several money makeovers for TLC and Buttoned Up, I realized that it could be improved.  If you love the old one better, it will always be available to you on my Printables page, but here is why I changed it.

New Space — at the Top — for Savings

Perhaps the most glaring omission in the old form was a place to record savings.

The adage “pay yourself first” means put money towards your big goals, then make everything else fit around it. It’s so easy to live paycheck to paycheck and feel like nothing ever changes. That’s why I put “savings” in the number one position.

To help cheer you on in saving for hopes and dreams, I’ll be rolling out some new charts that you can color in as you save money towards your goal. (If you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe for free by e-mail so you don’t miss a thing!)

Clearly, a New Look

Isn’t the new form pretty? I worked with friend and graphic designer Vickie of Vickie Spindler Design to improve the look.  I’m so happy she was able to transform my Soviet-era chart into something that someone would actually want to look at.

Little Summary Table

I asked Vickie to add a little table on the right so that we can figure out where we stand each month:  what’s coming in – what’s going out = what’s left. I also added a line for carrying over last month’s balance, as well as a way to record where earnings are coming from.

Other changes?

No More “Health/Beauty” and a Category for Interest Charges

The trick with budgeting sheets is to provide enough categories to make it useful, yet not so many to make it overwhelming. I hope I’ve struck the right balance.

Utilities like gas, water, electricity are now lumped into one category. (You can, and we do, scribble in explanations under numbers.)

Health and Beauty — now Medical and Personal Care — are separate. Even though they both have to do with our bodies, some expenses — like hair and nails — are clearly not as essential as doctor’s visits.

After doing a bunch of research to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything out, I added a few other important categories, including:

Insurance: since I think life and long-term disability insurance are a must-have. (We still categorize car insurance under auto, health insurance under medical, and home and renter’s insurance under mortgage/rent, but you can do it however you want.)

Bank Fees: Even though our family has managed to stay out of credit-card debt and we use a fee-free online bank, interest charges and checking account fees are common.

For more information on all the categories, and how you can use them, see this explanation.

This is Not a Budgeting Worksheet

Budgeting is not for everyone, but I think tracking spending is. Enrico and I don’t “budget” in the sense that we designate a certain amount of money per category and try to stay within those boundaries. But we do religiously record all the money that goes in and out, and that helps keep us on track.

For example, if I keep writing big figures under groceries, then it makes me stop and think why. Are we entertaining more? (A good thing.) Are we buying more household and toiletries at the grocery store? (A time-saver, but not necessarily cost-effective.) Are we buying more expensive, gourmet foods? (Good or bad thing?)

So, tracking spending keeps us on our toes, always thinking, always aware, always mindful. Not to say that we don’t splurge sometimes (on vacations, shoes, theater tickets for the whole family, a candlelit dinner).

To me, being frugal is not about deprivation. It means being very careful about where our pennies go. It’s finding ways to cut spending, while trying to stay faithful to our values and enjoy life in the process. We save so that, when the need arises, we’ll have the funds to pay for what’s important.

Why Paper?

You can buy software or subscribe to online budgeting programs, but here is why the pencil-and-paper method is good:

  • Get started immediately, without having to wade through and learn new software
  • No procrastinating — all you have to do is jot down a number or two
  • Reduce clutter, since you don’t have to go through receipts or get distracted by windows popping up on your computer
  • Remember to do it, because your chart is posted in a prominent place
  • See the whole month at a glance without scrolling through confusing screens of spreadsheets

What about those programs where your credit card charges are automatically categorized for you? Why wouldn’t I use that and save even more time? Even personal finance experts, like Judy Lawrence of The Budget Kit, think that the manual approach is part of the learning experience:

“As you physically write down the numbers and visually note them and the surrounding information, there is a special sensory awareness and understanding that occurs.”

I totally agree. Since Enrico and I use credit cards to buy almost everything (because we earn airline miles, and because well, it’s cleaner and easier), taking a second to physically write down what we spend when we get home is like bringing back a bit of the tactile awareness that comes with cash. Sometimes automating can lull us into thinking everything is fine. Taking this extra, yet simple, step helps Enrico and me keep our spending under control and in the light of day.

New Form, New Venture

The impetus behind all this is the upcoming Frugal Mama Makeover series, sponsored by Bank of America, and very soon to appear on I’m excited for you to see the short videos and hear what you think.

It’s been a fun challenge, and I have to admit, so great to work with people face-to-face. I love writing, but I also love being with people. Working with the participants in this series — hearing their issues, helping them come up with solutions, and feeling like I was making a difference — has been really satisfying. I hope that I can continue to work with people in this way, whether it’s on camera or not, and that I can always be more present and helpful to my readers.

So what are you waiting for?

Download the new daily spending form and try it out!

Share this post:


  • Lindsey Whitney June 13, 2013, 6:32 pm

    Is it not working? I can’t get it to download or print. Sad…. :(

    • Amy June 13, 2013, 10:12 pm

      Hi Lindsey,

      I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize this post was still not working. In the meantime, you can find this form and others on my Printables page.

      Glad it might be of use!


  • Diana October 17, 2012, 1:17 pm

    I can’t get the old forms or the new forms. The link has a line through it and says the pdfs are damaged. Any chance you could email the new form to me, or are these permanently gone?

    • Amy October 17, 2012, 1:24 pm

      Hi Diana,

      Yes, I am experiencing problems with my media library. I will email you the new form until I get it back up on the site.


  • Makendra December 17, 2011, 11:51 pm

    It’s good to see someone thninkig it through.

  • The Suburban Minimalist blog November 15, 2011, 4:16 pm

    Do you know what I like best about this post? The parts where you mention that you and Enrico talk about your finances. Although my husband and I don’t see everything eye to eye when it comes to our budget, the fact that we have one and that we discuss it on a regular basis (monthly, over sandwiches from our favorite falafel place) forces us to talk about all sorts of things: how we were feeling (or why I decided to spend $75 at the shoe store, when clearly, I don’t need more shoes), our goals for the future, whether we still feel that a credit card is even necessary. It’s so important to be open about these things, don’t you think? It really benefits a marriage. Although we’ve had some heated discussions, too…

    And as a complete non sequitor, I love that your mom reads your blog. My mom reads mine too, and I like it, though she does throw my stats way off. I always know that 25 of the page views are her!


    • Amy November 16, 2011, 6:30 am

      Hi Rayna,

      No one has ever pointed that out before — the talking part. I love that you and your husband regularly check in about financial stuff — even feelings around it.

      I just read that a few things that millionaires do are having goals and calling yearly family meetings.

      Speaking of family — what would we do without good old Mom? So cute that you think you Mom throws your stats off. :-)

      Thanks for writing me,

  • Mom November 8, 2011, 9:43 pm

    Really a sensible approach. Your grandparents did this their entire lives. Your Dad and I did it for a few years until we got the feel of our spending habits. Now we just assess our expenditures at the end of the year, based on the tallies Dad has made. In a way, it serves as a diary of our lives.

    • Amy November 10, 2011, 1:08 pm

      I know, I love the diary part. There’s something sentimental about paper, but it can also be easier and more powerful than computer programs.