Where Does the Money Go?
When planning a monthly budget, it helps to create a spreadsheet with five columns containing the following information: Budget Item (name of the bill), Date Due, Projected Costs, Exact Costs, and Date Paid. The screenshot below shows a sample of how this information could be entered. (Click any image for a larger view.)
At the beginning of the month, during the budget planning phase, you can enter a list of all of your monthly bills along with their due dates and projected costs. Then, when you actually pay the bill, you can go back and enter the exact costs and the date on which the bill was paid.
If you're using this method to create a complete monthly budget, some items may not have actual due dates and paid dates that can be entered since they will be expenses that are paid throughout the month. Examples of such items include groceries, gas, entertainment, and education expenses. For these cases, you can either leave both date columns blank or enter the last date of the month as a placeholder. Or, as in our example, just enter something like "Varies" to indicate that these expenses are a bit different from the other recurring monthly bills that are listed as budget items.
For several of the items on your monthly budget, it's likely that both the projected and exact costs will be the same. That is, the exact costs of fixed monthly expenses like the rent or mortgage payment, car payment and various insurance premiums are known in advance so you can enter these amounts as projected costs when planning your budget and then enter them again as the exact amount of the bill when you actually pay them.