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How to Track Your Income

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This is the second post in Creative Savings’ Beginners Guide to Budgeting Series. Last week, we talked about Why You Need a Budget, and you can find all posts in the series listed on this page.

All the budgeting books I read talked about "tracking income" but didn't explain how! I was so confused but it's so much simpler than I first thought! Now I know why money coming INTO your account is just as important as what goes OUT (it wasn't the reason I expected!). Also, I love the pretty, free printable! #trackyourincome #howtotrackincome #howtobudget #budgetingtips #budgetingforbeginners

Today, in our ongoing effort to manage money better, we’re going to start talking about income and expenses.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear those terms, I automatically think of business owners who have to keep track of those kinds of numbers every day – not only to pay the correct amount on their taxes, but also to see if they are turning a profit. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be in business very long!

But it’s not just businesses who need to do this.

I cannot stress enough how essential it is to know how much is coming in, so you know how much can actually go out. And if you are looking to save some of the excess for future goals, vacations, remodels, or even for retirement, you need to technically turn a profit each and every year.

So, from now on, it’s time to start looking at your personal finances as a business. Trust me, it will totally change your life!

More Than a Paycheck

The most common way your family receives income right now, is likely to be weekly paychecks from full-time, part-time, and seasonal jobs. However, income is so much more than a pay stub. Once you start digging, you will find multiple ways to increase your bottom line!

Some income source examples:

  • Monetary gifts
  • Side business (what you pay yourself)
  • Garage sales
  • Craigslist, eBay, and Amazon sales
  • Cash back and online rewards
  • Bank interest
  • Tax refunds
  • Rent (if you own investment properties)

To keep track of these income sources separately, I would highly encourage you to start a new file or folder specifically for this purpose. Start saving all pay stubs, online sales receipts, or any other income sources you might have.

Then once or twice a month, enter all those amounts into an online or printable income tracker. (Which is exactly what we are going to discuss next!)

How to Use an Income Tracker

Before I started using Excel, I used to write down all our income amounts in a small notebook according to each month. Then I would manually calculate the final number at the end, and determine how much we could save (after expenses), and what we needed to tithe or give to charity.

This past year though, I finally upgraded to an Excel spreadsheet, and seriously, I may never go back! I keep the file right on my desktop, and enter each amount as it comes in. When the year is over, I can simply print out my income sheet and place it in my financial notebook.

Related: Why I Broke Up with My Beloved Spreadsheet for this App …

I love that I have an at-a-glance view of our final income for each month and year, however, if you’re the paper and pen type, not to worry! I also have a printable version of the spreadsheet to download as well.

Printable Income Tracker | Creative Savings

Download the printable file
Download the Excel file

In this income tracker, you will see spaces for all your income sources, columns for each month, and gross vs net pay. I like to keep track of gross and net for not only for tithing purposes, but also to see what we actually “take home”. Although, that final number can be a little depressing!

How to use the income tracker:

  • Enter in all slips from your income folder according to each month and income source.
  • Add up each column for the final total (Excel can do this automatically) and take a good look at the net column. The total found there is the exact number we’ll be using when talking about income from now on.
  • Repeat these steps every month, until it’s time to figure out the grand total of what you and your family made income-wise at the end of the year.

That’s all there is to it!

Tracking income might not make much sense now, which is why so many “How to Budget” articles skip right over this part and go straight to the expenses and monthly budget amounts. But when we pull all the final numbers at the end of this series, you will start to see a pattern and why it’s so important to write down and track your income.

Plus, it’s fun to find new and creative ways to start adding to your income sources!

Have you ever kept track of income before?

(Go to the next step: How to Track Your Expenses)

Learn how to track your income with this simple income tracker. This is the FIRST step in beginner budgeting!

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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31 Comments

  1. Hi, Kalyn! I am so happy to see this being a first step! I actually began to do this, but just with my extra survey money. I will definitely get my husband on board as he often sells odds and ends too. Thank you! I’ll be downloading the printable version. One of my goals is to learn Excel this year. I see you have this listed as one of your posts. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up some tips on how to use it. Thank you for this series! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. There are so many ways to make money online nowadays, that it can be hard to keep track of it all – I hope this helps you! And Excel does takes a little bit of practice, but once you learn it, you will love it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. It has helped. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve been so fortunate to have a nice chunk of money coming in recently. By no means a lot, but every little bit helps. I hope I’ll be able to catch on quickly. Thank you!

    1. The next step will go up a week from Monday. It would be sooner if they didn’t take so long to write, but I want to make sure I don’t miss anything! ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you are enjoying the series.

  2. This is something I’ve put off doing. We DO need to treat our income like a business. Thank you for this information.

  3. I am on a very limited income, and math is not my strong suit, I have been trying to find something that would help me get through the month. I get paid once a month type deal, and It’s been hard. I’m hoping this will help! Thanks for putting this together!

    1. You are very welcome! I think seeing your income on paper will help you know exactly where to budget, and what to cut {if it’s needed}. Plus, I think it’s so much better to physically work with numbers because you might actually have more available to you than you originally thought!

  4. Hi Kalyn! I just found you on Pinterest and am excited to learn how to budget. And a little nervous…

  5. Hi Kalyn,

    This looks great! I’m reading your posts and ready to make this happen for myself! I do have one question, though, just because I want to make sure I am doing this right. Although I understand gross vs. net income, I want to know how you calculate your net income. What exactly do you subtract from your gross income?

    1. Net Income is your Gross minus Taxes. So for my husband’s paychecks, these are already determined for us, and I just fill in the blanks in my tracker whenever I receive his pay stub. But since mine from my business are more like lump sums, I fill in that number as gross and net for simplicity’s sake. I hope that makes sense!

  6. I love this whole series!! As a person who is beginning her budgeting journey this has been simple enough to understand, yet informative. My only question (and no question is a stupid question!), how do I fill in the gross column and the net column? These are terms I often see on articles written about budgeting or expenses and I’ve never gotten the full concept of what they mean or how to utilize them.

    1. Hi Katie! So sorry it took me so long to get back to you! The gross income is for the income you receive BEFORE taxes, so on your paycheck, it should have the gross amount for that week listed. Net income is what you actually receive via the paycheck or directly in your account. If you don’t have a normal paycheck {meaning you just receive a set amount each week or are self-employed}, you can just use the net column. I have both listed because I give to my church off that gross amount, so I like to keep track.

      Hope that helps and glad you have been enjoying this series!

  7. I work part time and get paychecks every week. So am I supposed to track my income each week and look at the final total each month?

    1. That’s correct. And if you wanted to budget per paycheck rather than off the monthly total, you would just need to divide all your expenses by 4, and set aside that amount each week to cover the bills when they come due.

  8. Hi Kalyn, I have read a number of blogs on financing and budgeting, and yours is by far the easiest to follow and understand. Your printables are cute and the excel is simple and straight forward. Thanks so much for this budgeting series. At my age I should have done a budget before but never did it. NOW’S the time!!!
    Thanks for sharing the freebies to get us started.

    1. Hi Susie,

      Thank you so much for your kindness. You have no idea how much it means to me when I hear someone is putting this information into practice! You can do it, and you are right, NOW is always the time!

  9. So far, I’m enjoying your blog and the positivity it brings! I am HOPELESS at budgeting and saving, but I really want to start saving for a holiday/working visa and I now realise it’s time to take some SERIOUS measures.

    However, since this is my first time doing anything remotely to do with budgeting, I’m already stressing out! I don’t understand what it means with gross and net pay and what I should put where… I’m a uni student so I don’t get much income (only 2 sources really), but I’m already confused about what to do with the spreadsheet!!

    1. Focus on your net pay. Net is the money that you are getting after your taxes. When it comes to basic budgeting, if you are getting a paycheck from an employer what you need to use for your income is your net pay. That’s the amount on your check.

      When it comes to tracking your income, that is your most important number. You can leave the gross blank. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. hi Kayln! Nice blog / website! I too am a “control-prioritized” person (not “freak!” ๐Ÿ˜‰ And for that very reason I will stick with my Excel spreadsheet, thank you! I started “budgeting when I got my first computer – a Tandy 2-floppy disk drive with a whopping 640K of memory (1986). Being a programmer, I used Basic to create a small batch-style accounting system with 4-digit account numbers. There was a transaction input program which made it easy to enter acct#, date, description and amount, and build a .txt transaction file – one per month. Then the “batch” program would read each monthly file and summarize income and expenses by month and category and print the resulting “spreadsheet” – basically a replica of what you would build in Excel. After progressing thru Dos 3.0 Dos 5.0, Windows 1,0, 3.0, 95, 98 etc. .etc. and likewise string of MS Office Excel versions I finally converted it to an Excel spreadsheet which I continue to use * very * happily today! Because I AM control-oriented, I try not to become any more dependent on “other ” resources any more than is necessary or reasonably” useful, nor become more exposed than possibly avoidable. Because I do not want to depend on (nor pay for) excessive “phone” capabilities I have a flip phone. If you want me to use a computer to do something, call me on the phone, and I’ll go to the computer – don’t make use my phone as the computer,
    Similarly – because I like to control who has access to my bank accounts and info, i DO NOT do any online banking – ever!. That way I can control which bank accounts, user ID’s etc. that a hacker might see on my computer – 0.
    So – I’m glad you’ve found a new app to love – I’m sure it does all that you say. and for those who worship “convenience” above all else, it seems to be a worthy idol. Here’s hoping you never end up paying more for it than you had bargained.
    PS – I’d like to see your Excel spreadsheet – I’m always looking for improvements – within reason. I do have a “controlled” set of functional parameters within which I work – not really trying to create a “can-do-everything” spreadsheet –
    Bests!
    Kiki!

    1. Hi Kiki,

      It sounds like you have the system that works best for you and that is great! I don’t have the exact spreadsheet I used because while it was a spreadsheet, it was google sheets and not excel so that I could access it online. I never transferred my entire system over, but through the budgeting series I have several excel spreadsheets available for download (although I doubt you’ll need them. ๐Ÿ˜Š)

      I do really appreciate the You Need A Budget app, and while I’d be hesitant to say that I worship convenience above all else, I am always wanting my systems to be efficient. We only have so much time on this earth, so the more efficient my work systems can be, the more time I have to do other things, like spend time with family, read, write, etc. I do understand the risks associated with online banking, but there are always steps you can take to protect yourself. ๐Ÿ˜Š

      1. hi Kaylin – thanks so much for your reply! I’m currently re-working my spreadsheet to make it more efficient to use – everything is done in a single integrated spreadsheet. I’m considering making it available online and will send you the link when I do – ๐Ÿ™‚
        I REALLY appreciate all that you have shared to help others get control of their finances (and lives!) – it’s real (and much-needed) service – THANK YOU!
        Kiki

        1. You’re very welcome! Hopefully your spreadsheet works exactly the way you need it to, and by all means share it because I know there are others who will want a similar solution.

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