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Blog: How do you budget?

Increasingly irritated by shop assistants who fail to hand over receipts, consumer journalist Naphtalia Loderick asks: how do you track your spending?

It‘s that time of year when the nation tries to shed pounds and save pounds after splurging in both areas at Christmas.

I’m no different to most people in that I’m looking to cut back in both areas as well.

So, in the same way that keeping a food diary helps when watching what you eat, when it comes to money I like to keep a record of my spending.

But why is it that shop assistants have started holding receipts to ransom?

No receipt

Increasingly, when paying for shopping, I find I’m handing over my cash or card, getting any change in return and, er, that’s it. No receipt.

It turns into a western-style stand-off as I remain at the till, waiting for the non-forthcoming receipt, my purse still open.

The assistant stares at me like I’m an alien. "Can I have my receipt please?" I ask.

"Oh", said assistant responds, looking taken aback at my request.

Then, depending on what retailer I’m in, this scene can turn into a bit of a farce - as happened to me this past week when Christmas sales shopping.

The shop assistant looked (rightfully) embarrassed for not knowing how to do something as simple as print a receipt and pressed a bell to call for a manager.

Meanwhile, the queue of shoppers behind me sighed.

Do you check shop receipts?

The manager, when they eventually rock up, rolls their eyes at me, the awkward customer, who has dared to cause them extra work.

Eventually I get my receipt. So why all the fuss?

Well I’ve been charged twice in a restaurant before but not realised until a year later when I was belatedly checking a receipt against my statement.

As it was a year later I didn’t think I had grounds to complain, plus I didn’t fancy making an hour long trip back to the restaurant with my receipt as evidence. But I learned my lesson!

Now I cast my eyes over receipts immediately to check for mistakes, such as being overcharged.

And if it’s a card receipt I’ll keep it and check it against my statement when that’s produced - not a year later.

So imagine my surprise when talking with colleagues about how I use receipts to track my spending and help me budget and being greeted with laughter and calls of “overzealous”!

It made me wonder how other people track their spending and budget.

Pen and paper budgeting

I keep it old school with pen and paper and a few days ahead of payday, I write down my income and outgoings for the month.

This way I know how much – if any – disposable income I have to play with. If there’s not much I know I have to tighten my belt accordingly.

Yes it’s disheartening, upsetting even, to find out you’ve got less money than you thought after all expenses are paid.

But it’s better to know in advance so you can plan for this rather than bury your head in the sand and get into financial trouble.

My friend Jo, 33, is a bit more high-tech than me and prefers to use a spreadsheet to track her spending.  

How do you budget?

So, as the New Year kicks off, and we all try to tighten our belts, I want to hear from you. How do you budget? Do you budget, even?

Come on, I know I can’t be the only one checking my receipts against my statements.

Let me have the last laugh over my disbelieving colleagues and let me know if you do this too!

What do you think?

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Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick reports on all things personal finance at She started out on a weekly newspaper, via a national news agency and a stint in the fun but ‘not as glamorous as it appears on screen’ world of TV at the BBC researching consumer films for The One Show.

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