I've been diligently managing my personal finances and tracking household expenses for more than 20 years.
Taking the time to track and analyze your income and where it's going is a crucial element of managing your personal finances.
For me, the more old-school hands-on approach is the only way to go; I use my own custom-designed Excel spreadsheet because it forces me to actively manage my personal finances.
True, a spreadsheet is not as sexy as automated money-tracking web-based applications, but it's the same tried-and-true method I've been successfully using to track my income, net worth and expenses for more than 20 years now.
Today, my spreadsheet breaks out our household expenses into 13 major categories and 50 subcategories.
If you're just starting out, it's important to make sure you set aside about an hour or so at least once per month for reviewing your checkbook, receipts, and/or credit card statements and recording your expenses in your spreadsheet.
Once you've effectively disciplined yourself to always spend less than you earn, tracking expenses becomes a viable alternative to budgeting that allows you to focus on optimizing your finances in order to get the most bang for your buck.