How to Use a Weekly Spending Review to Stay on Budget

Quick Answer

You can use a weekly spending review to assess how your actual spending compares to your planned spending and then pivot when necessary.

A man looks at a pie graph of his expenses by category on his laptop computer screen.

When it comes to budgeting, there's the spending we plan to do—often designed with the best of intentions—and the spending that actually happens, which can sometimes be a bit messier.

That's where a weekly spending review comes in. Reviewing your spending weekly is a good money habit that can keep your budget running smoothly. Here's how to use a weekly spending review to stay on budget.

What Is a Weekly Spending Review?

A weekly spending review is a way to check in with your spending more regularly to ensure you're making necessary adjustments before budgeting errors do any critical damage.

For example, if you go over budget in online shopping, catching the mistake early makes it easier to pivot. You might be able to cut back elsewhere to avoid eating into funds you need for bills or using savings.

If you're paid weekly, a weekly spending review is an excellent addition to your payday routine. But reviewing your spending each week is also a smart strategy for people paid biweekly, monthly or on an irregular schedule.

People who go over budget fairly often could find adding the structure of a weekly spending review into their budget particularly effective. That said, it isn't a replacement for minding your money in the moment—for example, by checking your bank account before making the decision to treat yourself.

But it can help you look at your whole financial picture and cut back spending when you've gone over budget or direct more funds into savings if you spent less than expected in a week.

How to Create a Weekly Budget

Regardless of how often you're paid, budgeting weekly is a strong way to keep your spending on a tight leash. Here's how to create a weekly budget:

1. Calculate Weekly Net Income

If you're paid weekly, finding your weekly net income is as simple as looking at your bank deposits. If you're paid at a different frequency, try dividing your pay into weekly chunks. For instance, if you're paid biweekly, divide your net pay by two. So if you get paid $2,000 biweekly, you can assume a $1,000 income per week. Your goal is to determine how much money you have to work with each week.

2. Calculate Average Weekly Expenses

Start with a list of all of your bills, expenses and any other spending for a full month. Record the due date for any regular expenses next to the expense, alongside the expected amount due. Then, find your monthly spending for variable expenses such as groceries. Add the two together.

To find your average weekly expenses, divide your expenses by four. This will slightly overestimate your weekly expenses for some months, which is OK because it builds a bit of a buffer into your budget.

For example, each month you pay $1,000 in rent, $300 on groceries, $200 on debt payments, $300 on your car payment and $100 on gas for your car.

$1,000 + $300 + $200 + $300 + $100 = $1,900 per month

$1,900 / 4 = $475 per week

3. Find the Difference

Find out how much money you have to work with after your basic expenses come out of your pay each month. To do so, subtract your average weekly expenses from your weekly income.

Subtracting your average of $475 in weekly expenses from your $1,000 weekly income, you are left with $525 per week.

4. Add in Savings

From there, add your savings goals into your budget. You might aim to save 20% of your take-home pay.

The money you have leftover after bills, basic necessities and savings is taken out of your net pay is what you have left to spend each week.

If you are aggressively saving and put away 20% of your $1,000 take-home pay each week ($200 weekly), that leaves you with $325 per week in our example above for discretionary spending after your non-negotiable expenses are taken care of.

How to Stay on Budget

In addition to reviewing your spending each week, here are some smart moves to ensure you stick with your budget:

  • Track your spending. Half the work of budgeting is coming up with a plan for how you'll use your money. The other half is seeing how your actual spending compares to your plan.
  • Stay organized. Streamlining, automating and organizing your finances makes it easier to stay on track. Try using a budgeting app, setting up bill autopay and automating your investments.
  • Readjust as needed. Ensure you're cutting back where necessary to stay on track with your spending and savings goals. Direct any extra funds toward savings.
  • Cut unnecessary spending. If you see any purchases that took you over budget—or any that you simply wish you hadn't made—you can use your weekly spending review time to ask yourself how you'll avoid them going forward. Of the money you spent, what was necessary or worth it? What could you have lived without?

The Bottom Line

Using a weekly spending review can make it easier to see how your actual spending stacks up against your intended spending. That, in turn, can make it easier to change course when you're veering toward blowing your budget.

Or, when things are going well and you're spending below what you intended, a weekly spending review can help you identify extra funds to squirrel away in your rainy day fund.