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With the increasing complexity of cloud services and the number of services and features available, it can be challenging to keep track of your costs. AWS Cost Explorer is a powerful tool that helps companies and users gain insights into their AWS costs, enabling them to optimize and control their spending.

In this article, we will explore the features and benefits of AWS Cost Explorer, the types of reports available, and how to use it effectively. We will also go over some leading best practices to help you make the most of AWS Cost Explorer.

What is AWS Cost Explorer?

AWS Cost Explorer is a fully managed service that can help you visualize, understand, and manage your AWS costs. With this tool, you can create custom reports, analyze data over custom time periods, and forecast future costs. It offers a comprehensive overview of your AWS usage, enabling you to make informed decisions about how to allocate your resources.

Benefits of AWS Cost Explorer

AWS Cost Explorer is a comprehensive cost tool that provides a wide range of features and benefits for users:

  1. Cost Visualization – AWS Cost Explorer allows users to visualize their cost and usage data in a variety of ways, such as by service, linked account, or usage type. This helps users to easily identify trends, spikes, and anomalies in their spending patterns.
  2. Cost Forecasting – The tool offers forecasting capabilities to help users estimate their future AWS costs and optimize their spending accordingly. It allows users to set custom cost and usage budgets to monitor spending and avoid any unforeseen expenses.
  3. Cost Optimization Recommendations – AWS Cost Explorer provides tailored recommendations for cost optimization based on users’ historical usage and costs. It identifies potential cost savings and helps users optimize their resources, resulting in significant cost reductions.
  4. Customizable Reports – Cost Explorer allows users to generate customized reports and filter data according to their specific needs. Users can view and download reports on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.
  5. Cost Anomaly Detection – Cost Explorer offers automated anomaly detection features that notify users of any unexpected cost changes. This helps users to quickly investigate and address any cost spikes or unusual spending patterns.

Types of Reports Available on AWS Cost Explorer

One of the key benefits of using AWS Cost Explorer is the ability to generate a wide range of reports that provide detailed insights into an organization’s AWS usage and spending patterns. Here are the most common types of reports available:

Cost and Usage Reports

The Cost and Usage report is one of the most commonly used reports in AWS Cost Explorer. This report provides a detailed breakdown of all the costs associated with an organization’s AWS usage, including charges for EC2 instances, S3 storage, and data transfer. With this report, organizations can gain insights into their spending patterns over time and make more informed decisions about how to optimize their AWS usage.

Savings Plans Report

The Savings Plans Report is a newer feature in AWS Cost Explorer that provides insights into an organization’s Savings Plans usage. Savings Plans are a pricing model for AWS that offer significant cost savings compared to on-demand pricing. With this report, organizations can track their Savings Plans usage over time and identify opportunities for additional cost savings, as well as maintain lifecycle policies.

Daily Cost Report

The Daily Cost report provides a daily breakdown of an organization’s AWS usage and spending. This report allows organizations to monitor their AWS costs in near-real-time and identify any unexpected spikes or changes in usage patterns.

Monthly Spend Report

The Monthly Spend report provides a high-level overview of an organization’s AWS spending for each month. This report is useful for monitoring overall spending trends and identifying opportunities for cost optimization over longer periods of time.

How to Use AWS Cost Explorer

AWS Cost Explorer provides a comprehensive view of your AWS usage and helps you understand how you are spending your AWS budget. In this section, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to use AWS Cost Explorer to access, create and view cost and usage reports.

Accessing AWS Cost Explorer

  1. To access AWS Cost Explorer, log in to your AWS account and navigate to the AWS Management Console.
  2. Click on the ‘Cost Explorer‘ link located in the left-hand side navigation menu.
  3. If you do not see ‘Cost Explorer‘, then you may not have access to it. You can request access by contacting AWS support.

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Creating a Cost and Usage Report

  1. After accessing Cost Explorer, click ‘Reports‘ link on the left navigation menu.
  2. To create a report, click on the ‘Create new report‘ button.
  3. Choose the ‘Cost and Usage‘ report type.
  4. Choose the time range you wish to generate a report for.
  5. Set any other filters you require, such as regions, account, service.
  6. Click ‘Save to report library

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Analyzing Your Costs

  1. AWS Cost Explorer provides a range of tools to help you analyze your costs.
  2. The ‘Cost by Service‘ section shows a breakdown of your costs by AWS service.
  3. The ‘Cost by Usage Type‘ section shows a breakdown of your costs by usage type, such as on-demand, reserved instances or savings plans.
  4. You can use the ‘Group by‘ feature to group the data by different dimensions, such as account or region.
  5. The ‘Cost and Usage Reports‘ section provides a range of pre-built reports to help you analyze your costs.

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AWS Cost Explorer Best Practices

To make the most of AWS Cost Explorer, it’s important to adopt some best practices to optimize your cost and usage data. Here are some recommended best practices:

Understand your usage patterns

To effectively use AWS Cost Explorer, you need to understand your usage patterns. Start by reviewing your historical data to identify usage trends and patterns, then forecast your future usage. This information will be helpful in making informed decisions that will help you optimize your costs.

Utilize cost allocation tags

Cost allocation tags enable you to categorize and track your AWS costs. Use them to allocate costs to specific cost centers or projects, or to identify cost drivers. This will help you gain more visibility into your costs and usage, and make informed decisions to optimize your costs.

Using EC2 Spot Instances

Amazon EC2 Spot Instances are unused EC2 instances that are available at a discounted price. By utilizing Spot Instances, you can significantly reduce your EC2 costs. AWS Cost Explorer provides insights and recommendations for Spot Instances that can help you identify and launch them at the right time.

S3 Savings Plans

Amazon S3 is a cloud object storage service that is often used to store data backups, archives, and logs. AWS Cost Explorer provides several recommendations to optimize your S3 usage, such as enabling data transfer acceleration, using lifecycle policies, and selecting appropriate storage classes. To maximize your cost savings, you can also purchase an S3 Savings Plan, which provides savings up to 38% compared to standard pricing.

Subscribing to Reserved Instances

Reserved Instances (RIs) are EC2 instances that you reserve in advance and are available at a discounted price compared to On-Demand instances. AWS Cost Explorer provides several recommendations for RI usage, such as purchasing RIs based on your usage patterns and using RI exchange to modify your existing RIs. By effectively using RIs, you can reduce your EC2 costs up to 75%.

Monitor your costs regularly

To get the most out of AWS Cost Explorer, you need to monitor your costs regularly. This will help you identify any cost anomalies or unusual usage patterns that may impact your cost optimization strategy. Regular monitoring will also help you identify opportunities for cost optimization and provide valuable insights for future decision-making.

Establish a FinOps strategy

Implementing a FinOps strategy will help you optimize your cloud costs by aligning your business objectives with your cloud spending. FinOps helps you establish a culture of accountability and transparency, and empowers your team to optimize cloud spending. Consider partnering with a FinOps service provider to help you design and implement an effective FinOps strategy.


AWS Cost Explorer is a powerful tool that provides users with a comprehensive overview of their AWS usage and costs. It offers several features and reports that help businesses identify potential cost savings opportunities. Understanding your costs and usage patterns is critical to achieving better control of your AWS costs, and AWS Cost Explorer is an excellent starting point to gain visibility and make data-driven decisions. Users can also opt for leading cost management tools to monitor and optimize their AWS costs.

At Economize, we specialize in helping businesses optimize their AWS costs and achieve better financial control with a FinOps approach. Click here to schedule a demo and learn how we can help you get started with your FinOps journey. Don’t let your AWS costs get out of hand – start Economizing today!

Adarsh Rai

Adarsh Rai, author and growth specialist at Economize. He holds a FinOps Certified Practitioner License (FOCP), and has a passion for explaining complex topics to a rapt audience.

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