Updated: Sep 13, 2021
I’ve been tracking my money bi-weekly for just under 5 years now. Since then I’ve saved for our wedding upfront, retirement, our first house down-payment and eliminated 40k worth of student debt.
I didn’t start tracking my money to feel restricted every month, instead I did it to simply know where my money was going and to track any growth or dips.
I’ve set goals and each month as I get closer to achieving them, I’m able to watch my progress grow. It's been an unexpectedly rewarding habit!
On this budget, I have an expenses column ranging from fixed expenses to varied spending. I also track my income. Although I have a 9-5, I also have my business income so my monthly income fluctuates. Finally, I have my goals and assets charts. The goals charts are for tracking what I’ve already saved, what my goal is and what I still have left to save. The assets charts are my investment and savings accounts (TIP: create sub-accounts within your bank account to be designated for a specific goal!).
Here she is:
Here’s what I do every two weeks:
1) Put on a fun playlist and get excited to see what progress has been made!
2) I open up my spreadsheet, copying the last month’s sheet into a new month (my monthly expenses sometimes fluctuate & I want to have the most up to date version of my expenses column) and reset the spending column to zero, then I save a new version (yes, I’m old-school and just use excel!).
3) I open up my bank account, which has my chequings and credit card spending info. I start with the first purchase of the month (or midway if it’s the 15th) and begin inputting the amounts into the designated line. This helps with catching any fraudulent purchases too (unfortunately this just happened last month where there was a $14 purchase I didn’t recognize from a company I have a monthly subscription to – easily could’ve gone unnoticed but indeed it was someone who hacked into my account!).
4) When all expenses have been tracked, I can see approximately how much left I have to spend for the remainder of the month. I use this to give me a general gage rather than making it a strict budget I have to adhere to. If I see I have gone $500 over on clothing, I’ll need to reign it in in another area of spending.
5) I open my investment/savings accounts and input how much is in each. The key here is to not worry about fluctuations. I know many financial experts advise to set and forget your investment funds (within reason) so only do this if you know you won't be tempted to make changes to your investments. I list out all of my different accounts and put how much is in each, including cash and total.
This is the most exciting step because after months of data, you can look back and see how much has changed over time!
I think using a budget is all about making sure it feels expansive for you rather than limiting. Of course there will be certain times in life where you will need to restrict your spending more than others but as a general rule, you’ll want this process to be enjoyable and hopeful rather than daunting and restrictive.
Think about what tweaks you could make to this to make it your own fun habit. As always, watch what you’re telling yourself before you begin – question your intention, your reason for doing this activity and make sure it aligns with your values and goals!
If your personal spending and saving is something you never pay attention to, it can be challenging to make sure you're heading in the direction you want to financially.
Tracking is a great way of guaranteeing you are seeing financial growth. It's also helpful to know if there's a certain area you're overspending in.
I truly believe it can be an enjoyable thing but that's up to your mindset and the way you approach building this new habit!
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