At the beginning of last month, I started doing the first bit of legwork towards actually becoming financially awesome: expense tracking. The term “Expense Tracking” is so boring that I fell asleep three times while trying to type it, and I had to pretend I was writing other words, like Expert, and Tramulous, which isn’t a real word, but is fun to say.
Boring as it may be, after one month of expense tracking, I have a much better idea of:
These are important things to know if you don’t want to end up living in a box. They’re also important for:
So let me unpack some insights from the actual process of expense tracking, which will hopefully make the experience easier for you. Note: Please see this previous article for my half-way thoughts.
Fortunately for me, it turns out that I make more money than spend. Self-high-five!
My expenses are higher than I thought they would be. It seems that lifestyle creep started to happen as my salary has increased.
The cook or buy conundrum
My biggest expense after rent is food and coffee bought from restaurants and cafes. It’s definitely something that I can cut down on, but I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Why? Because cooking food costs less money, but more time, and more electricity. I intend to ask the WellSpent editors to give me some advice on this matter, but I suspect that cooking at home might not be truly cost-effective for a single person. I’ll let you know what they tell me in an upcoming post.
Expense tracking is detail work, and you have to stick with it.
To be honest, I started getting a little lax in the last week of my expense tracking, not because I didn’t care, but because I started to forget little expenses like paying for parking, and other small cash transactions. Fortunately, my little phone tracking app had some heavy-hitting backup.
22seven tracks me better than I track myself.
Having just logged on to 22seven, I can report that there is a significant different between my low-tech, caveman-like hand-tracking, and 22seven’s fancy schmancy computerised version. I missed a couple of ATM withdrawals, some coffees, and a significant dinner, but 22seven recorded them like a batty old lady remembers the movements of everyone else in the block.
I now have the basic number I need to figure out almost everything else. Knowing my monthly difference will allow me to finally take charge of my finances, because even with my garden-variety, lesser-spotted abilities at maths, I can project how much month I’ll save in a year (Difference times 12) or how many months I’ll need to save up for a R30 000 international holiday (R30 000 divided by Difference).
Here is the bedrock upon which I shall found a global empire that spans the continents (the important ones. Not Antarctica).
Haven’t you heard? Expense tracking is the word…or words…
I urge you, if you haven’t already tracked your expenses for a month, to download an app (I used an iPhone app brilliantly called “Spending”), or sign up for a free account with 22seven and just try to use your credit card as much as you can for a month. In fact, don’t even bother with the app. Just use 22seven and you’ll know everything you need to know.
In case you’re wondering, I don’t get paid jack by 22seven for recommending them. I don’t get free drinks, promises of future business, or even a slap on the back. They just happen to have a great service.
I still feel like a 22seven shill, so now I’m going to say some negative things about them.
Hah! Journalistic integrity: intact.