- Only your savings is your money
- Track your expenses to see your current real situation
- Focus on FAT expenses and decrease them slowly
- Download expense tracking template
I believe that this is one of the most important processes that you can do for your finances. You need to understand where your money is going. Remember, your money is not what you receive in your wages each month, it is the money that is left over after paying your mortgage/rent, utility bills, additional taxes, and any other payments that you have to make. Your disposable income is your money.
I’ve heard people say, “shure, I know where I am spending my money! I know how much I spend on petrol every month! I already know how much I spend on food every month! I can’t change any of that”. My reply is usually, You think you know but until you start tracking those expenses you don’t really know. I was surprised by this myself, I thought I was spending about €50 per month in diesel for the car. After tracking my expenses, I found it was closer to €70.
There are some tracking apps out there, like Ynab, Spending Tracker, Money Manager that may help you with this. However, I track my expenses the old fashioned way with Excel. I spend about an hour each month entering my expenses from my bank account. I try to use my debit card for any purchases that I make. So that I can transfer the transactions to my spreadsheet.
Once I had enough data I was able to see what I was really spending my money on. There were a lot of surprises; for example how much my car was actually costing me. I kept the fuel costs separate to other car costs like insurance, tax, maintenance etc.. Just so that I can see what my average monthly fuel costs are.
Each month after I enter the data, I look at each category and see which one I can focus on in order to decrease even if it is only a 1% decrease. For example, can I change electric providers to get a cheaper rate. Try to focus on the FAT expenses first; FAT expenses are Food, Accommodation, and Transport. They are usually the highest expenses.
I don’t take this too far though; I don’t want to reduce my current standard of living too much.
A friend said this profound statement to me last week, which I think is worth sharing; “Now that we are tracking our expenses and putting more into savings, we actually enjoy eating out and specials events even more now. Where before we would eat out on a regular basis and go to special events whenever we felt like it. Once we took that away from ourselves, there is more value to them now.”
You can get a template of my Excel file to track your expenses here
NOTE: Download the file, do not make changes to it directly.
Feel free to download it and customise it as you wish.
The Instruction tab, will tell you what needs to be done to track you expenses and your net worth. There are three sheets that need to be populated; Balances sheet, Expenses sheet, Averages sheet.
There are three colour-coded sections; Orange sheets track your income, investments, and net worth. The green sheets track you expenses, and purple sheet tracks your savings.
Income, Investments, and Net Worth
- Balances sheet: add your balances for each of the items under the appropriate month. Fill in rows 2 – 24. Once they are populated, the ‘Net Worth’, ‘NW Growth’, and Investments sheets will be automatically populated.
- Net Worth sheet: Assets row displays the total value of your assets. Liabilities row display the total value of your liabilities. There are two net worth rows, row 17 includes that equity of your home while row 22 shows the networth without your home equity.
- NW Growth sheet. This sheet shows your net worth deltas (change from month to month) of your net worth by quarter and the percent of your net worth based on total investment needed for F.I.
- Investments sheet. This sheet displays your different investments plus growth and growth percentages.
- FI sheet. This sheet calculates how much you need to F.I. and how long it will take to reach it.
In order to populate the expenses sheets, you need to add your expenses to the Expenses sheet under the appropriate month.
Averages Tab: this tab displays the last 12 months averages, total spent on the category for the year, monthly averages and total for previous year. I use this tab to see what I am spending my money on for each category and also to see what the delta is between the last 12 months average with the averages of the previous year. I look at the FAT expenses; Food, Accommodation, Transport and try to decrease these each year; even if it is only by 1%.
LInes 41 & 42, calculates how much I will need in investments for retirement. This is based on the 25 times annual expenses and the 4% rule. More on this later.
Avg – Yr Tab. This tab pulls the averages and totals from the Average tab and calculates whether the expense averages have increased or decreased. Column F will highlight the cells in green if the expense decrease year-over-year (YoY). It will highlight in red if the expense average increased.
Avg Charts. The four charts on the left; Necessary Spend, Discretionary Spend, Income, Total Expense show the trends for each. The other chart show profit/loss for each month; this is a simple calculation of total income minus expenses.
Enter the values of your savings in the appropriate sectors from rows 2 – 17.
Comment below what you think about this or if you have any suggestions for improvement.