I don’t have any money, I swear. No really, I don’t. This coffee? I deserved it. What? It’s only like two dollars, it isn’t a lot. I can afford a coffee. Unfortunately though, that one coffee every week can be secretly reducing your finances in a big way. Don’t stop treating yourself, by all means, you do deserve it and you should be happy, but it’s also important to know exactly where your money is going to keep track of expenses, find out what you can cut out, and see your savings grow.
Excel is a great way to track what you’re spending. If you don’t have excel, use Google Sheets for free, or even look into using Apps on your phone. Depending on what your financial institution is, however, some Apps won’t let you connect. Below is how to set-up, enter, and follow (using my real finances) your spending habits. Photos included, along with a detailed explanation of each step.
Step 1: For the purpose of this tutorial I’m using Excel. So open a fresh document and start labeling. A title such as “Personal Expenses” is solely up to you since you already know what this document is for. Make sure to include month, day, checking (start), +/-, checking (end), and the same if you have a savings account, along with a column where you’ll record what you’re spending for review later.
Step 2: In order to make sure that the titles of each column follow you down as you scroll, select the row below them (in this case row 3) and go to freeze the panels. This keeps them in place and keeps you from losing your place as the months go on.
Step 3: Depending on your preferences you can create new tabs for different quarters, different months, or just keep everything on the same page. Whatever makes you feel better organized is acceptable.
Step 4: Now that the categories have been labeled you can enter the months in column one and days in column two. If you decided on different tabs, just copy and paste the months over and adjust the days accordingly to save time.
Step 5: Put your starting amount under “checking” and do the math to get a final number for the “+/-” category. Sometimes you get and spend money on the same day like January 16th above. I put money into my account, but I also spent money on gas. Subtract what you spent from what you made and enter the end result. Add the numbers together to get your “End” column. Colour coding is optional and can be found under conditional formatting on the main screen.
Step 6: Write the reason why you spent money under “Funds Spent” even if you made money that day. If you find yourself low on money, this is where you will go to see exactly what you’ve been spending your money on. When you’re aware of what you’re spending, you can make more conscious efforts to save it instead.
Step 7: Debts exist. Whether it’s credit cards, your parents, or school loans. If you aren’t aware of them they can stack up quickly. So make a debts page and get used to seeing them so they become less scary after graduation.
Step 8: Give your debts a name and make sure to track the principle and the interest. The interest is what will catch you off guard.
Protip: Lots of credit card agencies will give you a grace period to pay off your card within a certain amount of time before interest sets in, so make sure to find out what that period is. And when it comes to student loans, you can pay the interest while in school. It won’t hurt your financial aid package, and it can potentially save you thousands upon graduation.