My first memories of tracking expenses go back to when I was about 10 years old, maybe younger. I remember having a kid’s savings account where they gave us a little rectangular notebook, very similar to a checkbook. It was fun for me to do all the math! From an early age, I understood that money was a resource that I had to track. I also remember owning a piggy bank similar to a safety box which had individual slots for all sorts of coins. We’ve come a long way since the little checkbook and piggy bank days. Tracking our expenses has never been easier or more accurate. You can be on your way with a couple of clicks and no receipts (thankfully, receipts drive me crazy)!
My first official experience with expense tracking goes back to my first internship in the US of A. I still have my Excel spreadsheets and though they were not fancy they got the job done. Back then I was saving money to help pay for my college tuition, The spreadsheets helped me manage the money I was getting paid and make sure I was on track to hit my savings goal. I also had a lump sum card which I had to manage- sadly through receipts – as well. Everything went into my spreadsheet, thank you Excel! Today we have available all types of apps and fancy methods to help to track our expenses, net worth, and investments. However, if all the options out there are overwhelming, just start with a simple excel spreadsheet, or even a notebook will work just fine.
Couple Money Management
I was fortunate enough to have two internships with the same company, which led to a Full-Time offer a year before I graduated from college. Moving to the US was now an imminent reality for Mr.DMD and me. We are both optimizers, so we knew we needed a plan to manage our finances, and tracking our expenses accurately was first on the list to ensure a smooth transition from college life to adulthood. We have not yet merged our finances, therefore it was critical for us to know exactly how much money was coming in and out so that we could fairly split things out.
Through research, Mr.DMD found a free app called Honeydue which is made for couples. We are still using it and it is really nice because it allows you to see your partner’s accounts balance and even transactions- if your partner agrees to it of course- which helps in managing finances across several accounts. When you are both trying to open several credit cards in order to Travel Hack your way through the world, having an app like this its a blessing. Just be careful around Valentine’s Day and Birthdays to try and not spoil the surprise :)!
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
After we found the concept of Financial Independence it became even more important for us to know where our money was going. If you don’t know where your money is going it will be hard to optimize and identify which expenses bring value to your life in order to keep those the low-value discretionary expenses. Recurrent subscriptions are a great example. I used to pay $10 for a subscription to an interior design program. I had this beautiful image in my head of a Mid-Century Modern decor for our new place in the states. I’d still be paying for that subscription if had I not been intentional. It was only $10/month for me, but there might be other expenses laying dormant in your statement just like that one. And those add up!
This type of recurrent payment can cost you thousands of dollars throughout the years if unnoticed. This is a real problem! So much so that there are apps where you can sign up and they’ll collect all of your subscriptions and cancel them for you if you’d like. We live in times where everything is a click away. The set it and forget it mentality can hinder your progress to achieve Financial Independence. FI more than anything else requires intentionality. We live in a way where we just jump from one purchase to the next and don’t even have the time to enjoy the things we buy. You don’t need to count every cent that comes in and out, but at least know where your money is going. Financial Independence is not about deprivation, it is quite the opposite actually. Whatever you do, just make the decision yourself. Be intentional!
The Observer Effect
Back in college, I took a Quantum Physics class where we learned how even observing a sub-atomic entity -an atom for example-would affect it. The light particles (photons) that you are shining through your microscope in order to see can interact with the particle under observation and therefore make it behave differently. Crazy, right?! Tracking our expenses did the same thing for us. Just by knowing how much we were spending every month affected our behavior. Because we were trying to reduce or spending in several areas (Expense Optimization) and we know how much we were spending, we thought twice about getting Chipotle for the 3rd time that month.
I LOVE Chipotle. Ever since I tried it, it became my favorite fast-food chain. I still struggle with not going once a week, but I’ve made a lot of progress. If you are the type of person that hates the restriction of a budget but still want to make some progress, start tracking your expenses. You’ll at least have a sense of how each purchase you make moving forward will affect your financial goals. Before we started our FI journey, spending over $30 several times a week in take-out seemed reasonable. Now we are extremely conscious and enjoy our take-out, even more, when we do order it. Being more intentional with our expenses has made us appreciate the luxuries we use to take for granted before. Ordering take-out is more of a date night than just another meal. We’ve learned gratitude and appreciate the little things more than ever before!
How We Track Our Expenses
We started using Honeydue because it made sense as we were getting ready to start our life as a couple. There are plenty of options out there. Do your research and select the option that works for you. We also use Personal Capital which is also free! Personal Capital is a great tool to track our credit and bank accounts, investments, and liabilities. After using it for about 6 months we are very happy with it. Personal Capital allows us to have everything in a single location, which I love! It is also encouraging to watch our net worth increase as we continue to pay down debt and cut expenses. I’d recommend you check that one out as well.
Tracking our expenses opened our eyes and made us more intentional and grateful. But, there are so many options and we don’t claim to know them all. Which app or tracking method has worked for you? We are always eager to learn and research new options. Let us know what has worked for you in the comments below!
*The content posted on this website does not constitute professional financial advice. Please consult a certified financial planner or investment advisor for professional financial advice*