Ever since I came (migrate) to Singapore, I start to take my money-saving seriously. With the threefold currency and lesser social activities with friends, I took these advantages to increase my savings rate in Singapore. For that, I know I have to understand my own spending pattern first. Hence expenses tracking came to my mind.
To get started, I downloaded an app for expenses tracking. After a few years of struggling and building the habit, I can safely say that I have successfully “automate” my tracking expenses habit into my life. With all the numbers in the palm of my hand, I have more clarity on my finance and able to manage my money better.
From my 3 years of expenses tracking, here are the benefits I gained from this habit:
Knowing How Much Money I Saved
Savings. This is my main purpose for expenses tracking. Everyone knows how much they earn every month, but not everyone knows how much they spend every month. With the simple formula of savings (as shown above), the key is to get the expenses figures. With that, I can figure out how much I saved every month.
“Why saved so much money?” asked nobody.
If you have a soulmate, you will start thinking about a proposal, a wedding, or a house. Those life stages can be very money-consuming. Hence it is wise to start saving money so you will not regret it later.
But if you’re still single, you can still save money. With a huge saving, you will have more life choices, such as starting your own business or invest in a property. 😉
Aware of How Much I Spend Every Month
After tracking my expenses for months, I start to see the average expenses I made on different things in life. Every month, I usually spend roughly $450 on foods, less than $100 on transportation and around $250 for other stuff (Those are in SGD as I live in SG). These expenses have been optimized by the way. In the past, they were more than that.
Expenses tracking is useful for identifying unfixed expenses. Fixed expenses such as house rent, insurance, phone bills, we can figure it out without tracking it. (duh!)
What’s next after we know how much we spend?
Identify My Unnecessary Expenses
This is the key point, the essence of expenses tracking. After I recorded all my expenses in a month, I start scanning the expenses list.
In order to make it more actionable, we can do it this way: identify one expense that we can remove or reduce every month. Then keep doing it until you reach your limit.
Here are my very own examples:
- 3-in-1 Teh Tarik / Milo
- V-Soy Multigrain 1L
- Investment-linked insurance (I already have life insurance, medical insurance & medical card)
- ATM Card Cancellation (I have 2 savings accounts)
- New Clothes
And here are the suggestions I have for you to reduce and remove:
- The subscription that you seldom use (Spotify, Netflix, Audiobook)
- Cigarette (Reduce first, then remove if you can)
- Your phone monthly bill (Most of the time you don’t need much data)
- The beverages you ordered while dining out
- The cute things that you bought because they’re cute
You don’t have to follow what I did or suggest. If V-soy always brings you joy (pun intended), then don’t remove it from your life. On the other hand, I can’t get rid of my favorite Dilmah tea from my life. But for you, maybe it is an unnecessary thing to buy.
Personal finance is a personal thing. So feel free to do the optimization in your own way. Hopefully, this habit will help you to save more money.
So How Can We Track Expenses
Well, isn’t it obvious? Just track what you have spent!
Okay, I’m just kidding. I’m not someone who just throw an article without giving any practical actions or steps.
There are two ways to track our expenses, either by using an app on our phone or a handwritten notebook. But I will recommend one method that probably suits those who just getting started.
There is a Japanese budgeting system called Kakeibo. This simple method only requires notebooks and a pen. All you need is to record down all your income and expenses in 2 different pages or columns. At the end of the month, you can calculate how much you saved by subtracting the total expenses from your total incomes.
With visual numbers and handwriting process, it makes expenses tracking more effective. Here’s a video on more info about Kakeibo:
However, this method doesn’t suit me. Since I’m already used to the expenses tracking app, I find it hard to use a notebook for jotting down my expenses. But if you are new to expenses tracking, you can give Kakeibo a try. Personally, I think it is more effective and fun to have a book with all your income and expenses.
I Level it Up With Account Tracking
I was using AndroMoney app for some years. After I discovered Bluecoin (only for Android), I fall in love with its intuitive charts and reports. So I immediately switch to Bluecoin and even pay to unlock its full features. Why I use these two apps? The answer, they have an account management system.
Basically, we need to create financial accounts (mediums) such as banks, cash and card in the app. For every expense or income we made, we need to choose an account for it.
For instance, I bought a pack of Nasi Lemak with cash, then paid my car petrol with my credit card. In this case, the Nasi Lemak is recorded under cash, and the petrol fee is recorded under my credit card.
This might sounds too much a hassle to you. But hear me first.
Tracking my expenses while updating my accounts allow me to know more about my finance at a higher level. If you ask me how much cash I have now, I can just tell without the need to count it from my wallet. How? I just need to check the app.
Another cool thing about account tracking is I can know my net worth. By adding up all the balances in my accounts and minus off my credit cards and debts, I get my total net worth. That’s why I really love this app. (I’m not sponsored by this app)
Choose The One You’re Comfortable With
It is okay if you just want to track your expenses. It is okay if you don’t like to write it down in a notebook. Don’t worry about it.
We should make expenses tracking as easy as possible. If it feels tedious, you probably give up pretty fast.
If you want something simple but you don’t like Kakeibo method, you may try this app:
Getting That Expenses Tracking Habit Sticks
This is the most crucial and challenging part of all. Basically you can either track it on a daily basis or a weekly basis. Personally, tracking on a daily basis works best for me because I can easily forget what did I spend yesterday.
Initially, I use daily reminders to make sure I track my expenses every day. Then every week, I will cross check my accounts (cash, banks, credit card debt) with the real accounts to make sure I did not miss out on any expenses.
Most importantly, you should know why you want to track expenses and the desire to save money. These 2 are the keys to make things really work for you. When you take it seriously, you will make it anyhow.
In conclusion, expense tracking is the first step to being serious about your finance. Without knowing your expenses pattern or saving power, it is hard for you to take an action further, specifically to start investing.
As a token of appreciation to all my loyal readers, I decided to share my monthly expenses tracker for FREE. This is a spreadsheet that I created and improvised for more than 2 years.
It is not just a simple expenses tracker, it is also packed with some cool charts and features that give you a better visual of your finance.
You can get the spreadsheet link on my resource page.
I hope this expense tracker can motivate you to track your expenses and improve your finance.