There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

"What gets measured gets managed" - this phrase has never been more true when trying to juggle your finances.

A great way to manage your money is to track your spending. I created a money spending system on Google Sheets where I document all the money that goes in and out of my account. 

The purpose behind my money spending system are:

  • Capture the dynamic aspect of my money spending habit. I consider the dynamic aspect of my money spending to be a spontaneous events where I have little to zero predictability in advance for it to happen for example getting sick on Tuesday, a family member all of a sudden asks me for a some money etc..
  • Capture the static aspect of my money spending habit. I defined the static aspect of money spending as an outcome or event which I already know must happen for example travelling to Edinburgh to pick up my belonging from my University accommodation.
  • To measure how much money I have to save and have a rough idea to how far I am to reach an investment capital.  

With the three requirements above, I realised that a monthly budget is sufficient. And this brings me to the meat of this article which is how does the money spending system works?

The budget document in google sheet is the realization of the money spending system. I added more tabs to it in order to measure and keep track of my spending on a weekly basis. Below are some of the images of the monthly budget

How the monthly budget is structuredHow A weekly single template look like

The one to the right shows the structure of the monthly budget expenses vs income including the various categories. And to the left shows the weekly structure, Expenses vs Income.

You can further view them here: budget system.

The way this budget works is as follow:

  1. Determine the amount you think you spend  on a monthly budget. For me, I had to factor in certain things such as rent, bills, food, travel, clothes, entertainment. The amount  was calculated based on the average of money I spent before I began tracking my expenses.
  2. Next, enter that amount on the starting balance cell.
  3. In the expenses section, you fill in the planned sections for each of the categories. The current categories came from the Google Sheet Template and some I personally added. For example, for the category food I usually spend £ 150.
  4. In the Income section, you enter what your expected cash in for that month.
  5. Now, for each subsequent week (week 1 to week 5 or 4 depending on how you break it down), you fill in the expenses and income section as it goes. I usually fill mine by the end of each week.
  6. As you fill out the expenses and income, these are added automatically and the summary of it are displayed in the summary section called the actual.

I fill out this template at the end of each week and think about which areas I can reduce spending in. This has a huge advantage as I could be eating in restaurants a lot but then balance the books by spending less money the following week. - this goes with the point below about spending more when you see a friend. You spend more one week and less the next, so that overall you have a good average. And by the end of each month if I am below my planned expenses, I use those money for the capitals of my other projects.

As you can see, the static aspects of my money spending is captured on the planning expense section. Why? Because I can easily see this aspect by looking at those categories that must be fulfilled throughout the month, some examples include paying the rent or buying the TFL (transportation for London) card.  Planning a flight etc.

While I try to live like a monk most of the time, spending as little as possible, I realise that in order to have a social life I occasionally spend a bit of money for going out which I also factor into my budget. That is how I tackle the dynamic aspect of my money spending.

Furthermore, the categories has helped me tremendously as I discovered that I became more creative and clever in my choices that hugely affected my spending. For example, in terms of food, I realised that I was spending less when I bought high quantity of food. This further helped me to understand how I can free up time (I love to perceive it as equation of time). I cooked a large amount of food which will last me two or three days which means I can spend less time in the kitchen and use that time for something else such as programming.

Getting into the habit of consistently tracking my finances made me think critically about how I was spending my money

Do you think this template can be something that you may want to try? If so check out the link:budget system. If you have further questions don't hesitate to contact me.