personal-finance
Lifestyle Tech

3 Brilliant Ways to Monitor Your Personal Expenses

Are you struggling with Expenses? You might probably encounter these situations before:

  • “Where did my money go?”
  • No Savings?
  • Left with no funds or budget to purchase something
  • Do not have enough cash for overseas trip

where-did-all-my-expenses-go

To recap, these are the necessary steps involved when you budget:

  • List out all your income and allowance
  • Pen down all your expenditure categories. For example:
    • Essentials: Food, Transportation, Insurance, Groceries, Bills
    • Savings (10% to 20%)
    • Casual: Recreational, Equipment, Electronics, Clothing, Entertainment
      As a general rule of thumb, the amount of savings you allocate should be around 10% – 20% of your income after paying off your essential expenses
  • Calculate the estimated amount needed for each expenditure category.

If you have monitored and tracked your costs before, you may skip it accordingly to the following budgeting method that interests you the most: Envelope System, Using ExcelSpending Tracker (Android, IOS) or YNAB (Android, IOS, Web). Otherwise, starters are recommended to read the entire article as we are going to share with you some tools that you can utilise to monitor your transactions, starting from the most basic and straightforward tool.


1. Envelope System (Paper)

Split your total income into different envelope categories. This will limit yourself to the amount you will only be able to spend for each category. When I initially started to budget my expenses, I also used the envelope system these few basic categories: Income, Bills, Eating Out, Snacks & Drinks, Recreational, Entertainment, Transport and Savings.

As your expenses diversify, you will have more physical envelopes. In this case, you only need to maintain categories that require more discipline (e.g. Snacks & Drinks and Entertainment). Otherwise, it will be hard to maintain so many envelopes. The idea here is to cultivate budgeting and saving habits, which prevent you from overspending.

Level:Anyone
Platform:Physical Envelopes (or Mobile / Web Applications )
Accessibility:Low; you can only access your envelopes in your house.
Portability:N.A
Extensibility:N.A
Maintainability:You can add more envelopes, but it will be hard to maintain. It is not practical to withdraw all of your income from your bank into physical envelopes.

Sure enough, the E.S can efficiently restrict your spending. However, using E.S is not a great way to monitor your income and expenses in the long term. To better track your expenses by transaction details, you can use Microsoft Excel.

Related: 3 Surprisingly Simple and Sustainable Ways to Save Money Effortlessly


2. Excel (Computer)

Microsoft Excel provides free templates that you can select and use. Type “Personal Budget” in the search bar, then experiment with different templates that best suits you:

excel-personal-budget-spreadsheet

Alternatively, if you find those templates too fanciful for you, you can design your own Budget System based on your requirements. If you are tech-savvy, it is recommended to build one yourself. Excel has a lot of built-in functions that you can use. You can also enable the “Developer” options to code it using VBA programming language.

Level:Starters / Students / Programmers
Platform:Excel
Accessibility:Depends on how you are going to use it. If a local copy is kept on your laptop, you would need to keep a memo of what spent on that day. Then, insert all transactions accordingly from the memo by the end of the day.
Portability:N.A
Extensibility:You can create different charts by manipulating your transaction data to generate the overview growth of your income and expenses over a period of x months.
Maintainability:As you budget over a more extended period, you will find that it takes longer to open up the Excel file as there are a lot of transactions. However, if you are only tracking the transaction on an annual basis, it should not be a problem if you maintain it with different files.

3. Online Platforms

There are two other online platforms that you could use:

Spending Tracker (Free)

This application is free unless you opt for “ads free” version (~SGD$4.48). Anyways, the ads are not intrusive. Therefore it is not necessary to upgrade. Here are some of the features highlights:

  • Add multiple accounts (e.g. Cash, Savings)
  • Use pre-defined categories or add in your categories
  • Transfer a/c balance from one to another (e.g. Cash to Savings)
  • Filter transactions based on Accounts or Duration (i.e. Weekly, Monthly, Yearly)
  • Set scheduled transactions
  • Flexible Reports are available monthly (pie/bar chart) & annual cash flow (line graph)

Below are some of the sample screenshots of the application:

spending-tracker-screenshot

android-spending-tracker-screenshots

Level:Anyone
  
Platform:Android, IOS
Accessibility:Handy tool, and leave no excuse for you to forget to log your transactions.
Portability:Allows you to sync a backup your data to Dropbox.
Extensibility:N.A
Maintainability:N.A

You Need A Budget (Subscription)

YNAB gives 34 days to try out its system. After which, if you need to try it for a longer period, you may contact and request YNAB to extend your trial for another 3 months. After which, you will need to pay USD 6.99/month. The subscription fee is roughly the same as you would pay for Spotify’s monthly subscription.

These are some rules that YNAB system follows:

  • Follows the Envelope System
  • Set Goals by budgeting your monthly expenses with priorities
  • Move surplus money from one category to cover another overspending category

There are free online classes organised by YNAB to learn about budgeting with credit cards, others budgeting and debt tips using YNAB. The reasons to choose this software are because:

  • Extensive Feature to Search / Filter any transaction fields using keywords
  • Reports: Spending Trends, Net Worth, and detailed breakdown of your income and expenses
  • Filter reports: Show all or specific categories in any duration
  • Set monthly and time-based goals for essential payments
  • Alert you using colour code if a category is under budget or yet to budget
  • Budget for the next subsequent month(s) if you have still had budget balances
  • Quick Budget Feature to provide better decision-making
  • Transfer funds between accounts
  • Set Recurring Transactions
Level:Advanced User
Platform:Android, IOS, Web
Accessibility:Handy tool, and leave no excuse for you to forget to log your transactions.
Portability:Data is securely stored on YNAB’s server.
Extensibility:N.A
Maintainability:N.A

Overall, although I am currently using YNAB, Spending Tracker is still recommended for starters as it is free and has the basic tools you would need to monitor your cash flow, expenses and net worth. After some time, if you think that you might need better features for budgeting and monitoring (e.g. extensive filtering, search and report features), then you may consider moving on to YNAB.

Related: 9 Proven Ways Singaporeans Use To Earn Money Online

Share your thoughts