The most important step in managing your finances is actually the basic first step that many fail to do: track their finances. Without judgement, without repercussions, just simple recording.
But it’s that simple habit of documenting transactions that lead to huge insights which can create the biggest ripples of positive changes for you financially. All you are required to do is take note of your transactions.
If you’re struggling, it’s most likely because of one (or more) of the reasons below:
- You’re afraid to see where your money goes. In which case, you’re approaching the gates with judgement. And that’s not necessary now nor in the future, so do whatever you need to do to get rid of it. All you have to worry about is writing down your expenses.
- You’re not sure how to properly record your spending. What should you focus on? Cash flow? Assets & liabilities? Both? Or, if you’re like the majority of people out there, you’re wondering what’s the difference between the two?
- OR, you’re overcomplicating it and you’ve created a system that has become too unwieldy and cumbersome for you to keep up. You record every detail. You’ve created categories and subcategories. You’ve created a column to describe every item purchased.
“If you find yourself not doing it, reduce the amount of time that you’re taking for it.”Ryder Carroll, inventor of the Bullet Journal.
The Only 2 Things You Need to Know/Do to Track Your Finances:
- Your process should not take more than 5 minutes to do. Getting it done and out of the way is more important than building elaborate and complicated systems that you give up on after a couple of weeks or days. All you need to do to succeed is to quickly jot down what you spent.
- It should just measure cash flow (what’s coming in vs what’s going out). If you’re not tracking your spending regularly, then most likely the most important thing for you at this point in time is to focus on not spending more than you’re earning. Therefore, the only thing you need to track is what’s coming in against what’s going out.
Just tracking your spending can get you ahead. For the next 3 months, try using the free printable provided below to track your income & expenses on a daily or weekly basis to get an idea of where you are financially. See below for instructions.
- First page is the example page which illustrates how to fill out the template.
- Opening balance = the total amount of cash you have across all your working accounts. Don’t look at your savings. Just whatever you have to ‘operate’ daily, usually what’s in your chequing or everyday account.
- Debt repayment = if you’re not recording your transactions, I’m assuming you might have a good amount of debt that you want to tackle. Whatever you have left over at the end of the month, put towards paying down your debt. (If you have a negative balance, don’t worry, that can be tackled later.)
- Don’t try to record your savings or your debt. Whatever’s there is there. Right now, we’re just going to focus all our attention on what’s coming in and what’s going out.
- Record your transactions for at least 60 days with no judgments. Just write it down. If you see things that can be changed easily without much of an impact on you (e.g., subscriptions to services you never use), feel free to cancel them. Otherwise, if you feel an emotional attachment to them, keep them on and just keep tracking.
What’s the one thing that’s keeping you from tracking your finances? Is it because you feel like you have a good handle on things already? Or did you want to but just didn’t know where to start? What are some future financial goals you’ve set for yourself?