Here’s my confession – I am a spreadsheet geek. The last day of the month is my absolute favorite because that’s when I tally up every expense (and I mean every last one) and see how well I did with my budgeting and planning. I’ve been tracking my income and expenditures this way since 2003, when I tossed my checkbook register and decided to track every penny I spend on a spreadsheet.
No need to tell me how odd this is – I am completely aware. Still, there’s something so satisfying when I see what I’ve spent in each category, all of it tallied nicely in each column, an accounting of everything that came and went. I find it strangely comforting to know how much money I spend annually on rent or gas or groceries or entertainment.
It’s also a diary of sorts. Toward the end of the year, I make a copy of the spreadsheet for the coming year. In August of last year, I was planning a wedding shower for my youngest son. There was the expense for my dress and accessories, the invitations, the postage, and the decorations. It brought back sweet memories of the shower and all the preparations that went into their beautiful wedding.
These spreadsheets also show the flip side – what things looked like when I was on the verge of bankruptcy, a long list of creditors and not nearly enough money coming in to pay them all. During those years I had a special tab in the spreadsheet for debt reduction. If I hadn’t put that in there, along with the plan of how much I needed to pay every month to get each debt paid off, I think I might have given up hope and tossed in the towel. Instead, it was easy to see what I could do each month, what categories needed to be drastically reduced, and how much closer each sacrifice got me to my goal. One day soon I’ll write a longer post about this painful experience and tell you all about how I was able to turn things around.
This month I’m happy to report that all expenditures came in under budget and I had a bit of money leftover. September is starting out with a little surplus that I’ve spread around all my existing expenses that aren’t fixed.
Since my love of spreadsheets might possibly border on obsession, I can’t in good conscience tell you to follow my example, but I can tell you that you absolutely need to have a budget and at least a general idea of where your money is going to go BEFORE you spend it. Of course, my spreadsheet is practically a work of art, but there are all kinds of budgeting tools out there that you can use. If this is an area where you struggle, I’d love to help. You can reach me by leaving a comment, which I won’t share unless I have your permission.
If you are a spreadsheet geek, please let me know that, too, so I don’t feel all alone.