I’ve been tracking my finances since August 2007. It doesn’t feel like that long. It feels almost surreal that I have sat down, every month for 4 years and worked through my finances. The bad part is, my low point was before 2007. Shockingly enough I have old microsoft money files with 2005 data, but I stopped tracking and I have a gap. To make things mentally easier, I simply start from August 2007.
My style has evolved quite a bit. What I track and how I track it has changed. I started with a boiler plate and hammered away at it until I had what I needed to be comfortable. For awhile I printed it out on paper. Then I realized there was no point. I did use MS Money until about August of 2010 when I decided a spreadsheet would work fine. I was entering every single transaction into MS Money. Honestly, I didn’t care whether my groceries came from Wal*mart, a farmer’s market, or our local grocery store. I didn’t matter a lump sum was fine, and I could calculate that with ease from my statement.
It wasn’t until September 2010 that I sat down and determined if everything was in balance. Up until this point everything was in the system. Everything is electronic, so there can’t be a mistake. However, I never knew how much I was saving each month. Since September, I can see how much I save or lose. I can see the ups and downs.
In August 2010, when I switched from MS Money, I decided I didn’t need granular categories like gas groceries etc. But in March 2011, I started back up again. It does matter what I’m spending where. It’s also good for making estimates, lke gas for upcoming monthes. Also in March 2011, I started allocating the money in my savings account. Rather than setup 16 accounts at my bank, I setup a spreadsheet with the balances. I have categories such as: bills, fun, new house, new car, emergency, etc.
Who knows what additional changes I will make in the future. My system is adaptive and almost custom fit for me. I began reading JD and Trent talk about budgeting and money tracking, as well as ‘Your Money or Your Life.’ They provided me with a start, a launching pad, but I had to but in the work to make it a final product. You have to do the same. Every month, sit down with you finances and figure out what you can do to make it clear, make it speak to you and relevant to your goals and vision for yourself. You have to start somewhere and no one else is going to do it for you. Get going.