“There’s an app for that” has become true in almost every situation of modern life. People are tracking everything they do, from drinking water, to where their kids are, steps they’ve taken, and how much they spend. Apps and computer programs are also reminding us to do things, automating tasks like our grocery lists and distracting us from work or studies.
There’s no getting away from how intrinsically linked we are to modern technology in our daily lives. However, there may be times when going analogue is the right option.
You don’t always need a program to do things for you. Additionally, sometimes it’s better for you to be actively involved in the process rather than to let technology do the work for you. Budgeting and tracking how much you spend is one such task.
Getting yourself an old-school ledger or creating a diary of your spending habits can give you a far greater sense of control. You are seeing the amounts you’ve spent in black and white on the paper, and you are actively adding things up and seeing the results. Being this involved in the numbers can help you get to grips with the money you’re spending and how you can better budget things moving forward.
Start By Picking Your Style
There are various ways to track the money you spend. Which one you choose will depend on your personality and the way you prefer to focus:
- Daily Inputs
With this method, you note each purchase you make in your ledger as it happens or as a wrap up at the end of the day. This allows you to see exactly what you’re spending on a daily basis and gives you an incredibly accurate breakdown of your habits. This will help you see immediately what your triggers could be for indulging or overspending, allowing you to change bad habits into good ones over time.
This method is also extremely helpful because you can use your daily journal to reconcile your monthly statements for your credit and debit cards. It’s not always that easy to work out exactly what you’ve spent your money on at the end of the month. Especially when the vendor uses a merchant code or name that is nothing like the name of the actual business.
- Monthly Audits
This method isn’t completely different from the daily method. For it to work properly, you need to keep a record of when and where you make purchases that don’t have some kind of automatic electronic record. Your cash purchases are often forgotten about during the month. So, make sure you have a book (or an app) to keep a note of those for the end of the month.
Then, at the end of each month, sit down with your credit or debit card slips, bank statement, and notes of your cash purchases, and get to work. While this method may take a few hours once a month, you don’t have to worry about jotting down every time you spend money as you go.
- By Category
When inputting your daily and monthly spends, it’s a good idea to organize them according to a system. Many people like to go by category. These include groceries, clothing, fuel or transportation, rent, for the home, eating out, etc. With this method, you can also easily include how much money you get in from your job and any other sources of income you may have.
- By Retailer
Another way to organize your purchases is to go by retailer or store. People like to see where they are spending more money than they should or which stores might be a particular weakness for them.
Setting Up Your Analog Journal
A bullet journal is one of the easiest ways to set up an analogue method for tracking your expenses and putting together a comprehensive budget that is easy to follow.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you need to be good with design and colour, or use an array of cute decorations. Bullet journals are highly functional task management systems, you can just make them as elaborate and decorative as you want to.
- Monthly Budget vs Spend
The best place to start is with a monthly budget.
You may need to track your spending habits for a few months before you can start making accurate budgets. Once you have that, you can record how much you want to spend on categories or in certain stores each month and compare it to what you actually spend each month throughout the year.
- Bill Tracker
This is where you’ll track each purchase that you make. You can have one page for daily purchases and another page for the monthly bills like rent, insurance or your Netflix subscription. This is where you’ll get accurate information to project your monthly and yearly budgets.
- Debt Payments
Keeping track of your debt is always important. It’s also nice to be able to see a visual representation of your debts and how each payment you make is getting you closer to the end. You can also use this to help you decide if it’s worth taking out a loan or line of credit for a future purchase.
It’s also important to track what you have in your savings and how much you can put into that account or investment each month.
If you earn any extra income from a side hustle, for doing paid surveys or any other kind of work, don’t fritter it away. Record how much you have made and save at least a portion of it if possible. You can watch the money grow and calculate how long it will take you to reach a particular goal.
- The Contents
No journal is complete without a contents page. This will help you find the information you need easily and to flick to the right page quickly when you want to input new information. You can also colour-code each section with tabs, making it easier to jump to the right page directly.
There’s merit in using apps and there are advantages of going analogue. If you find you struggle to keep tabs on your spending even when you’re using an app, keeping written records is the best alternative.
It’s common knowledge that it’s easier to commit something to memory if you write it down, and this applies to your money and financial situation too.