The thought of tracking expenses to the penny always struck me as being way to strict and burdensome. I remember when I read the book ‘Your money or your life’ which talks about doing exactly that as part of its FI strategy that it wasn’t for me and even though I’d like to budget and know fairly accurately what I’m spending that it was a step to far. I can’t really recall what specifically changed my mind or made me give it ago in May 2015 but since this date I must be honest, I haven’t looked back.
Pre FI Exposure
I have been budgeting probably since 2011 which was pretty much before I had a full time job. I tracked my incomings and regular bills but I never tracked my actual expenses when it come to what I called disposable income (money left after standard bills) or exactly what I spent on food or fuel. I simply recorded the direct debits so I could see if anything increased on a monthly basis. I would know that I roughly spend £100 on fuel for example and £120 for food and that with my regular direct debits/static bills that I would have £200 disposable income left or £50 a week to spend on daily activities/outings and spends through out the month which could include a book or a game etc.
As I knew I would have £50 a week on average, I would loosely spend accordingly. It was easy to know if I was spending more or less as I had no real savings so all I had to do was look in my wallet and at my bank balance and I’d know if I had overspent or not. During this time, I used my credit cards now and then for big purchases but always tried to pay back the balance over a couple of months. The largest balance I ever had was £2200 from the time I went window shopping at Comet and bought a £2000 TV :o.
To the Penny
As I mentioned in the intro, I decided to start tracking all my expenses down to the penny in May 2015 as part of trying everything I could to help move FI closer to being a reality. To be honest and even to my own surprise, I found this rather easy and not burdensome at all. I actually enjoyed doing it! I liked keeping my receipts and working out what category to put things into.
I still use my monthly budget which is simply an evolved version of my older budget spreadsheet that provides me a rough idea of how much I expect to spend in categories such as Food and Fuel which aren’t completely static but now on my expenses spreadsheet I record exactly what I spend for each which allow me to see if my budgets are realistic or not as an average cost per month.