Personal Finance Spending

4 Tips For Tracking Your Expenses

Last month, I wrote an article about why you should track your expenses.

It makes you more financially aware and allows you to do more with the same amount of money, among other things.

Hopefully, you’ve started tracking your expenses – or at least, tried to.

Tracking expenses can be hard to sustain because, for most people, it’s not intuitive – we’ve been spending since we were kids and never had the habit of remembering what we spent on, much less keeping track of them.

If you’ve been struggling to track your expenses, this post is for you.

I’m going to share 4 tips that I use to help me stay on top of my finances when it comes to tracking my expenses.

1: Go Cashless

Going cashless will make tracking your expenses more manageable because they are all stored in some form of a digital receipt.

You don’t need to remember how much you spent – only which mode of payment you used for your expenses so you know where to check to retrieve your spending details.

For example, instead of needing to remember that you paid $4.20 for wanton mee and $1.70 for teh bing, you only need to remember what you used to pay for lunch, say, GrabPay.

Then, when tracking your expenses, you just have to check your GrabPay transaction history to find out how much you spent.

Note that for card payments, if you pay with the physical card, it may take a few days for transactions to get posted on your account.

But you can work around this by adding the card to your mobile wallet like Apple Pay/Samsung Pay and paying with your phone instead – then you should be able to receive notifications for each transaction immediately.

Not only does it make tracking expenses easier, but going cashless also allows you to earn rewards from your spending – like cashback, miles, or reward points – depending on the type of payment you use.

So unless the merchant only accepts cash, there’s really no reason not to go cashless.

2: Make It Convenient

One of the biggest reasons why people find it hard to track their expenses is because they find it a hassle.

And the reason something would be a hassle is that it’s not convenient.

Ie if you’re trying to track your expenses on a spreadsheet, as many people do, you’d probably need to use a laptop or a tablet – navigating spreadsheets with a phone is something no one wants to do.

And if you’ve just come home from a long day of school or work, you probably don’t feel like jumping on your laptop/tablet to track your expenses.

Instead, you should track your expenses with something that you always have with you.

Since it’s always with you, it becomes a lot more convenient to actually track your expenses because you can do it anytime.

For most people, this could be your phone, via a mobile app.

And if for some reason, you’re always carrying around a book and a pen, you could do it on paper too – no one’s judging.

The bottom line is that tracking your expenses on a platform that is convenient and accessible to you all the time will make it a lot more likely for you to actually track your expenses.

3: Make It A Habit

The next tip to help with tracking expenses is to make it a habit.

It goes without saying why this would help, but how would you go about making this a habit?

For one, you’d have to actively remind yourself to do it.

Whether it’s mental reminders, setting reminders on your phone, or sticking post-its somewhere you’ll look at every day, you need to find a way to remember to do it.

Then, it only requires a small change of mindset.

Tracking expenses sounds like a chore, which makes it feel like you need to specially dedicate a certain amount of time every day to do it.

But you don’t.

The thing is that it doesn’t take much time to track expenses, so you don’t really need to “make time” for it.

It only costs me <5 mins/day to track my expenses, which isn’t even 1 Youtube video’s amount of time.

Instead, you can simply slot it into the idle time of your daily life – when you’re on the bus/train, sitting on the toilet, or queueing up to buy food.

This ties in with the previous point about making it convenient – it’s a lot easier to make tracking expenses a part of your daily life if it’s something you can do at any time.

All it takes is watching a few less TikTok videos or IG stories to track your daily expenses.

Once you start making this subtle change, tracking expenses will start to become a part of your daily routine somewhere throughout the day and become a habit that you can maintain.

4: Create Subcategories

My final tip isn’t about making it easier to track your expenses, but rather about making it more meaningful.

Most of the time, it’s intuitive to categorise your expenses, like “food”, “fashion”, “entertainment”, and etc.

Obviously, this is good because it gives you a better idea of what you’re spending on rather than just knowing how much you spent.

But beyond that, it’s also a good practice to create subcategories for your spending to draw deeper insights into your expenses.

This will be particularly useful if you want to find ways to cut your expenses in the future.

For example, public transport and cab rides can be categorised as “transport” in general.

If you notice that your transport expenditure is too high, cab rides are probably the culprit here.

But your expenses are just lumped into “transport”, so you don’t know how much exactly you’ve been spending on cab rides and how much you’ll thus be able to save by cutting down on cab rides.

In such a scenario, it would be useful if your transport expenses were further broken down into something like “Bus & MRT” and “Cab”.

Even if you don’t know what you would do with such subcategories as of now, it’s better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them in the future.

To summarise,

My 4 tips to make it easier and more meaningful to track your expenses are:

  1. Go Cashless
  2. Make It Convenient
  3. Make It A Habit
  4. Create Subcategories

If you’ve been finding it hard to track your expenses consistently, you should definitely try out these tips.

Let me know if you found them useful or if you have any other tips in the comments below!

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