Level 3: Tracking My Expenses

Level 3: Track Your Expenses

The What, When, Who, How and Why of tracking your expensesThis post describes how I started tracking my expenses and what tricks I used. If you’d like to read more about the task itself, have a look at Step 3: Track your Expenses where I describe the procedure in more detail.

Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that – at no additional cost to you – I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

After making some initial progress towards Financial Independence and after having remained on level 2 of the process for a while trying to identify my goals of this mission, I am ready to move on to the next level of this journey: starting the third step and registering all of my expenses.

I know that having a list of all my expenses will be an invaluable resource during many stages of this mission, as many of the steps will rely on a detailed insight of what comes in and what goes out every month, so I am totally committed to start keeping track of everything that happens with my money.

The infographic on the right tells you more about which factors to consider when registering your expenses.

What

I’ll be registering all my cash, credit card, debit card, transfers, standing orders and other payments from my checkings and savings accounts as well as any payments from the joints accounts I have with my husband.

When 

I am going to try to register any expenses in the moment as much as possible, but of course I know there will be times I’ll forget and I have certain payments automated, so I’ve decided to take 5 minutes at the end of each day to check I’ve registered everything, by looking through my wallet for receipts and logging into my checkings accounts. My savings account I’ll check just once a week as I know that currently only has 2 movements a month: when I get my interest and when my automatic transfer gets in. In this way I know I am least likely to miss out on any. I have a reminder in my bullet journey to make sure I do this every evening.

Who

My husband is sooo not going to register his expenses so I know there’s no point insisting. He has his own individual accounts that he is of course responsible for so I won’t get involved in that or ask him to track his expenses, but for our joint accounts I will keep track of things. Where possible I’ll ask him to pass on receipts but I’ll probably just log into our account daily to check what’s happened and to ask him in the moment if I need to know more about a particular expense.

How

I have tried different options to log my expenses and I have in the end decided to go for YNAB – short for You Need A Budget. I love it as it is a relatively easy to use programme and it also has several more advanced features that you can decide to start looking into more once you get the hang of the programme. YNAB can be used both online on your computer as well as by downloading its app and that for me is a key necessity as I’d like to be able to insert expenses both on to go in the moment as well as when I am sat at my desk.

Of course if you’d rather stick with paper and pen option that is no problem either and the advantage there is of course that you don’t need any type of technology to keep up your new habit.

Other alternatives include using a digital programme such as Microsoft Excel or Mac’s Numbers to track your money as well as other apps widely available – just search for them and see which one you like best.

Why
My own main why is that I want to gain insight into my spending pattern so I can identify where I can save money in order to boost my savings for long-term goals I have, the most obvious one being reaching Financial Independence of course.

These are my own 5 key strategies to tracking my expenses. If you aren’t already tracking your own expenses, make sure to start today and read up about it in the detailed explanation in step 3: Track Your Expenses.

Level 1: My Commitment to Achieving Financial Independence

Step 1_ Commit to your mission to Financial Independence

Once I had decided I wanted to become Financially Independent, so that I could regain more control over my time and future, I was aware I had to make the following step: a commitment to my journey, a first advance towards the next level on my way to my ultimate goal of financial freedom.

In order to move from level 0 – my starting point – to level 1, I had to take full responsibility for my progress and dedication to that journey, to make sure I wouldn’t give up on it halfway through.

Following the 100 steps that I have laid out previously on this website, Step 1 is making a commitment to your mission. With the various ideas suggested in step 1 in mind, I have decided to do the following:

1. A sticky note

I’ve put a sticky note on my bathroom mirror. In this way I can see it several times a day, and especially in the morning, to remind myself of my mission. It currently says: “On a mission to Financial Independence.” but I might change the wording with time. You can find a picture of it here on my Instagram account.

2. An accountability partner

I have in fact found several accountability partners: myself and 5 others have formed an accountability group in which we have set ourselves a big as well as five small targets we’d like to achieve over the course of a year. We meet once a month to give updates and ask each other critical questions to provoke honest answers and make sure we live up to the targets we have set and to help each other remain motivated and on the right track. I’ve also got a weekly check in meeting with my partner to discuss progress on some of our targets, including my goal of achieving financial independence.

3. Use of social media

With the upcoming launch of my 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence book (around June 2018), I decided I’d probably need some social media presence anyway, so I am currently using my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts to put together interesting articles and images to do with Financial Independence and Money Wisdom. In that way I am not only letting others know about my journey, I also hope to inspire people to aim for more financial freedom.

4. My bullet journal tracker and diary

This is the one I am most excited about, as I really believe in the power of a tracker to keep your progress visual. I also find my bullet journal really helpful and motivating to use, so I have decided to get a new bullet journal that I use specifically to keep a log of my steps towards financial independence. I have started with a tracker for step 1, which is an overview of 100 steps, with each step represented by a square, that I will fill or colour in every time I have successfully implemented or completed a step. You can again find a picture of it here on my Instagram account. If you would like to get a free copy of this tracker, leave your email below and I’ll send you an email with a free download that you can print and instantly use!

5. My cat

I can’t finish the list without also including a special mention to my cat, Monkey, who ever since I started working on putting together my 100 steps, has always been faithfully sitting next to me, in front of me, right on top of my laptop, sprawled along all of my papers or in any other way close to me…. You can see her here “supervising” me writing this current blog post here. Whenever I work on the 100 steps she is there with me, keeping me accountable I guess!

And there you have my 4 (or 5) ways of committing to my goal of becoming Financially Independent. For more ideas or if you’d like to read more about the very first step of the 100 steps mission, check out this description of step 1. Remember also to leave your email below to get a free copy of the 100 steps tracker sent to your email.

I’d love to hear about your commitment or ways of making sure you will stick to your goal, so please let me know in the comments below or by posting a photo on your favourite social media.

Level 0: The start of my mission to FI

The beginning of my journey to create more freedom.

More freedom

Over 2 years ago I decided I wanted to have more freedom. Freedom to choose what I wanted to do with my time. Not having to get up super early day in day out to go to work, spend all my productive time in an office, work extra hours whenever this was needed (and working in education means there are ALWAYS extra hours needed!), to then come home being too tired to do stuff I actually enjoyed.

It’s not that I didn’t like my job, quite the opposite: I got (and still get) great please out of it and am able to shape my role in many ways. But whether I enjoy my job or not is not relevant: I decided I didn’t want to spend my entire working days for the next 35 year of my life in an office.

I wanted to be able to be more in control when it comes to my time. Being able to decide every day how long for, what to work on or whether to take a day off and go for a hike or a swim or a snooze or a picnic in the park or…. there are so many other things to do..!

Once I had determined this, an obvious problem arose:

“HOW TO CREATE MORE FREEDOM?” 

As I started reading more about my desire to create more freedom, I quickly found out that the best way to do so and get more control over your own time is by becoming Financially Independent. When you achieve Financial Independence, you have access to enough money coming in from passive income streams, that you no longer need to rely on your job’s income. Meaning you don’t need your job to pay your bills, which means that you can decide to do any job you want (or not) regardless of how much it pays. (There are in fact 8(!) stages of financial independence, you can read more about that in this article). Simply put, if you achieve financial independence, you no longer need to rely on working a full time job, which means you can free up a lot of extra time and freedom to do as you please!

Once I had the answer to the first question (how to become free) figured out, a second question emerged however:

“WHERE DO I START?”

This is where my search for a comprehensive guide began that would show me how to attain this freedom I dreamt about. As I learned with time, there are thousands of people out there who have the same aspirations to become financially independent and many others who have in fact already achieved this, yet the guide I wanted explaining how to do it all didn’t exist!

I looked everywhere on the web, Amazon, physical bookstores, podcast libraries… Nothing! No A-Z guide, 30 day challenge or 100 steps blueprint on how to become financially independent.

The 100 Steps Mission Book

Not wanting to give up my dream I decided that if that manual I was looking for didn’t exist, then I’d put it together myself. I wasn’t talking about WRITING a book, but about compiling ideas together that would be the substitute for what I was looking for.

Long story short… I DID end up writing a book. And as you might have guessed it became the 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence. (I’m currently working with my editor to get it ready for publication.)

It’ll be out soon and I am convinced it can help many people looking for the same answers that I was looking for 2 years ago: how to get more freedom? More time to spend with my family? More time to travel? More time to do my hobbies? More time to volunteer or pursue a passion project? More time to…. to do anything you want really, without having to plan it around your busy work schedule and commitments! It will give you all the answers you are looking for and is a step-by-step guide you need in order to create that life you really want.

Until it’s out (around June 2018), I’ll be documenting my own experience implementing these 100 steps on my way to more freedom, so you can see how each little step has helped me get closer to my target of more freedom every day. Feel free to join me on this mission to start creating more time for you and your family too and let me know how you’re doing in the comments below.

Coming soon: 31 Day Challenge to Financial Excellence

31 Day Challenge To Financial Excellence
31 Day Challenge To Financial Excellence
31 Day Challenge To Financial Excellence

Are you looking to give your finances a quick make over? Do you want to learn about the 31 most important financial steps you can take right now to kick your money management skills into high gear? Would you like to become more financially organized but do you have no idea where to start? Could your current financial status do with a health check?

If so then join me for the 31 Day Challenge to Financial Excellence, starting October 1st 2017! During these 31 Days you will be given a challenge or task to complete each day that will bring you one step closing to Financial Excellence and Success.

During these 31 days we will cover a huge range of topics: expenses, debt, savings, pensions, income, investing, financial security and many more!

There is no need to read dull money books or spend hours learning about complicated financial concepts, each day’s challenge has all the information you need to get you started!

Sign up now and you will automatically receive each challenge delivered to your inbox on October 1st! Make sure to also join the Facebook group for daily tips, news, support and accountability!

Step 100: Stick to Your Mission

Step 100 of the 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence: Stick to your Mission
Step 100: Stick to your Mission

This is it, you’ve come to the end of the 100 steps mission, you’ve set important new goals, maybe already completed a few along the way, you’ve implemented new habits, have learned a wealth of information on finances (excuse the pun) and most importantly you have started your mission to financial independence, getting closer with each step that you take.

But despite getting to the end of these 100 steps, you aren’t there yet. Financial Independence is not achieved by reading about money, it is achieved by taking action daily and sticking to it. Remember the examples of people who give up smoking or start a new diet and how often they fail and give up their resolutions alltogether? You’ve come to the second most important point on your mission. The single most important one was when you embarked on this mission and decided to take action and change your situation. Your next most important moment is now and it is your determination to continue with your mission, stick to your habits, keep learning and persist progressing towards financial independence.

With all that you have learned til now and everything you’ve started, now is the time to make a new commitment to keep financial independence as one of your top priorities for tomorrow, next week, the next month, next year, the next 5 years and indeed the rest of your life. Don’t let all you’ve learned and done go to waste. Don’t allow for your hard work to have all been in vain. Keep tracking your monthly spending, making a new budget, noting down your networth, reviewing your investment strategy and tracking your progress towards your various financial goals whenever you can. Continue reading “Step 100: Stick to Your Mission”

Step 95: Visualize your Dreams

Step 95 of the 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence: Visualize your Dreams
Step 95: Visualize your Dreams

Today we’ll step away from the numbers and figures and logical planning for a moment and instead focus on a fun step towards financial independence: visualizing your dreams. This step is the ultimate step to all of the following:

  • keeping up your motivation
  • setting goals
  • not forgetting to live in the “now”

We’ve discussed the first two points in detail in several of the previous steps, but the third one we haven’t yet looked at so much. Let’s discuss the importance of that third point through an example: imagine a couple who gets really inspired to become financially independent. They make a budget, cut expenses, start a side hustle to earn some more money to invest and they see their efforts paying off as their bank account increases. So they hustle a little more, cut another few expenses and speed up the process. But with time they become so absorbed by this process that other things are being cut too. Even though they have a fair amount of money, family holidays are “too expensive”, clothes are recycled well past their “best before” date (which makes the children an easy target to laugh at at school) and any real family time is disappearing quickly as the side hustle takes up any valuable time the family might have had together. After many years of dedication and hard work their bank account finally reaches that milestone of $1,000,000 that they had set themselves. The couple gets ready to celebrate this moment and loosen the reins a little – not wanting to retire completely but at least to work less – only to find that their children have gone off to college, friends from the past are have ceased to be friends as they have hardly seen each other in recent years as the couple had either no time or no money to attend get-togethers. They are not longer members of their sport clubs and realize they don’t know that many people anymore. There are no photo albums on the shelves with photos of happy family holidays, no memories of fun days down at the beach or up in the  mountains at the weekends and they can’t really remember having taken the children on any visits to the theatre, a museum or even the cinema. The couple never had time for fun activities and only ever thought of making money and then some more.

And what for? What is the point of having $1,000,000 in your bank account if you can’t enjoy it? What is the value of money if not to use it and enjoy the little things in life? Spending time with the people we love? More than those $1,000,000 isn’t it important to have time to do what you want to do and to make a difference in the world? Continue reading “Step 95: Visualize your Dreams”

Step 86: The 8 Stages of Financial Independence

Step 86 of the 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence: The 8 Stages of Financial Independence
Step 86: The 8 Stages of Financial Independence

As with many things in life, if you start looking behind the simplicity of a concept there is more than just a black and white division, a yes or no, a fail or succeed. Even with financial independence the reality is that you aren’t just financially independent or not… Indeed there are many different financial phases that one can reach along the way.

Below are the 8 most commonly identified stages, starting with financial dependence going all the way up to and then well past financial independence. Continue reading “Step 86: The 8 Stages of Financial Independence”

Step 78: Set your Financial Independence Goal

Step 78 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Set your Financial Independence Goal
Step 78: Set your Financial Independence Goal

All along this mission we have been talking about financial independence and I’ve identified and described steps that will help you to get closer to your financial independence. But what exactly is Financial Independence to you? It is important to have a goal and to know what you are working towards to in order to once actually achieve that goal. Now that we are nearing the last part of our 100 steps and now that you know a lot more about finance and money management, you’ll want to dedicate some time to determine your long-term goal so you can kick things into next gear and align your mission with your ultimate financial goal.

Four goals of financial independence

Below are four common goals that people have for their financial independence. They are presented in a logical progression to go through and whereas getting to stage 1 should be easy if you follow this mission plan and even getting beyond that first step into the 2nd step might not be too difficult if you keep up well with the plan, getting into that 3rd stage depends completely on whether you push yourself beyond your current beliefs, habits and limitations and of course whether you ultimately really want to get there. Remember also that whilst the last stage of financial freedom might seem almost unattainable for most of us, it is not completely impossible. People like you and me have done it before and will do it again. But hey I admit that requires some SERIOUS hard work and dedication.

Let’s discuss the four common financial independence goals you might identify with and see which one corresponds most closely to your financial goal at the moment. Continue reading “Step 78: Set your Financial Independence Goal”

Step 75: Budget and Spend on YOU

Step 75 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Budget and spend on YOU
Step 75: Budget and spend on YOU

Unlike the rest of the 100 steps mission, this step advocates a little spending and whilst some of the content might sound as if it takes you away from your ultimate goal of a secure financial future, it is indeed a very important step to financial independence. The habit of budgeting to spend on you continuously reminds you of what is important and why you are going through the hassle of all the other steps.

It can be very tempting once you get really into personal finance and see the advantages of building up savings and investing to try to cut down all of your expenses as much as possible, to skimp and save and live a lifestyle of extreme frugality. And although there is nothing wrong with being frugal and some people can indeed get real satisfaction out of this, some take it to a level that is a little too extreme to actually make them happy. Many of them end up giving up on their journey to financial independence as it is asking too much of them, or they become unhappy and disgruntled as they feel they can no longer enjoy life and instead are only thinking about “tomorrow”, “a secure financial future” and “being cheap”.

Of course you have embarked on this mission for your own reasons, but I truly hope that your ultimate goal is to achieve happiness and not actually having an X amount of money in the bank. There is of course nothing wrong with wanting to have that money in the bank, but never lose sight of your why: Why do you want that money? Wanting just for wanting’s sake is foolish and will not make you happy. But if you know why you want that money (to become a stay-at-home-parent to spend more time with your family, to travel, to live a more fulfilling life by volunteering or being able to set up your own company… ), whatever it is, you need to keep just that in mind. As that is what will bring you happiness, the money in itself won’t, it will only allow you to achieve your goals faster.

To make sure you keep happiness and enjoying life at the centre of our mission, you are going to do some spending on yourself! You need to keep this journey it fun, keep your motivation up, see short-term results and just simply reward yourself now and again. Budgeting something for you is a great way to achieve all of the above. You need to spend a little extra on yourself now and again, ideally on something you otherwise wouldn’t do. It should be something extra, maybe a little luxury.

Some examples of how you can spend a little extra on yourself:

  • Luxury bath or shower product or make-up;
  • A new magazine or book;
  • A new accessory for a gadget;
  • An item of clothing that is extra and maybe not something you need and outside of your clothing budget.
  • A new plant or some flowers.
  • A massage or beauty treatment

It can be anything that gives you some special joy and happiness and that feels like splurging a little. You’re looking for something that you would like to buy for yourself but that you don’t normally do. It should take you maybe two or three months to get that money together, so you really feel you’ve earned it and it built up anticipation of getting the money together so you start thinking what you can buy with it. It should be something relatively common and easy to acquire, it is not a savings goal in itself, it is just a kitty with some money you set aside each month so you can buy something with it every 2 – 3 months. We’re not talking about a new iPhone here as that is a bigger savings goal in itself, it should be something smaller that gives you the feeling of a reward.

Whatever you buy, it should be something for YOU. Maybe buying your daughter a new jumper makes you happy, but that isn’t YOU, that’s your daughter. Buying your partner an extra present for their birthday is not YOU.

Step 75 – Budget and Spend on YOU – in detail

  • Decide what would be the ideal reward for you that would give you pleasure and a sense of achievement every time you were able to use it or purchase it. Ideally it would be:
    • something that is not a long-term saving goal, as the whole point here is that you get more regular rewards and not a long term reward.
    • something that you can set relatively small amounts of money aside for each month (say $5 – $20) and that after 2 or 3 months gives you enough to buy the item.
  • Create a separate kitty or a nice jewelery box where you put the money in if in cash. Alternatively assign the money to this category in your new budget each month.
  • As soon as you have enough to buy something with it: go out and buy it! The whole point here is that you get to see the advantages of setting money aside, but without having to wait 20 years in order to collect your prize.

Don’t feel guilty for spending this money. Life is to be lived and the small pleasures of life form an important part in this. So don’t NOT spend this money just because it is an extra or luxury category. You have worked hard enough to earn save this money and are allowed something extra from all of this as well!

Read more about my 100 steps mission to financial independence or simply decide to take control today and join us on our step-by-step quest on how to make your finances work for you, starting with step 1.

Step 70: Pay off your mortgage

Step 70 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Pay off your mortgage
Step 70 : Pay off your mortgage

Now that you’ve been through the various steps on expenses and budgeting, saving, pensions, investing and planning for your future, it’s time to go back again to the bit on debts with one debt in particular which is probably your biggest debt: your mortgage (providing you have one – otherwise you can skip this step). We of course spoke about paying off debt at the start of our mission, but as we said there, since your mortgage has a lower interest rate than most of your other debts, chances are you haven’t yet started paying it down faster.

As commented before many people would argue that a mortgage is a different type of debt and therefore not to worry about as much as they see having a mortgage as an investment. At the end of the day they say, your house is an asset that will probably increase in value over time. I disagree for several reasons:

  •  first of all it isn’t the same type of assets such as stocks and bond that you can just sell to generate some extra money. The only situations in which you can argue that your house is an asset like any other is when you don’t need it anymore for example because you decide to:
    • travel
    • move in with somebody else
    • live in another house that you already own or rent
    • scale down and don’t need a mortgage on a new house
    • live on the streets
  • secondly, you never know when you can sell your house. Some houses are on the market for years, so liquidating that asset isn’t as easy as with other assets.
  • thirdly nothing guarantees your house will truly increase in value or have increased in value by the time you need or want to sell. During the recent house market crash, many houses were sold below their original purchase price.
  • fourthly you are still losing money by having a mortgage in the form of interest payments and you are tied to paying back regularly so until you pay off your mortgage in my eyes this is a debt that takes a big toll on your monthly finances.

Continue reading “Step 70: Pay off your mortgage”