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One of the top reasons why women (and men) don’t travel often is because of money.
I know because I’ve been there. I used to wonder how is it possible that I work full time and still don’t have money to do anything? Where is all my money going to? Who is spending all my money? Ha!
So I googled and read an article that changed my life. It taught me how to manage my money better so I can actually enjoy the things I love. And I love to travel more than anything else in life and was willing to try anything at the time to really change my financial game.
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How to save money for your next trip
Okay, so here it is! It’s a spreadsheet! Before some of you roll your eyes and think this is super dumb, well, it saved me a lot of money and allowed me to travel a lot in the last few years! And for those of you who are giddy because you read the word “spreadsheet,” keep reading because you are going to like where this is going!
Essentially, I put together a spreadsheet to track all my expenses. And I mean every single expense! I set up categories such as groceries, restaurants, clothing and alcohol (yes, that is a category in itself!), etc. I would input a dollar value each time I spent money on one of the categories. Then at the end of the month, I can see exactly where I spent my money on and figured out where I can trim my spending.
This is an excellent way of managing finances especially if you are in debt and want to save money for travelling.
However, it is a time-consuming task. But it is a handy tool to see exactly how you are spending your paycheque. The goal is to understand exactly where your money goes then you can make the appropriate steps in scaling back. I still track my expenses today because it is a useful tool to keep my financial situation in check. My tracking sheet looks something like this:
How to track your expenses
You can track your expenses with a notebook that you carry around with you. It may be an easier way so you can write down the value at the moment you are spending money.
And there are apps out there that can track your expenses. I haven’t really investigated in any of those, but it does capture the essence of the exercise.
Or if you are (nerdy) like me, you will put it on an Excel or Numbers spreadsheet. One of the advantages of doing it electronically is you can add the numbers up pretty quickly, see a pattern in your spending, calculate what you spend in a month, in a year, etc. I highly recommend tracking it electronically, so you have a centralized spot for tracking your expenses and allows you to analyze your spending habits efficiently. It is a manual, old-school method but it really works.
Steps to track your expenses
- Set up a spreadsheet for the month, including your income, fixed expenses, and other expenses.
- The income includes all the money you earned in a month.
- Fixed expenses include all the fixed amounts you have to pay each month. For example, your rent or mortgage, car payment, hydro, mobile phone and anything else.
- And the last section is everything you spend in the month. And I further categorize some items including transportation, restaurant, grocery, clothing, household and entertainment. I also include a luxury item because hey, we all need a treat once in a while. You may or may not know what the categories are right away. It took me a few months to see a pattern on my spending habits to know what categories I need. I’ve included mine in the downloadable spreadsheet.
- Each time you spend money on something, type it in your spreadsheet (I usually track it at the end of the day for all the expenses for that day. I keep receipts in my pocket or purse to help me remember what I spent)
- Keep tracking for the entire month. Total up all the values.
- Repeat this process for at least three months
Download your free worksheets here:
Expense Tracking Sheet (Excel): Expenses-Template-Excel
Expense Tracking Sheet (Numbers): Expenses-Template-Numbers
Tips on tracking your expenses
It might help if you spend the majority of your expenses on your credit card. So at the end of the month, you will have a detailed list of all the things that you purchased through your credit card. And since I earn frequent flyer points on my credit card, this is my preferred payment method.
As with cash purchases, I try to minimize that because it is harder to track. And if I have cash purchases, I input the values at the end of the day or collect a bunch of receipts and input the expenses at the end of the month. I try not to go on too long without tracking my expenses because it is easy to forget.
Track your expenses for a minimum of three months
The system only works if you commit to tracking EVERYTHING you spend. It sounds like a pain in the butt at times, but it only works if you commit to the process. You may be able to see your spending pattern after a month of tracking. It will take at least another month to see if you are actually curbing your spending habits. So it would be ideal to track your expenses for at least a minimum of three months to see if you have saved money or not.
Also, it requires some time to see if your efforts in minimizing your expenses are actually working or not. For example, if you used to buy coffee every day and you scaled back to once a week only, you will see a significant decrease in dollar value in later months.
Analyze your spending habit and minimize your targetted expenses
Now that you know how to track your expenses, you can interpret what you are spending your money on and how you can save money.
When I was going through my initial few months or even years, I was shocked at how much I spend on buying coffee at the coffee shop. And I didn’t just buy a regular coffee; I go for the large lattes a few times a week. And I was shocked to see how much money I was spending on purchasing alcohol. I was trying to scale back on eating out because it could mean paying about $50 for each meal at a minimum. So I started cooking more and but I was drinking at home instead of at a restaurant. It was a process I had to go through to understand my spending habits.
The idea is to analyze your spending habits and minimize your targetted expenses. If you noticed your entertainment category is really high, perhaps you only go out once a week instead of every night as an example. Or if you see you are spending a big chunk of your paycheque on expenses relating to your car, then the remedy could include driving less, take public transportation, park your car in a less expensive parking lot, etc.
Determine how much money you can save each month
When I first started this exercise, I didn’t know how much I want to save because I had no idea what is even possible. But after a few months, I can see a pattern of my spending habits and be able to scale back my expenses. It is only then I can determine how much I can save each month.
Without doing the exercise, it is difficult to determine how much money you can actually save. And the number is different for everyone. It all depends on how much you make, what your fixed expenses are, your general spending habits, etc.
Reasons why tracking your expenses work
I tried many other ways of managing my money but is the only one that really works and is the most effective for me.
Moreover, I like this method because it allows me to see exactly what I am spending my paycheque on and how I can precisely minimize or eliminate specific expenses.
The more I track, the more I was addicted to minimizing my expenses. It was almost like a game where I challenge myself all the time (I’m a Capricorn, we’re pretty stubborn, and I like a good challenge!)
And, this method works because I dislike inputting every single item. There are times where I don’t want to spend money because I didn’t want to input the value in my spreadsheet. My sheer laziness worked in my favour at times.
Furthermore, this method works because seeing some of the totals in a month really scared the sh*t out of me! It is the impact of the final numbers that will shock you! Did I buy that much coffee? And really, I drink that much? And I eat out that much? The monthly amounts were so alarming to me that I knew I had to do something about it. I knew precisely these were my items to scale back on. I didn’t eliminate them completely. C’mon, a girl needs her coffee, a drink (or two) and eating out from time to time!
Are you ready to take on this challenge?
I feel like we can all use a financial make-over once in a while. Whether you want to save money for a trip or something else, you have the ability in you to do that.
But this system really works for me, and I’m totally obsessed with it! It has to be the painful manual inputting old-school way. I’m sure all the online expense managers and apps all work wonderfully but I like my method, and I’m going to continue to track my expenses.
Are you ready to take on this challenge? Let me know in your comments if you do or if you have any suggestions to fine-tune this system.
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