Tracking personal expenses

One of the things that I loved most about my now spoilt HTC Touch 3G was the personal accounting software that I had. Over the period from Dec 2008 to Jan 2010, I had meticulously recorded every single one of my expenses using my phone. The advantage of doing this on my phone instead of on the computer was the accessibility.

Think about it, it is not possible to have your computer by your side everywhere you go. If you had waited until the end of the day, when you reached home, to record your expenses for the day, you would probably have forgotten some of them. The handphone, on the other hand, follows you practically everywhere you go. So whenever you, say buy a drink, you can immediately whip out your handphone and record that expense. It’s that simple and convenient. It is also much less of a chore compared to using the computer becos you don’t have to search your memory and crack your brain to recall all the expenses over the course of the day.

I believe recording expense on handphone is a fantastic starting point for people who can’t control their spending habits. It is also great for statistically minded people (like Dear1) to record/plot/analyze all the data gathered from the wonderful game of life.

Luckily, I stored all the data on the SD card in the phone so I was able to retrieve the data even when my phone was spoilt. So, let’s take a look at one small category of data from Dear1 and Dear2 over the past year… our expenses on food and groceries.

Our expenses on food from Dec 2008 to Jan 2010.

In the bar chart above, you can see our combined Dear1 and Dear2 food and grocery expenses from the period Dec 2008 to Jan 2010. First, the disclaimers. Data for the month Dec 2008 is incomplete becos I only started recording in the middle of the month. Data for the month Jan 2010 is incomplete becos the phone spoilt in the middle of the month. So let’s exclude these 2 months for our discussion. Nonetheless, we have 1 full year of complete data for 2009. The recorded data includes the combined expenses of Dear1 and Dear2 when we dine together, expenses when Dear1 dines alone (becos the phone was mine), and all grocery expenses from the wet market and supermarkets. It does *not* contain expenses when Dear2 dines alone (i.e. lunch on working days), treats given to others (i.e. when we give treats to our parents on their birthdays), and food bought with foreign currencies (i.e. holiday food expenses).

In total, we spent $5856.16 on food and groceries in the year 2009. The mean is $488.01 per month and the median is $474.78. The lowest recorded expense was in Feb 2009, the reason being that we were on honeymoon in Japan for one-third of the month. On a similar note, we were on holiday in Penang for 5 days in Oct 2009 which partly contributed to the decrease from Sep 2009.

The highest expense ocurred in Jun 2009. Let’s take a closer look at our data. The extraordinary spendings that month were $51.80 at Buckaroo BBQ (recommended by Driving Miss Foodie but we didn’t think it was worth it), $65 at Mellben Seafood for a friends gathering, and $52 at 717 Trading for durian.

Now, what about the 2nd highest month of Dec 2009. There were $93.46 at Ichiban Sushi becos we were trying to earn enough ‘stamps’ to redeem a $20 voucher, $43.35 of chocolates and shepherd’s pie for our mini Christmas celebration, and $15 for a Magnum ice cream indulgence.

By now, you should have realized yet another big advantage of recording personal expenses. You are able to pinpoint down to the last cent where your money went. This way, you can objectively evaluate your expenses and to cut down on unnecessary ones. As a side effect, you can also recall which restaurant you and your loved one went to on your anniversary. :D Or what you were doing on, say National Day, by looking at your expenses for that day!

Right, let’s take a look at other trends. Our food expenses was on an uptrend for the year 2009. Part of the reason for this was that we were spending more on groceries for the 2nd half of the year. After we found out Dear2 was pregnant, we started buying more milk (for calcium), 100-plus (to help with gassy-ness), and fruit juices (becos mtbs prefer flavoured drinks to plain water). The other reason for this was probably us becoming too comfortable with life and spending more. This can be become quite dangerous if left unchecked. Luckily, we were able to realize our increased expenses by looking at these data.

The other trend would be the ‘corrections’ in Jul 2009 and Oct 2009, and possibly one in Jan 2010 as well (if we had the complete data to verify it). This was becos we were able to constantly review our spending habits over time. Once we noticed that our expenses was becoming too high, we would look at where our money went and try to cut down on some of the luxury items for the following month. But as you can see, we tend to get complacent and the monthly expense will start to rise again after every correction, until we noticed again.

Ok, this is all that I’m going to say for our food and grocery expenses. Of course, if we looked at our other expenses such as utility bills, household equipage, etc, there would be many many more trends and realizations. The purpose of this simple illustration today is to demonstrate the usefulness of recording and tracking your personal expenses on your handphone. First, it is easy to do, just take your phone out every time you spend some money, takes less than 30 seconds. Second, it gives insights to your spending habits and may provide some form of self-exploration and self-discovery. Third, it acts as a heads-up mechanism and provides some early warning signs before you get overly comfortable with life. Fourth, it’s like a diary of sorts as you can see where you went every single day.

I hope that’s enough reasons to get you started on this journey. For me, it’s back to receipts and paper recording until I get my hands on a new smartphone!



2 thoughts on “Tracking personal expenses

  1. Pingback: My Samsung Omnia 2 « Dear1 Dear2

  2. Pingback: Our little affair with Ichiban Sushi « Dear1 Dear2

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