Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Confession: I’m not hardcore!

This comes as a surprise to me, actually. Peanut created a spreadsheet to help pull my spending tracker into something we could use to analyze my spending per category by month with a yearly total. Come to find out, I have NOT been tracking my spending reliably. Ignoring February’s lost data, I still forgot to note paychecks and rent payments for more months than not—and if I forgot to log THOSE things, what else could I have neglected?! There’s no way to even tell.

I’m really bummed. I’ve been doing this for years, and I thought I was doing a good job. I even bought my Palm in large part so I could keep track of spending everywhere I went without waiting until I got home at night. I think that part of the problem is that paydays and rent payments are automatic, so I actually don’t have to do anything. So I could go with the assumption that I’m only missing those large transactions and that I noted all the small, day to day ones correctly.

But somehow I doubt that’s the case. My system is too complicated. Case in point:

I have one spreadsheet for tracking spending.

I have another for keeping track of tax-related transactions—income or expenses from either of my side businesses or other taxable income like focus group payments.

I have two checking registers kept as spreadsheets.

I have two sinking fund registers—tabs on each keep track of the mini-funds I’ve created inside the savings account. (Example, my ING is only one account, but that balance is made up of a “travel” fund, a “gifts” fund, an “emergency” fund, etc.)

I have a spreadsheet that keeps track of dance jobs including notes about the job, location, and client; when I was paid and how much and how, any relevant expenses like transportation or meals. I had to do this because I often take payment in costumes rather than cash, but I still need to figure out the value of each, or how many jobs apply to which costume. It worked for that purpose but has become a little clunky.

I have a spreadsheet for mystery shopping that also notes the company, date the shop was completed, the location, how much I spent, which part of that is reimbursable or not, when I was paid, how much and in what format, confirmation numbers and any other relevant data.

That’s EIGHT spreadsheets! And many transactions requires updating more than one spreadsheet (for example, a debit payment for a mystery shop would require me to update the spending tracker, check register, and mystery shop log). So I drew up a wishlist.

I want one spreadsheet, which keeps track of all spending and income. It should automatically reduce or increase account balances (including the mini-funds within each savings account) when credit or debit cards are used or deposits made. It should act as a checking register (meaning I can note payments as they are made and also note when they post). It should categorize spending and give me running monthly and yearly totals. It should feed to a tax spreadsheet or tab that allows me to see at a glance what my tax liability is for either side business. And it should be available to me as soon as possible so I can start from the beginning of 2009 and have one year of full, usable data.
I will still have to keep logs of mystery shops and dance jobs to make sure I am paid on time and correctly for them, but it can be more of a checklist than a spreadsheet. These could be reconciled when each payment comes in, or on a regular schedule (once a month, once a week, etc).

Am I asking for too much? Apparently not—Peanut says he can create this for me. I’m looking forward to getting it; in the meantime I am going to try to figure out some rough estimate of what I spent in which categories for 2008 so I can have a terrible benchmark to improve on.


  1. Shameless plug:

    I already have a sheet that I use that does budgeting, linking to all the months and tracks expenses.

    I made it when other budgeting tools made me mad and I had 10 sheets to track.

    I just keep my receipts when I get home at the end of the day, I empty out my purse and log them all in.

    I also use it to track my credit card expenses, retirement accounts, etc..

    It does everything I've ever wanted!


    Fabulously Broke in the City

    "Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver."

  2. I have to confess that I'm starting to create too many spreadsheets now because I just start a new one for each project I want to track: aggregate income, contractor income for payments and A/R, continuous balance/cash flow, tax-deductible business related expenses.

    I really really want to sit down for a few days and work out exactly what I need in a spreadsheet and make it happen. Would you share what Peanut creates for you?

  3. @Revanche,

    I will have to ask if he minds. I know he's spending a lot of time creating these, but I don't know if he'll care about being compensated. As FB points out, there is a market for these!

    @FB, I have been looking forward to Krystal's review of your sheets! I took a look when you first talked about them, but I've used templates before and have always run into a problem. Plus I figured creating my own would get me in gear to become an excel wiz, but...well, we see how that's worked out. ;)


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