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Tracking spending (it’s tax time!)

Tips & Tools

Some homeowners are organized enough to track their spending monthly; they plan out how much a specific remodeling project is going to set them back before they ever start, and they can tell you to the penny what it ended up costing. (And, of course, the latter number is always double or triple the former. Always. It’s a law or something.)

Even though I’m an anal-retentive Type-A with a huge crush on spreadsheets, we are far less organized than one would imagine. With multiple projects going on at any given time, and ever-changing ideas about what it is we’re actually trying to accomplish, we don’t bother with all the financial pre-planning.
Mostly, we stick to a “pay-as-you-go” philosophy. We don’t take out loans – we have enough of those already. We also try not to run the credit cards up too much during the course of a project.  If we can’t afford something, we’ll find a creative alternative or wait till we can. So knowing the exact dollar amounts isn’t incredibly important for the short-term. I’m a frugal girl – if I had to calculate the grand total every day, I’d be a big ball of stress. This avoidance technique works well for me.

Coupon Organizer

When tax times rolls around, however, I have to take all those receipts (filed away in a coupon organizer by month, because THIS at least I am organized about) and add them up. The first year I saw our grand total, I nearly choked. I thought about all the amazing things we could have done with that money, like travel the world three times over in a ship made of gold. Now that I’m an old pro, it doesn’t depress me as much. I just keep repeating the word EQUITY over and over again in a soothing whisper while I hit the Add button.
The numbers are always informative, and I’m glad that we track them. I was surprised to find that this year we spent about 1/3 LESS than last, despite our bathroom remodel (the most expensive house we’ve undertaken thus far). I never would have guessed that. And the percentage we spent on tools was much smaller, since we totally geared up in 2005. Looking at the bigger picture of the 2.5 years we’ve been here is interesting, too.  One trend I noticed is that we spend more during the colder months – probably because we have nothing else to do when it gets cold but sit in the house and stare at our projects. Good to know!

Budget tracking by month Budget tracking comparison graphs

If you’re a number cruncher like me, I found a great (and affordable) Excel spreadsheet workbook from that you’ll  have fun with – it’s a Household Budget Planner, but I have found you can tweak it for nearly any purpose.

It allows you to customize your categories and track daily and/or monthly, and automatically pulls together graphs for you so you can see at a glance where the money is all going (like, gassing up the truck for Home Depot runs). You can also compare your spending month-to-month. It didn’t take me long to figure it out, and it’s only $9.95. Worth every penny, I swear.
You can find details about it here:

Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

jm had this to say on 02.26.07:

You are cracking me up. “…like travel the world three times over in a ship made of gold…” I’m the bookkeeper in our house too and I have passionate love affair every month with our finance software. I even bought that EXACT SAME PLASTIC FILE FOLDER…but in blue. Perhaps, someday, they will trace our special love of columns that total up to the penny to a special DNA element. :)

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