I was lying to myself. I thought I was tracking every single penny. Well, okay, I knew I missed the occasional penny now and then, but I thought I was pretty close. And then 2 months ago, I discovered I didn’t just miss pennies, but dollars. Lots of dollars. In fact, in April, I missed about $300.
I know I don’t lie to myself every month, but if I lied to myself that much in April, there are probably many other months when I’ve done the same. And $300 is enough to completely skew my perception of our level of spending.
How could I miss this much? I traced it to online purchases – from Amazon. Blame one click ordering! No excuses here, really, because I know we order from Amazon a couple times each month, and I thought I was checking our order history and recording everything. But I thought wrong. Online transactions and a few small purchases elsewhere were falling through the cracks.
How I tracked spending
I have shared the myriad of methods you can use to track your spending, but never talked in detail about how I do it. For several years now, I’ve used a Google spreadsheet. It’s a simple sheet I created that totals spending in all my categories, as well as my overall, running total for the month.
We collect all of our receipts in a basket and, up until a couple of months ago, I manually recorded them on the spreadsheet each week. I also tracked our credit card balances religiously (btw, we pay them off each and every month!).
No doubt, this was a process (but one I actually enjoy – I’m weird that way). It took me about 30 minutes each week, sometimes more. But I knew it didn’t have to take that much time. I also knew there were online tools available that would do it all for me.
I actually tried some of those tools, but every single time I reverted back to my trusty old spreadsheet. It was simple, it was mine, and I actually felt more in touch with our spending when I manually processed those receipts.
How I discovered I wasn’t tracking absolutely everything
After I put together a post on how other personal finance bloggers track their spending, I took notice of one particular tool – Tiller. But I never took any steps to check it out.
Until one day, Derek from How Do I Money asked me if I had tried Tiller and suggested it might be a good fit for me. Like me, Derek had used Google sheets for some time. He told me he loves Tiller and how it works with Google sheets. And, he said Tiller has worked well for people who had tried other online spend tracking tools unsuccessfully.
I wasn’t completely sold, but was intrigued. Secretly, I hoped it would work because no other tool had. Ultimately, I decided it was worth a try and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t continue.
One evening I sat down, signed up, and went through the How Do I Money tutorial. Within an hour, I had Tiller set up. I linked my credit card and checking accounts and the transactions were quickly put into a spreadsheet.
All I had to do was tweak the spending categories and categorize each transaction (which is super easy to do). So there was still the manual task of categorizing to help me see each transaction, but I didn’t have to enter every one on my own (so I don’t miss them!).
Then I set my budget for each category on the How Do I Money budget sheet. Instantly I could see how much I spent in each category, how much was budgeted, and if I was over or under the budgeted amount. I could see the big picture too – how much money came in for the month, and how much went out.
Tiller made me honest (and saves me time)
This all happened at the end of April, so I could compare my Tiller sheet to my own Google sheet for the month. Lo and behold, there were discrepancies (mostly from online transactions).
This got me thinking – how many times have I missed transactions over the years? Have I really been spending more than I thought all along? Could I cut spending even further? How much more could I be saving?
By removing the manual input of transactions, I not only save myself a ton of time, I get an honest picture of our month-to-month finances. I’m sure there are some months when I’d rather not know the truth, but Tiller will keep me honest.
I’ve been using Tiller for almost two months now, and I’m in love. It’s the perfect fit for my spend tracking, budgeting, spreadsheet loving self, plus it saves me time and money. Not only that, did I mention it tracks all my account balances too?
If you’re a fan of spreadsheets, I know you’ll love Tiller. But, even if you’ve never used a spreadsheet in your life, Tiller is simple and easy to use. Everything is straightforward and laid out for you. Plus, they have super helpful support standing by to answer any questions you might have.
In my opinion, knowing your spending habits is the first, most important step to taking control of your finances. And according to Tiller, “92% of people who switched from a personal finance app to a spreadsheet report they are now more aware of their spending habits.” Maybe a spreadsheet (and Tiller*) could help you save more – and be more honest too!
Do you track your spending? Have you ever found out you had been missing transactions? How has tracking helped you with your finances?
*I am now an affiliate with Tiller. I don’t recommend anything I haven’t tried and liked. I use Tiller and absolutely LOVE it. When I spoke with Peter, the founder, I became an even bigger fan after talking with him about aligning money with life values and priorities (And he solved my problem of not being able to split transactions). I believe Tiller is a top-notch tool and company. And apparently others feel the same way – Tiller just won the FinTech Breakthrough award for Best Personal Finance Budgeting Service.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, at no additional cost to you, I’ll receive a commission if you buy products through these links. See the full disclosure here.