The Expenditure Tracking Experiment

I am still working on piecing together Cozy Cobblestones that I discussed in my previous post. The “Picnic Setting” is no picnic, and has several “Y” seams and must be pieced in a methodical way (or you are screwed!) Hopefully the next post will be to share my completed quilt top (unless I decided to throw in a post about our visit to the Deschutes County Fair a couple weekends ago…)

This post I wanted to share an interesting experiment I have committed to doing for a year and wondered if any of you have ever tried something like this – I am tracking ALL my expenditures for 1 year. Everything, even if I buy a $2 ice cream cone, etc.

I created a spreadsheet at the end of 2016, broken into as many categories as I could think of (though I had to keep adding categories as the year progressed) and starting January 1, 2017, I began recording anything I spent money on – from food to utilities.

Here is a screenshot of a section of my spreadsheet to date:

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 12.24.23 PM.pngOne of the most enlightening (actually shocking) things, was how much we spend on food (and there are only two humans in the household)!  Not to mention how many trips to the grocery store (and several different grocery stores) we make each month.

For example in July 2017, we went to one grocery store EIGHT (8) times! I am starting to wonder if my hobby is not quilting/crafting, but actually going to grocery stores! I wince at the $1.38 purchase listed above – whatever that was, why didn’t I get it during the grocery store visit in the $52.90 purchase above?

Well making a change can only come after gaining awareness that a change is needed. I thought I was a very thrifty “demi-minimalist” but my spreadsheet says I am an out of control food hoarder!

Besides the shocking amount of grocery store spending/visits I have made so far this year, I have learned a lot of valuable stuff about our spending habits and several positive changes have been made. Also it has become a game, where I will not buy something that I do not really need because I want to see if I can get the current month’s expenditures lower than the others.

One more cool thing about this (sometimes painful) spreadsheet, is I have a tool to use to discuss with Terry the Quilting Husband strategies to manages our expenses. We discussed the disaster that was July 2017 and made a conscious effort to keep the August grocery expenses under control!

I would love to hear if any of you have tried something like this.

Well that’s all for now, I got to go head out to the grocery store and pick something up 😉


Feature image photo credit: Sufi Nawaz, free images.com

 

 

33 thoughts on “The Expenditure Tracking Experiment

  1. marthaginn says:

    I charge practically everything on one of my credit cards, paying the full balance with autopay. Each paper ticket gets recorded in Microsoft Money (similar to Quick Books), and every entry has to go into a category, so yes, I have noticed that Groceries is always an amazingly large expenditure. If I were to be more exact, I would split out the paper products and cat food and litter from real food. Since there’s just me to eat, I sometimes am horrified at the Groceries total, but I really try to keep a full pantry so I won’t have to make a quick trip for that ONE missing item. The Dining Out total is scary, too, but is still below Groceries. The only redeeming factor in this analysis is that Charitable Contributions is still the largest category.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      You are on top of it Martha! That is a great way to track expenses and although you and I have the mystery of “so many groceries” it is cool you are keeping up the charitable contributions 🙂

      Like

  2. Melanie McNeil says:

    I haven’t done this, the way you are. I have, however, reviewed spending in a little less exact way. Several years ago I went through checking transactions and credit card bills for a couple of years to see where our spending was. Ultimately I lumped utilities together, car expenses (gas, maintenance, insurance) together, and had a category of miscellaneous (maybe they were cash transactions?) that were less easily defined. I didn’t include any investing as an “expense,” but certainly added it all up, too. It gave me a pretty good view. One thing I saw was that our biggest expense was the mortgage, no surprise. The second biggest was music. Saxophone lessons, camps, tickets, instruments, reeds, and so on. It was A LOT of money. We spent A LOT of money on music, mostly for our son, during those years. It did change one thing — I opened a checking account in his and my name, and transferred $ into it so he could “pay” for his own lessons, etc. That took it out of my checkbook and made him learn how to deal with it. Besides that, though, Jim and I just figured that music was a lot less expensive than something like drug rehab…

    Liked by 2 people

    • tierneycreates says:

      I am liking MUSIC as a big expense vs. groceries! I agree expenses on music are better than “other” types of expenses! Thanks for your comments and sharing your experience with examining your expenses. I think everyone should try it at some point. I can’t say that every year I am going to do this but this year, though painful at times, is quite the eye opener! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. bagheeracr says:

    I use Quicken/Quickbooks and am often horrified when I look into particular categories/businesses for the past year.
    Because of how we purchase some food items (whole pig, 50 lbs of rice, 40 lbs of honey) we have months where it looks really high (over 3,000$ for four adults, 3 cats, 6 chickens and a dog…) but it averages out to about 1,000 a month which is still high for many people but fits our choices.

    Liked by 2 people

    • tierneycreates says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience! It might be those chickens who eat so much driving up your costs – ha! Now I am trying to think what meals I could make with pork, rice and honey…. 🙂

      Like

      • bagheeracr says:

        The chickens turn out to be about a break even issue. Sure they use a bag of layer pellets every 6-8 weeks but they also give eggs every day (and eventually dinner). They eat all the kitchen scraps and all the grass clippings I can find, they turn that into compost so I don’t have to buy that. And this way the food scraps don’t end up in the trash to attract the bears!
        Honey baked pork over rice…. nummy.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Bev Longford says:

    The year before we retired we kept a binder in which we recored every penny we spent no matter how small. It was an interesting experience and gave us the information we needed as our income would be less but there where many things we would not need to spend money on when retired. When we counted up the totals on our expenditures we took an early retirement and have been so for 17 years. We made sure that our retirement income would be able to cover our love of books for my husband, fabric and yarn for me and an occasional trip. I realize we are very fortunate and I am thankful that my husband insisted on saving for our retirement. I sometimes think we need to track our food spending as we seem to spend a lot on food for two people but then we do stock up on specials when shopping so I guess that contributes to that feeling.
    Bev

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      This is awesome I love this story! I find it very inspirational and I think the steps that we are taking to really look at the money that we send out the door can maybe help us achieve something like that someday! Thanks so much for sharing that story and congratulations😄

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Texas Quilter says:

    Good for you – but this does take time. Coming from parents who went through the Depression in 1929 I picked up the bad habit of “stocking up”…. Since I cannot eat out, but hubby can, we spent a lot on the times that he would get some fast food if we had been in SA for the day. That really adds up. I stock up once a month and now we are going to a fresh meat market for meat. You are right – for 2 people it should be less, We have been retired for 18 years now and very blessed with retirement income. (worked 38 years each). But I watch the spending as best as I can and we both believe in saving and coordinate any expenditures, so that problem does not exist as it can in some marriages.

    Now that hubby and I are eliminating carbs from the diet to lose weight (we both have lost) I think I see less spending in the food area. Those snacks add up to more than the basic foods.

    I admire you for tracking each penny – it is surprising isn’t it? Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Thanks so much and I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts/experiences. Your comment makes me think of my grandparents in West Virginia (long passed now) who struggled during the Depression and when as a kid we would visit them I was amazed and overwhelmed with how many canned goods they had! They even had likely expired canned foods. In was the early 1970s and I swear some of the canned goods looked like they were purchased in the 1940s or 1950s! Congrats on eliminating carbs! 🙂

      Like

  6. knitnkwilt says:

    I have started such projects, but I never last very long. I do remember once, when I thought I was being quite frugal, realizing that I didn’t count books when looking at budget. I bought them without flinching, and it added up. I have since shifted to libraries for most books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Books? They are a life necessity! But seriously thank goodness for public libraries or I would be drowning in books. I too gave so many books away to the library, many of them go to the Friends of the Library fundraiser sale as the librarian explained they do not usually put donated books into circulation unless they are in pristine condition (and there are these technical other reasons she explained that I forgot). I did also donate a lot of my CD collection after discovering downloading everything to iTunes and I do see some of my old CDs in the library CD collection! Thanks for your comments 🙂

      Like

  7. Christine says:

    You crack me up. Usually I like my quilting blogs to stick to quilt topics but I love your diversions…like trips to the library. We kept track of every expenditure when we were first married, determining whether to spend $.35 on toll or go the back way. We’ve gotten quite frivolous (carefree?) now with retirement. I am indeed a food hoarded. People joke they are coming here in the event of a catastrophe. But when things go WAY past expiration dates, I do get quite a ribbing. I get annoyed when I don’t use produce on time. But I love being able to make a meal (ok..meals for a week+) without going to the store. I think you truly needed that important 1.38 item. If you were a true hoarder, you would have already had it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Thanks and I will know also where to go if I need more food in case of the apocalypse – ha! Now I do have a disclaimer on the home page of my blog that it is about a “Crafter’s Life” – so that opens it up to any topic – ha! Thanks for sharing your experience with tracking and hey nothing wrong with being carefree on expenses. We want to be able to enjoy retirement someday so we realized we better pay attention now 🙂

      Like

  8. sandradny says:

    Confession: I too am a food hoarder. Spices are a particular problem 😦
    I think I’ll give your spreadsheet technique a try. I suspect that there are several leaky holes in my budget buckets — geysers likely!

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Spices!!!! I always think of my dear friend Michele when it comes to spices as she is a recovering spice hoarder. She is a great cook and uses spices well but her pantry used to contain like 5 of everything. It was moving that she realized her spice-a-holicness. I try to be good on spices and I try to keep empty spice bottles and then refill them with the bulk versions of spices. Hope the spreadsheet works for you if you are looking for leaky holes – we learned a lot. I am only doing it for a year, it is a lot of work and not sure I could do it indefinitely 🙂

      Like

      • michelevisagie says:

        Yayl! Spices!! A noble hoarding endeavor, I like to think. I’m (mostly) better now… I think your expense experiment is a good one and while I’ve not done it to that level of detail, my Visa statement offers me something like that for an annual summary and I’ve attempted that sort of tracking for a month or two now and again to make sure my budget is running as I think it is. It is very enlightening!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Cindy Anderson says:

    Being a retired bookkeeper I’ve invested a lot of energy in tracking family expenses. In the end it became too time-consuming. I found I wanted to spend my time doing things like sewing and having fun. Now I only track the items that we need to save for like insurance and taxes, etc. I applaud you for sticking with your spreadsheet and making changes based on the results. Way to go!

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Thanks Cindy and it sounds like you tracked enough expenses in your professional career for a lifetime! I am just doing it for a year and though it is so tedious at times, it has been a great opportunity to improve our spending decisions and a real eye opener! We actually did NOT stop at the supermarket yesterday for one thing when we were out running errands because of me telling Terry about this post and my realization about the crazy amount of supermarket stops per month!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. handmade habit says:

    Interesting! I used to do the exactly same tracking (on Excel, and with various categories, too). I kept every little receipt, tracked every expense, and also created a column for the ‘ideal month’ (which I could never quite stick to). I was similarly shocked to find how much I was spending on certain categories (mine was frequent restaurant visits. Do those add up!). It’s true that awareness is the beginning of change, and I think it’s a great idea to gamify budgeting. Perhaps there can be a reward at the end of each month for good numbers? (hopefully something that doesn’t break the bank!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience and I love the idea of “gamifying” it! We have what – 4 months left in 2017 and we could figure out some nice treat for staying under some amount – nice idea 🙂
      (And an added bonus if we stay out of grocery stores, lol)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Old Raven Creates says:

    I did give this a try, though I think I only went a few of months. It was an amazing effort to track everything but I did learn quite a bit and was able to make some significant changes in our lifestyles like: combine errands i.e. store, P.O., bank, etc. all in one long run. I also started making weekly menus (just dinner) and then did my grocery shopping once a week, which seriously cut down on ‘impulse’ shopping and we eat way healthier now, as well as, save a ton of money because I’m not buying all those ‘impulse’ items. I also spent some time reviewing where to grocery shop. Once I got my weekly menu thing up and running, then I made a spreadsheet of everything I would buy in an average one month period and taking this list I went to three stores that I commonly shopped at and wrote down the price of every item on my list at each store. I found one store was incredibly high priced compared to the other two, but the winner was still almost 20% less the second lowest. I had no idea there was that much difference between the stores. A final tip from my expense experience; as I was making a menu each week I wanted to do it on something that I could stick up on my fridge and reuse if possible. The answer was a white board (11″ x 8″), it works great, and then it occurred to me that one of those would make a good grocery list, too. And it does, plus as I shop and put things in the cart I just wipe that item off the list which greatly cuts down on the ‘dang it! that item is clear back on the other side of the store’ and you know you’ve got everything when the board is wiped clean. I frequently have people comment on my white board grocery list while I’m shopping as being clever, don’t know about that, but I do love my white boards.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Wow! Thanks for sharing all this much appreciated. We do have a grocery list white board and it has helped. I take a photo of it when I head to the store with my iPhone and then shop using the photo. I think we need to let the list build up more before it is time for a grocery store trip. I have noticed significant pricing differences between grocery stores and that for some items you should go to one store and for others to another store – but then I have to remember how much is my *time* worth to travel to different stores! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sparkle On with Abbie says:

    I feel your pain! It is just us two humans too and I always feel like we “need to go to the store again” Then two days later and $100 poorer, I open the fridge and say “it’s empty! We need to go to the store again!” Fortunately we have several small discount grocery stores around here that sell things past the “use by” date for super cheap. A spread sheet is a great way to get a clear picture on where the $$ is going. I wil have to try it. Thanks for sharing 🤑

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Thanks for your comments! I see I am not alone in my frequent supermarket visits! Ever since this post, Terry and I have not returned to the supermarket, I just focus on cooking with what I have in the house. It is a new challenge 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sparkle On with Abbie says:

        It is a challenge. I get annoyed with myself for saying there is nothing to eat, when there really is plenty. D and I had a “potluck” dinner last night in an effort to clean out the freezer, who thought frozen corn, perogies and jalapeño poppers went toghether?! 😋

        Liked by 2 people

  13. torbengb says:

    Oh wow Tierney! With this many comments, you have clearly hit a special topic. I wish I’d seen it sooner.

    The thing I see most people saying is that they are basically tracking their past. While it’s valuable to see how you got here, it’s even more important to know where you are heading! I could do a whole blog on this idea alone, but here’s a challenge for you – and for all the commenters too:

    Are your expenses aligned with your priorities? Are you spending your money on the things that are most important to you?

    Looking back just tells you a yes or no answer. Looking forward let’s you fund your priorities, at the expense of less important things. The really difficult part of this isn’t the act of budgeting though – it’s figuring out what your true priorities are!

    Do you know?

    (You are almost making me start my blog again, just to give a decent response on your post here!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Oh wow Torben! At first I was like “who is this ‘torbengb’?” as I had not seen that name in a blog post comment in a long long long time! Thanks so much for commenting and you should definitely start up your blog again! I so agree with your challenge questions – looking at my past expenditures it was obviously that grocery shopping was a priority (and intense love) for me – ha! Why don’t you take this post and use it as a jumping point for an opening post on your restarted blog 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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