Wednesday, 14 January 2015

2014 Expenditure Tracker...A year in review

Last year I attempted to track and budget for every dollar that came in my pay check and it was a great exercise to go through.  It was an incredibly valuable process with some interesting outcomes.  Below is a summary of how I did as well as a detailed look at where I outperformed and where I under-performed my budget.

ItemActual 2014Target 2014Perf. vs Target
Accommodation / Living expenses $27,617$26,950+$667
Car expenses$6,926$8,300-$1,374
Health / Well being expenses$6,162$6,790-$628
Entertainment / Personal expenses $15,738$14,764+$974
Travel expenses$10,299$8,100+$2,199
Other 'big' expenses$40,695$42,100-$1,405
Savings / Investments$11,393$12,613-$1,220

So what happened?

Accommodation / Living expenses: +$667

Almost every single expense line in this category came in exactly where I forecast.  Rent, utilities and insurance came in almost exactly where I forecast.  The big variances came from groceries ($600 less than I forecast), clothing ($450 more than I forecast) and apartment set up costs ($600 more than I forecast).  

If I hadn't bought my new television right at the end of the year I would have been well below my overall target.  I can't believe how close my estimates were.  It really does show how effective budgeting and tracking can be.

Car expenses: -$1,374

I was honestly a little surprised how well I performed in this particular category.  I spent a little bit more on registration and maintenance than I had forecast however my fuel costs, parking and toll costs and car washing costs were way below my forecasts. 

Once again, actually tracking my expenses made me focus on saving money wherever possible.  I used my car less, bought my own equipment to wash my car (instead of paying for it) and paid far fewer tolls in previous years because I could see it affecting my budget every time I spent on one of these items.

Health / Well Being expenses: -$628

I confess I was surprised
that I outperformed in this particular category.  I spent more on health insurance than I had planned to and I donated slightly less than I had planned to.  The big out-performance really came from the fact that I spent more time at the gym (flat membership cost per month) and less time playing squash (fee per hour played) than I had originally thought.  This alone made a $700 difference to my budget.

Entertainment / Personal expenses: +$974

I have been tracking my entertainment expenses for years and in previous years I would spend more than I had forecast every single month.  Sometimes a single month would be $1,000 more than I had forecast so I was amazed to see that I came within $1,000 of my forecast for the entire year.

I spent far more than I had forecast on both gifts and on going out at night.  I spent $1,400 more on gifts this year than I had planned purely due to the number of weddings I was invited too.  Weddings are not cheap and there is no real way of getting around the cost of gifts for weddings.  I also spent $2,500 more on going out at night and on going to events.

So where did I perform well?  It may sound basic but I stopped buying coffee every day and I stopped going out for expensive breakfasts and lunches.  This may not sound like much but I spent $2,500 less than I had forecast by making these simple changes.  It turns out that $10 a day really does make a difference over year!

Travel expenses: +$2,199

I was a little disappointed that I spent so much more on travelling than I had originally forecast.  I actually came in $500 under budget on my South American holiday but I actually ended up visiting my fiancees family far more than I had originally thought.  Where I had budgeted $700 on visiting them (and the ancilliary costs associated with this) I actually ended up spending $3,000 which totally blew my budget out of the water.

Other 'big' expenses: -$1,404

Why is spending less than I forecast a bad thing?  Because these were things that I was saving for over the year.  I spent $1,200 more on the ring and proposal than I had originally forecast and saved $3,200 more than I had forecast for my wedding and honeymoon however I spent $6,000 less on my car than I had budgeted.  I am still in the process of buying my car so this amount will be spent over 2015.

Savings / Investments: -$1,220

The savings and investment line is really a balancing item.  It is flattered by the fact that I still have $6,000 set aside in this section to pay for the balance of my car.  

There were a lot of moving parts in this category but the largest items were as follows: I actually withdrew money out of my home loan offset account ($500) where I had forecast to save $6,000.  I also invested $1,300 less in shares than I had originally planned. This was partially offset by the fact that I didn't sell $7,000 worth of employee shares which I had planned to sell.

How did I do and am I happy?

I am actually rather happy with how I went.  In previous years my budget was completely blown out of the water by things I didn't forecast or expect.  Part of this was due to the fact that I was constantly backward looking in those years while this year I entered in expenses as they came.

I achieved everything I wanted to do this year and managed to do this without dipping into my investments and savings at all.  Given I got engaged, have saved for a wedding and went on an expensive international holiday I am calling this a win for budgeting.

Is it worth doing and would I do the same level of detail again?

Is it worth doing...yes and no.  It gave me an incredible insight into my finances and forced me to remain on track during the year.  Every dollar was written down and it makes you think 3 and 4 times before spending any money.  If you want to achieve your goals it is a great way to do this.

Having said is a pain in the backside.  Actually writing down every dollar you spent takes time and effort and more excel cells than you can possibly imagine.

Would I do it again?  If I was not integrating my finances with my fiancee I would probably think about doing it again.  However it is far too complicated and I've come up with a much simpler system which should help me keep track of my larger goals in 2015.

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  1. Cool insight here, out of interest how did you keep track of it? Were you using an app, excel spreadsheets etc?

    I find I have a general idea on how much I spend however not really sure that I get that grainular and probably could look at tracking more stringently..

    Nice income too btw :)
    Good effort on hitting close to your goals!

    1. Hi Jef - I did it in excel. I have included a breakdown of how I did it in the comment below. I found that tracking it at a more granular level helped me work out exactly where I could save money.

      In previous years I had this giant 'personal expenses' pot which I could never get under control but this year I could see and address exactly what that was.

  2. Same question as Jef, just wondering how you actually recorded all the expenses.
    I use TrackMySpend by MoneySmart on my phone and it seems pretty handy !

    1. Hi Jef and Financial Rookie - I just did it in excel. On one tab I set out all my goals in a whole heap of detail. I had about 30 sub-categories which made up the 7 large categories above (I didn't really put much science into this - I just thought of the major things I spent on and then grouped them into what I thought were logical groups)

      I then set up a separate page with each of the sub categories listed in a row (as a header) and then every day of the year listed along the left hand column to create one massive table.

      As I spent money I just added it into the relevant cell. The only difficult bit was aggregating these automatically so that I could see what was going on on a monthly basis. I ended up using vlookups for this.

      If you guys are interested I can upload (or send you) a basic template of what I mean?

      Phone apps are great (I'll definitely look into MoneySmart) - I just wanted the ability to fully customise it which is why I opted to go with the excel spreadsheet.

    2. Cheers 90million ! Yeah would you be able to email me the basic template ? Will definitely give that a workout.
      Thanks heaps!

    3. Cool, that would be good, I'll take a look! You should know the address by now 90M ;) if not though it's


    4. Hi Jef - I've sent the file to you. Financial Rookie if you shoot me an email I can send the file over to you (use 90millionblogger (at)

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