Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship - Benjamin Franklin

As a college student it is not uncommon for one to go out and make irrational purchases. Often these are sporadic trips to taco bell late at night or a Wal-Mart run because of simple boredom. These little trips, although infrequent, can really add up. I know I used to go out and just waste money, spending it on items of want, instead saving them for items of need. It would be far simpler to eat one of those packages of ramen noodles you’ve got stored away then go spend $10 on a pizza. I’m not saying that a change-up isn’t bad every once and awhile, but everyone needs to remember to live within their means and for the average college student, our means aren’t very great.

I think something that always annoyed me was when I would check my wallet to see how much money I had and had an unpleasant surprise that it was far less than what I expected. “Where did all my money go?” I’d ask myself. I mentally thought through all my small purchases and they were really starting to add up. Finally I got the motivation to create a way to keep track of my income and spending habits. I opened up Microsoft excel and started typing away. Now I keep track of every purchase I make with information of what I bought, how much it cost, and where it was from. I also have each item added to the month it was bought in and category the item would fall in. This way I can see how much I spent in each individual month and what kind of items I am spending my money on. Now I know there are services online that will do the same thing, but honestly I have not really looked into them. I wanted something customized to my needs and I knew I could make what I wanted fairly simply.
Here is the basic outline of the excel sheet to track purchases. The image below it is a separate tab on the same file that can keep track of income.

If you like the way that this is laid out you can download here:

You can change colors, categories, personalize it to your needs, if you don’t want to take the time to fill out this, you don’t think it will meet your needs, or you have limited excel knowledge I ask you to visit which has some of the best budgeting and financial tools available on the web.