A couple of summers ago I was dead broke. There was no spending to track because I had nothing to spend. I then found a job which blessed me with some income. I got out of the rut and was on my way to get my finances back into the green area.
Having gained back some purchasing power, that year and into 2017, I would look at my expenses, and tell myself, ‘okay bro, you can spend around this much this month’. It would not be tailored to any expense category, and I also didn’t write the exact number down anywhere. This did not help.
I had no idea how much I was spending, on what, and if this was acceptable in the bigger picture. Also not unimportant, whether I was spending more money than I was receiving. Because in the longer run, if you keep spending more than you have, you will end up broke.
My real expense tracking started in August 2017, on, what else: a Google Sheet. The first version of the ‘Digital Household Booklet’ was born!
My tracking during the first 3 months was messier, as I did not yet have a master overview like I have now. I constructed a tab with money in with my salary, and money out, but only included the fixed costs here. So the variable ones, the ones I was tracking per month on separate tabs, were still not connected to and being deducted from the whole. Meaning: still no real overview.
In October I constructed a grand overview, to be used from November onwards, and made accompanying monthly templates to track expenses, with one row per expense. Many calculations on the grand overview (total in, total out, saved per month, money spent on category for the entire year, to name some) were now done automatically with formulas.
The overview is on one tab. Each month was on its own tab, where I tracked expenses for that month. I used the same categories on the grand overview, as I did in the dropdown menus on each row per expense in the monthly tabs. Why? So that I could pull all data per monthly tab onto the grand overview using a simple SUMIF formula. Things were starting to look better, and I was regaining control of my spending, and started to save money!
To be honest, this was the first time in my life I had a complete overview of all my money. This simple solution in the form of a Google Sheet made such a difference, that I decided to share it with anyone interested! I signed up for Medium, and wrote my first post about how it helped me and how it can help you too. Read it here and try it for yourself.
I’ve been using it ever since. The functionality was upgraded after some time, and after receiving feedback from readers.
Give me the numbers please
I thought it might be interesting to share some statistics. This is by far my best performing article, even though it barely received views in the months upon publishing.
Until around August 2018 when it started to get indexed by search engines.
Traffic has been consistent ever since.
It is interesting to see that the majority of the traffic comes from Google and other search engines. After Google, it has mostly been shared between people in messages and mails and through Facebook.
What I never anticipated, is the amount of people who were interested in my sheet. I was definitely not the only one looking for a solution in this area. So. Reading the article I wrote is one thing. Actually using the sheet is another. The stats from Medium show that the article has been viewed over 11k times. The read ratio however is lower at 26%. I assume people read the title, and scroll down to the link itself or the summary. How we all love freebies right?
On a weekly basis I get an edit access request for the sheet, which I of course deny because the template needs to stay standardised for everyone. After getting weekly edit access requests, I made some print screens of where and how to make a copy, and placed them at the top of the article. Due to the frequency of requests, I also added a canned auto-response in my emails, to serve as a reminder for people to make a copy instead, always ending the message with ‘if you need help, write me!’, and I mean it. (If you have feedback on a better way to communicate how readers should make use of the template, please do share!)
To get better insights into usage, I added a Bitly link to the Google Sheet to at least be able to see how many times someone clicks on it. This is about one third of the views. (In case you don’t know what Bitly is: it’s a URL shortener you can use to create custom urls, and track the clicks! Signing up is free. You only start pay once you create insane amounts of URLs.)
It makes sense that the majority of the referrers come from the article itself, from here on Medium. It’s also really cool to me that so many people shared it with their friends through email, SMS and direct messaging (2nd category).
By FAR the coolest thing, is being able to see where all the clicks come from. The majority of clicks comes from the United States, but the rest from everywhere in the world.
What I would love, is to receive feedback!
What is your main motivation for clicking on the sheet? Have you been able to use it? How has it been useful to you? What can be improved? Reach out to me and let me know! Read the original article on the Digital Household Booklet.
I’m building a mobile app!
An app to track your expenses and maintain an overview on your in- and outgoing money streams! (What else, ha). The first release will be a fully manual version, so that with each expense you input, you will feel it, and be forced to hold yourself accountable. (If I automate my expenses, or automate the tracking, I will not care about how much is going out. I’ll see the numbers, but I’ll feel them hitting me less hard.) It is the app I wish was out there when I started tracking my expenses (heck if it was out there, I would use it).
For people out there using Google Drive and Google Sheets, or are open to trying it out, check out the full article I wrote on the Digital Household Booklet here. Inside the article I linked to the template, which you can copy and try out for yourself!
The future and present is mobile, so for everyone else, a mobile app is in the making! It is my first one and I am building it by myself. (I now understand why so many people say that building things is the best way to learn, I’m experiencing it first hand!) I hope to turn it into something that other human beings can use to improve their lives a little bit.
Share your thoughts with me if you have feedback, or suggestions on what to implement! My goal right now, is to finish building, release it, get feedback, improve it, release it, get feedback, improve it, release it, repeat. You get the idea.
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