#1-2020-Mar-“Personal finance: How to track your expenses? My five-category-approach”

Are you in control of your expenses? No? Me neither, not until I came up with the five-category-approach.

This article describes the system I use for tracking my personal expenses. It is the result of multiple failed approaches and more than necessary time spent on my transactions.

tl;dr

  1. Export csv/excel files from your card companies

  2. Import them to google sheet

  3. Define how to parse the key columns

  4. Gather all transactions into a single google sheet ordered by date and auto-label the transaction with a category

  5. (Override category on error/missing labels)

  6. Gather monthly summary into a different sheet

The five categories and examples

  1. Fun: travel, social events, family events, movies, restaurants, sex toys, etc.

  2. Life/Boring expenses/LivingCosts: House-rent/Health/Beauty/Consumer products/clothes/Food/Bills/Gym Membership/Supplements/Bus card/Subscription on Spotify/Netflix, etc.

  3. Kindness/Charity/Presents/Giving: Donations, birthday presents, etc.

  4. Professional/Career: Education loan, coaching, books, courses, electronics, web services, etc.

  5. Retirement/RainyDays/Investment: Index funds, stocks, shares, options, savings, etc.

What to track in the purchases/transactions (key columns)

  1. Date in the format Feb 16, 2020

    1. Usually requires some parsing

  2. description

  3. expense nok

    1. You may need to convert to your currency of choice

  4. income nok

    1. You may need to convert to your currency of choice

  5. Original amount

  6. Original currency

  7. category

    1. Often from the card company

  8. notes

    1. Sometimes from the card company

  9. top category

    1. One of the five categories above

Conclusion

Keeping up to date with all your expenses can be challenging. Especially when you use more than one bank.

But the main benefits can make it worth it:

  1. Having control of your expenses gives you peace of mind

  2. Labeling all your expenses gives you a glimpse into the way you live your life. YOLO or save up for the day you die.

  3. Are you hitting your goals for fun/kindness/etc?

I am curious to how people think about their personal finance and if they have tried to systematize it. If you are interested in the src code please let me know.