How To Track Your Spending And Get Control of Your Personal Finance

Ang Pao 2010

Happy Chinese New Year and Gong Xi Fa Chai to all my Chinese friends and readers. And to all you love birds out there, Happy Valentine’s Day.

During special occasion like this, even at this time of economy downturn, I believe that we just can’t stop spending. You can see this through the massive fireworks display on Sunday night, the preparation of foods and beverage for guesses, and for the love birds, expressing their love by presenting flowers, exchanging gifts and a visit to the restaurant.

But not to forget the hand full Ang Pao that most of us youngsters had received, we have money coming in and out of our pockets.

The question is,
“Did you keep track on how much you have spent and how much you have earned?”

I have created a poll in facebook and the results are:
22.86% voted YES
60% voted NO
17.14% voted SOMETIMES

It is no surprise that most doesn’t keep track on their spending. Keeping track on your daily transaction is a very vital money management skill that you should start now.

To get started, you need some handy tools to record every penny that comes in or out of your pocket. I would like to divide it into two recording method, the mobile transaction log, and the data storage log.

Mobile transaction log:
The first step is to record down all the transaction you have made into a log. It can take in any form but I would recommend you to either use one of this three:
+ Mobile phone (Smartphone, Symbian operated, iPhone etc.)
+ Small pocket notebook (Make sure you always bring a pen along)

I personally use my mobile phone to record all my spending because I don’t carry notebook and pen around with me all the time. It is very handy and easy, I Just write them down in the Notes application. I didn’t download software into my phone because I prefer to store all my data into a personal finance software that I have installed in my PC.

Data storage log:
At the end of the day, all you have to do is to input your daily transactions into a proper transaction log. You can either use an accounting journal book that you can buy in any stationery stores or, for those computer savvy, you can use Microsoft Excel or a personal finance management software.

I recommend you to use a personal finance management software because it has an organized system which has a function and ability to keep a better record of your transactions. It gives you a clearer view of how much you have spent in particular category such as – dining, entertainment, gas, etc. by using a pie chart and report.

These are two personal finance management software you can get from the internet (No worries, they are free to use):
Mint, Quicken’s Online Software 
– You need to signup for an online account for this. But keep in mind, you need to access the internet to manage your finance.

- GnuCash is a desktop application. You need to download the software into your computer and Install it.

In my case, I’m using a personal finance management software, Quicken Home & Business 2010, bought from the local PC-DVD stores. Believe me, it just only cost a little compared to the benefits that it brings to your life.

But, my system might not works for you, so as always, do what works for you. The most important thing is to make this as your daily routine for at least 2 months. By then, it would have developed as a habit and congratulation you have now took control over your money.

Performing Blog Autopsy on Eli Shares’ 3rd Bloggivesary

Eli Shares is now 3 years old but still far away from being a well established blog. With only 24 blog posts being published last year, I can’t say much about the goals that I have set and what improvements that I have done for the course of the year.

Sitemeter 2009The only improvement in Eli Shares was the amount of traffic that has increased tremendously starting from the 3rd quarter of the year. With an average of 48 visits per day the site meter has recorded a hit of 16,183 visitors, 6,183 above the milestone that I have targeted.

In order to get Eli Shares to the next level, first of all I need to get myself into C.S.I mode - performing an autopsy on it and examine what are the causes that choke off the development and find a way to fix it up.

1. Inadequate amount of blog updates
A blog without regular blog updates can be considered as a lifeless blog. Google and other search engines hates lifeless blogs because their main purpose is to supply users with the most up-to-date, most interesting and most accurate information. It is clear that providing new fresh contents regularly is a must!

Let’s dig deeper to the roots…
I was quite active in writing new contents in the first half of the year -with 21 out of 24 of my posts were published during that period of time. But on the second half it slows down from turtle speed to snail speed.

To be exact, it started during the end of semester, also during the examination period, where I spend most of my time studying for my papers. For that reason, it’s acceptable for me not to post up new contents. But the halt continues on through the semester break until the beginning of the next semester. I was elected as the president of Swinburne Sarawak Football club, since then my mind and time was fully occupied with football and futsal. The content production has suffered and my studies as well.

+ Set a schedule for writing on daily basis.
+ Must publish at least 3 fresh new posts every week.
+ Speed Linking on every Sunday.

2. Procrastination and Multi-Tasking
Procrastination and multi-tasking is a mechanism that kicks-in while you’re unaware of it until it’s too late, especially when you’re not focused enough.

Let’s dig deeper to the roots…
While I was writing a post, sometimes out of nowhere, there’s a urge for me to do something else – check email, check facebook, chatting, read other blogs or articles and so on - doing a bit here and a little bit there until I realize that I have gone out of track. In the end, there is nothing really get done and time has been wasted.

+ Close the facebook tab on writing time. This is the main source of distraction.
+ Close the email tabs.
+ Set messenger status as busy along with “Do Not Disturb” message.
+ Set a schedule for writing on daily basis.
+ Do research before writing, NOT while writing.
+ Do a proper writing planning, research, and brainstorm ideas.

3. Fear of Making Mistake and Perfectionism
The perfectionist have their inner critic frequently warn them against making a mistake. Each time when I wanna start writing a new blog post, with fresh new blank page, the first obstacle I have to tackle is “how to get it started”. I would spent hours constantly revising, editing and rewrite the first paragraph until I feel satisfied. It doesn’t stop here, I’ll be doing the same thing – revise, edit, rewrite, until I finish writing the whole article. That’s very time consuming and it certainly took away the fun of writing.

Let’s dig deeper to the roots…
When I was a little kid, my parents and especially my school teachers always remind me not to make mistakes. Every time when I make a mistake, I was often scolded, punished and caned.

I still remember when I was in Primary 3, my mathematic teacher once instructed us to memorize the whole 12 times multiplication table in one week and expect us to recite all the 12 times multiplication perfectly without a single mistake. Or else, we will get ourselves caned for every mistake and we are subjected to repeat until we can recite it perfectly. Because of the pain inflicted I was afraid to even make the tiniest mistake.

Often when I was writing, I would have this “false illusion” going on in my head, afraid that my writing aren’t perfect that people will criticize, judge, reject and ridicules my ideas.

But, for one thing, I can never be perfect. So I should brush off the feeling of fear and keep on going forward.

+ Think positive. Allowing myself to make mistake and don’t think it as a failure but instead an opportunity to learn.
+ Accept that I can never please everyone.
+ Un-link the association of mistake from pain, humiliation and rejection.
+ Conquer the fear.

In Summary of the Autopsy,
Through the examination performed on the blog I realized that what keeps holding me from writing was the fear of making mistakes. It then leads to procrastination and in the end causing a choke on the development of the blog.

Therefore, I need put in full commitment and work out with the solutions. Keep on moving forward, have faith in what I am doing and treat mistakes as an opportunity to learn.

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