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.

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