Since I started using Tiller I think about money differently. I wrote about my personal finance journey on The Financial Diet, and it’s been a tumultuous one, as I’m sure it is for many others. I’d used an Excel spreadsheet to track a budget before when I was living paycheck to paycheck, but since my financial situation improved, I didn’t feel like keeping a budget was necessary.
When I started my freelance consulting business back in 2015, the “perhaps I should budget” thought returned to my mind. Money from clients was flowing in and expenses, both personal and for business, were flowing out, but I really had no idea how much I was spending.
A reminder to spend with intent
I don’t spend money like crazy. I’m pretty frugal, and I really try to spend with intention. That’s one way using Tiller has changed my perception about money. Every time I consider whether I’m going to buy something, I think, “how would I categorize that in Tiller? Okay, that would be dining out. I made a promise to myself to stop doing that as much, so I’m not going to do it.” My behavior changed around my spending, and the way I think about money.
For example, I recently took a day to myself, or I “made plans with myself” as I like to say, and I went for a hike. While hiking I started to think, “I’m going to be hungry after this, I really want to stop in this lovely little gourmet grocery store and get a sandwich.” I thought about my Tiller Sheet. It doesn’t lie, but then another thought occurred. I want to spend in line with my values, and taking this day for myself is a gift. So I will go to that store, get my sandwich, and I’ll categorize that as a gift… to myself. So I did it, and it was great. I really enjoyed that sandwich, bag of locally crafted potato chips, and local organic kombucha. I didn’t think twice about it because categorizing it that way lined up with my values. Of course, I won’t always think of dining out as a “gift” to myself because it won’t always be that special.
Categorize to get clear on my finances
I’ve been categorizing my transactions in Tiller, diligently, for about 7 months now, and the other day I decided to have a look at the status of my finances, which was something I had yet to really do. I’ll be honest, I was a bit scared. When you go out on a limb to start a small business and take a 50% pay cut, there’s a chance you’re going to end up broke. Fortunately, I was able to use my monthly pivot table to see that after it was all said and done I saved an average of about $900 each month for the first two months in 2016.
That made me feel really great. Now I didn’t turn around, go out and start spending more, but it assured me that I can succeed, from my perspective, financially, with this little business and still treat myself when it feels right.
*As a note, I am on the Tiller team and I operate my own digital strategy consulting business as well. I would use this tool even if I wasn’t associated with Tiller because it has been amazing for bookkeeping both personally and as a small business.