Since I joined the Tiller team in July 2015 I’ve been using a sheet to track my spending and earnings. I’d started out using our Weekly Expense Tracker template, which was at that time our “Standard Template.” I’d check in every few days to categorize my recent purchases. Every now and then I’d take a look at my weekly spending for things like dining out, gas, and groceries over the past couple months. Was I above or below the average most months? I’d consider what was different from week to week when there were large spikes in my spending. I was building awareness, and this was a helpful first step for someone who had never before found the right tool to track my money.
I definitely consider myself to be frugal, but since my income has been pretty stable for the past few years I haven’t felt the need to formally budget out my money. Then we released the Tiller Budget template back in June. I was super excited about the release of this template as our new default budget template because I knew it would be powerful for our customers, and my own money management as well. It was a great opportunity to build insights about my money from a different perspective.
Setting financial spending cap goals
I decided when I started setting up my budget spreadsheet that it wasn’t going to be something I strictly enforced, but a tool to help me measure my progress on a spending cap goal. Could I set and not exceed a limit on my restaurant spending for a month? I was curious. It gave me a set up to focus my spending a little more intentionally.
I’ve been using the template for about two months now and the insights are amazing. During my recent trip to Seattle I spent more on things like dinner and drinks out with my friend than my original goal, as well as more on some adventure travel related expenses than I’d expected. As those expenses came into my sheet I’d categorize them, check my budget dashboard, and reflect on how much I’d gone over a target or how much was remaining and think, “is this realistic for the rest of the month?”
If it wasn’t I’d adjust the target a bit to what I thought might be more feasible. If it was I’d leave it as is and check back in a few days. I hadn’t budgeted for some surprise credit card interest charges so I needed to add a new group and category. It’s made budgeting flexible because I can quickly account for unexpected spending.
Rolling over the budget sheet
When August 1st rolled around and I opened up my budget sheet I got excited. I categorized those last few transactions from July and assessed how I did. There were definitely some areas where I overspent by A LOT. Other areas where I thought I’d spend, but then found they were still at $0. I got a sense of my net cash flow for the month, which was only slightly in the positive. Categories where I underspent helped compensate for the ones that were sky high.
I created a manual budget history to record my targets and actuals for July so I can look back on this historic data. We’ve heard from quite a few customers this is a feature they’d like to see in this template so we’re working on building that out, and we hope to have it available shortly.
The key is awareness, not judgement
I tried to take a nonjudgemental approach to reviewing this dashboard. I want to use it to measure rather than dictate my life choices. I don’t want it to keep me from spontaneous adventures or concerts. I’m staying engaged and each month I’ll fine tune my targets and keep watching. The end goal is to be aware and see the patterns. If I want to save up for something like my next trip to Central America, I might decide to forego a few impromptu nights out on the town.
How have you been using the Tiller Budget template so far? What insights have you made? We’d love to hear them. Message us via support using the chat window in the lower right corner of our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.
Customer Success, Heather Phillips
Heather comes from a background of user experience design & customer support. She loves helping others learn, explore and discover better ways to use applications and products that improve their lives. When she’s not coaching customers on Tiller best practices, tweeting or writing blogs, she’s probably at a yoga class, out for a hike in the Blue Ridge, or off volunteering for a variety of non-profits.