What Category Should I Use?

Photo: Leonie Wise Photo: Leonie Wise

We’ve designed Tiller to make it easy to build your own categories.

We don’t want to provide you with 100 default categories we think match your life, because we know we’d get it wrong. We suggest a few categories with our template, but we hope you replace them with the categories that make the most sense to you.

Keep it simple.

Don’t worry about separate categories for dog food, veterinary bills, and dog toys. Unless you’re a professional dog trainer, that’s too much complexity. For some people, a simple category for bills, living expenses, discretionary expenses, charity, and reimbursable expenses is a great place to start. Just five categories.

What goes where?

The electric bill and cell phone bill go under “Bills”. These are expenses worth checking a few times a year, but generally they aren’t expenses you can impact with your daily behavior. Gas and groceries go under “Living”. You make these decisions every day. While you need groceries and gas, you can also manage these expenses as needed by being mindful. Your “Discretionary” expenses are elective. If cash is tight, you can go without the latte or the movie. Finally, gifts to “Charity” should be flagged for tax purposes, and work or other “Reimbursable” expenses should also be flagged so you make sure you actually get reimbursed.

Goals make great categories too.

Are you saving for that vacation next year? Make that a category. And if you’re making transfers to a savings account for that goal, you can mark those transfers as “Vacation” as you build up your savings. Then when it’s time to take that vacation, you’ll mark those expenses as “Vacation” too.

You can always add more categories.

If you find that you really want to pay attention to additional categories, just add them. Want to know what you’re spending on school for your kids, outdoor gear, or driving? Add more categories, but add them as you need them, and start simple.

Don’t worry about cleaning up the past.

If you add a new category today to track outdoor gear, you don’t need to go back in time to flag all your expenses in the past that were previously “Discretionary” that are now “Gear”. Instead, use this new category for new expenses going forward. The past is gone. Focus on today, tomorrow, this week, and this month.

Do you disagree?

Great! Then you’re well on your way to having an informed opinion about your categories. Make them work for you. That’s the whole point, and if you have a system that’s working, share it. We’d love to know about it, and surely others would too.

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