Pay Attention to Your Spending to Improve Your Personal Finance Story

I’ve been using Tiller for over a year now. When I started out working with Tiller back in July 2015, I also started using Tiller to track my money. I quickly realized how powerful it was for my own personal finance journey.

I’m not new spreadsheets. There have been times where I whipped up a quick budget to make sure I had enough money to get me through the month if I wanted to venture out with friends on a Friday night. (You can read a more in-depth account of my finance journey on The Financial Diet here). When I came to Tiller I was new to tracking my spending.

Other tools left something to be desired

I’d tried out Mint back in 2012, when things were a bit tight for me financially. I quickly became bored and frustrated with it. I understood the need to track where my money was going, but I was never able to be diligent with my tracking using Mint or other tools. Tiller changed all this for me, and I want to share what I’ve learned about my spending and how it’s changed my habits, and in some aspects my life.

First off, since I started using Tiller, I dine out way less than I did before I started using Tiller. Over the course of the first six months of this year, compared to the first six months of 2015, I’ve spent $1,193 less eating out at restaurants. That’s not a made up number, my Tiller Sheet doesn’t lie. I know that part of changing this habit was due to the fact that if I decided to dine out at a restaurant I’d see that transaction come into my sheet within a couple days. I would have to face the fact I was still overspending in areas where I could be more mindful.

Visit to Old Stove Brewing Company in Seattle

Visit to Old Stove Brewing Company in Seattle

The same goes with my alcohol budget. When I started using Tiller, I realized how much money I was spending on booze and decided to make a change. It was really an opportunity to save money, or spend it more consciously at least. Don’t get me wrong, I love craft beer and visiting breweries is a favorite pastime, but the decision to drink less has really improved my life in numerous ways beyond the monetary savings. I feel healthier and more productive. In the back of my mind I knew I was probably drinking more often and more than I should be, but seeing those alcohol related transactions flooding in really helped me make a change. So far, I’ve spent $529 less on alcohol between Jan and Aug of this year compared to last year.

Consequently, I’ve spent $462 more so far this year compared to last on wellness related purchases such as yoga studio memberships, massage and other things that contribute to my overall wellbeing and mental health. That is money worth spending because it improves my life experience.

Less overall spending

I have spent less money in general in most areas of my life. I’ve spent less money on gas, ($266), groceries ($475) and miscellaneous stuff ($928). When I know I’ll have to account for the spending and touch each transaction again, it’s easier for me to make the choice that results in less spending.

Heather biking at Alki Beach back in May

Heather biking at Alki Beach back in May

For me personally, these choices to spend less go beyond the desire to save money. They really line up with my values and goals to consume less in general. Tiller makes it obvious where my consumption habits stand, but it also gives me the knowledge and the nudge to develop more positive habits like riding my bike instead of driving, cooking at home instead of dining out, and spending more on personal wellbeing and experiences as opposed to stuff.

As a culture, we put so much emphasis on the importance of money, but without a way to see where it’s actually going, what value does it really have?