If I have to choose one thing that I did in 2019 that I’m proud of – it’s tracking my finances.
I spend most of my time worrying about money as I always seem to be out of money and I’ve no idea where it goes. Even after following the prime financial advice of budgeting each month for few long months, I still ended up broke and going beyond my budget.
Exhausted and defeated – in June 2019, I decided to go into the root of it all. I forgo budgeting to track my finances, both my income and expenses. I’ve tried a number of apps and I chose to stick with an Android apps, Money Manager Expense & Budget as it’s easy for me.
I wanted to see what actually happen to my ringgit each month, so for the past 7 months, I’ve been living as usual with my regular income and spending without much restrictions on myself.
Here’s the result.
SPENDING BREAKDOWN OF (HALF OF) 2019
This is the first time I lay down my spendings this way and seeing this feels like an attack to me. If I were to follow The 50/30/20 Rule of Thumb for Budgeting (50% for Needs, 30% for Wants and 20% for Savings), it goes like this:-
Expectation : 20% | Reality : 21.2 %
- Savings : On paper, I’ve actually hit the 20% ratio, unfortunately I took them out over time. And I still have the audacity to wonder why I barely have savings after 2 years of working. Sigh, I’ll have to figure out how to ensure the money that goes to my savings stays there.
Expectation : 50% | Reality : ~53.6%
- Transportation (18.2%): Transportation is the biggest chunk of expenses here – this is too much. This includes my car loan, maintenance, petrol, toll and tiny portion to parking. Well, car loan and maintenance is unavoidable but I certainly can find ways to lower my petrol and toll. Out of convenience, I always take the toll roads to avoid jam although most of the times, the time difference was not that much. I’ll work on that.
- Family (16.2%): I give my parents RM500 every month. I pay some of their bills. I treat my siblings often. Whenever I’m out with my family, I feel obliged to pay for them. #theAsianculture
- Rent / Bills / Utilities (7.1%): Is it okay if I justify my high transport expenses with my low rent and utilities? This includes the room I’m renting, Netflix subscriptions, phone bill, medical card and life insurance (the last two are since November 2019).
- Food (5.1%): Roughly translates to less than RM400 per month. I’m amazed that I managed to keep this category low despite my inability to cook for myself and my unhealty tendencies towards fast food.
- Beauty / Health (~4%): Other than the routine Watsons / Guardians trips, I required 2 clinic and 1 dental check ups in the past 7 months and an expensive but necessary derma treatments as my skin was giving me a hard time. In the future, hopefully I won’t need all these.
- Household / Groceries (~3%): Homeware, domestic appliances and microwaveable food stock #unhealthybut #worksmartnothard
Expectation : 30% | Reality : ~20%
- Hobbies / Gym / Activities (~4%): I’m a firm believer that all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl so this includes gym and my short trips and weekend activities.
- Laptop (~4%): This ratio is before I decided to make the full payment for it. The story is my partner gave me an advance to buy myself a nice laptop (that I use to type this so it’s not going to waste!) and I paid him monthly, flexibly. It was not fully paid yet until in the course of writing this, I paid it off as I did not feel good about having small debts like this in the start of a new year. Phew no regret. So with that payment, this ratio should be higher.
- Apparel (~3%): Mostly wants but I’ll hereby declare that gym shoes and clothes are needs ok.
- Social Life / Entertainment (~3%): I socialize but I do it the cheap way, rarely fancy eat out.
- Giving (~3%): Self explanatory. Other than family.
- Self-development / Office Stuff (~3%): Books, work unrelated seminars and, hopefully I won’t waste this away, this blog setup!
Expectation : – | Reality : What is this?!
- Claims / Loan / Pay First (5.1%): I intended this for the money that I would get back later, i.e. work claim or kawan pinjam but I stopped halfway because it did not tally with the money that I got back. Will surely throw out this category.
- Others (~2%): I have to renew my passport, so that’s RM200. Some small online purchases that I don’t know which category to put in.
- Modified Balance (~0%): To be exact, RM146 that I could not recall where it went.
First of all, there are just- Too. Many. Categories. I’ll narrow them down for the upcoming months though I haven’t figured out how.
All in all, I’m still confused. It doesn’t look bad on paper but in reality I still do not have the said 20% Savings. The high percentage that you see on savings actually do no reflect my actual savings. My tracking system fails to capture that I often dig into my savings to cover my expenses.
Money in, money out. Paycheck to paycheck. Cycle repeats. Back to square one. Sigh.
I’m so tired of this. Here’s what I’ll do in 2020 as far as money management is concerned:-
- Figure out how to narrow down the categories. Refine and revise the categories;
- Keep on tracking my expenses diligently to avoid any modification later;
- Save the 20% first every time I get my salary, and do not take from my savings!
- Lower down my Needs and Wants especially transportation expenses.
- Avoid big purchase, or unnecessary shopping.
Though I managed to somehow cheat the system by taking out my savings that I put in the beginning of each month to cover other expenses, at least now I know where my money goes. For that, I’ll keep in track with my finances. However, I realised that living as usual without any budget or self restrictions is not good. I thought I was making improvements but I am nowhere near my financial (and life) goals.
Fuhhh I am sweating profusely. I learn so much from this simple yet effective exercise of reviewing my own spending. Now time to continue figuringgitout. Wish me luck!