It’s one thing to say; “My budget and I, we go waaay back”, but how much do you really know about your budget’s past? I’m not talking about that one time they experimented with tags and financial account filtering back in college. I mean the real nitty gritty stuff, the budget’s historical performance.
We’re all a bit optimistic when we first set up the budgets. Yet the real trial of your budgeting resolve, comes when you see the results of past budget periods and decide what you’ll do about them. Sometimes your spending or the budgets just need a little re-adjustment, sometimes a whole new strategy is needed.
We’re introducing a much improved budget history graph to help you with that.
There’s been a budget history graph in Toshl for a while. You could just open any budget’s details and scroll all the way down. The budget history is still there, but the new graph tells you a lot more.
Before, you’d see how much you spent in total in any given month.
Now, you’ll see:
The budget amount for the month.
How much you went under or over your budget amount, clearly marked with red where you went over or the light grey area, showing how much space you have until the budget amount would be reached.
You’ll notice that monthly budgets feature a bit more info still:
Yearly sum of monthly budgets. In the case above, it’s a monthly category budget for food. The budget for the individual month in this case is 350 €. The budget history graph will now automatically project this for the full calendar year, showing the 4200 € yearly sum (350 € x 12) and also sum up your past monthly budget to see how much you’ve spent so far.
The budget details are already featured above the history. So the graph doesn’t show exact numbers by default, but you can easily dig into more detail. As with other graphs in Toshl, click and hold on the graph column to show the details for each column.
As with this yearly budget history, you can see exactly how much was spent in a particular period and how that compares with your budgeting goals.
Toshl adapts the graph scale based on the results, so you can see the differences in your budget’s performance between periods. Making those differences clearly visible, also means sometimes cutting off some outliers – columns with spending so far out of proportion with the rest of the periods, that they go over the graph’s scale. In those cases, you’ll see that as a dark red column being cut-off, to signify it goes over the graph’s scale.
See that dark red column above, going out? In the immortal words of Flight of the Conchords channelling Bowie; How far out are you man? I’m pretty far out man! Worry not, click on it and you’ll know exactly how far out that budget overspending really is. Though, I hope your bank account can handle what the graph’s scale can’t.
We’ve been gradually releasing this feature across the Toshl apps on the web, Android and iOS, so you might have already seen this in action. If not, make sure you’re updated to the latest app version, tap a budget and take a trip down the memory lane of your finances.
Summertime. We are craving for it in the frosty winter evenings, we are waiting for it in the rainy spring mornings. When the desired season finally comes, we are constantly looking for an air-conditioned shelter: at home, office or… shopping mall.
Summer is meant to be vacation time. It is calling upon us to go on sparkling adventures: traveling, visiting open-air events, hanging out with our friends… shopping. All this can be very appealing. At the same time, the long wish-lists push us to spend more in this season. Surely, there are ways to spend less in summer. We have already wrote about how to spend less on a summer trip in one of our previous blog posts. Today we are going to look at another challenge — shopping.
Shopping therapy and its traps
We tend to overspend on special occasions. Why wouldn’t you indulge a bit more on vacations? It’s a case where our inner wishes match the intentions of the sales industry.
In sales, the summer is also known as a season of discounts and special offerings. Thus, if we go with this flow, we might end up overspending. And we might buy lots of things that are not necessary for us.
It is true that if we feel bad, getting a new thing might improve our mood immediately. Shopping provokes us to imagine ourselves in a “better” life, where we’re dressed in fancy clothes and surrounded by pleasant-looking things. Purchasing makes those dreams seem real.
And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with it: as proved by many great athletes, visualization can boost our performance and reduce anxiety. On the other hand, this shopping effect does not stay long enough to make us really happy. Moreover, when you tend to shop impulsively, you risk overspending your budget. In some cases, if the pattern of thoughtless shopping behaviour repeats quite frequently, it might be a sign of an addiction.
So, how to resist summer shopping when thousands of shops are offering incredible discounts? Of course, you can give in and buy the things you don’t need, often can’t afford. But how do you get rid of this budget-killing habit?
If you keep tracking your expenses on a daily basis, you’ll discover the trends in your spending. Just check the Expense graphs. This chart will easily visualise your spending habits. If the category “Clothing & Footwear” is getting the largest space on the chart, it is an alarm. Reawake your willpower and limit yourself.
Next time you see a new purse with a -70% or a new tablet with a -50% discount, try to think twice if you really need to buy any. In most cases, choosing one thing means giving up something else. Money spent on one thing could be the money spent on another thing. And there are always better (smarter) alternatives. For instance, for many of us, having some funds in a retirement savings account will be more useful in a couple of years than having lots of useless things at our apartments.
University of Georgia’s Dr. Matt J. Goren suggests dividing our potential expenses into wants and needs while budgeting. In simple words: needs are “required stuff” (a necessity to buy a new laptop if your old one is broken and cannot be fixed) and wants are always the “fun stuff” (a desire to get a newer laptop when you still have a working one).
According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, when we satisfy our lower levels of needs (physiological and safety needs), we get motivated enough to reach the higher levels (love, self-respect, and self-actualization). This way, we feel happier if our basic needs are covered.
This applies to our fixed needs — such as food. Essentially, we are more vital and productive when we aren’t hungry. It can refer to variable needs as well, such as emergency expenses — a new substitute for a worn-out device. If you’re a freelancer and your laptop gets broken, you might have an urgent expense related to your job security.
Fixed needs are the stuff we can’t deny ourselves in everyday life, but we definitely can spend less on it. Variable needs such as any unexpected expenses are less pleasant for our pocket. If you plan some reserves in your budget for emergency cases, you will go through any stressful event having less negative emotions.
When we spend on our wants, we can feel even happier. The thing is the duration of happiness depends on the type of want.
Fixed wants are our daily expenses and are usually the result of our habits. For instance, every day you stop by a coffee place and buy some fancy drink (a premium quality espresso). When you discover that 500 g package of this coffee can be purchased at the local grocery store for a price you pay for the two cups at the coffee place, you will be surprised how much money you could have saved just drinking this coffee at home. The thing you need to do is to modify your daily premium espresso ritual. You might buy your favourite coffee at the grocery store and enjoy it at any time.
No, we should not neglect our wants. Covering some of the variable wants can motivate us and make us feel good. For instance, you might get inspired by the trip to Spain. The memories from this trip will stay longer than memories from buying a new pair of shoes. Buying experiences instead of things can contribute to our mental well-being.
All in all, if we reduce spending on our fixed needs and fixed wants and plan some costs for our variable needs, we’ll have more money on our variable wants. As a result, we could afford enriching experiences such as postgraduate education or opening our own company and grow as personalities. To get to this goal, budgeting your expenses is a really good start.
For starters, find the Achilles heel of your spending: check your expenses graph and find which of your expenses really stand out. You can easily create a monthly budget aimed precisely at your spending weakness, for example, Clothes & Footwear, then set the budget to equal the amount you can spend on your monthly clothing needs. Toshl monsters will warn you as you approach the limit, so you could stop and think before buying some related product impulsively. Moreover, if you don’t go over the budget limit, you’ll definitely feel relieved. And all the summer sales ads will pass as a pointless buzz.
Already hot, eh? If you read these lines drinking a juice at the shopping mall, just remember to spend smart at the summer sales, track your expenses precisely and make budgets in advance. But whatever you do: don’t forget to enjoy your summertime. Make it magic. ;)
There are two ways you can react to the title of this post. You can be joyful or you could start stressing out. According to research, the happiness and dread of christmas holidays are two of the most intense general feelings so we are getting ready for christmas a bit early this year.
Several researchers are noticing that christmas shopping is one of the most stressful events throughout the year and there are several reasons for the induction of stress – from money worries to the social pressure, from the feeling of urgency to the feeling of guilt.
We are offering some tips on christmas budgeting and gift planning which we hope will make the next festive season…well… festive!
45 days rule
It all starts with planning as we abide to the 45 days rule where you plan for events that are happening 45 days in the future. This rule has several beneficial effects:
Keep it together
First thing is that you are not under any pressure. I mean OK, you still do not know what to get for your aunt, but that will not change. Aunt Clarice is just a mystery to you and no amount of planning will change that. But other than that, you can rest assured that planning that far in advance will be less stressful compared to last-minute shopping.
By keeping it together and planning your christmas shopping in autumn, you can give more thought to your naughty or nice list. I mean sure, Santa probably has some hard-core elf algorithm working for him, but you can do the same thing by making a list and thinking it through. No fast reckless last-minute decisions!
The 45 days period gives you enough time to check if the planned gift really works for the giftee. Sure you can make some mistakes by planning a gift that later on turns out to be a complete fail, but panic buying in the first week of December increases that possibility many times over.
You can set custom reminders in Toshl so that you will get a nudge when the time for planning comes. Also attached to the reminder will be a cute monster, specialized in friendly guilt-tripping if you do not obey.
Step 1: Make a list of people
This should be straightforward enough. Write down the names of all the people who are getting gifts this year. Separate them according to the nature of your relationship (that way you can be thoughtful of your business associates and partners as well) to help you decide on the nature of the gifts.
We are a money tracking app so people are not our speciality. However, we have one tip – you can tag your expenses by person so you will know exactly how much are you spending on friends who do not return your phone calls.
Step 2: Make a gift list
You have to decide on the type of gifts you are giving out, whether these are customed per person, customed per type of relationship or general across the board. This will come in handy when you come upon a person that is on the receiving end but you are not quite sure what to give them.
Did you know you can add different costs under the same name? Handy in-app calculator and currency exchanger helps you when entering gifts from foreign countries.
Step 3: Make a budget
Now you are ready for a budget. Use the results of step 1 and 2 combined with the general state of your personal finances to figure out the perfect amount you are going to spend this year.
Bear in mind that gifts are a predefined social norm and they are based upon agreements within a specific social group, so do not feel weird about planning them collectively. Asking someone what do they want for Christmas usually reveals surprising choices you have not thought of which are very often nicer on your budget.
Toshl offers budgeting for individual financial goals where you can set budgets, create special accounts and notifications that tell you when you reach your goal.
Step 4: Get creative with wrapping paper
Every year we spend a ton of money on wrapping paper which then gets discarded promptly. Instead you can replace it with newspapers, plain boxes or other containers you already have. Stuff is getting recycled anyway, might as well use is appropriately. On the other hand, you can dedicate a special gift container for each person so that they can look forward to the same box (but hopefully not the gift) every year!
You can track you current annual expenses for buying wrapping paper and then marvel at the savings when you switch to a more eco-friendly solution.
Step 5: Avoid Christmas sales
Yep. By planning your gifts in advance you will more easily avoid christmas sales which are bad for you. Worse than smoking!
By participating you are actually doing more harm than good – you are participating in a hysteria-inducing event which makes you blind to the fact that a) the prices usually go up just before the sales b) items on sale are usually not the latest editions and c) you are caught in a whirlwind that causes you to buy things you really do not want or need.
By planning for Christmas in advance you might realise you actually have the extra cash to spend on Christmas Sales. You can also set individual budgets for the sales or marvel at the savings by ignoring them completely.
There are also other ways to save on Christmas shopping. You can focus on meetings rather than things or organize a christmas recycling exchange. You can also pull the break and go frugal or change the ways you pay attention to people during the holidays.
Now that summer is coming to a close (if you live on the northern hemisphere), you are probably checking the damage that all those summer parties, trips and dinners did to your budget.
We get it, summer is the time to party and real sweating. Sweating about the small stuff like money should come later… But now, the summer has almost ended and you are stuck with sweating about the small stuff. Like money.
This guide is more about discipline than it is about changing the income and outcome factors deliberately. We’ve read some saving guides that began with “Earn more money” or “Start selling stuff you don’t need” and we said “This guy is obviously a banker!”. This guide is different.
Get yourself together!
First thing’s first – do not panic. Money problems are more common than a common cold. We are all in the same boat. The important thing is to get your spending habits recorded, so you know what the problem is. Some people don’t understand where their money is going and they just start hacking at costs left and right. Which is just silly, you need to eat.
However, did you know you are spending way too much money on collectible dolls from the 18th century? By which we mean if you own ONE 18th century doll, you are spending too much money on them. The perfect amount of 18th century dolls a person should have is zero. There you go. You are welcome.
Keep adding everything you make and spend into the app to get a complete picture of your finances.
Create a separate savings account
Yes. Trust me. You need a separate account where you will move the money you are saving. No, you will not dedicate that portion of the budget mentally. No, you will not be extra careful. This is not junior high. Create a dedicated account for all the money you are going to save. Period.
Create a new account in the Toshl app and give it an appealing name so you will feel good moving money from your checking account to it. Do not call it “Savings”, call it “Ass kicking account!”
Focus on the goal!
OK, you cannot just save money. I mean, you can, but saving money is like saving the world. You will never finish, plus everybody will tell you that there is a million things that need saving more urgently. Ugh, whatever Shaunna. But they are right – you need a goal. A target. A sense. But a goal can be anything – a new pair of shoes, financial independence, a motorcycle, being debt free, a new laptop, a house.
Make separate financial accounts for your particular saving goals in Toshl and track your saved-up balances. Make sure you put the money aside on your bank account or in an envelope when dealing with cash.
Set a monthly budget and set up savings
You cannot just go ahead saving money. You need a goal inside a goal. Sort of like a budgetception. Only without Leonardo DiCaprio. Set a goal for how much you’ll save each month and use budget tracking to limit your general spending and make sure you always put the savings amount on the side. There is no point over-promising yourself and then never actually committing that much money.
The River flow graph in the Toshl apps can help a lot in steering your money flows each month. You’ll see how your budgeting is going and how much you’ll save if you stick to it.
Automate the process
Seriously. The robots are coming for your job anyway, you might as well give them one and task them to take money from your checking account and put it in your saving account. If you have to do it by hand, it won’t feel as good. Yes, some things feel better when you do not use your hand.
Set up automatic transfers between your checking and “ass kicking” (savings) account. Do the same on your online bank, or set a reminder to actually put the cash aside.
Save before you spend
This might be tricky, but time your saving robots with your incomes. If your paycheck is due on the 10th, make sure the robots do their thing on the 11th so that you will learn to handle the rest of the amount till the next month. If you want to play on a lower difficulty, tell the robots to move the set amount the day before the paycheck.
Same thing as before – add a reminder to transfer to savings in the app so that the app keeps you on your toes.
Bonus: Change your spending habits
OK, up until now tips for focusing on discipline. This last one is different.
Maybe you should evaluate your expenses report and think about it. Spending too much on cable? Using outdated package deals that are not as viable anymore? Still having too many of those 18th century dolls? Adapt and see what happens.
You should make a ritual out of reevaluating some business deals every once and awhile anyway. Mobile phone providers, internet access providers, banks… these are the deals you made once a thousand years ago and then just got stuck with them because you just could not be bothered. But you should be!
Providers often count on your passive behaviour after the initial excitement about discounted prices even when the contract expires. So mark the expiration date on your contracts and go hunt for better deals when the time comes.
Create annual reports or even annual budgets on individual costs tag so you can see how much money did you spend in total and then compare new offers to see if they are worth your time and money.
It’s time to sink our teeth into 2017. Financially and otherwise. Perhaps only sink your teeth into 2017 literally if you have a very tasteful calendar or thoroughly enjoy cellulose.
There are a few very simple things you can do to plan ahead, avoid unpleasant financial surprises and can thus afford to eat things tastier than paper throughout the year.
1. Add all regular expenses you can predict in 2017
Fill in as many expenses as you can in advance. No worries if you don’t have the exact right amount yet. Add an expense with the approximate amount and set a reminder, so you don’t forget to edit in the exact amount later on.
Think about which expenses repeat regularly, be it every month, once a year or every few weeks. If they repeat in the same period every time, add them as repeating expenses.
Here are a few examples:
transport costs (car registration, regular car maintenance, public transport fees)
rent, house maintenance
loans, mortgages, car payments
utilities (heating, electricity, internet)
content subscriptions (streaming, cable, music, web services, publications)
There’s also spending that’s harder to predict as it’s more irregular and subject to your current whim, making it a lot more difficult to plan in advance. Things like going for coffee, eating out in restaurants, impulsively buying a herd of reindeer, deciding to work on your own nuclear fusion reactor…
While the latter two might be just me, I’m sure you can find plenty of examples where your impulsive spending can take you overboard.
Those areas are perfect for setting up budgets for the variable spending you want to keep in check. It’s easy to do, just set a budget to track an individual category or tag to make sure those areas don’t get out of control.
A few examples of such budgets:
Monthly budgets for Food & Drinks, or perhaps just “restaurants”, “alcohol” or “coffee & tea”
Monthly budget for Leisure or some of your past time tags in particular
Yearly budget for Transport, especially for leisurely petrol-heads
Yearly budget for tobacco can be especially helpful if you’re trying to quit smoking, the large yearly numbers might just shock you enough to stop
While it’s good to have those figures under control, let yourself room for some treats once in a while. Being a “bon-vivant” might even help you save on your health bills in the long run due to lower stress. ?
3. Make a financial buffer
You should have a healthy financial cushion or a financial buffer in other words, so you can weather any storms that might come up. Having 3 months worth of incomes saved up is a good basic start, but try to increase that amount gradually as you go along. Knowing that you can survive for at least half a year even if you loose your job will make you breathe a lot more easily. With the full realisation this is often easier said than done, this should be a goal you strive to, so unexpected financial events don’t throw you off your balance.
Making a special financial account in Toshl for this purpose is a good idea, just make sure you have this money actually saved up and can get to it rather quickly if the need arises.
4. Save in advance
Don’t forget to save for the big stuff in advance. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you about your big financial goals like buying a house or an apartment, buying a car etc.
Fusion reactors also don’t come cheap, but your government is likely already making you save a bit for those collectively. Good call.
Don’t forget about the smaller, but still quite considerable purchases that come up often. You’ll probably want to take a holidayin 2017. If you haven’t yet, the time to start planning for this is now.
Start a new financial account for your “Holiday savings” or “New flat”. If you already have something saved up for it, enter an initial balance. Then, add a regularly repeating transfer from your main bank account to your savings account. Setting a reminder here can help you remember to actually put that money on the side every month.
See: How to set up your finances – including financial accounts (Web, Android, iOS)
5. See what’s ahead with Planning
We have a new feature for you that will help you better visualise the data that you have just entered and plan ahead in general. It’s called Planning and is currently available in Beta testing on toshl.com.
Planning will show you a full year’s view of your finances, making it a lot easier to learn from your financial past and plan for the future. You can see the past or projected balances for each individual month, how your net worth (sum of all accounts) grows or falls over time, as well as see monthly changes in expenses in incomes. Don’t forget you can also filter by category or tag to see how smaller parts of your spending vary with the seasons.
You can now see the effect of all your careful expense planning and saving from the previous steps. The columns for each month’s spending should be at least somewhat filled already with your fixed expenses. Naturally, more variable expenses will fill those months as well as time passes. Now you’ll at least have a basic frame of reference to see how much you can afford in discretionary spending once your fixed expenses and saving for the important things have been accounted for.
I write “have fun” on my to do list every day, so I don’t forget about it and just remain miserable throughout the day. I’m lying of course, as I’d like to think I’m not a complete moron and do tend to gravitate towards some amusement on my own without constant prodding. The larger point I’m trying to make here, is that these financial planning steps are not an end in themselves. Sure, we need to keep our finances in check, but the aim here is to worry less, not more. With some basic thinking ahead like this, we can keep a lot more relaxed throughout the year and enjoy life to the fullest.