Category: Budgeting

Christmas Is Coming!

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.

Be thorough

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!

Be thoughtful

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.

Toshl tip

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.

Toshl tip

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.

Toshl tip

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 tip

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!

Toshl tip

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.

Toshl tip

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.

Posted in Budgeting, Tips & Tricks

Where Did All The Money Go? A Guide to Get You Back on Track.

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.

Toshl tip

Connect your bank, import data from a file or enter the expenses in the app so you can have a clear, categorized view of all your financial ins and outs.

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.

Toshl tip

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.


Toshl tip

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.

Toshl tip

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.

Toshl tip

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.

Toshl tip

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.

Toshl tip

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.

Posted in Budgeting, Tips & Tricks

Plan ahead in 2017

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)
  • education fees
  • gym, leisure activities, seal clubbing club membership fees

 

2. Add budgets for your variable spending

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

Find out more on How to set up the budgets (Web, Android, iOS) and How to use the budgets (Web, Android, iOS) in general.

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 holiday in 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.

Don’t forget to check your past spending patterns in 2016 as well, just to make sure you haven’t forgotten something in your yearly financial cycle.

 

6. Don’t forget to have fun

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.

Here’s to life!

Posted in Budgeting, Personal finance, Tips & Tricks, Tutorials

How to Use The Budgets (Web App)

Let’s take a look into the details of an individual budget. We’ll take a look at a monthly budget for all expenses and see what all the graphs and data mean.

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Budget type & basic stats

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Title & budget amount
The title is pretty self evident, but it’s worth mentioning that they are generated automatically, based on the type of budget you created. If you want, you can change it by clicking Edit on the right of budget details, Show more and then changing the title near the bottom of the form.
The amount shown on top is the total amount for the budget for the given time period. You can use your main currency for the budget (recommended) or a foreign one, if it’s your travel budget while you’re abroad, for example.
Time period, Accounts Tracked, Budget Type
The 3 basic settings of the budget.
Time period: shows what kind of period of time does it track and how quickly it transitions to the next period, e.g. daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or one time. You can set a budget to a custom time period: e.g. every 2 weeks, every 3 months etc.
Accounts tracked: Whether the budget is set to track the expenses noted on all financial accounts or only some.
Budget type: Whether it tracks all expenses, those in specific categories, those using specific tags or excluding expenses some categories or tags.
Budget statistics for the current period
Used & planned: the amount of money that was already spent from this budget in the displayed time period. If it mentions “planned” it also includes the expenses that you have already added in the future of this time period, but weren’t due yet. For example, bills that haven’t arrived yet this month. If you want to see just the expenses until today, click the time span setting at the top of the screen and set the “Show planned expenses in graphs” setting to OFF.
Left: The amount of money remaining in this budget, that you have not spent yet.
Left per day: The amount of money remaining, divided by the number of days remaining in the budget period.

Budget overview graph

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All the elements of this graph take a little bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you get a great feel for the real state of your budget in a single glance.
Progress bar and the blue/red lollipop
The blue-coloured background tells you how much of your budget still remains. In the beginning of the period it’s all blue, but as you add more expenses things heat up and it starts shrinking towards the right side. Kind of like a glacier. The blue lollipop shows the end of the progress bar and displays how much money is left in the budget.
If you surpass the budget amount you have set for yourself, the progress bar will start appearing from the left in red colour, with the red lollipop up front, displaying how much you surpassed your budgeted amount.
The today lollipop
In the budget graph for the current period, you’ll also see an upside-down lollipop in dark grey with “today” written on it. This lollipop shows current time compared to the whole budget period. The entire length of the graph is the entire amount of time in the budget period and the lollipop displays where you are now.
The red columns
These columns are daily sums of expenses. They show how much you spent on a given day in the budget period, telling you when you spent the most and helping you to find the main culprit of overspending. Click and hold the cursor over the graph to see the daily details. The taller and darker the column, the more was spent.
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Compare the “money left” and “today” lollipops
Comparing the lollipops quickly tells you how you’re doing with your current budget. The blue lollipop tells you how much money you have left in the budget, the grey one tells you how much time you have left.
If they’re aligned or almost aligned, you’re right on track so far. You’re on the way to spend the almost exact amount of money you budgeted in this period.
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If the today lollipop (grey) is way ahead of the money left lollipop (blue), then you’re doing great with your budget. You’ve spent less than you thought you will in this amount of time. If this happens a lot, perhaps it’s time to lower the budget amount and save more.
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If the money left lollipop (blue) is way ahead of the today lollipop (grey), then you’re not doing so well with your budget. You’re spending more than was expected. Time to reduce your spending, or if that’s not possible, make the budget amount larger next time.
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If the lollipop has already turned to red, you have already spent more than the money you had put in the budget amount. The lollipop simply tells you by how much.
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 The budget history graph
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This graph shows the previous budget periods and the total amount of money that was spent in the period. By clicking and holding over the budget history graph you can also see more details for the period, including the amount of the budget, amount spent and how much was saved or lacking in the period.
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Click on the period title below the graph and you will be taken to the complete budget details for that period. If your budget is a monthly one, you can also move there using the time span arrows on the top of the page.

The budget list

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 All the budgets that you have in the current time period are present on the list of budgets on the right of the screen. The one that is currently displayed in the budget details graphs is marked with dark grey.
There is also a quick preview of the progress bar, that includes the same data as the graph in the budget details. That way you can quickly monitor the current state of all your budgets at once.
If you use monthly budgets, you’ll notice that budgets are displayed in two ways:
– Monthly budgets for all and monthly budgets for categories
The top budget is your general monthly budget for all expenses. The white-coloured category budgets below each represent a percentage of the total monthly budget. They are effectively sub-budgets as the categories all sum up. That’s why the little progress bars beneath each category budget are of different lengths. The categories for which you have not yet made a budget for are covered in the “Remaining budgets” section. That way you get a rough picture of how your monthly budget for all expenses is distributed among the categories.
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– All other budgets
All the budgets which are not monthly for all, or monthly for a category, are displayed as individual budgets. They cannot be displayed as sub-budgets as they don’t match up in time or can’t sum up to 100%, like budgets for tags for example.
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Included expenses
When any of the budgets is selected, an extra row titled “Included expenses” will appear in the list. Clicking there will display all the individual expenses that are included in that budget. You can display and edit them, just like any expense list.
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Filtering

Budgets displayed in the list are filtered just like any other content on Toshl.
Only budgets that have a budget period in the currently chosen time span will be displayed.
If you used the filtering option on the top right, only the budgets that fit those criteria will be displayed. For example, if you filtered to display only one financial account, only the budgets that track that account will be displayed. Same goes for categories, tags and other filtering options.

Toshl Pro budget limitations

While using the free Toshl you are limited to adding 2 budgets. With Toshl Pro you can add as many as you like. If your Toshl Pro subscription expires, the extra budgets will be deactivated. The data will not be deleted, if you extend your Toshl Pro subscription you can continue using them normally.pro_badge_beige
Toshl Pro is available as one of these plans:
$1.99 / month
$19.99 / year
$59.99 / 3 years + free T-shirt
Want to start budgeting, but don’t know where to start? Read our tutorial “How to Set Up Your Budgets and Control Your Spending” and you’ll be set up in a heartbeat. Maybe two heartbeats. It will be a few more heartbeats really. It’s just a figure of speech, get of my back, will you!? ;)
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Posted in Budgeting, Personal finance, Tips & Tricks, Tutorials, Web App Tutorials

The River Flow Graph – How Your Money Flows Each Month (Web App)

Once in a while, one needs to take a broader look of things, even personal finances. To help you see your monthly flow of finances from a higher ground, we made the “river flow” graph.

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Imagine the money that you earn and spend each month as a system of rivers. It flows in, hopefully rests a bit in a lake of your making, then most of it flows out again to replenish the fields – or yourself and your phone bill. With some good planning you can build yourself a dam and some accumulation lakes on the side, just to be safe if a dry season ever hits you.
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The number at the very top is your income, your main inbound stream. If you set up your monthly budget for all expenses, that will be the dam that you constructed. Income flows in and hits the dam. If the income amount is larger than the budget amount, the difference will flow into your savings for the dry months. It’s good to grow an “accumulation lake” or your “savings account” as your less poetic banker would call it.
If the budget is larger than the income, you’re living beyond your means and need to readjust the budget. Or even better, increase the income if possible.
Beyond your budget dam and monthly money lake, your expenses flow out. The width of the flow represents its size.
The flow in dark red are expenses that have already been made.
The orange flow are your planned expenses, the ones which are coming this month, but have not been due yet.
The green flow is your “left to spend” money. The money that you have already budgeted for, so it should hold by the end of the month, but you have yet to let it flow out of the dam.
If you have not built your dam yet (set up a monthly budget for all expenses), then the flows will simply be going straight down, but their width still representing their size.
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If your expense flow is much stronger than the income one, you know the lakes will run dry rather quickly. It’s a situation that should be quickly fixed. Hopefully you’ve accumulated enough in the past to weather through this dry season.
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Hopefully, the river flow graph will help you get a good understanding of your money flows and you’ll be able to avoid the dire situations before they occur.
While it’s great seeing these rivers from the top down to manage your money better, it’s even better in first person, leaping down those rapids as the Toshl Monsters see them…

To learn more, check out the Monthly overview and Left to spend blog posts.
Posted in Budgeting, Personal finance, Tips & Tricks, Tutorials, Web App Tutorials