I still track my spending down to the penny. I’ve been doing this for over eight years now. But after verifying that my transactions posted correctly in online banking, I don’t care about the details in each category.
Creating a spending plan was really, really hard for me since I care way too much about the details. I’m doing pretty well with my spending plan now, but the first year that I was using one was hard. I didn’t use one through most of college, though I did in my last academic term and I did after I moved to start my full-time job.
I started out breaking down food down into different line items so that it was easier to budget for: alcohol, dinners out, on-campus food, groceries, and junk food (aka chocolate bars). I broke clothing down only for bras – everything else was grouped into the general category.
My post-college spending plan first started out with so many details. I can’t believe I was trying to track everything that I did. I learned that I simply can’t budget for some things.
I can’t budget for how many books I’m going to buy in a month or how many times I will eat out with friends. All of that just gets looped into “Entertainment”.
Also, having a separate category for chocolate bars was too detailed for me, so I just count those bought from the vending machine in “lunches out” and those bought in bulk under “groceries”.
I learned that grouping everything into “Clothing” just didn’t work because I really couldn’t tell what the number meant, so I split it out into the subcategories that I have today: bras, bottoms, athletic wear, dresses, coats, shoes, socks, underwear, tops, and swimwear.
Instead of getting mad at myself for roaming fees on my cell phone, I round the bill up to the nearest $5 and then I’m happy when I’m under “budget” every month.
I set budgets for travel to figure out how much I spent, but while I’m on vacation, I don’t think about the budget and just spend money. That seems to work okay since I have a natural aversion to spending too much money.
I’ve stopped trying to budget for “household cleaning supplies” and just leave that under groceries. It’s not very much anyway and I’m always under budget on groceries.
You might think that my spending plan has too much detail, but I think I’ve finally found the right balance in detail for me.
Readers, how do you determine which details matter to you when creating your spending plan?