Indulgent impulse purchases trigger an inordinate amount of anxiety in many of us. Spending $6.00 on a sandwich every day feels practical and necessary, whereas a $20.00 manicure one time makes us feel uneasy. These occasional luxuries seem to threaten our goals, especially when we’re trying to get our finances under control or save for something really special.
Tracking where your money goes gives you financial clarity so you can quell the nervous feeling that you’re overspending, and take action to change your habits. Simple makes it easy to see a breakdown of your monthly spending in just two steps.
How to Track Your Finances
- Setup a spreadsheet to track spending in
- Develop a naming or tagging protocol to easily categorize charges
- Enter each transaction into the correct category
- Adjust your tracking setup as needed
Two Easy Steps to Tracking Your Finances
- Accurately name, categorize, and tag your transactions in a way that makes sense to you using our web or mobile apps.
- Use Reports on our web app to see your monthly spending by category, hashtag, or purchase location.
Categorizing Your Transactions
This first step eases you into engaging with your money. There’s no budget making or coupon clipping yet. All you need to focus on is categorizing your transactions.
When you swipe your Simple Visa® Card, the transaction is automatically tagged with a category. Occasionally, you’ll encounter “Uncategorized” or miscategorized transactions. This happens when the data collected from the merchant’s card reader is incorrect or incomplete. You’ll want to change these to make them more helpful.
In Simple’s web and mobile apps, you have the option to edit the name, category, and address of every transaction you make, whether you’re collecting a check or making a midnight run for 7/11 hotdogs.
(If you’re really feeling fancy, you can add a memo and a photo, or assign the purchase to a Goal.)
Some users, myself included, take 10-15 minutes at the end of each month to get everything sorted. Other users categorize their transactions as soon as they receive a push notification on their phone. Either method of organizing your spending is fine.
Editing Transactions on the Web
Editing transaction categories on the web app is almost exactly the same as editing them on your phone. When you select a transaction from your activity page, the details will appear in the sidebar. At the top of this column is an ‘Edit’ button. Clicking this will make all of the fields (aside from the total) editable. Once you’ve made your changes, be sure to click ‘Save’.
Editing Transactions On The Go
Tap any of your recent transactions to edit details in the mobile app. This will show you the vendor name, date, amount, and automatically assigned purchase category. You also have the option to spend from a Goal, or add a memo.
If the assigned purchase category doesn’t seem accurate to you, it’s easy to change on-the-go. Tap the existing category name to view a list of general categories, like Business, Food & Drink, and Income. Each of these categories contain subcategories for you to choose from. Once you’ve found a fitting subcategory, tap to select it from the column on the right.
A Word on Hashtags
Adding hashtags to the memo field allows you to batch transactions that fall into multiple categories. For example, tracking how much money you spend on your car each month can be difficult. Gas, insurance, and repairs all fall into different categories. You can track these disparate transactions using a hashtag like #car.
Hashtags can also add granularity to your spending. You can track slices of your spending that may otherwise go unnoticed in a larger category.
For example, I go to coffee shops regularly. Each time I visit, I categorize my purchase with the Coffee & Tea label.
One fall I noticed that my Coffee & Tea spending was substantially higher than in other months. After digging into my data, it was obvious what had happened.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
At $3.75, a tall Pumpkin Spice Latte costs more than twice as much as my normal coffee. While Coffee & Tea is the appropriate category, it makes sense to track my specialty latte consumption with the hashtag #PSL until I get my cravings under control.
Reading Your Report
Currently, you can only check Reports with the Simple web app. Select Reports from the Activity page.
On this page, you’ll see a graph charting your income, spending, and balance. This is helpful for observing general trends in your spending. For tracking purposes, we want to dig deeper.
The bar charts underneath this line graph are the most helpful for tracking spending in specific categories. This is where properly categorizing and hashtagging your transactions pays off. It’s time to see where your money is going.
If you’re tracking your finances with the intention of creating a budget (hint, hint), I recommend looking at your monthly spending totals. These spending totals act as a baseline from which you’ll set your monthly budget numbers.
First select “Monthly” from the banner under the “Last 90 Days” header. The numbers to the right of the category bars in the main column now display the monthly averages for each of the main categories listed in descending order.
Pro tip: If ‘Uncategorized’ is one of your top spending categories, you’ll want to click into it and assign those transactions to a more helpful category.
If you wanted to drill deeper into a subcategory to see the exact amount spent on Coffee & Tea, you’d first click on “Food & Drink” under category. Mousing over the line graph shows you how much you’ve spent in this category from month to month. You can compare this number to the monthly average, shown in the equation in the far right column.
In the bar chart below the line graph, we see the expense breakdown from subcategories like “Restaurants”, “Alcohol & Bars”, “Fast Food”, and “Coffee & Tea”. If we clicked into “Coffee & Tea”, we’d see both overall trends in spending and exact month over month spending for that specific subcategory.
Using Saved Search for Problem Areas
Remember earlier when we talked about using hashtags to target slices of spending that are important to us? Saved Search helps you quickly access those personalized categories, and any other searches that you refer to regularly by date, location, etc.
This feature can be particularly helpful for tracking the specific categories or places where you suspect you’re overspending.
Let’s say you want to be able to quickly assess how much you’ve been spending on books. To set up a Saved Search for that category, you’d want to first select ‘Culture’ and then ‘Books’ from the bar chart links below the line graph. You’d then click “New Saved Search” in the right-hand column, below the transaction map.
You can change the name to something that’s easy to remember, like “Book Spend”, or keep it as-is. Once you save this information, you can access your Saved Search data from any page in the Reports section by clicking the data in the right-hand column.
Soothing Your Financial Jitters
When you talk to people about achieving financial clarity, they describe it like a yoga retreat. They use words like “empowering” and “enlightening”. There’s emotion in their voices. They’re eager to share what they learned with you. That’s powerful.
When thinking about your money makes you feel like you’re drowning, being thrown a buoyant safety ring is exhilarating. It’s the first step to finding land, and planting your feet on solid ground.
In this nautical analogy, Simple is the life raft, the boat, and the lighthouse. Categories, hashtags, and Reports provide you with the level of detail you need to make the best decisions about your financial future.
If you feel like you’re flailing in the middle of the ocean, know that you have the ability to throw yourself a life line. Just by tracking your finances, you’re taking the first step towards steering your life raft to wherever you want it to go.
Disclaimer: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: Any outbound links in this post will take you away from Simple.com, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; neither Simple or our partner bank, BBVA Compass, endorse any linked-to websites; and we didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. And as much as we wish we could control the cost of things, any prices in this article are just estimates. Actual prices are up to retailers, manufacturers, and other people who’ve been granted magical powers over digits and dollar signs.