As of last May, it has been one year since I left university to work on Alberta’s oil patch. However, though I made good money for someone inexperienced and working full-time for the first time in my life, I felt like if wasn’t really ending up with much money- as if my expenses were high and money possibly trickling to the wrong places. Therefore, I decided to go through all my credit card bills and track my expenses in an Excel spreadsheet.
(Will include pictures later)
The first row has the months of the year, and the column the expense type. Expenses are divided into 2 main sections: fixed on the top, and variable on the bottom. Then 2 more sections are below- one with income, capital gains (losses), net cash flow, and income, and another section with notes/references.
(2) Vehicle payment
(5) Other monthly: gym, etc.
(2) eating out and convenience stores
(3) fuel and maintenance
(4) gym gear, protein, and supplements
(5) hobbies and entertainment
(7) work related, school, training, etc.
(2) capital gains (losses)
(3) net cash flow
(4) estimated net worth
Then I include 2 columns on the very right of the chart for totals of the above as well as the average.
From my experience the most critical expenses to watch for are groceries and eating out and the convenience store. It is very easy to go over $300-400 in each, so I began keeping particular close attention to these 2 categories throughout the month to ensure I am not spending too much. Even a little drink and snack from the store on work breaks can easily contribute $200-300 a month, and a weekly dine-out another $200-300. In Edmonton generally it costs $20-30 for a meal with a drink and one cheaper plate; $40-50 for a nicer place (e.g. Stake) and drink; more if eating nicer. In the grocery store, I try to eat near-zero junk food and stick to only essentials like milk, vegetables, fruit, and milk.
In the 3rd section I pay particular attention to Net Cash Flow and Estimated Net Worth to determine whether I am financially advancing or not, though this figure is usually around zero for one in the beginning stages of a career.
In the notes section in the very bottom of the chart, I make specific references to unexpected expenses for certain months, such as furniture, medical, and courses for work.