Trust me when I say that the smallest thing can get you started down the path to improving your relationship with money. For me, it was an error that I picked up on my credit card statement where I had been charged twice for something, yet was not reimbursed. I eventually found the reimbursement, and the hunt sparked an interest in me.
It got me thinking about how many other overpayments I’d not noticed. So I began digging back through my banking transactions in PocketSmith to get a closer look at my expenses to see if I could find anything else. In the past, financial institutions would have mailed you a paper copy of account balances and account activity which would make tracking individual deposits and withdrawals a nightmare. Thankfully, we can now read a bank statement online via online banking as well as import that data into software such as PocketSmith.
And guess what - I did find something! A random $20 payment that left my bank account on the 5th of each month without me even noticing. As I kept digging, it kept showing up. It went back a total of 36 months. I was shocked. For three long years, a $20 monthly payment had left my account, accumulating to a total of $720 missing!
I wanted to get to the bottom of this payment. After a long call with my bank, I got some more answers. I learned that the payment had been going to an old bank account of mine, one I had closed three years previously. Turns out it was an old money transfer that had never been stopped - there was a simple explanation and I felt a bit relieved.
But if I had already closed the account, where was the money going?
I had to do more digging to find my missing money. A deeper look in PocketSmith showed that 14 days later, on the 19th of each month, that same $20 bounced back from my closed account into my current bank account.
A simple error. Something I would have never noticed back when I was only checking my bank statements via my bank mail. I feel like I got off lucky, because that money found its way back to me.
The whole episode sparked a hunger in me to search through my finances even more. To dig deeper, I’ve really leaned on PocketSmith to help make my money mistakes obvious to me. Leading to a few “duh’ moments where I realize that I was losing money in simple ways.
Not only did I use PocketSmith to shine light on my mistakes, it also gives me the tools to address them. When I first started out, PocketSmith highlighted a whole bunch of little, seemingly inconsequential errors that I had been making. I had been making them not just for weeks, not even for months, but in some cases, for years. I have streamlined my expenses and handle my money so much better now. Most of all, there is no more missing money!
Since that day I have learned heaps of tips and tricks from PocketSmith. Here are a few of my top tips to making the most of your account.
In the early stages, I was very active with categorizing my transactions. I started with just a few categories so it was easy to sort them. After a while, I wanted more details so I expanded the number of categories in my account. It made me actually look at every expense, which is how I managed to pick up on a few other errors. It can be helpful to start with the fixed monthly expenses. These could be your rent and other bills or products and services such as streaming platforms.
Now, I have about 30 categories in my account. They all make sense to me and my budget. They’re highly personalized too, I have them color-coded and have even attached receipts and photos to them. It helps make it even more obvious as to what I’m spending my money on.
I found it really brings a strong feeling of control, something that we need to have to run our own personal finances. As time went on and I added more category rules, PocketSmith quickly began to recognize my common expenses and sort them automatically for me. Magic!
I used to keep a budget… but only in my head. This wasn’t working very well, especially when it came to food. And specifically how much we spent on groceries vs eating out. I had a total figure that we kept to but I never actually kept track of the details. If I’m honest, there was always a sense that our spending was a little out of control.
So I went ahead and split my food category into sub-categories for ‘grocery’ and ‘dining out’ in PocketSmith. What I found came as quite the revelation! It was less the total and more the overlap that stood out to me.
The split between how much we were eating at home, at restaurants or as take out wasn’t great. It clearly showed that we were wasting money buying groceries that we never ate because we were dining out instead. Or was it that we were dining out when we had food at home?
Regardless, we had clearly overbudgeted and had some room to free up money. I set ourselves a budget for each category. Our spending improved with this added detail and now I feel like we no longer waste money on food. As a bonus, I have reallocated that ‘surplus’ money to savings.
Categorizing in detail continued to shine a light on my spending. Another area that surprised me was our subscriptions to streaming services. We all consume media in a myriad of ways and each of them often requires just a small monthly fee.
Now if you have several people in your household, like we have, and you’re all tuning into different providers those small monthly fees really add up. Often without you even noticing. Do you actually know how much AppleTV, Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime and the odd Google Play movie stack up to each month?
Once I had my category in place I was shocked to see we had the equivalent of a cable tv bill. It might be well worth your while to create a category to track over a period of time and work it out! I had to ask my family: “Are we even using all of these services? Or are we just wasting our money?” From that point, we set a budget and unsubscribed to those we didn’t use. A real money saver!
Streaming subscriptions are just one example. By grouping your expenses into categories and subcategories you will find relevant areas in your own finances to focus on and the more of them you can find and reduce, the more money you have available to deposit into your savings accounts. Try it, it’s easy.
I’ve used PocketSmith to help me identify where I was frittering money away. By allowing me to refer back to my past purchases, and dig into their details, I began to improve the way I am actively spending my money. It has given me control and the tools to guide my own spending decisions on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis — giving me confidence to plan ahead for my future.
Ruth blogs at thehappysaver.com all about how she and her family handle money. What’s the secret? Spend less than you earn, invest the difference, avoid debt and budget each dollar that flows through your hands. She firmly believes that if you can just get the basics right, life becomes easier from there on in.