Local fishing boats on the Indian Ocean at Tanga, Tanzania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Tanga City, Tanzania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Dar es Salaam on March 8th.

Monday, January 4, 2021

An easier way to keep track of our spending

Ruth and I keep track of every penny we spend. We were doing that even when we had "normal" lives. We found that it was easier to see where frivolous spending was going, and where we could cut back. And doing it daily meant that we could easily see if we were overspending, and when it was time to cut back.

In the old days, it was a simple piece of paper... adding everything up by hand. Then it the late 1990's we got a computer and that made things a little easier. As time went on, I made myself an Excel spreadsheet that keeps annual track of our spending.

Up until recently, as we went through our day, Ruth would write down every expenditure by hand into a little book she carries with her. Then in the evening I would write them down on the laptop and add things up. Every once in a while I would get lazy and have to do three or four days at a time!

So I started looking for a better way to do it. A lot of research led me to the Travel-Spend App.

After all, I'm carrying around the phone anyhow. It only made sense to use it for what it was made for! The only problem was finding the right app. There are a lot of general budgeting apps, and there are a lot of travel budget apps. I needed something that combined the two.

The basic version of the Travel-Spend app is free. And for a lot of people who are just going on vacation, that's probably all you would need. But I wanted the flexibility of being able to change the categories to my own, so I opted for the Premium version.

I set up the categories the way I wanted them.

The app is designed for travel... and it's obviously been made by people who actually do travel. However it is also easy to use as a day to day spending app as well, even when you're not traveling. That's one of the things I really like about it.

Once I had the categories set up my way, the next thing to do is to add a trip. Because we are keeping track on a monthly basis, I simply add a trip and name it by the month, and have the trip last the full month. But people using it by vacation can simply add their own parameters. I found it really easy to set up.

I set up my trips as months of the year.
You can see how expensive December was!

Once things are set up, I add in expenses that are already paid for like our car rental and our apartment and our medical insurance. I've also already added in our flights to Tanzania, which is why you can see that our January expenses are already showing at $1,518!

It shows expenses by the day.


And it shows a total where you stand so far.

The best part is inputting expenses as you go. For example, when we go to the local market, we shop at several different stands. As we leave each stand, I input what we bought and how much it cost. It literally takes about 10 seconds to input as we go. And the best part about all of that is that it automatically does the correct foreign exchange for you. You can even change the rate from the spot rate to a set rate (for example, the rate you paid to get cash out of an ATM). So that allows you to input the price that you paid in local currency.

Here's the list from the last time we did grocery shopping.

And so, after using it for a month, I am impressed. It saves us several steps, and although the Premium version isn't necessarily what you what call "cheap", I think it's a worthwhile cost in our case. They have Premium prices that range from $1.99 for a month to somewhere around $30 for lifetime. But, when you want a good product, you sometimes have to pay for it. Having said that, the free version would do for a lot of people.

Being aware of what we spend, and keeping track of our expenses is one of the things that has allowed us to live the life that we do. 

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20 comments:

  1. From the photo I noticed that all the power lines were underground as that isn't the case in many foreign cities.

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    1. Yes, they certainly seem to be in this part of town. They aren't like that everywhere though. We sure wish more places would do that!

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  2. That might be something to consider for future travels. I also set up an Excel Spreadsheet.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

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    1. Kevin still use the spreadsheet to input all the monthly category totals in so that we have a spreadsheet for the complete year. Having this app however makes all the day to day expenses so much easier, especially when there is an exchange rate to consider.

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  3. At this point in our life I keep a rough tally in my head but gone are the days of keeping track of every penny. Did it for most of our life and now I don't have to or want to. However, you are younger and travelling so it is more important I guess.

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    1. It is nice that you don't have to keep such strict tabs on all your spending. We are not at a point in our lives yet where we can do that, we still need to keep a close eye on our expenses so that we can keep them in check.

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  4. I love your frugal travels...reasonable stays & eat at home. Before computers, my checkbook kept track of my expenditures. I made notes at bottom of check to show what the money was spent on. Then switched to excel spreadsheet after I got my computer to pay bills and my check book does the rest for recreation and other small bills.

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    1. We need to stay frugal if we want to keep traveling plus we just enjoy doing things this way, we always have been frugal and I am sure we always will be. It is nice to be able to splurge every once in awhile though.

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  5. Thanks, Kevin. Downloaded the app and will check it out. I need to retire someday (soon) but we first have to get a better handle on our spending! lol

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    1. We hope that you find it helpful Tina! It is easy to overspend when you are traveling, so we find that this app will be a great help, plus we just like to know where our money is going. :-)

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  6. Thanks Kevin for the tip on the app. I’ll try it myself for daily use, even when not traveling. That will be a change from my Xcel sheets, that I’ve kept over the years, month by month, just to keep track. Same as you do!

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    1. It will work great for just using it on day to day spending, even without traveling. Kevin will still use the spreadsheet on a yearly basis though by inputting the different monthly categories into it, that way we get to see the whole year, month by month but at least he isn't having to input all the daily expenses in on a regular basis, the app makes that part so much easier.

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  7. I use Quicken on the laptop and it syncs with Quicken App on my phone. Works for me as Excel on the phone is a little hard to put stuff in. Thanks for the info on the app as I am always looking at other apps. Hopefully the lockdowns are going to lighten up this year.

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    1. Does Quicken work on foreign currency and exchange rates though? That is what Kevin likes about this app, especially with all the traveling that we do.

      We hope these lockdowns lighten up soon too! We are starting to worry that we may not make it to Germany in mid to late March, although getting the PCR down before arriving at your destination may make things a little easier, I guess time will tell!

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    2. I didn't consider the foreign currency and exchange rate aspect. I do not know what currencies, other than US, it handles.

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    3. If you are only using it for day to day stuff in either Canada or the US, then maybe this would be another good option but if it doesn't allow for foreign currencies and exchange rates it wouldn't be so helpful for travellers.

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  8. Wow, now you educating me about experiences, I have always wanted to know where our money goes, and now I have a tools to help with that! Thanks! I only know we spend money, and it always works in out, because I'm a saver! But I will try this. Thanks for planting those thoughts! Take care, Rawn Stone

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    1. We hope that you will find it helpful! :-)

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  9. Thank you for this information. I am starting the new year semi-retired and am interested in monitoring my cash flow a bit closer. I downloaded the app and started using it. Your info is very helpful and I hope will show me those mysterious places money can go when you are not paying closer attention.

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    1. We have only used the app for one month so far but in that time we know that we like it and what it does. We just have to remember to put in our expenses as soon as we have paid the money, like at a store or in the market. As we said we keep track of every penny and by doing this we know where the money is going and with the app it tells us where we are at with our expenses at any given time in the month. As we said it keeps our spending in check. :-)

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