Crunching the Numbers

Thought for today:

For debtors, pressure builds up over time.  It comes from not understanding where money is going, feeling out of control.

Pressure Relief starts to come when we understand what is causing pressure.  Writing down a list of all of our expenses serves as a beginning, but what do we do with the list we have made, so that we can gain some insights?

A member shares:

“I never knew where my money was going until I tracked my spending categories.  When I finished, I realized I could afford to make extra payments on a higher interest loan, and I also targeted cutting back on coffee shop spending for the next month.

“Doing my numbers made it possible to set target Spending Plan for next month, and measure how well I did with the Plan.

“When I shared my crunched numbers with my Pressure Relief Group, the feedback I got helped me set goals for the following month.  Each month I got stronger in practicing this simple tool of Record Maintenance.”

DA Tool 2:

Record Maintenance

“We maintain records of our daily income and expenses, of our savings, and of the retirement of any portions of our outstanding debts.”

Manually “crunching the numbers” 

It’s simple enough to add income and spending dollar amounts for a week, so we get out another sheet, and write these column headings across the top of the page:

  • Category
  • Week 1
  • Week 2
  • Week 3
  • Week 4
  • Monthly Total
  • Income/Spending Plan
  • +/-

We list each Income Category alphabetically going down the left side of the page, skip a line, and then list each Spending Category, also alphabetically.

For each Category we listed, we add up the dollars from the original detailed list, writing the total next to the Category on the summary sheet in the Week 1 column.  We do this for each Category until we finish the Week 1 column.  The following week, we sum the categories for Week 2, and so on.

At the end of the month we add all expenses into the Week 4 column, including the days left over until the end of the month into the Week 4 as well.  Then we total each Category for the month, and write the total in the Monthly Total column.

Create another sheet for next month, and create the same headings.  Then, in the Income/Spending Plan column we put what we think would make sense for the next month.  We may want to eventually average each Category for the last three months into the Plan column.

Then, we continue adding the four weekly columns again.  Only this time, at the end of the month, we subtract the Monthly Totals from the Income/Spending Plan, and enter the difference, (plus or minus) into the +/- column.

Simple, right?  Ok, it’s pretty abstract until we see it written out, so take a look at this template with sample spending categories to get started.

Using an app to crunch the numbers:

If we prefer to use an app like to gather the numbers, we can export the transactions into a .CSV file (this stands for “comma separated values”).  The resulting file can then be opened in any spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel or Apple Numbers.

Most spreadsheet software allows you to create a pivot table from a worksheet. Doing a pivot table also allows you to summarize by Category.

“Remind me why I’m doing this?”

This exercise helps us learn how our money moves through our life over time. Either way we crunch the numbers, remember the benefit of seeing the totals by Category is that we can start to spot trends, areas we want to change.

It’s much simpler to set targets to cut expenses, increase income, start debt repayments, etc. when we have the truth of what we are doing at our fingertips.

Just like a sailor on a sailboat on the open water corrects the sails to adjust to the changing winds, so doing our numbers helps us adjust to the changing course of our lives.


Am I seeing the benefits of summarizing my transactions?

Meditation for today:

Listing the small tasks on the way to a larger goal makes it simpler to focus and get the job done. We don’t need to worry about doing every task in the right order, we just want to think about which to do first, and then do it.

The act of doing a task better prepares us for the next task.  The process of putting all our energy on one thing helps us to get it done.

Multi-tasking doesn’t usually help.  Busy-ness for the sake of busy-ness is not going to improve things much.  Focusing our energy totally on the current task helps moves things forward, and we feel better for it.

Affirmation for today:

“I will do one small step at a time on the way to my goals.”

“I am willing to deal with the frustrations that can come from focusing on the important things.”

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