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I’m super excited about a new expenses spreadsheet I’ve been working on that I think you’re gonna love.
And this ain’t just any old expenses spreadsheet – it’s focused on your recurring expenses.
If you’re like me, you’re familiar with those times when you make a big purchase and have buyer’s remorse shortly after. It happens.
But those are the easy cases – it’s a one-time purchase and it’s staring you right in the face.
The tougher problems to solve are those random costs that occur on a periodic basis (every few weeks, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.) that are much harder to keep an eye on.
We all have expenses or subscriptions that we signed up for and – meh, maybe we use ’em, maybe not so often. But it’s nice to have them in place and ready to go in case we do want to use them.
Those recurring expenses can add up though… big time. It’s an area that can sometimes be difficult to wrap your arms around. But today, I’m here to make it much easier for you to get a handle on the issue in no time!
Here’s the problem…
It used to be hard for me to understand how others couldn’t realize what their recurring expenses were.
Why are there so many mainstream articles and posts discussing the idea that you should work on determining what your recurring expenses? Then you can reduce or eliminate them?
Do people seriously not know what they are?
But that’s because I was living in Quicken for so many years. I’ve talked about how Quicken became my lifesaver when I first came across it in 1999. It helped me realize how in debt I really was ($30k in consumer debt!) and it helped guide me out.
Honestly, I think if it weren’t for Quicken, we wouldn’t be financially independent today. It became that utterly important in how I handled my money for close to 20 years.
However, I switched off Quicken and moved to Empower (formerly Personal Capital) in early 2019. I wanted something more lightweight and better for mobile use as I got closer to early retirement. Empower (formerly Personal Capital) fit the bill and has done a nice job doing what I needed.
Every financial management software/service has its pros and its cons though. I’m happy I made the move and it’s helped free up a decent amount of time I was spending managing our day-to-day money.
However, something interesting happened… I realized that it was much harder to see what our recurring expenses were. In Quicken, I had these setup as scheduled transactions and they would automatically pop up when I was in there. Quicken even has a specific menu item to see what all your recurring expenses are in one view.
Cool, right? But yeah, I’m not using Quicken anymore.
I didn’t realize what a struggle it would be to get off of Quicken, but I had a really hard time getting a handle on managing our money going in and out. It didn’t help that we had our summer adventure and then moved to a foreign country – both of those were so abnormal in our spending.
It took me a bit to get a handle on our expenses, but that’s when I brought in Mint to help with all the cash transactions. That way I could use Mint to manage our daily finances and continue to use Empower (formerly Personal Capital) to manage our investments.
That’s been working well, but there was still a missing piece… what about these recurring expenses we have? I needed a way to focus on getting this information in front of me.
I finally understand why others might have a hard time staying in control of their recurring costs.
The birth of the recurring expenses spreadsheet!
What better way to handle a problem like this than to create an expenses spreadsheet?
Yeah, yeah, I hear ya… we’ve seen too many expenses spreadsheets, Jim. This ain’t gonna help!
But here’s the deal – this is different than other spreadsheets out there. The reason is that I didn’t want to focus on all our expenses (apps like Mint and Empower (formerly Personal Capital) can do a much better job). Instead, I wanted to just specifically focus on our recurring expenses.
So that’s exactly what I did.
It started as a simple list in Google Keep just noting what the expenses were and how much. But then I needed to add how often this expense was happening and suddenly this had more of the makings of a spreadsheet.
The recurring expenses spreadsheet started out pretty basic (don’t they all?!). But then it grew and grew with more and more awesomeness. I was so excited about it that I decided to turn it into something you could use as well – more on that shortly!
Why do we need a spreadsheet for our recurring expenses?
For as awesome as this spreadsheet is, let’s talk about this a little bit.
My goal with this wasn’t to eliminate all our expenses. Lisa got a little concerned when I started this because she thought that I was trying to drop the hammer and micro-manage our expenses.
But her worry was alleviated when I explained it more. I just needed to have something in front of me so I could easily see what’s happening with the money that we’re not actively spending as one-time purchases.
I didn’t know if there would be anything at all to reduce or throw out the door. But how can you know if you can’t see it? You don’t know what you don’t know, right?
We all have recurring expenses that we should be examining. Maybe your costs are justifiable, but if you’re not watching a ton of movies throughout the summer, do you really need Netflix, Amazon, Prime, Hulu, and HBO Go?
Maybe you have your auto insurance automatically taken out of your bank account or charged to a credit card. But when’s the last time you’ve shopped the rates? You can probably save hundreds of dollars from a quick couple of phone calls or 15 minutes online. Remember folks, unfortunately, loyalty doesn’t pay any more!
In other words, you can probably find some needless costs that can be eliminated to save you good money. But the only way to be able to do that is to have a handle on what the costs are to start with.
That’s where a spreadsheet can help you. But I’m excited to say this recurring expenses spreadsheet takes the hard work out of your hands. All you need to do is pop in some data, see the results, and concentrate on eliminating or reducing any unnecessary excess you find!
So what does the recurring expenses spreadsheet look like?
Let’s start by taking a quick look at a screenshot from the recurring expenses spreadsheet. Click on the image to see it full-size…
Let’s break it down a little. It has a section to put in your name and others in your household whose bills you’re responsible for…
By doing that, each expense row will be automatically color-coded to match. That should be helpful to determine who’s stalling your path to financial independence!
Just kidding (sort of), but it is nice to be able to have it broken down. For instance, it’s imperative to know if you’re spending too much on your kids with things that aren’t important in the long-run.
I set it up to allow 6 household members and then added 2 special members (“All” and “Business”) that are also very valuable in categorizing.
You then put in the current year or the year you want to look at projections for…
But why not do both?! Fill in your rows for the current year and then duplicate the sheet. You can just change the year on the new sheet and make any adjustments to account for your future plans and –POOF–, you’re now able to see how much your recurring expenses will cost for a different year.
That’s all you need to do to get it set up – easy, right?!!
Now you just start entering your recurring expenses. On each line, you just put in what it is. You can include whatever you want here. Some thoughts:
- Video streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV, etc.)
- Audio streaming services (Spotify, YouTube Music, etc.)
- Cell phone
- Loans (auto, mortgage, personal)
- Credit card debt
- Insurance (home, renter’s, auto, life, umbrella, etc.)
- Clubs, activities, or sports (e.g. gym membership)
I could go on and on, but you get the point. You can also enter in recurring business expenses if you want to (or create a separate sheet exclusively for that!).
For me personally, I kept the sheet focused on expenses that I have some control over. For instance, I didn’t include rent because I can’t easily change that one. But I did include health insurance because I can make a phone call or two and get that number down.
The key is to take the time to just start listing your costs. And if you forget one, no big deal – just add it once you see it on your next credit card or bank statement.
As you enter an expense in a row, you can give it a category (Expense Type) if you want. You also enter in who it’s for using the dropdown box (the names are pulled from the members listed) or you can type in someone different if desired.
You then put in the amount of the bill and how often it occurs…
The frequency was the biggest key to the recurring expenses spreadsheet. It was also the hardest part to get working while allowing the flexibility needed. Special shout-out to Matt King helping get that part of the formulas working!
The flexibility to be able to specify that the expense happens any number of weeks, months, or years gives this spreadsheet HUGE power.
For the “Base Bill Date”, you’ll put when the bill occurs. The key to remember is that the recurring expense spreadsheet uses that as the start date to calculate all future dates. So if you put in an October date of the same year you chose for the sheet, you won’t see anything listed for that expense for any of the months before it.
If you want to see the expense throughout the months earlier in the year, you’ll want to put a date of the expense that happened earlier in the year (or even a date from the previous year).
AND THAT’S IT!!! The spreadsheet has already figured everything else out for you including:
- The months when each expense will be incurred (or already has)
- The total that specific recurring expense will cost you for the year
- The total of all the recurring expenses for each month
- The total all your recurring expenses will cost you for the year (try not to gasp!)
- It will also color-code each row according to the name entered in the “For” column
For spending so little time to realize just how much you’re paying every year for regularly scheduled transactions, your mind will likely be blown. This sheet provides so much value for so little cost… free!!
Here’s what I learned…
We’re obviously in a unique situation. If you’re not familiar, we moved to Boquete, Panama earlier this year. Most of you are located in the U.S. and I can tell you that there will be some differences between the two countries.
For instance, we’re testing out using a housekeeper (ok, two of them) every other week. At $25 for the day, that might be a decent splurge. But if we find out that we’re spending too much money overall, that’s an easy one to cut out.
We also have to pay our own health insurance with no subsidies from an employer. But that’s also unique because we don’t really need insurance while we’re here – the health costs are that cheap! So we ended up getting expat insurance mainly for all the visits we’ll be doing back to the U.S. for now.
Although it’s inexpensive (about $300/mo. for all three of us), is that an expense we can clean up? An astute reader, Riley, recently mentioned the idea of travel health insurance just for when we go back to the U.S. I haven’t dug into it yet to see if that could work, but that has the potential to save us hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year.
Most of our other recurring expenses seem to be pretty reasonable though. As we had prepared to move to Panama over this past year, we slowly started eliminating a lot of costs. We don’t have car insurance because we don’t have any cars. We don’t have renter’s insurance because we don’t have much of anything here (fully furnished) and because getting renter’s insurance can be very difficult to get in Panama.
I eliminated Netflix earlier this year to my wife and daughter’s dismay. However, we do have Amazon Prime and NordVPN to be able to connect us back to the U.S. a little bit.
And we’ve added some other expenses here like horseback lessons for Faith and Spanish lessons for both Lisa and Faith. I’m doing pretty well learning on my own, building off my classes from high school and studying daily. But the Spanish lessons are important to help us all integrate into the culture here a little better.
Although the horseback lessons aren’t essential, it’s currently the only activity Faith is doing and it’s also giving her another opportunity to make friends (we’re homeschooling as a reminder).
So overall, our recurring expenses are not too shabby. If we had looked at this last year though, are jaws would have likely dropped.
It’s still interesting to see that we’re projected to spend over $12k in 2020 in recurring costs alone. And again that doesn’t include rent.
Regardless, having an (awesome) recurring expenses spreadsheet that we can periodically review should help keep us in check.
I need this, Jim – how do I get a copy?
Ok, enough about me… I know you want to know how to get your hands on this!
Well, I’ve decided to make this expenses spreadsheet completely free to you (yeah, I really do like you guys that much!).
I think it’s truly valuable and can open up your eyes to where you might be regularly wasting your money. Seeing this information is the first step to being able to correct the problem. And that has the potential to save you hundreds or thousands of dollars per year depending on what you find.
So yes, you definitely need this and I want to share this with you.
However, I decided that I want this to be an exclusive reward for my loyal email subscribers. In fact, current subscribers already received a link to get the recurring expenses spreadsheet when this post first came out.
But if you’re not on my email list, not a problem at all. Sign up below and I’ll send it right over to you. I think you’ll be happy you did, but if not, you can always unsubscribe at any time, no harm, no foul…
I have a good feeling you’re going to love how easy-to-use this spreadsheet is. Spending a little bit of time filling it out could be the catalyst to save you a ton of dough!
Plus, we’d love to have you as part of the Route to Retire team! We’ll continue to learn a lot about money and financial independence and we’ll throw in some talk of the fun we’re having being young and retired in Panama!
Let me know your thoughts – I’d love to hear what you think!
Thanks for reading!!