Monday, January 7, 2008

Taking Control of Your Numbers

Okay, I confess. I'm addicted to Microsoft Excel! If you haven't noticed already (especially by most recent posts), I pour everything into spreadsheets. In fact, most of what happens in my life goes into Excel in one way or another. I track my savings goals, pledge to the church, gas mileage, coupon savings, rebate savings, baby shower gift budget, Christmas gift budget, grocery store savings, and more. I've even made calculators with Excel to help me do some comparison shopping at places like the dry cleaners. Is it nerdy? Yep. Is it helpful? You better believe it!

Knowledge is a good thing when it comes to money. If you don't know how you are spending your money, how are you going to keep up with it? You may be silently hemorrhaging cash and not even realize it. I admit that I'm really over the top. You don't have to track all of these details. I started many of my worksheets out of curiosity. Was I really saving with coupons, rebates, etc.? Is something really a deal? They aren't all completely necessary.

I like hard facts, so tracking and analyzing my data is helpful to me. Actually, I even it find it comforting and stress-relieving to have the facts. I've been posting less in the past few weeks because I've been consumed with wedding plans. I'm not really into event planning, so this hasn't been the easiest or most fun task. I was stressing during Christmas at my parents' house because I couldn't figure out which photographer offered the best deal on paper (meaning just the cost, not factoring in things like their personality and style that have to be determined through a face-to-face meeting). There was no way I could meet with 30 of them, but how could I narrow the pool? You guessed it -- I poured the information into Excel! It helped me to compare like information -- apples to apples, so to speak.

The same is happening with the reception sites/caterers. We might like one location more than another, but what is the price difference? Now, do we like it that much more? Do we need to trim the guest list in order to have it at one place? Could we extend some more invitations if have it at another location? Through my calculators that I've made in Excel, I can figure out the answers to these questions pretty quickly. The more informed I am, the less stressed I am...the happier I am!

You don't have to like numbers or spend lots of time with data entry and analyzing. Start with something simple like tracking your spending in a certain category (i.e., dining out, groceries). Write it in a notebook if that's easier for you. Do some month-to-month or year-to-year comparisons. See what you learn. See what habits you can work on changing or that you want to keep. I bet you will find that the more informed you are, the better off you will be.

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