4 min read
In my opinion, the first step anyone should take to improve their financial situation is to first understand their monthly cash flow. This means understanding how much you earn and how much you spend each month.
Once you have a grasp on your monthly cash flow, you can begin to see where you’re overspending, how much you’re saving, and where you can make improvements.
Most people know exactly how much they earn, but surprisingly few people know exactly how much they spend. So, I built an app that summarizes and visualizes monthly spending. You can find the app here:
The app will be completely free to use this week. Starting on July 1, 2018, the app will be available for a $5 monthly subscription.
My goal is to help people visualize their monthly expenses for less than the price of one burrito per month. 🙂
Here is a quick overview of the app, how to use it, and why I think it’s useful:
The App in a Nutshell
The app asks you to upload a CSV file of your monthly transactions. It then takes that file and summarizes your monthly spending with tables and graphs.
1. Upload Your Monthly Transactions
Personally I use credit cards for all my spending so I can directly download my transactions online. For this example, I’ll head to my credit card login page and download all of my transactions from May 2018, opting to download them in a Microsoft Excel format:
Here is the one step that requires a little work on your part. The app only needs a CSV file with four columns: transaction name, date, amount paid, and category.
The CSV file that I downloaded happens to show date, transaction type, transaction name, and amount spent:
Your CSV file that you download from your own institution might have extra columns like “Memo” too. So, I’m going to do a couple things to get this data in the right format:
1. I only want the debit transactions since I don’t care about the credit transactions which show that I made my payments. So, I’ll remove any row that has credit in the transaction column.
Then, I’ll delete the transaction column entirely:
2. Lastly, I’ll add one extra column called “category” and go through and label each transaction:
For this step, you can be as specific or as vague as you want. I differentiate between “coffee” and “dining out” because I like seeing the granularity in the graphs. If you want to label all coffee, restaurant, and grocery transactions as “food”, you’re more than welcome to do so.
Now you’re done with the one step that requires some work on your part.
NOTE: It’s OK that the values in the “Amount” column are negative. The app takes care of this.
I go ahead and save this file somewhere on my laptop under the name may18_spending.csv. Then, under the “Upload Transactions” tab on the app, I click “browse”, navigate to this CSV file, and upload it:
2. Overview of Your Monthly Spending
The Total Spending tab shows your total monthly spending:
The Every Transaction tab shows every single transaction you made, sorted from largest to smallest amount:
3. Spending By Day
The Day of Month tab shows how much you spent on every individual day, broken down by category:
The Day of Week tab shows how much you spent by day of the week, broken down by category:
4. Spending By Category
The Bar Chart tab shows how much you spent by day category:
The Table tab shows how much you spent by category, both as total amount spent and as a percentage of total monthly spending. You can sort this table by any of the three columns as well:
The Mini Category Plots tab shows how much you spent each day of the month, broken down by category:
5. Spending By Transaction
The Scatterplot tab shows total transactions and average spend per transaction by category:
The Table tab shows the actual numbers used in the previous graph:
Q: Where can I access the app?
Q: Is there a mobile version?
No. The app is only available for desktop.
Q: When I uploaded my file, the screen turned grey and said “Disconnected from server.” What does this mean?
This means your file does not have the correct format. Make sure your file is a CSV with only four columns named: Name, Date, Amount, Category. The order of the columns does not matter.
Q: What if I use more than one credit card for my monthly spending?
Feel free to combine your monthly transactions into one CSV file. Or manually type in the transactions into Excel and save the file as a CSV.
Q: How will the subscription work?
The app is available for free until July 1, 2018. At that point, the app will be available as a monthly subscription for $5 per month. You can cancel the subscription at any time and there is no limit on how many times per month you can use the app once you have a subscription.
Feel free to leave feedback about the app in the comments below or contact me directly at email@example.com or through my contact form.
My favorite free financial tool I use is Personal Capital. I use it to track my net worth, manage my spending, and keep an eye on my monthly cash flow. It only takes a few minutes to set up and it makes tracking your finances simple and easy. I recommend trying it out.
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