Step Four – logs, lists and ledgers . . .

A make-a-(green) plan must-do is tracking information. I started keeping track of all my expenses fifteen years ago when I first read “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin. I recommend this book above all others I have read concerning money. (Note: If you haven’t watched it yet, please take a bit of time and watch Money As Debt. I still haven’t had the discussion.)

The most valuable lesson for me in reading that book was to realize the importance of life energy that goes into making and spending money. I learned from this book that measuring life energy expenses required recording every cent that comes into or goes out of your life. From this I developed a lifelong habit of keeping track of my expenses. The beauty of this is that I can’t lie to myself. The second thing I would say of tracking expenses is you can stop thinking about it. Like many anxiety producing behaviors or responsibilities, I can carry them around in my head, my thinking. If I know that I have recorded something it is out of my head. Freedom, baby.

Okay, now another bit of wisdom I picked up eighteen years ago was from a bunch of time management tapes. I admit I no longer remember the man who produced these, but I do remember his stressing the point that one should not keep important appointments, schedules, etc. in several different places. When I listened to these tapes I carried a daytimer, so I kept everything of importance there. Now I keep everything in Outlook on my computer. Even if I have recorded something on a scrap (how do you spell schnivel?) of paper or have a receipt in my coin purse, I transfer the information to the computer calendar within the week. The point of this exercise is also to free one from wondering where to look for information. Freedom . . .

Despite Outlook being my primary spot for all information, I have sub-systems I use for specific purposes. One primitive type pattern I maintain is an envelope for all my receipts for the month. I keep a running total of food expenses in one column and all other discretionary expenses in another ‘living’ column. This gives me a monthly summary in a glance and a temporary holding place for receipts. After all these years I have a good sense of where I am at without this, but I still prefer keeping it up to date.

Excel spreadsheets/ workbooks help me analyze budget and other calculations. Despite learning QuickBooks this year, I like using Excel as a tool for planning and measuring. Simply manipulating data means using Excel. It is so readily available I stopped using a calculator some years ago.

As far as most of my life events or all my fun facts to know and tell, I utilize Outlook. I have assigned different categories like financial, special projects, green, health, etc. different colors. This way I can see in a glance a sort of graphic diary of my life’s balance or emphasis. For the sake of this year’s challenge, I will adjust these several habits to help me keep track of my various goals. I will be adding thermometer readings, electrical meter readings, water meter readings and the like to my other Outlook entries.
I’m not sure what most people use for tracking information. My mother has always used a paper calendar. I did this too prior to computerized calendars. For posting information on this blog, I’d prefer to just include summaries or charts or graphs. Maybe I will finally master some charting / graphing skills within Excel. One day I may not use the computer for any of this recording, planning or measuring. That’s okay, I still remember how to plan with a pencil in my hand.