Data Driven Spending

I have always tried and failed to manage my personal finance. I failed due to the existence of two payment systems, cash and cards.

This month is the first month where I go totally cashless, thanks to having pin machines everywhere in Holland and having NFC enabled on most of them. This way I never have to carry cash around. I am even thinking of a smaller wallet with all the cards.

This also led to the ability to track my spending. My bank allows me to download all my transactions in excel. I downloaded them and started categorizing every transaction in one of the categories (Food, Supermarket, Communications, Rent..etc)

Then using some excel magic, I created a pivot table with how much I spent in each category, here is the result:

My spending for November

This came out with two outputs for this month:

  • I overspent by 3.5% over my expected budget. This was due to few unexpected outings on weekdays.
  • I know I pay a lot as rent (Excluding utilities), but I never expected it is 58% of my spending. It shows you how bad is the housing market in Amsterdam. I bet others aren’t any different.


The easiest way to budgeting is to do this exercise and find out where your money go, then you will be able to determine a daily/weekly budget. My approach is simple:

  • Calculate all fixed costs and see how much you got after deducting them.
  • Set a daily budget for work days, and a different budget for weekends because normally you will spend more on weekends.
  • Never leave an amount as an error margin, because if you know you have this to count for your mistakes, you will spend it anyway.
  • Track at least every week, to avoid surprises.

Wishful Thinking

My only wish to make this easier is if I have an app that can login to my bank account and categorize the transactions automatically. Then this whole process can be real time, and I don’t have to use excel and do it manually.