I think personal stories keep things real. At the end of the day, I’m an average guy just like you. It’s not just about words in a blog. It shows the challenges that I’ve faced as well, and perhaps it might be something that you can identify with.

I started my working life in 2007 with a $20,000 debt. That’s a lot of money, and I consider myself lucky enough to get an interest-free “student loan” from my mum. Eventually, I managed to repay the $20,000 loan in two years.

I ROM-ed in 2010, subsequently got my HDB apartment and held my wedding in 2011. The outflow of money has been tremendous (and horrifying) in the past few years and I’m slowly and steadily getting my finances back in shape.

Personally, I feel that the cornerstone of any financial planning is budgeting. Back in 2007, I created my first spreadsheet to keep track of my finances. I targeted to repay my $20,000 within two years and I met my goal.

In the past, I’ve never read up anything on budgeting and I just did what felt right to me. Looking back, I would say it is a form of virtual envelope budgeting.

The spreadsheet is meant to be updated daily, weekly, or at most monthly. Of course, the more frequent the better.At the beginning of the month, I would create a new worksheet which is updated with all my available bank balances, all incurred credit card expenses and expected expenses for the month.

When the spreadsheet is updated, I would be able to know the available “spare cash” I have at one glance. It might be very basic and simple, but it has served me well in excess of five years.

It was especially useful during my renovation/wedding phase when I had to create a special edition just to stay sane. After moving to my own place in 2011, I created an expansion to include my household expenses side-by-side.

If I didn’t find out about You Need A Budget (YNAB), I would still be using this spreadsheet today. The main problem I had with maintaining my own spreadsheet was that the updating can be pretty tedious and time consuming, as I could only work with the spreadsheet while I was home. But the thing is, only an accurate spreadsheet can serve its purpose of budgeting.

I tried out YNAB’s 34-day free trial and loved the flexibility and efficiency that it offers with a companion Android app and cloud syncing. One thing that I have realized this year is that time can be more valuable than money, which YNAB has helped me to accomplished. Even better, even though I’ve spent $54.00 USD on it last month, I’ve managed to save an extra S$80.00 as a result of being able to better keep track of my finances. Yes, I’m a minor control freak in some sense.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not promoting this tool, and you don’t have to buy/use it. There are many alternatives (some need to be purchased, many are free to use) and heck, you can even ask me for a copy of my Excel template!

The key idea is that keeping a budget has helped me tremendously, and I hope that you would start keeping one if you’re not already using one. With the right tools, hopefully we would find it easier to achieve our financial goals.

Have you started keeping a budget yet?

P.S. I bought YNAB at 10% discount because a friend gave me a discount code. I’m extending the same offer if you are interested – go to YNAB website via this link to apply the discount.


Investor Lightyear brought my attention to OCBC Money In$ights which was newly launched. Here’s an article from The Straits Times about two weeks back, with more information. Check it out! Feel free to share more resources with me!