I just began using Tiller and determining my categories for the first time led me to ask a lot of questions, including ‘What is important to me?’ I noticed a trend as I was going through past transactions. Some felt like they were a necessity or reasonably important (e.g. buying groceries or investing in music) while other transactions seemed unnecessary or less important (e.g. takeout food or HBO subscription). So, I used my group column to differentiate these two types. This process was highly subjective and I decided to go off my intuitions rather than use logic. A question I still ask is “…important or necessary for what?” Perhaps, for a thriving, meaningful, full life… but I think there’s more to explore there.
To determine categories, I was inclined to look less at the specific item being transacted and more closely at the use or motive behind the item. For example, I recently moved into a new studio and I’ve spent a significant amount of money purchasing household items (e.g. furniture, lights, electronics, kitchen & bathroom supplies, etc…). Labeling all of them as “household items” wasn’t going to work, because some clearly had a greater benefit on my life than others (i.e. some seemed more important). I chose categories like “ambience” to describe household items that contributed to a living space which made me feel joyous and relaxed. I used other categories like “decorations” to describe household items which didn’t feel as important. I ended up splitting travel expenses into “visiting friends and family” and “vacation,” to differentiate travel expenses which connect me to people I care about versus ones that are fun and exciting but not paramount.
I think spllitting transactions up in this way will help me spend more on things that matter in my life and less on those that don’t. Throughout the process of categorizing transactions, I may even discover new things that matter to me; I think there is something about the question “Is this worth spending money on?” or “Can I justify this purchase?” that can unravel tangled values.
What questions do you ask to create and fit transactions into meaningful categories? Any book recommendations?