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How We Tracked Our Build Expenses

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

Outside of building this house I'm not a super organized person. I've moved every 6-12 months since I left home for college and I have never gotten my crap together.


That being said, spending the kind of money it takes to build a house has terrified me into to tracking anything and everything involved. Take it from me, you need to as well.



1. Open a checking & savings account for the build


This might seem like overkill, but it makes a huge difference. We have our primary accounts for what we live off and the build accounts strictly for build expenses.


I keep a lump sum in the build savings and leave the build checking account as dry as possible. When I need to use the build checking account, I move the amount needed from the savings to the checking.


Our build checking has its own set of checks and debit cards. Debit cards on the account were important to us for things like:

  • Ordering samples online

  • Buying supplies quickly

  • Pulling build cash from ATM's

Side note! I made a critical error early on by only ordering 20 checks and thinking I would remember to order more before I ran out... HA... I ended up running back to the bank an hour away to get checks the day I needed them. Do better than me. Order a lot of checks early on.

So, how does that help?

When we spend money on the build, I know exactly where it came from and can easily track it with my bank. There's no guessing about which card it went on or which checking account we wrote the check from.






2. Document every single expense, no matter how little


I've got binders full of expenses, seriously.


When we agree to a service (things like well drilling, land clearing, driveway laying...) we take a copy of the agreement we have with the contractor. I print it, and it goes in a clear sheet protector in my binder right away.


Once I have paid for the service, I get a copy of the check and add it to the section that is for that service.


If we use the debit card for online purchases, I print the receipt and add it to a new sheet protector in the binder.


For in person purchases with the debit card, I add my physical receipt to the binder in it's own sheet protector.


At the end of each month I print the statements for our build account and stick it in front of the expense receipts for that month.


Another critical error: I used a standard binder and I should have purchased a heavy duty binder from the get. I learned the hard way and ended up having to transfer everything over, which was not fun.


So, how does that help?

Having everything organized in one place we can reference has saved us so much time and energy instead of having it in multiple different emails, places. Putting everything in the binder as we go makes the chaos of building so much simpler.




3. Keeping our binder organized


I like to keep the binder broken up into months. Since we bought our land in February of 2020, mine starts there.


EXAMPLE:

2/2020

  • This month we wrote a check for our land, so I have a copy of that check, the documentation proving it cleared, and our closing paperwork in the February tab.


3/2020

  • No expenses, no tab


4/2020

  • This month we spent $6,000.00 for land clearing. In the tab I have a copy of the instructions given to contractor, our land survey and documentation of the cleared check.

11/2020

  • This month we paid our architect, engineer, and contractor. I have a copy of the invoice for their work, print out of our plans (their service), and documentation of the cleared check.

You can only shuffle paper so many times before it starts to tear, but these items do a lot to protect precious papers.

My 3 favorite tools to keep our papers and receipts in the binder are these 3 ring envelopes, sturdy dividers, and plastic sheet protectors. These help so much.


Conclusion:

I know, it's a LOT of paper, but I really like knowing that my email account isn't my only means of accessing my documentation and we have an easy resource we can reach for.

Side note! Most banks only keep your statements available on their app for 12 months, so having a printed copy is a must.

If this resonates with you, please let me know!

I want to provide the kind of insight you want to see.


Megan


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