A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a piece of nifty software called Airtable. It’s touted to be a ‘spreadsheet that gives you the power of a database’, and what that means is that it’s an advanced version of Excel/Sheets.
On Airtable, you’ll see plenty of templates for a variety of use cases – some of the more interesting ones include novel planning, art gallery management, pet medical history, apartment hunting, copy management, user studies, even cattle ranching to name a few. Briefly, these are the features I think are absolutely crucial in making Airtable such a powerful tool:
- Different views for the same dataset
Depending on what you’re entering, you might find it easier to view your information in a calendar. Or kanban, whatever floats your boat. This has helped me move away from using different services (Typeform, Trello, Google Cal) into one service, especially for bigger projects where I manage timeline, user surveys, and to-do lists for bugs and issues.
- Powerful filter function
I really enjoy the ability to search for payments made on certain cards for certain purposes/payment methods in order to track my miles, so this function I can say is a pretty good reason to stay on Airtable.
- Dedicated mobile and Mac app
It’s no secret that I don’t like using web apps, and Airtable has a dedicated Mac app which has fantastic UI. I can’t believe a software designed this well is free. Yes, you heard me. Of course with the limitation of 1,200 records per base (per spreadsheet) – I average about 100-200 transactional entries per month, so I just create a new base every quarter/half-yearly.
What I particularly love about the mobile app is how it presents like a form, allowing me to key in details without going through the navigational mess of spreadsheets on mobile. Again, look at that design!
Hint hint, look at my merchant, and then look at the miles multiplier. Citibank says they only award for Amazon, but.. surprise surprise.
- Highly customizable fields
The multitude of fields means that I can add an insane variety of data to the same sheet, which is where the allure of having a spreadsheet with the ability to store data like a database comes in. One of the downsides though, is that it’s not as flexible as Excel in terms of creating text tables or keying in formulas within cells. If anyone finds a way to do that, let me know!
On to the real discussion, the expense trackers for miles chasers.
After playing around with my own Airtable for expense tracking, I’ve come up with a table with the following fields:
- Merchant – where you purchased your goods/services from
- Transaction Date/Time – for documentation purposes, good for tracking down miles too
- Budgetary spend (optional) – goods/services that you’ve spent on that count towards your personal expenses
- Total spend – actual amount presented on the bill, including your friends’ share if you paid for them
- Category – there are many ways of categorizing this, but personally I go with the following:
– Travel: airline/OTA/hotel bookings
– Health & Personal Care: medical expenses, Guardian, Watsons, Unity, Intenz Health etc.
– Groceries: food, snacks, cleaning material, mainly expenses from the supermarkets
– Food: eating expenses that count in my daily lunch/dinner budget, the bare minimum meals are tagged food, and the fancier stuff is tagged Food + Dining
– Dining: eating out at restaurants or cafes
– Transport: anything spent on taxi, Uber/Grab, SMRT/SBS, Ez-Link
– Software: anything app/services related, like AWS, iTunes, Upwork
– Business: expenditure from my freelancing
– Gift: the occasional spend on someone else, I like to do this to make myself feel less stressed when I see my budgetary spend increase
– Shopping: the very, very rare spend on fashion, typically the kind that would go on my Citibank Rewards/OCBC Titanium card
– Books: I spend a fair amount on books so it makes sense for me to create a separate category, but if not, this is optional
– Company: expenditure made on the company’s behalf that will have to be reimbursed
– Entertainment: movies, Teo Heng, escape rooms, laser tag.. just kidding, my only entertainment nowadays are my philosophy magazines
- Carded On – here is where you list out all the cards you own
- Payment Method (optional) – Paywave? Apple Pay? Samsung Pay? Signature? For those who use UOB PP Visa, or OCBC Titanium Rewards – this is useful for tracking how much you spend on a certain payment method
- Miles Multiplier – I would love to format a IF condition, but Airtable doesn’t allow for that, so key in your own mpd earn rate (1.2, 1.4, 4, so on so forth)
- Miles Earned – your miles auto-compute! At the end of the statement cycle, filter according to card and BINGO! Expected miles total at the bottom of your sheet. You’re welcome.
- Booked (optional) – I like to check this off once I’ve verified a transaction has appeared on my statement. Just me being obsessive.
- Receipts – for photos of receipts, especially useful when you’ve paid for a group. (PS: You can use Splitwise to keep track of billings especially with a group of friends you frequently hang out with)
- Remarks – additional notes you’d like to add to a transaction
You can access the miles tracking sheet here – feel free to give your feedback on this and let me know if there are any other useful fields to add!