1. Log consumables in a calendar
I hang a calendar in the tack room next to the feed board, and keep track of hay and bedding usage on it. I mark a "1P" or "1F" every time I open a bag of bedding (pellets or flakes, respectively). ("1" because it could also be "2F" or "3F" if I use two or three bags of bedding in one day.) When I open a bale of hay, I knot the twine in a loop and save it on a hook until Sunday, when I remove all the loops of twine and count them. Then I mark, for example, "5H" at the end of that week's row. At the end of the month, I can add up all of the H's, P's, and F's and input them into the spreadsheet.
2. Use a spreadsheet to total monthly expenses
I have an Excel spreadsheet with rows for each month and columns for each category of operating cost: Feed, Hay, Bedding, Parasites, Flies, Waste, Ring Fees, Land, Labor, and Other.
At the end of the month, I use the calendar to input all my H's, P's, and F's into the spreadsheet at their cost times the number I used that month. For example, the bedding cell would look like this: =1.06*(5*6.29+2*5.99). The "1.06" accounts for the 6% sales tax, mini-flakes cost $6.29, and pellets cost $5.99.
For costs that don't show up on the calendar, I input them more or less as they arise or save the receipts for a couple weeks then enter them. I like to add comments on cells for the less-regular costs, so I will know what they represent (for example, "Lime" or "Mineral block"). I also add comments with the dates of manure dumpster pickup, and the dates I paid barn help, etc. to make sure I account for everything correctly.
There is a column at the end for that month's total, and underneath the monthly log I have a running average cost per horse (way lower than boarding, but of course this isn't factoring in my labor or the start-up costs, explained below).
I also keep a running total of hay bales used so that I know how much to order next time.
I like to use Excel but if you're not computer-savvy you could do this by hand instead!
3. Track start-up costs in spreadsheet
|Sorry, but no one needs to know how much money I spent on this place.|
Most of the time even I don't want to know!
I also have a formula set up to calculate the monthly cost difference between boarding my two horses in appropriate nearby facilities and keeping them at home. Dividing the total start-up cost by that monthly cost saving, I can see how long it will take for my barn to pay for itself (financially anyway). Unfortunately that figure goes up every time I invest in an improvement.
On budgeting: The start-up cost has added up to almost twice what I naively predicted, even though I increased all my estimates by 20% to be safe. But I will say that about 90% of the start-up costs were expended in the first year, and now that that year is over I find myself buying fewer and fewer things for the farm, other than feed, hay, bedding, etc. It's a great feeling!
Okay, nerd out!