Author Topic: Tracking Expenses  (Read 3792 times)

MgoSam

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Tracking Expenses
« on: May 27, 2014, 11:45:44 AM »
I just moved in with a friend, we have signed a 3 month lease (after which it will go to month-to-month), current rent is $500/month, includes all utilities. Now that I am living on my own I think it is a good time for me to track all my expenses, ie groceries, eating out, entertainment, gas, gym, insurance. Does anyone have any tips for doing so? Does anyone have a good template that they find useful?

Thanks!

warfreak2

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2014, 11:52:27 AM »
GnuCash is free software good for this purpose, if you can download data from your bank in OFX or QIF format. Some people here also seem to recommend Mint.com or YNAB.

Frugalicious

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2014, 12:15:58 PM »
I like Mint.com.  It's also free.

MgoSam

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2014, 12:29:07 PM »
I have had a Mint account for a while but haven't fully used it.

I've heard wonderful things and would like to take advantage of its features, please let me know how I can do so. Here is what I just went and did, I have entered my bank, Vanguard, and credit cards onto this. I will go through an categorize all transactions from it, and input all cash expenses that I can. Then after a few months, I can use this to track how much I spend. Is there something additional that you recommend? I can use this to have better quantify a budget.

Thanks for your help.

soccerref

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2014, 12:42:36 PM »
Whatever tracking software you choose, make sure you can create accounts so you can customize for your spending.  I have a hobby that generates income, so I need to be able to distinguish the income from salary and any expenses from generating the income.  I also have some specific types of maintenance expenses for my home that I track separately, so I needed to create an account for this.  I have been using Quicken for over 15 years, and continue to maintain the program on my PC rather than in the Cloud.

smalllife

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2014, 12:43:42 PM »
YNAB - www.youneedabudget.com

You can use it to track spending, but you can also using to plan spending.  Take a look at the tutorials, webinars, and take advantage of the 34 day free trial.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2014, 01:24:39 PM »
I am not comfortable handing out my bank/brokerage passwords to a third party so I use Excel:  Day of the month in the far left column, numerous expenses in the heading, summation in the far right and grand total far right bottom.  Each month is a book.  Next month, copy and paste to a new book, delete the amounts and start over.  It does require you to empty your pockets of all credit card receipts everyday and to recall and post cash transactions, but you control it, it's free (if you have excel) and it's secure.

MgoSam

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2014, 01:59:48 PM »
Thanks for all your help. I have setup Mint and will use that to help monitor my expenses. Do you recommend setting up a budget? I don't know how helpful this will be, especially as I am not someone that spends extravagantly.

Also, how do you budget for more big ticket expenses, or big bills that come in? An example is if I find that my car needs some major mechanical work? Right now I am loving not spending too much money so that when such expenses pop up I am able to pay it without too much stress. Would it be worth to budget some money each month for the unforeseen?

Also, how much do you recommend that I should work to have in my bank accounts? Right now I am sending about 68% of my take-home salary to Vanguard and not leaving too much in bank account (currently have a nest of $1000 that I've held in there), should I increase this? I have lowered my weekly contribution by $125 so that I will have $500 in the bank each month for rent.

Christof

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2014, 02:21:52 PM »
I usse Quicken 2000, never felt the need to upgrade.

What you need in your bank account is less a matter of a specific amount, rather a question of managing cash flow. You can repay a six month emergency expense within three month. If you can get a line of credit, eg. a credit card, I wouldn't worry too much about increasing cash.

Every planned expense you can easily save for by temporarily redirecting your savings. For unexpected expenses you can use a credit as a first line and either repay with your salary or by selling stocks. If you either loose your line of credit or your job, you still can sell stocks.




Prairie Stash

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2014, 02:30:17 PM »
I keep $1000, it covers anything I forget like annual house insurance. Since I save a lot if something were to come up I would just skip that months savings. I think the rationale for a 6 month buffer is for people who live week to week, I still don't understand why people have that much cash. As a mustachian I bet you could pay any car repairs (or other unforeseen bill) within a month by suspending the savings for a few weeks. Meanwhile the cash has been compounding for the several months previous.

Tracking is better than budgeting.  They serve the same purpose for me, if I know where money is going (tracking) why would I need to arbitrarily allow myself a certain amount to spend on it (budget)?


galliver

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2014, 02:44:56 PM »
I like the "budgets" feature of mint to quickly see where I am in my expected spending and set goals. Those green bars are motivating. Try it, you can always cancel or edit your budgets as you go!

You should also know you can make custom categories and labels. So, if you want to reclassify "restaurants" under "entertainment" instead of "food" or have a category for something weird/unsual like government fees (like replacing ID or license, filing forms for something or other, whatever), then you can do that. Unfortunately you can't label something in two categories at once as far as I know...

Cressida

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2014, 03:45:51 PM »
I am not comfortable handing out my bank/brokerage passwords to a third party so I use Excel:  Day of the month in the far left column, numerous expenses in the heading, summation in the far right and grand total far right bottom.  Each month is a book.  Next month, copy and paste to a new book, delete the amounts and start over.  It does require you to empty your pockets of all credit card receipts everyday and to recall and post cash transactions, but you control it, it's free (if you have excel) and it's secure.

I do this too, but not because of security issues (I probably have my head in the sand about that one). It's because any method that involves downloading bank transactions will necessarily lump everything you bought at one time into one category. I prefer more granularity than that - for example, if I go to the grocery store and buy food and toothpaste and booze, I want to track that information and not just "grocery."

But that's me. And, I work with spreadsheets all day at work, so it's comfortable.

MGeegs

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Re: Tracking Expenses
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2014, 04:09:16 PM »
I live in New Zealand so Mint.com isn't an option.  I've been using the iPhone app "Toshl" - I can track spending wherever I am and look at pretty graphs on the computer at home. And it's free (although you can pay for an upgrade to be able to track more than one budget etc)