Author Topic: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?  (Read 3486 times)

The Money Monk

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question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« on: September 21, 2015, 06:05:03 PM »
Like many people on this forum, I track all my spending and earnings to the penny with spreadsheets. I use my own rather than something like mint so I can categorize how I wish. For me the primary goal is to see where and how money is being spent or earned, and how I categorize my spending is a reflection of that, and not necessarily how something like mint would do it.

For example, if I go to a birthday dinner for somebody, I normally enter that under the 'gifts' column rather than the "restaurants', but if I were to buy drinks during the dinner I would normally put those under 'alcohol', not gifts or restaurants.

Anyway, I recently cashed in some credit card rewards points and I am curious how other spreadsheet nerds would have counted it. I used the points to get $150 worth of Gas gift cards, since this particular card didn't have a direct cash back / statement credit option. So the way I am entering it now is to enter $150 of income under "cc rewards", and then put a $150 under spending for gas.

Although this may give a slightly skewed version of my income, since it isn't really $150 I could have spent on anything, so Its not the same as if I found $150 cash in the road and then spent it on gas, even though that is basically how the spreadsheet is reflecting it right now. However I don't really know of a better way to count it.

The reason I chose gas is because it is something that I would have spent the money on eventually anyway, so in that sense it will all even out (it will show $150 in gas spending for this month, but then I won't spend anything for like two months, so the averages will accurately reflect my spending on gas, and due to the fungibility of money it doesn't really matter that the gas spending came from 'money' that couldn't have been spent on anything else, because spending it on gas frees up $150 that CAN be spent on anything else.

So anyway, despite the rambling this is obviously not a big deal at all, just interested in how other spreadsheet nerds handle unconventional 'income' like this.

Let me know what you guys think.

MDM

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2015, 06:27:10 PM »
Here are two extremes:
1) Don't track this at all - neither the gift card income nor the use for gas.
2) Create a holding account called "Gift Cards".
  a) Income in the form of "CC rewards" (or whatever) increases the balance in that account.
  b) Spending for gas (or whatever) decreases the balance in that account.

maricela

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2015, 06:32:24 PM »
CC rewards and similar free money go under income -other.

The Money Monk

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2015, 06:35:12 PM »
Here are two extremes:
1) Don't track this at all - neither the gift card income nor the use for gas.
2) Create a holding account called "Gift Cards".
  a) Income in the form of "CC rewards" (or whatever) increases the balance in that account.
  b) Spending for gas (or whatever) decreases the balance in that account.

Option 2 is interesting, but I don't know if I prefer it to just counting it as general income. The way I am doing it now seems to me to have the best combination of minimum perturbations, and minimum amount of work.

Option 1 is out of the question for me. $150 represents about 3 months worth of gas. If I don't count it the spreadsheets will be wildly inaccurate in determining how much gas I am actually using, and that is the whole reason I track this stuff is to find out how much I use in each category. The exception would be if the gift card options were only for something that I wouldn't have spent money on otherwise.

For example, if I won a free ticket to Disney I wouldn't count that as income or spending on 'entertainment', because then the spreadsheet wouldn't be accurately tracking how much I really do spend on entertainment.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2015, 06:42:49 PM »
CC rewards and similar free money go under income -other.

ditto

APowers

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2015, 09:14:19 AM »
The way we do it, is that we track expenses as they are actually spent and income as it is earned. But we don't track "found money".

So with your example of gas gift cards: it wouldn't matter how we paid for the gas, since we would just look at the receipt from the gas station and put that amount in the spreadsheet. Cash, credit, gift card, whatever; at the end of the month when we're tallying everything, we'll have a receipt for $23.45 of gas. That way each month is accurate in terms of recorded expenses, regardless of the source of the money.

We don't track CC rewards as income, but if we did, I would do it just like you said-- $150 income under "cc rewards" (because money is fungible, blablablabla).

Thus, income tracking is separate from expense tracking.

AlwaysLearningToSave

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2015, 09:28:45 AM »
My credit card rewards come in the form of cash back rewards that are applied as a statement credit against my credit card balance.  When I redeem cash back, I book it as miscellaneous income.  I've already booked the expenses the statement credit is charged against and I would have spent that money anyway, so I feel it is necessary to track the income/expenses. 

I received a restaurant gift card recently, which I do not plan to track at all.  I probably would not spend that money unless I had the gift card, thus I feel tracking it would skew my numbers and make my restaurant spending look worse than it otherwise would be.  Instead, if I manage to use the gift card at a time I would have spent the money anyway, my restaurant spending will look artificially low and it will be "found money."  If I re-gift the gift card, I will not book the gift and it will be a wash. 

kudy

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2015, 09:39:30 AM »
I used to track credit card rewards as income, but it got weird when I started doing travel rewards. This year I've been crediting any cash/gift card rewards as a positive transaction in a specific category (I use YNAB). For example, I bought some computer parts earlier this year, so one of my recent checking account bonuses went to directly offset that purchase.

geekette

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2015, 10:18:12 AM »
I wouldn't recommend anyone track the crazy making way I do it, but...

I have a Quicken asset account and use it to hold stuff like this.  When I use the gift card/credit, I expense it out.  Our grocery store offers a $50 gas card for $40 when you buy a certain amount of groceries.  $50 into the "You Owe Me" account, with $40 charged to a credit card and $10 as income-other.  When I spend it, it's just gas.

A new location of the same grocery store was offering $20 grocery credit every time you filled a prescription (for six months!  even free ones!)  That also went in the "You Owe Me" category as pharmacy-rewards, and expensed out as groceries when used.

I track all sorts of crap there, but...crazy making.

Travel rewards, though, I don't track, just cash type things.


NorCal

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2015, 10:41:56 AM »
I track my stuff in Quicken, but do it conceptually similar.  I redeem cash rewards from my cc monthly.

I have a lot of "shopping" subcategories like clothing, kids, etc.

I put the rewards in the umbrella shopping category (it is the only thing that goes there) as a negative expense.  This works for me, as it is a rebate of cash actually spent that mostly comes from a variety of "shopping" items. 

If you don't like this approach, I would count it as "Other Income".

NotJen

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2015, 10:55:21 AM »
In this specific case, it would not appear in my tracking program at all, but it would reduce my gas expenditures going forward.  This is not income, but a 'perk' you took advantage of to reduce your expenses.

In general, this is how I account for rewards:

- For true cash back that I apply directly to my credit card statement, I record it as 'Income' with the category 'Cash Back Bonus'.

- For airline miles awards, they aren't accounted for in my money tracking program.  But I make use of them by getting free flights.

- For special offers from my credit card that reduces a specific expense, I record it as that expense.  For example, I used an AmEx offer to get a free B&N giftcard from NewEgg.  When I made the purchase of the giftcard from NewEgg, I categorized it as "Leisure: Books".  When I got the credit from AmEx applied, I also categorized it as "Leisure: Books", so they cancelled out.

dcozad999

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Re: question for spreadsheet nerds - how would you count it?
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2015, 12:28:57 PM »
Just an fyi, but you can create your own categories in Mint.