Author Topic: How do you track spending?  (Read 7642 times)

Mustacean

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How do you track spending?
« on: December 12, 2016, 10:23:33 PM »
I have been experimenting with different ways to track expenditures; Mint, Personal Capital, Excel. As both my SO and myself make daily purchases on the same account I find it hard to keep up with the assignment of each expense to its' category. If I take a few days off from categorizing expenses it starts to become difficult to remember all the purchases. Plus, my SO does not participate in the details of tracking. So I have to constantly ask about what her purchases were for. She doesn't mind but I sometimes feel like I'm nagging her about purchases.

I'm curious about what you use to track expenditures and any hints/advice/tricks you may have to make the process flow smoothly. I just can't seem to get organized enough to keep accurate records.

JLee

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2016, 10:28:47 PM »
YNAB is quite popular.

I don't track spending myself - I used YNAB briefly but haven't felt a need to meticulously track my spending.

Zikoris

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2016, 10:39:26 PM »
I use int, but the biggest "trick" to keeping track of it all is to just reduce the number of transactions altogether. Several purchases a day is generally too many. We go a lot of days with zero transactions between the two of us. Could you figure out why you're doing so many transactions that it's hard to keep track of, and find a way to reduce it, by either eliminating them entirely or grouping them together? What category do most of this large number of daily transactions fit in?

KMMK

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2016, 11:02:38 PM »
Does she give you her receipts? I don't remember what I bought without the receipts or credit card statement either and I love tracking. I have to write down cash spending right away or I forget.
I like both Excel and YNAB for different reasons.

Malum Prohibitum

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2016, 10:22:38 AM »
I write them down on a piece of paper and total them up into categories once a week and monthly.

Joseppi

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2016, 10:27:30 AM »
I use int, but the biggest "trick" to keeping track of it all is to just reduce the number of transactions altogether. Several purchases a day is generally too many. We go a lot of days with zero transactions between the two of us. Could you figure out why you're doing so many transactions that it's hard to keep track of, and find a way to reduce it, by either eliminating them entirely or grouping them together? What category do most of this large number of daily transactions fit in?

Yes, it is usually several purchases a day and that does seem like way too many. It seems a lot of it is groceries. Running to the store for something we need. This month we are trying something new. We have stocked our pantry much more than we ever did before. I am hoping this will not only reduce the number of trips to the grocery store but also bring down the expense.

It seems I am the one who is more driven to pursue FI so we do have times when some frivolous purchases happen. That is why I would like to get accurate tracking of the categories of goods purchased so I can present some convincing data to keep those purchases to a minimum ;)

My wife and I have found that it's easiest to both use the same credit card for everything, no cash purchases, if we can help it. Firstly, it helps rack up points we use for travel, and it makes it foolproof to track spending using Mint. I then login once a week and categorize anything that's not categorized already.

Makes it very easy to track spending this way, but does not mean that you will spend less of course.

Good luck.

The Money Monk

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2016, 10:58:14 PM »
I enter everything into a custom excel spreadsheet. I don't use mint or similar because I like to do my own weirdly specific categorizations. I use almost exclusively credit cards when spending money, for the reward points (made over $2000 this year), so every few days I will go on the credit card site and enter the purchases into my spreadsheet. I don't buy a lot of stuff, so usually the vendor is enough info to remember and know what the category should be. If I buy something in cash, I try to enter it quickly before I forget.

If I buy something on amazon, or multiple things at once that would be indifferent categories, the vendor information alone wouldn't be enough to categorize it, so I usually enter it as soon as I get home. Takes literally 30 seconds.

I keep all my finances completely separate from my live-in concubine, so no issues there.

RWD

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2016, 08:40:15 AM »
I've been using GnuCash consistently for about five years now and it's been great.

GreenSheep

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2016, 09:31:25 AM »
Keeping the number of transactions to a minimum definitely helps! I just do it old school... I have a notebook in which I put 3 months across the top of a page, and a list of categories down the left side. Then I fill in each expense for that quarter on the day it occurs. I only have 15 categories, so it's pretty easy! I also write, next to the name of each category, how much I expect to spend on that category each month. I like being able to see at a glance where I've overspent, where I've underspent, etc. If I make an overly large purchase, I write what it is so I can remember later why, for example, my grocery expenditures were $136 over budget in the month when I bought my dates for the whole year.

I also use Personal Capital, but it annoys me that when, for example, my credit card account is hacked and someone spends $500 at Williams-Sonoma, I can't delete that transaction and make my numbers accurate again. I also don't like the fact that cash purchases aren't categorized as anything other than an ATM withdrawal, and I can't split the $200 I withdrew into, say, 3 categories for the things I actually spent it on.

Cadman

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2016, 10:33:38 AM »
I know I'm preaching to choir, but I like the tools to get out of my way and let me do my thing, so I ended up just using excel. The columns get divided into popular categories, like Groceries, Entertainment, Gas, etc. Each month gets a fixed number of rows and the 'Insert Comment' feature lets me tag each item as I enter them.

A few minutes each week is all it takes to look at my credit card apps on the phone and update the record. The paychecks go in off to the side and are calculated against spend, so I can see instantly how much was spent total for the month and how much I 'saved'. Side hustle $$ also go in on the right. At the end of the month, that block gets copy/pasted a few rows down to clearly delineate the month, the numbers get zeroed and I start again.

Having all that data makes it easy to generate graphs on yearly spend, to analyze trends, to see what categories could use some work. etc. It's also easy to look ahead by looking back. "Okay, what big expenses do I incur each January."

The tabs at the bottom are a good place to put a list of your CC's and their features, another tab for tax deductions/HSA spend, another tab for tracking the bigger accts, like 401k/IRA. And on and on. It's really turned into a financial calculator 'one note'.


notactiveanymore

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2016, 10:43:37 AM »
I mean, the only way to track is to actually track. It's going to be super difficult to get the data if your SO is not interested in tracking or at least retaining receipts. The method doesn't matter much, the follow-through does. I'd either agree to a certain level of cash-based discretionary spending that you write off OR try and get SO on board with simply saving all receipts in a certain place.

But yeah, your problem isn't exactly tracking as it seems you well know. For the record, we started with a shared google spreadsheet then transitioned to EveryDollar, but we still manually track instead of connecting it to our accounts.

tomatops

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2016, 10:51:12 AM »
I spend very little as it is, so at the end of each day, I usually just punch it into a spreadsheet

oneyearfromnow

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2016, 10:55:59 AM »
I use Excel, and categorize the downloaded CSV data from our bank such that I get a very nice pivot table.  I've got three years of data now. Good for yearly comparatives, as well as historical year over years.

I went this route because:
a) I'm an accountant, and
b) I can quickly change the categories for multiple items by simply copy/paste.  Most Accounting software requires you to set up your categories first, and then changes are individual.
c) It makes for easy tests on whether or not a cash back by category card would work out - I simply resorted the list, and entered a store type column.

The husband and I agreed on the categories, which are first separated between Needs & Wants, and then separated out from there.   We also agreed that when we take out cash, it is going to go in the grocery category - as it is likely a small snack, or something for supper that night.  If the occasional beer goes in there - we're not fussed about it.   Aside from that, it's pretty easy to sort the data by vendor. 




catccc

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2016, 12:23:17 PM »
I'm an accountant and live in excel, but I use YNAB.  There are other products that are like it that cost less.  I'm on the old perpetual license model, not the new cloud based subscription model.  I love YNAB but I feel like I can't recommend the subscription model.  Syncing across devices is the best thing about it.

JLee

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2016, 12:37:25 PM »
I'm an accountant and live in excel, but I use YNAB.  There are other products that are like it that cost less.  I'm on the old perpetual license model, not the new cloud based subscription model.  I love YNAB but I feel like I can't recommend the subscription model.  Syncing across devices is the best thing about it.

Didn't the old license model have sync via dropbox?

AMandM

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2016, 06:37:28 AM »
We use paper and pen.  I know from past experience that I won't keep up with the work of tracking on computer because of the time/hassle overhead of getting access to a computer to enter data into a spreadsheet or accounting program. (Our family shares a desktop and we don't have smartphones.)

Actually entering the purchases is the key--I agree that if you get behind it's tough to catch back up.  But that's true regardless of your method.

SomedayStache

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2016, 08:07:18 AM »
I'm an accountant and live in excel, but I use YNAB.  There are other products that are like it that cost less.  I'm on the old perpetual license model, not the new cloud based subscription model.  I love YNAB but I feel like I can't recommend the subscription model. Syncing across devices is the best thing about it.[/b]

Another here that is still on the old (no subscription) model of YNAB.  I love it, but supposedly the drop box syncing will stop working sometime next year.  At that point I'm unsure what I'm going to do.
-Continue to use my old YNAB version without syncing?  (I'm not sure if I'll be able to even use the phone app anymore or if it will just become a desktop program
-Start paying the yearly fee and learn a new YNAB method?
-Move to another program entirely?

I love the old YNAB but I'm not sure I'm going to sign up for a recurring cost.

elaine amj

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2016, 11:01:07 AM »
The dropbox syncing on my Blackberry stopped working last month :( The YNAB app on DH's iPhone works just fine though. Not sure what we will do now. I am tempted to get the subscription model but may give in and learn Mint. Don't know if Mint will work on my Blackberry though? And things are a pain if I can't track on my phone as well.

We might switch back to our old method of only tracking net worth annually and give up on tracking spending.

spooky105

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #18 on: December 17, 2016, 07:53:19 PM »
Mint for spending. Personal Capital for investments.

I found that Mint required a decent amount of work when I got started years ago, but over time as it learned to better categorize my transactions and I learned more about what I actually wanted to track it because much easier. I currently log in once a week, review everything since the last login, make a few small tweaks, ask the wife about one or two expenses she charged that I can't figure out, and then go about my life.

Spork

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #19 on: December 17, 2016, 08:08:04 PM »
I've been using GnuCash consistently for about five years now and it's been great.

+1

There almost seems to need to be a FAQ on this.  At any given point in time, this question seems to have 1 or more active threads on it.

Gnucash is my choice.  I can't remember exactly how long I've used it, but it is in the 15-20 years.  It is much more "correct" when it comes to accounting than the other packages I've seen.  As a result, you end up correctly categorizing assets/liabilities/income/expense and questions like "does my principle payment on my house apply to my savings rate?" can magically disappear.  These sorts of things become very basic formulas.

It also is very amenable to back end hacking.  The data file is xml*.  It is easy to parse and create a world of really cool things with.

*The back end can also be mysql.  At first I was really excited about this because I thought it would make it multi user.  It doesn't.  It just reads the entire damn database in and locks it.  My excitement dimmed after that.

Nudelkopf

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2016, 09:30:12 PM »
I enter everything into a custom excel spreadsheet. I don't use mint or similar because I like to do my own weirdly specific categorizations. I use almost exclusively credit cards when spending money, for the reward points (made over $2000 this year), so every few days I will go on the credit card site and enter the purchases into my spreadsheet. I don't buy a lot of stuff, so usually the vendor is enough info to remember and know what the category should be. If I buy something in cash, I try to enter it quickly before I forget.
I'm pretty much exactly the same as this! The only time I use cash is for 'Entertainment' and weekly sport fees for netball/basketball/silks (which are the same every single week) which also makes it easy to track.

Since getting a CC with my partner (for points) it's become harder. But other than groceries & takeaway our expenses are separate, so I don't put his expenses into my spreadsheet.  I'm dreading the day I need to start categorizing his spending as well as my own.

Hey It's Me

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2016, 09:44:47 PM »
I use YNAB (for budgeting) and Personal Capital (for expense tracking).

Step37

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2016, 10:22:09 PM »
Years ago I used Excel, then stopped tracking for several years. About a year ago I started using what's marketed as an online check register app called Accounts2. I think it was free, but might have been $2. It works fantastic! It was a bit of work getting it all set up, and it's all manual entry for non-recurring items (fine by me). I have it so that it is an up to date net worth tracker. You can set up all recurring transactions, transfers between accounts, mortgage payments, credit cards. I've never seen anyone mention it on these types of threads (not that I've read tons of them, but several).

I like that I can do it on my iPad and enter any spending every day. You can check off items as they've cleared your account and hide reconciled transactions. I update the investment accounts quarterly when the statements come. I can look at spending and income monthly, quarterly, 6 months or annually. Also give spending vs. saving graphs.

Drawbacks: if you return something or get reimbursed for something, it puts it as income (rather than just a contra expense). So I know when I download my year of data into a spreadsheet, I will have to move a few things around, but it's minor. I have tried synching it between my iPhone and iPad, but it doesn't always seem to grab everything. Again, not a huge issue for me, as I am fine just to have it on one device (backed up in cloud, and no worries there because there are no account numbers on anything). And I don't think there's a way to look back at a snapshot in time (i.e. What was my net worth on July 31?).

Happy to answer specific questions anyone has. Works great for me!


khangaroo

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #23 on: December 21, 2016, 10:41:58 PM »
I use Mint as an overall tracker but I don't get into the nitty gritty details and track every single dollar. I have what I call a "paycheck breakdown" spreadsheet in Google Docs so that I can access it from anywhere. I like to think of it as a quasi-budget because I take every bi-weekly paycheck and then allocate it accordingly for savings, investing, and spending. The spending portion lags behind because I use that current paycheck to pay for the previous 2 weeks charges. I've been doing this since 2012 and it has been a habit that works well for me - I only have $50 in my checking account most of the time, every other dollar is going to work!

I've also tried using the categories in Mint but that just became too time consuming and I said fuck that, I'm too lazy. I've gotten into a flow where I know I can spend about $300/per paycheck on misc. items.

JAYSLOL

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Re: How do you track spending?
« Reply #24 on: December 22, 2016, 04:33:21 AM »
We use paper and pen.  I know from past experience that I won't keep up with the work of tracking on computer because of the time/hassle overhead of getting access to a computer to enter data into a spreadsheet or accounting program. (Our family shares a desktop and we don't have smartphones.)

Actually entering the purchases is the key--I agree that if you get behind it's tough to catch back up.  But that's true regardless of your method.


Pen and paper for me too.  2 years ago I found 10 packs of 12 pocket-size memo pads at a garage sale (according to my Jan/2015 notepad, i paid $6, haha), so every day I carry one and a pen.  Each month I take one, write the month and year on the front, and go through 12 a year.  (i got 10 years worth for $6!).  At the end of each month i add up my notes into categories in my "spreadsheet" (a larger paper notebook, LOL).  It's not that i couldn't use my phone notes or excel or Mint, or YNAB or whatever others use around here.  I just find having an old-fashioned pen and paper with me to jot down notes, not just for expenses, but for lots of things is handy.  And i spend enough time looking at screens as it is.

superjosh

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How do you track spending?
« Reply #25 on: December 24, 2016, 03:50:31 PM »
My wife and I use Goodbudget. It's envelope based, with goal envelopes, and debt tracking, etc. At $60/year, perhaps not very Moustachian - but it's been great for us.


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