Author Topic: Keeping track of your expenses  (Read 6752 times)

FiguringItOut

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Keeping track of your expenses
« on: December 16, 2016, 08:35:53 AM »
I've been reviewing my 2016 finances and want to do a bit of overhaul of how I keep track of things in the new year.

I use old YNAB (desktop app) for my daily budgeting.  I also have my personal Balance Sheet set up in excel.
I tried and do no like Mint.  And for some reason I can't get some of my accounts to work on Personal Capital. 

However, I tried to look at my 2016 YTD income, expenses, savings, etc, and somehow I can't get a clear picture of how I did.  My overall NW is up, so that's good.  However, I have hard time figuring out what my true expenses were.

With the new year starting soon, I want to come up with slightly better system.

What I"m doing right now is when I get paid I enter that amount into YNAB as my income available to budget.
Then I dole out that amount to my various spending and savings categories until there is no money left to budget.  I love the concept of budgeting every dollar and not leaving some money just sitting there with no purpose.

Couple things that muddle the picture are these:
- I get child support and right now I enter it also as income and budget it out like I do my regular income.  Should it be income?  Should I enter it as inflow into budgeted category?  I'm not really sure.

- Transportation - I get my commute costs deducted from my paycheck pre tax so it never hits my budget and does not show up as expense.  At the end of the year I basically have no transportation cost (or very little of it anyway).  Also, I have a bit extra taken out for transit and use my transit check to buy train tickets and additional metrocards to use when my children go to see their dad.  Those expense also never hit my budget.  On the other hand, if my ex comes and picks them up instead, I reimburse him and that money comes out of my budget.

- Medical 1 - part of the year in 2016 I paid my healthcare premiums through payroll deductions.  Also, I contributed to HSA through payroll as well.  Then I was laid off in the middle of the year and am paying COBRA for the last 6 months.  COBRA payments and my HSA contributions come out of my budget where as prior to being laid off, it never was part of my budget.  In 2017, I will continue paying at least a part of the year (through end of March at least) for COBRA and HSA out of pocket. 

   I view my HSA account as my investment account as I haven't used to medical expense reimbursements, but it's showing up as a regular expense right now for the last 5 months.

- Medical 2 - I pay for all of medical expense (deductibles, coinsurance, etc) out of pocket.  For medical expenses for my kids, I get reimbursed half from my ex.  I never know how to show that reimbursement.  If I put it as in inflow into the medical expense category, I lose a clear picture of how much medical expenses there really were.  On the other hand, it's not really income so I don't want to show it as income available to budget.

- Same as above with some school expenses like school trips and such where I get reimbursed half from my ex.

The child support and medical reimbursements from my ex are not a given.  Though he's very good about paying me, he's currently unemployed and hasn't paid in 2 months.  I don't know how long it will take him to find a job.  Once he gets a new job, he'll start paying again.  However, I don't know if he will catch up on the missed child support payments.  I told him that I expect a catch up, even if it will take a while to fully get caught up, but I can't count on any of it.  I am trying to run my household as if he doesn't pay for anything.  So keeping track of true costs and my individual income is important to me.  But my system right now does not do a good job of it.

- Travel - I do some travel hacking.  Some of my travel rewards are in the form of cash and I've accumulated quiet a bit  of it.  I've also used a bunch of it as well.  For example, I got around $3,200 of cash rewards in 2016 so far.  I spend some of it on travel and I still have about $900 left and it will be used for my upcoming cruise.  I also some spent of 'my' money on travel as well.  I'd like to be able to just know how much of 'my' money was spent on travel, however, I need to input 'travel hacking' cash into my budget as well to keep track of it. 

   Travel rewards that I get in the form of points or miles, I don't keep track of at all and don't look at those as expense.  It's just the cash portion that I am having trouble with.

- Investments - at the beginning of the year, when I maxed out my IRA, it was transfer from my savings account to Vanguard.  I don't keep track of my investments in YNAB, so it is showing up as an expense in my investments category in my budget.  At the same time, my contributions into HSA (both through payroll and directly) do not hit investments category at all.

As a result of all of this, I have no idea how much my expenses really were.  I also can't figure out how much I actually saved during the year.  As my cash balance overall decreased since the beginning of the year, I know I sent some of my saved cash and did not live strictly on earned income, but some of the decreases are due to contributions to IRA and HSA, while others are due to living expenses when I was unemployed over the summer. 

YNAB has been really good for keeping track and managing of daily day to day stuff while making sure that my cash accounts are all reconciled and my credit cards are all paid off.  It also lets me keep track of spending requirements for credit cards for my travel hacking.  But I am not seeing the big picture.

I've tried Mint in the past and I didn't like it.  Personal Capital can't seem to connect to one of my 401K accounts and my checking/savings accounts at the credit union, and my HSA.  It only sees my chase bank accounts and vanguard.  Customer services hasn't been able to resolve these issues either.   I also have few gift cards with balances on them and YNAB lets me to just enter them as accounts, whereas Mint or Personal Capital wouldn't, I think.  For example, I got a bunch of Amazon gift cards through travel hacking.  So I have them in YNAB as account with whatever balance is on them.  When I buy from Amazon, the purchase is covered by the gift card, but at the same time, the amount of the purchase becomes my travel hacking cash reward. 
Same when I pay credit card bill with cash rewards.  That  amount goes into my travel hacking cash.
And I only keep my cash accounts in YNAB.  No investments.

As for my investments, I keep excel where each of the accounts is listed and I update it on the last day of the month.  This give me a pretty good idea of the increase in those accounts month to month. 

My balance sheet in the same excel file keeps track of my cash accounts, my investments accounts, my student loan balance, and net worth every month end. 

But when I tried to figure out what my savings rate is/was during the year, how much I contributed to investments vs how much they appreciated, I couldn't see the numbers. 

Any ideas?

PS: I know there are some on here who keep very detailed and meticulous records and some that are just looking at the big picture and don't bother with details.
I need to closer to detailed side of things.  Keeping close eye on things is what keeps me comfortable, calm, and sane.  When I don't know where everything is, financially speaking, at any given time, I start worrying too much.





















Stash Engineer

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2016, 09:45:24 AM »
I'm like you and prefer the detailed side of things.  Sounds like you're trying to get YNAB to do something its not really designed for or capable of doing in a way that you are happy with?  I haven't tried YNAB, but I have tried Mint and one other online budgeting tool and just wasn't happy with them.  Why not just drop YNAB and do it all in your spreadsheet?  That's what I'm doing. I'm using a modified version of the "one sheet to rule them all" from here on the forum. One advantage of this is that you can track the pre-tax and automatically deducted expenses/savings as well.

Regarding the spousal support: I'd count any money coming to me as income, regardless of its source.  Consider the full cost of the kids stuff as 'expenses' and the money from your ex as 'income'.  I'd keep it as a separate line item so you can track it throughout the year. 


FiguringItOut

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2016, 10:08:06 AM »
I'm like you and prefer the detailed side of things.  Sounds like you're trying to get YNAB to do something its not really designed for or capable of doing in a way that you are happy with?  I haven't tried YNAB, but I have tried Mint and one other online budgeting tool and just wasn't happy with them.  Why not just drop YNAB and do it all in your spreadsheet? That's what I'm doing. I'm using a modified version of the "one sheet to rule them all" from here on the forum. One advantage of this is that you can track the pre-tax and automatically deducted expenses/savings as well.

Regarding the spousal support: I'd count any money coming to me as income, regardless of its source.  Consider the full cost of the kids stuff as 'expenses' and the money from your ex as 'income'.  I'd keep it as a separate line item so you can track it throughout the year.

Bolded sentence - I really like YNAB for daily stuff.  It's really good at doing what it's supposed to do, which is budget and keep track of cash.  Cash coming in, cash coming out.  Done.

But you are right, that I am looking for info that YNAB can't provide. 
I am looking at my excel set up and YNAB set up and trying to figure out how to set up an excel that would give me what I want without too much duplication of what YNAB already does.  For example, I don't need excel to show that I went to grocery store 8 times during the month and spend $X.XX each time.  And that I bought a new toothbrush at the pharmacy.
But I think I need to show total expense for the months on groceries, household, etc in excel. 

I'm still thinking of what makes the most sense to me which will give me the results I want without getting lost in duplicate details.

As for child support and expenses, on one hand you are right, it's income and expense.  On the other hand, I need to know that I can cover or am covering all of these expenses on my own without child support income and not dipping into my savings for it.

What ever I end up with, I want this set up in place by the end of the month so I can have a full 2017 record.

Ebrat

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2016, 10:34:29 AM »
For the travel hacking thing, I think you can count the inflow to your "travel" category, instead of to "to be budgeted." Then when you spend on travel, the rewards and the spend cancel each other out, and you're left with just what you actually spent after the rewards.  Disclaimer that I just started using YNAB and am using the web-based version, so I might not have any idea what I'm talking about.  Also, I've found the YNAB reddit to be pretty informative.

notactiveanymore

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2016, 10:52:04 AM »
I also think you are trying to have all of your tracking in one place but the ways you want to track them are not going to work together.

I think you need to have one tracking place (maybe YNAB) for just your after-tax income and after-tax expenses. I would absolutely list the child support as income, just as a separate income line item (I use EveryDollar, so I don't know how income looks in YNAB). It should be simple to look at a month and see your after-tax spending and know if you could have covered expenses without the child support payments. If you're worried about not receiving support consistently, maybe just hold each month in arrears and then you use it the next month. When you're budgeting every dollar somewhere, this method works perfectly.

Next, I think you need another tracking place (excel) for your pre-tax savings (I don't use this because we do a set amount pre-tax each paycheck so as long as that withholding $ doesn't change, it's easy to know our yearly contributions). You could also track any HSA expenses here.

With the way you want to break down your child-care related expenses, I think you should have that separately in a spreadsheet as well. Then in YNAB, you can just have a "kids" line for what you actually contribute. The excel doc could expand on that with the full cost of the school things or medical costs, your contribution, and father's contribution.

A final spreadsheet would probably be necessary to represent your travel hacking costs/benefits as well. I would include in YNAB only what you pay out of pocket for travel expenses (you were wanting to track that) and then in the travel spreadsheet you can break down further what the ratios are for points/bonuses and cash. Basically, I would suggest counting the points/bonuses and expenses covered by them be done under the table, away from your regular budget. Just notate in your budget what you contribute in addition to the points.

As for the post-tax COBRA payments, I do think you need to represent those for what they are: post-tax expenses. I'm not sure what the problem is here. You're paying after-tax, so that's where it should be. When calculating your savings rate, you should be using gross income, so it doesn't really matter when your health care costs come out (except that they are more expensive post-tax).

As for the transit costs, I probably wouldn't worry about it that much. If you really want to, you could add the cost onto your paycheck amount and then immediately add a transaction in your budget for the expense that was taken out. I couldn't tell what your concern was with this, but if it's that you want to know how much you're actually paying each year for transportation, then this method should alleviate that concern.

Good luck!

Stash Engineer

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2016, 10:52:36 AM »


Bolded sentence - I really like YNAB for daily stuff.  It's really good at doing what it's supposed to do, which is budget and keep track of cash.  Cash coming in, cash coming out.  Done.

But you are right, that I am looking for info that YNAB can't provide. 
I am looking at my excel set up and YNAB set up and trying to figure out how to set up an excel that would give me what I want without too much duplication of what YNAB already does.  For example, I don't need excel to show that I went to grocery store 8 times during the month and spend $X.XX each time.  And that I bought a new toothbrush at the pharmacy.
But I think I need to show total expense for the months on groceries, household, etc in excel. 

I'm still thinking of what makes the most sense to me which will give me the results I want without getting lost in duplicate details.

As for child support and expenses, on one hand you are right, it's income and expense.  On the other hand, I need to know that I can cover or am covering all of these expenses on my own without child support income and not dipping into my savings for it.

What ever I end up with, I want this set up in place by the end of the month so I can have a full 2017 record.

On the bold sentence: The way i would do this in my budget is to assume $0 support income in the 'projected' column and assume that any support income is just icing on the cake, which would be tracked in the 'actual' column. 

tarheeldan

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2016, 11:20:49 AM »
Quicken could handle all of this stuff. I've been using it since Microsoft Money was sunsetted. It takes a bit more time to make sure you get the detail you want, but I still spend only maybe 20min per week categorizing and such. New versions are always buggy near release, so I would hold off until they patch up the 2017 version or get 2016. Support does drop off after three years, but there are often sales so the per-year cost is not so bad even for the premier version.

As a general tip though, I find it's better to book things like your travel reimbursement as income and then book each individual expense - rather than just putting in net amounts. This way I keep all the detail. Similar for the child support you mentioned.

overwhelmed

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2016, 06:43:08 AM »
Child Support/ex-contributions thoughts -

I like Mint personally so I use it but also have a spreadsheet with too many tabs where I break things out when I want/need to.

To get a full picture, I put everything into a 'master budget' tab including the child support & 50% contributions since the money coming in is income. (I created a category where I deduct the child support from my budget by shifting it to savings. This way I am counting it as income & removing it because I don't count it as part of the money to be 'used').

For the other expenses, on the master tab, I put the full amount of the 'bill' & the 50% I received is counted as income.

So child support comes in & shifts to savings. (accounted for but removed).
Since I make all the actual payments I count the expense at 100%. The 50% as income. (Net impact from my actual budget is 50%).

I agree that you should add a tab where you put all of the child related expenses you want to track. That would give you the ability to set it up in whatever way is easier for you. Put all of the expenses on that tab so you can get a full picture of the amount.

If your intention it to make sure you could cover the expenses 100% then for that tab I would just ignore any of the money you receive. This way the master tab accurately records all of the money coming in but allows you to track those specific expenses in whatever way you choose.


Tjat

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2016, 04:28:52 PM »
2nd vote for quicken that feeds excel spreadsheet. Spousal support should be income, but you can easily categorize to see with and without. Quicken also allows you to enter paychecks and track pretax, post tax, and taxes.  Try also to sit down and summarize exactly what you want to track and why. It's challenging to try and track everything in detail, so try and focus on what's the most important

Spork

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2016, 05:01:22 PM »
My vote is always gnucash.  The price is right. The data is stored in XML and is extremely friendly to post-processing.  And if you embrace it, you will be forced into good accounting practices... which will benefit your record keeping.

JAYSLOL

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2016, 08:35:30 AM »
I go very old-school.  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.  I've been doing this for 2 years now and have tracked every dollar.  Knowing exactly where i'm bleeding money from has helped me double my savings rate in 2016 over last year (from 20% to 40%)

With This Herring

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2016, 02:11:07 PM »
My vote is always gnucash.  The price is right. The data is stored in XML and is extremely friendly to post-processing.  And if you embrace it, you will be forced into good accounting practices... which will benefit your record keeping.

I will second this vote for GnuCash.  I love spreadsheets, but using GnuCash (or alternatively Quicken, if the automatic downloads feature is really important) will let you get a great handle on what your real expenses are,  with and without child support, airline rewards, and all of the other miscellany that is currently causing issues.  GnuCash will replace Excel for everything you are currently doing in it.  Everything will fit neatly together, and you can see BOTH great detail AND big picture on everything you track.
  • GnuCash, if you set it up with something called "Trading Accounts", will track how much gains/losses you have on your investments.  It will keep track of how much money you put into investments (and it won't call this expense!), how much you received in dividends, and how much was actual gains/losses.  Each month, you will hit a button and the value of each of your investments will be updated. ("Get Quote" function.)
  • You can categorize your expenses however you want, so you can see gross child expenses and then net it with child support or not, as you choose.  You can run an income statement (which will show you income and expenses for any time period you set) to include all income and expenses or to include specific things, such as just all the medical expenses, or the kid expenses without the ex's reimbursement, or the kid expenses with the ex's reimbursement, or just non-kid expenses.
  • You can look at your travel expenses as they are or what they would cost without the travel rewards used.
  • It is really easy to correctly split out your paycheck so that in your income you see your full, gross wages, while in your expenses you see the amount of your paycheck that went to medical insurance, and your HSA or 401(k) asset account correctly increases for the amount you had deducted from your paycheck.  You will see the monthly health insurance expense whether you are working or not.

Here is a possible chart of accounts with made-up numbers.  Your ex's name is now Bob.  Assets and expenses are normally debit balances.  Liabilities, positive net worth, and income are normally credit balances.  Each transaction must have total dollars of debits equal total dollars of credits.
Assets..
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Cash in wallet.
$50
.
.Checking.
$6,984
.
.Saving.
$15,000
.
.HSA.
$3,500
.
.Taxable Brokerage.
.
.
..VTSAX
$1,600
.
..BND
$1,800
.
.IRA.
.
.
..VTSAX
$5,000
.
..BND
$5,000
.
..VGSLX
$2,000
.
.401(k).
.
.
..VTSAX
$16,000
.
.Odd Assets.
.
.
..Travel Miles Value
$900
.
..Child Support Bob Owes Me
$698
.
..Transit Money Available
$125
.
..Gift Cards
$100
.
..Credit Card Cashback Available
.
.
.House (rough value).
$200,000
.
Liabilities..
.
.
.Credit Cards.
.
.
..Visa 1234
.
$125
..AMEX 9876 Travel hack card
.
$50
.Student Loan.
.
$20,000
.Mortgage.
.
$125,000
Equity..
.
.
.Net Worth.
.
$85,652
Income..
.
.
.Job.
.
.
..Salary
.
$20,000
..Bonuses
.
$5,000
.Investment Income.
.
.
..Dividends in Taxable Accounts
.
$500
..Gains/Losses on Sales in Brokerage
.
$25
..Dividends in Retirement Accounts
.
$1,800
..Gains/Losses on Sales in Retirement
.
$690
.Income from Bob.
.
.
..Child Support Normal
.
$1,500
..Medical Reimbursement
.
$100
..School Reimbursement
.
$50
.Misc Income.
.
.
..Gifts Received
.
$100
..Travel Hacking
.
$3,200
Expenses..
.
.
.Children.
.
.
..School Stuff
$500
.
..Sports Stuff
$298
.
..Clothing
$56
.
..Fun Stuff
$180
.
..Medical
$267
.
..Trips to Bob's Place
$345
.
.Food.
.
.
..Groceries
$800
.
..Restaurants and Take Out
$200
.
.Gifts Given.
$150
.
.Interest Expense Student Loan.
$80
.
.Transportation Expense.
$500
.
.Traveling.
$2,000
.
.Health Insurance.
$800
.
.Medical Copays Etc. for FiguringItOut.
$18
.
.Life Insurance.
$125
.
.Taxes.
.
.
..Income taxes
$3,000
.
..Social Security & Medicare
$2,000
.
.Utilities.
$700
.
Trading Accts(gain or loss on securities you still hold).
.
$6,984

Here are samples of many of the odd transactions you need:
02/01/16Checking(net paycheck into checking account)
$800
.
.Odd Assets:Transit Money Available(paycheck deduction for transit)
$100
.
.401(k):VTSAX(paycheck deduction for 401(k))
$100
.
.HSA(paycheck deduction HSA)
$50
.
.Health Insurance(health insurance premiums paid via payroll)
$400
.
.Taxes:Income taxes.
$15
.
.Taxes:Social Security & Medicare.
$12
.
.Job:Salary.
.
$1,477
...
.
.
11/08/16Using your transportation money on your children:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Children:Trips to Bob's Place.
$15
.
.Odd Assets:Transit Money Available.
.
$15
...
.
.
11/30/16Using your transportation money on yourself:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Transportation Expense.
$50
.
.Odd Assets:Transit Money Available.
.
$50
...
.
.
12/01/16Paying for COBRA:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Health Insurance.
$410
.
.Checking.
.
$410
...
.
.
12/01/16Recording child support you know you will get that was due to you 12/1:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Odd Assets:Child Support Bob Owes Me.
$1,500
.
.Income from Bob:Child Support Normal.
.
$1,500
...
.
.
12/15/16Recording child support that you knew you would get and have now received:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Checking.
$1,500
.
.Odd Assets:Child Support Bob Owes Me.
.
$1,500
...
.
.
12/17/16Recording child support that was due and received 12/17:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Checking.
$500
.
.Income from Bob:Child Support Normal.
.
$500
...
.
.
12/16/16Reimbursing Bob for picking up children:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Children:Trips to Bob's Place.
$10
.
.Cash in wallet.
.
$10
...
.
.
12/18/16Bob reimburses you for children's medical copays with paper cash:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Cash in wallet.
$5
.
.Income from Bob:Medical Reimbursement.
.
$5
...
.
.
12/19/16Recording travel hack where you spent $50 at restaurant using new CC and got 50,000 points worth approx $500.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Food:Restaurants.
$50
.
.Credit Cards:AMEX 9876 Travel hack card.
.
$50
.Odd Assets:Travel Miles Value.
$500
.
.Misc Income:Travel Hacking.
.
$500
...
.
.
12/20/16Trip using 30,000 points or $300 of travel hack stuff and $50 of cash:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Traveling.
$350
.
.Odd Assets:Travel Miles Value.
.
$300
.Checking.
.
$50
...
.
.
.OR, skipping tracking your miles/points:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Traveling.
$50
.
.Checking.
.
$50
...
.
.
01/01/16Maxing out that IRA!.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.IRA:VTSAX.
$5,500
.
.Checking.
.
$5,500
...
.
.
12/25/16Receiving gift card.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Odd Assets:Gift Cards.
$25
.
.Odd Assets:Travel Miles Value.
.
$25
...
.
.
12/26/16Spending gift card on something.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Food:Restaurants.
$26
.
.Odd Assets:Gift Cards.
.
$25
.Checking.
.
$1
...
.
.
12/27/16Paying credit card with accumulated cash back:.
DEBIT
CREDIT
.Credit Cards:Visa 1234.
$619
.
.Odd Assets:Credit Card Cashback Available.
.
$619

Additionally, if you want to trim the data entry that you do, there are people who use GnuCash for envelope budgeting, the way YNAB does, so you would only need to use GnuCash.  You could even set up negative budget amounts for each credit card's required hack spend so you would know it was done when zeroed.
Video
Reddit thread
Reddit: specific answer, slightly different method than video
« Last Edit: December 18, 2016, 02:13:53 PM by With This Herring »

mousebandit

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2016, 01:25:05 AM »
Herring - that was awesome!  I am sold!  Thank you for those examples! 

FiguringItOut

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2016, 07:51:08 AM »
My vote is always gnucash.  The price is right. The data is stored in XML and is extremely friendly to post-processing.  And if you embrace it, you will be forced into good accounting practices... which will benefit your record keeping.

I will second this vote for GnuCash. 

Wow, Herring,

this must've taken a lot of effort to type up!  Thank you!

Also, thank you to everyone one else who responded.

I  realized that I was trying to fit square peg into a round whole.  I can't do everything I need with just YNAB.  And my current excel is not set up to accomplish what I need.

I did look at gnucash after Herring's post.  How can I not after THAT?  :)

I really like some of it's features.  I think I will give it a try and run it in parallel with my YNAB for a bit to see how it works.  If it doesn't work out, I'll just fall right back into YNAB and then work on my excel spreadsheets again.


handsnhearts

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2016, 09:03:37 AM »
Does GnuCash allow you to import data, or is all data entry by hand?


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Spork

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2016, 09:38:07 AM »
Does GnuCash allow you to import data, or is all data entry by hand?


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It does... with caveats.

* If by "import" you mean bring your old data from your previous accounting program...  You can certainly import many formats.  The more common are CSV and the quicken format... both are included.
* If by "import" you're talking about ongoing transactions... many sites allow you to export CSV or QIF/QFX... and again... you can manually import
* If you want something automatic that just pulls all your transactions... your mileage may vary.  It will vary by financial institution.  See this: http://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/OFX_Direct_Connect_Bank_Settings

Personally: I discourage you from doing anything that stores your financial credentials (whether you are using gnucash or some other tool).  I think this is a very risky/bad practice.

We enter transactions manually.  There just are not that many of them.  Entering them manually also is a very good double check... You enter from the receipt, then check against the statement when you reconcile the account.  Yes, banks do make mistakes.  If you just import and go... you're never going to see them.

FiguringItOut

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2016, 09:36:19 PM »
Herring, a GnuCash question.

If I have some money set aside for specific purpose, let's say Kid's Summer Camp, how do I enter it into GnuCash?
I am assuming I need Accrued Expense account with Credit balance since it's a liability.  But what do I offset it with? This is cash I already have in the bank.
I can't enter it as an expense with Debit balance since I don't actually know how much I will end up spending on the summer camp.  And I will also be reimbursed half of the actual camp expense by my ex.

So when I make an actual payment for the camp it will be
Dr Camp expense
   Cr Camp Accrual, correct? 

Then when I get reimbursement from ex it will be
Dr Ex reimbursement income 
   Cr Camp expense? 

But where does the accrual sit before I pay the expense and reduce (Cr) the accrual?  At the same time, the camp may or may not happen this coming summer, so this accrual may be sitting there until the following summer and never hit the expense in current year?

Is there another way to do this?

I have a few of these expense accounts for which I have designated amounts sitting in my YNAB budget.
 

Spork

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2016, 09:44:52 PM »
Herring, a GnuCash question.

If I have some money set aside for specific purpose, let's say Kid's Summer Camp, how do I enter it into GnuCash?
I am assuming I need Accrued Expense account with Credit balance since it's a liability.  But what do I offset it with? This is cash I already have in the bank.


I know you address Sir Herring, but ... what we do when we want to "tag" money is to use sub accounts.

In other words, you might have Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account with a bunch of money in it.  You simply transfer some of that money to Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account:Summer Camp Savings.

The total rolls up into Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account, so you still see a total there.

We carefully name this sort of sub-accounts... I might have some money in Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account:Summer Camp Savings *and* have some money in Assets:Current Accounts:Money Market:Summer Camp Savings.  I have post processing that will roll all of these cash-type accounts with the same name into reports... so you can have the same tag on multiple accounts and still see the total.

FiguringItOut

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2016, 08:31:13 AM »
Herring, a GnuCash question.

If I have some money set aside for specific purpose, let's say Kid's Summer Camp, how do I enter it into GnuCash?
I am assuming I need Accrued Expense account with Credit balance since it's a liability.  But what do I offset it with? This is cash I already have in the bank.


I know you address Sir Herring, but ... what we do when we want to "tag" money is to use sub accounts.

In other words, you might have Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account with a bunch of money in it.  You simply transfer some of that money to Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account:Summer Camp Savings.

The total rolls up into Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account, so you still see a total there.

We carefully name this sort of sub-accounts... I might have some money in Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account:Summer Camp Savings *and* have some money in Assets:Current Accounts:Money Market:Summer Camp Savings.  I have post processing that will roll all of these cash-type accounts with the same name into reports... so you can have the same tag on multiple accounts and still see the total.

Spork,
If you are 'transferring' money from your savings account to the sub account, how do you then reconcile your savings account to your bank balance?

Designating certain sum for specific purpose should not be affecting your bank balance.  It also shouldn't matter which physical bank account the money actually sitting in, or even if it is spread between several physical bank accounts.

Setting it up as an accrual seems to resolve the physical money problem, but I have no idea what counter account should be here as it's nether an expense (for reasons I mentioned above) not a separate asset (because this money is in the bank account and included in bank account balance).






Spork

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2016, 09:25:15 AM »
Herring, a GnuCash question.

If I have some money set aside for specific purpose, let's say Kid's Summer Camp, how do I enter it into GnuCash?
I am assuming I need Accrued Expense account with Credit balance since it's a liability.  But what do I offset it with? This is cash I already have in the bank.


I know you address Sir Herring, but ... what we do when we want to "tag" money is to use sub accounts.

In other words, you might have Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account with a bunch of money in it.  You simply transfer some of that money to Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account:Summer Camp Savings.

The total rolls up into Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account, so you still see a total there.

We carefully name this sort of sub-accounts... I might have some money in Assets:Current Accounts:Savings Account:Summer Camp Savings *and* have some money in Assets:Current Accounts:Money Market:Summer Camp Savings.  I have post processing that will roll all of these cash-type accounts with the same name into reports... so you can have the same tag on multiple accounts and still see the total.

Spork,
If you are 'transferring' money from your savings account to the sub account, how do you then reconcile your savings account to your bank balance?

Designating certain sum for specific purpose should not be affecting your bank balance.  It also shouldn't matter which physical bank account the money actually sitting in, or even if it is spread between several physical bank accounts.

Setting it up as an accrual seems to resolve the physical money problem, but I have no idea what counter account should be here as it's nether an expense (for reasons I mentioned above) not a separate asset (because this money is in the bank account and included in bank account balance).

It is a sub-account.  It does not affect the bank balance.  The sub accounts add up to the balance of the bank account.  The money never logically or physically leaves the account. 

You can reconcile by reconciling the "mother" account.  When you reconcile "savings" (and check the box "include subaccounts") then it also includes savings:summer camp savings.

FiguringItOut

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2016, 10:54:29 AM »
Thank you.
I'll try that

themagicman

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2016, 01:31:20 PM »
I had been looking at using GNU. My google sheet is set up on a debit/credit basis and I really enjoy it. My only concern was entering transactions in more than one location (work and home). How do you all deal with that or do you just settle for accessing it at one location?

Spork

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2016, 06:05:37 PM »
I had been looking at using GNU. My google sheet is set up on a debit/credit basis and I really enjoy it. My only concern was entering transactions in more than one location (work and home). How do you all deal with that or do you just settle for accessing it at one location?

I personally just do it at home.  We save paper receipts and enter them when we get home. 

I am FIRE now, but when I worked, I would do an ssh tunnel to home, run gnucash with X piped back over ssh to work.  Not overly fast, but absolutely works for entering a few transactions.

There is some sort of gnucash smart phone app that (I think) is aimed at this.  I've never used it and have no clue about how well it works or even if this is the intended functionality.

With This Herring

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #23 on: December 24, 2016, 06:57:31 PM »
I'm glad you enjoyed the write-up.  :)   Most of it is from my accounting background, as I am still a new GnuCash user (since summer).  If Spork and I contradict each other on GnuCash how-to items, Spork is right and I am wrong, haha.

Does GnuCash allow you to import data, or is all data entry by hand?

It does... with caveats.

* If by "import" you mean bring your old data from your previous accounting program...  You can certainly import many formats.  The more common are CSV and the quicken format... both are included.
* If by "import" you're talking about ongoing transactions... many sites allow you to export CSV or QIF/QFX... and again... you can manually import
* If you want something automatic that just pulls all your transactions... your mileage may vary.  It will vary by financial institution.  See this: http://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/OFX_Direct_Connect_Bank_Settings

Personally: I discourage you from doing anything that stores your financial credentials (whether you are using gnucash or some other tool).  I think this is a very risky/bad practice.

We enter transactions manually.  There just are not that many of them.  Entering them manually also is a very good double check... You enter from the receipt, then check against the statement when you reconcile the account.  Yes, banks do make mistakes.  If you just import and go... you're never going to see them.

+1 to everything Spork says.  I imported info from my spreadsheets to get some history in when I started, but all current transactions I enter by hand.  GnuCash lets you set up recurring transactions, so this is not a time-consuming process if you have a numeric keypad for your computer (with numbers arranged in a square as opposed to only the line of numbers above your QWERTY keyboard).



Also, I agree with Spork on the summer camp item.  If you are setting aside money for summer camp, you can do this with your envelope budgeting or by making a sub-account of savings.  You only accrue expenses if you are building up a liability to pay later (such as if you are billed at the end of every quarter for garbage disposal, you would accrue the expense monthly/weekly/whatever period suits you leading up to the quarter-end, then post the payment against the liability).  I tend to only use an accrued expense account for my taxes, as I pay quarterly estimates.

So, saving up:
Dr Camp savings sub-account
    Cr Normal savings

Paying for camp if you know Bob is reimbursing you:
Dr Kids camp expense (your share of amount)
Dr Asset Bob owes me (Bob's share of amount)
    Cr Camp savings sub-account



I just stuff all of my receipts in my purse, along with notes of the few times I pay cash (I do keep "wallet cash" as an account of its own).  I wouldn't enter things outside the house, but Spork is more technically inclined than I.

letired

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #24 on: December 24, 2016, 10:00:42 PM »
As a note, I use old YNAB, and the way I've solved some of these issues is by including my entire pre-tax paycheck. This way, I catch all the pre-tax deductions for retirement, which are a key part of my savings. It also helps me remember that taxes are a (BIG) thing that I need to think about as I plan for FIRE. That said, it does have it's limits!

re: how to count income streams: I've gotten myself into trouble by trying to be clever with it, and YNAB gets really confused. I count 99% of things coming in as Income, and they just get a different 'name': paycheck, rental income, ebay sales, credit card rewards, etc. Then I'm not undercounting how much money I'm using, and it's still broken out into where it all came from.

Good luck! Tracking is tricky!

Simple1_2_3

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Re: Keeping track of your expenses
« Reply #25 on: January 13, 2017, 04:15:09 PM »
I am starting to track my expenses this year -- it is only mid-Jan, so let's see.  So far, my no-tech approach is working great.  They keys for me are: visibility and the power of optics.

(1) I used EXCEL to develop a template - exp categories, purchase locations..etc.  I am pretty predictable, I shop at the same places over and over. I am interested to learn not how much I spend but where.  This template is used to produce a monthly summary sheet.

(2) I then use a little (3x 5) packet calendar - thanks God, they still exist- to write down every purchase: amount, item and location every day.  Given I can see how much I have already  filled the calendar day boxes for the week, I become  very aware of what I have spent so far -  I need a little psychology to help myself.   

(3) I transferred my purchases from my packet calendar to the summary sheet at the end of each week and get a total weekly spending figure.  I use my hand to write down everything and use a hand calculator, too.  For I want to develop an intimate knowledge of my numbers.   I mentally set a new spending goal for the following week.

(4) my plan is to keep my monthly summary sheets in a 3 ring-blinder (yeah,  I use all the goodies from the previous century) so I can see my progress.  I have all the data points to do whatever analysis I want at a later time. Right now,I just want to know my numbers. I don't worry about computer connection, battery strength.  I can and will track all my expenses no matter where I am.  My pocket calendar is calling the shot and my wallet seems to listen.