Author Topic: Program to Track Spending  (Read 7587 times)

StetsTerhune

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Program to Track Spending
« on: December 26, 2012, 10:31:09 AM »
So it's nearly that time of year again where my wife and I start tracking our spending. This year we tracked every dollar out for the first 3 months of the year, stopped, and ended up spending about 20% more than our estimate of how much our total would be for the year. We got lazy on the tracking and then got lazy with the spending.

We're gonna try to do better next year, starting with trying to track for the whole year. Last year we had a shared google spreadsheet that we entered every purchase into. I like the freedom of my spreadsheet, being able to have as many categories as I want, and being able to analyze it however I want. Having to sit down at a computer and enter everything in, however, got a bit annoying. I'm not looking for a fully automated approach (e.g. using my credit card info), because I think the act of recording it is good psychologically, but my wife and I both have iphones now, and I figure there has to be a good solution to make the recording something I can easily do on the phone and upload to a computer for further analysis.  Does anyone have any apps they can recommend?

cnn

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2012, 12:51:47 PM »
I really like mint.com.  They have mobile apps for iPhone and iPad.

rugorak

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2012, 12:59:24 PM »
I would say since you find entering everything annoying go with the fully automated. So I second the mint.com recommendation. I use mint myself and love it. I always have tracked things, but not in insane detail. So I still to this day have a spreadsheet that I put all my bills into. But I never could get around to tracking groceries, etc. So mint works great for me. It tracks the big stuff and the little stuff. I can see how much I spent on food in total, etc.

Don't fear that the automation will make you lazy. Mint will either not be able to categorize a fair number of things or will miscategorize them. In my experience about 5%. Things like when I write a check it has no idea what it is for. So you will still have to check on it. Plus get in the habit of checking everything anyway just to make sure everything is in order. I think you'll find it picks up the slack when you are feeling lazy and you still will have to put in some time to make sure you don't get complacent either.

hoyahoyasaxa

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2012, 02:40:08 PM »
It took my wife and I a long time to break through the annoyance.  We used a shared Google spreadsheet and we would frequently go about halfway through the month tracking spending, and then forget about it for 4 or 5 days and give up, hoping to try again the following month.  We got back on track by setting an alarm on our phones for 9pm each night when we finished with dinner reminding us to enter all our purchases for the day.  Beyond that, it's simply being motivated to track all your spending - after all, the result is that you'll know where you're wasting your money and then you can make some changes.

BlueBeard

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2012, 03:29:48 PM »
We track every penny each month, and use an Excel book to do the tracking and analysis. 
In order to eliminate the issue of having to enter everything daily or immediately, I simply get a receipt for every purchase.  If in a B&M store I put it in my wallet, if it is something I buy online then I put the email receipt in a folder in gmail.  If I pay cash, which is rare, then I add a simple line to a text doc on my phone like "12/26 food 3".  Also the receipt helps identify what you purchased at walmart or target.  The items from these stores could end up in many of my categories.
We consolidate the receipts/entries about once a week into the Excel doc.  We have been doing this for about 5 years now and it only takes a few hours each month.  I find it great to know exactly where our money is going and what I can cut to save more.  Having trend data for the year and past years, makes setting up a budget a snap.

Ozstache

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2012, 05:29:45 PM »
I've used an old version of Quicken (97 I think) for years and, although it is initially a bit tricky to set up, it has been a great program for tracking expenditure.

Recently, I thought I'd try a trial ware version of the newest version of Quicken, only to find it wouldn't import my old data format. It turns out that the Quicken website offers the 2004 version of Quicken to use as an intermediate version to convert data from such older versions. It also turns out that this 2004 version of Quicken is fully functional, is better than my 97 version, is completely free and legal to use (well, as far as I can tell - it certainly doesn't tell you that you can only use it for data conversion purposes).

As you might imagine, I am now happily using the 2004 version of Quicken!

Here's a link to the 2004 version download from the Quicken website: http://http.intuit.speedera.net/http.intuit/CMO/quicken/patch/Support_Files/QW04DLX.exe. Prompts to register can be silenced by holding down CTRL and SHIFT while clicking on One Step Update from the Online menu.

CookerS101

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2013, 02:09:57 AM »
are these programs free? i also want to keep track of our family spending beginning this year.

cnn

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2013, 06:08:43 AM »
Mint is free.  I also saw google spreadsheets were mentioned.  You can create and store documents for free with Google Drive.  All you need is a gmail account.  It's pretty slick, you can access it anywhere there's an internet connection just by logging in to Google Drive.  Quicken is proprietary and unless they offer a free basic version you'll have to pay for it.

arebelspy

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2013, 09:04:36 AM »
Agree with Mint.com

Read up on how it works and the security they use and make sure you're comfortable with it.

It's a great tool.
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Ozstache

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2013, 01:32:06 AM »
Mint is free.  I also saw google spreadsheets were mentioned.  You can create and store documents for free with Google Drive.  All you need is a gmail account.  It's pretty slick, you can access it anywhere there's an internet connection just by logging in to Google Drive.  Quicken is proprietary and unless they offer a free basic version you'll have to pay for it.

As I stated in my post above, if you're OK with using a 2004 version of Quicken, it can be obtained, and used for free, from the Quicken website.

Richard3

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2013, 09:46:26 AM »
I just use an iphone app call spending tracker. But then I don't spend very frequently (27 transactions including cash for laundry and printing in December - 8 so far in January) so this may not work for normal people.

Fyction

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2013, 10:33:48 AM »
I use a combination of an Excel spreadsheet for monthly budget, and a free iPhone app (fancypants, yes) called Easy Envelope Budget Aid that allows me to set and track expenses for different areas (only the ones I spend frequently in - food, gas, allowance). I've been working with just these two since October and so far it has worked really well. I always have a good picture of how I am doing each month.

I've also heard good things about Mint, but am data-sharing averse.

norvilion

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2013, 10:54:04 AM »
I will second the EEBA suggestion. I've recently switched over to Mint but we'd been using the app on Android for a few years now. Main thing I liked was that I was able to put our account balances in there as we wanted, allowing me to create a "virtual account" to track money I was setting aside for a specific purpose. Mint doesn't have virtual accounts yet so we'll be sticking with using a hybrid of both of them (mostly so I don't have to worry as much about punching in every transaction we make)

ajmers

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2013, 12:42:37 PM »
I use Excel, and the fact that I have to enter every receipt makes me much more conscious of buying things - that's one more receipt to enter!

One handy thing I did with my old phone was created a Google spreadsheet that was identical to my Excel one, and then created a google form from it and created a shortcut on my home screen of my phone to the form. That way, with certain purchases, if it wasn't too annoying, I could just enter the receipt right at the time from my phone, and it would go into a Google spreadsheet that I could just copy and paste directly into Excel (which I like better than Google's spreadsheet). Unfortunately my new phone (Samsung Galaxy S3) doesn't allow you to put shortcuts to files/websites on your home screen, but it worked great for eliminating some of the sit-down receipt entry a the end of the month!

Iron Mike Sharpe

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2013, 12:28:59 PM »
I started budgeting and tracking my spending using YNAB (You Need A Budget).  It has been amazing so far.

Every purchase I make, I enter into the phone app and it syncs up with my budget via Dropbox and tells me how much I have left in my budget for groceries as an example.


Doubleh

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2013, 12:38:22 PM »
The mrs and I have used an iPhone app called home budget by anishu to track all our spending for the last two years.

There are plenty of other iPhone apps but the big advantage of this one is that it syncs seamlessly between members of your household. So we can each update our spending on our phones and can see each others data.

For me this is the perfect way of tracking spending as there is no need to wait till I get to a computer. At the same time how ever it involves enough work to provoke mindfulness of spending and make me question if I really want to buy something. We log all our spending and use a combination of the built in reports and csv exports to interrogate the data and see where it goes. This has helped us to get our savings rate up to around 70%

It also has the ability to set budgets across categories and monitor progress against them, set up accounts including virtual accounts etc. I do also use mint to check the actual bank position against home budget, but I would find mint on its own too hands off.

Sure, it is possible to do this without a fancy app but im not sure i would have been badass enough. this has worked like a badassity booster, helping us to stay on track when it got hard and steadily cut our spending over the last two years. ok,  this wouldn't be very frugal if you had to buy an iPhone especially. But if you already have one the app was $5 to download to both phones.

madage

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #16 on: January 14, 2013, 12:59:50 PM »
My wife and I have tried a few things, but we always come back to a simple spreadsheet on Google Drive. A new tab for each month, with a single spending goal at the top in black and a tracker right below (green, turns red) that shows how much remaining to spend that month.

We don't like breaking things down by category because there are inevitably purchases that split across categories and it's more hassle than it's worth to us. The total spending number is the most important, so that's what we track.

mickmey

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Re: Program to Track Spending
« Reply #17 on: January 14, 2013, 02:20:02 PM »
I use a program called mvelopes.com.  It is web based, and it does draw from your accounts, so if that makes you nervous...

But, expenditures come in, I dump them into the budgeted envelope, etc. Plus, there's an app for iphone.

Of course, I spend almost exclusively with my card.  But, you can add cash expenditures easily from your phone app too.