Tracking My Expenses: Mid-Month Update

I’ve been dutifully recording my expenses for two weeks now. Here are a couple of observations so far.

It really is simple and flexible. Just as I had hoped, this method is much less stressful that when I had to worry about synchronizing accounts online or reconciling debits and credits with personal finance software; Now I just have to dedicate about 10 minutes twice a week and type in single digit numbers into a spreadsheet. Just simple addition!

Budget Screenshot

You can see how much you have left as you go. By setting an goal for each spending category and updating every few days, I notice things like “hey, I already spent $115 eating out this week, I should cut back a bit”. It’s similar to the envelope or bucket method of budgeting, where you can only spend a set amount from each category, but not as strict.

Comments

  1. Jonathan, I thought you were using Yodlee for tracking you expenses…may be it was long ago in the past.

    Other than the requirements you mentioned earlier “free, offline, simple, and flexible” is there something more to this that you are particularly liking over Yodlee, Money, and Quicken?

  2. I’ve been doing a similar exercise for the past year and a half and am always looking for ways to improve my craft. Would you feel comfortable posting a blank version of your Excel spreadsheet for the sake of comparison? I’d be happy to do the same if you’re interested.

  3. Once you start doing this, you’ll never stop. I undertook this as part of an effort to pay off my debt, some 7 or 8 years ago. Still dutifully recording my daily expenditures. It makes a difference to someone as anal :) as me, who just needs to know where all my hard earned $ is going.

  4. Money, Quicken = overkill. Too complicated, doesn’t sync with all banks, not all banks even download to them. Great for many people, not for me…

    Yodlee – Still use daily, also doesn’t sync with everything, and the categories aren’t perfect. Getting to have too many features too. I liked it better when it was fast and minimal, just listing all my accounts for me.

    I’m using PearBudget and a receipt spindle as my tools. It may not be the best spreadsheet, but it’s pretty good. See here for details

  5. is the receipt spindle one of those generic receipt books from Staples?

    I’ve been using a small notebook and recording them in a spreadsheet for cash purchases, which works out pretty good, except for this one time I can’t remember where all the $50 someone paid me back for something I bought.

  6. It’s actually a spike for keeping receipts handy – Staples Wire Spindle Link

    If you search for “wire spindle” at most office supply stores, you’ll find it.

  7. I do something similar even though I use Money Small Business to track all my expenses. I haven’t noticed a problem downloading from all my accounts, however I became frustrated because I couldn’t easily see a tally of how much money I had left to pay off debt on a daily basis. This is probably the result of having 3 accounts that my money is in. So, I created an Excel spreadsheet that I use to show me what my total available cash is. Each day I put in what I spent generically (I don’t keep track of who it was to or for what – that’s what I use Money for) and if I have bills that are automatically withdrawn I put those in. That way I can see how much money I have left to spend on debt before I get paid next.

  8. I just finished a series on setting up an envelope system in Quicken. Most people hate Quicken’s reactive budgeting system, but envelopes make it just like the spreadsheet you’re using, Jonathan. I heard somewhere that PearBudget’s drawback is you can only have 10 envelopes – I know that would never work in my home!

  9. Jonathan – I forgot to ask, does PearBudget carry over your balances each month if you don’t spend it all? That’s a huge benefit of envelopes (for savings, insurance payments, gifts, etc), so hopefully it does!

  10. Cameron,

    I have started using Pearbudget after I read about it on this blog. To my knowledge, Pearbudget does not carry over the leftover balances to the next month. If you want to have that feature, you have to look at the other side of the coin also. If you spend more than what you allocated in the current month, you have to stop spending on that item until you makeup for that overspent amount.

  11. Nadege Lewis says:

    This method of tracking your budget can definately be used as a motivator to have as much money remaining as possible. I usually track the amount of assets I have with regards to total debt. This method will give a more detailed picture of what areas of opportunity lie in my spending.

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