Join Early Retirement Today
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Couch Potato Budgeting and Expense Tracking
Old 12-13-2017, 08:44 AM   #1
Recycles dryer sheets
prototype's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 182
Couch Potato Budgeting and Expense Tracking

I was wondering if I am the only one here that is something of a couch potato when it comes to yearly budgeting and expense tracking (i.e. no Quicken just a simple spreadsheet).

Here’s what I have been doing on a spreadsheet that I update, usually quarterly since I quit w**k :

1. At the beginning of the year I know what is in my checking/savings accounts (Say $50K just for example).

2. I do keep track of my exact income for the year. These are basically pension, distributions and withdrawals from my investment/brokerage accounts, and perhaps a few other odds and ends which aren’t many (I’ll use $75K as an end of year total income for example).

3. So at the end of the year if I have $45K left in checking/savings I know I spent $80K on everything including taxes for the previous year.

If a one time, significant non-planned expense pops up during the year I do update the appropriate projected line item (usually management reserve with a note).

My spreadsheet starts with projected and ends with actuals for each year. It has the somewhat standard 12 or so line items (rent, utilities, cars, medical, vacations, entertainment, taxes, management reserve, gifts, insurance, management reserve...). If I know I have a significant one time expense coming up (e.g. new car) I will add that in. I start with a 10% management reserve for unexpected items that seem to pop up almost every year.

Some of categories I track in detail, some I don’t. For example rent/utilities, taxes, charities, major vacations and medical) I track exactly. Some I guesstimate to varying degrees like entertainment (movies, eating out, day and overnight trips), hobbies, gifts, car stuff (gas, maintenance items,..), household supplies.

It seems to work for me. Of course my spreadsheet of actual expenses at the end of the year never exactly matches what I actually spent for the year because of my guesstimate categories I assume. But it's always been within a few % (a few $K).

Side note: In the almost 7 years since I FIRE'ed my actual expenses for each year have been all over the place from my "target". Some years $10K under my planned/budgeted, some years $10K over. Some years just about right on.
__________________

__________________
prototype is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 Early Retirement and Financial Independence Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

Are you planning to be financially independent as early as possible so you can live life on your own terms? Discuss successful investing strategies, asset allocation models, tax strategies and other related topics in our online forum community. Our members range from young folks just starting their journey to financial independence, military retirees and even multimillionaires. No matter where you fit in you'll find that Early-Retirement.org is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with our members, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create a retirement blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Old 12-13-2017, 09:11 AM   #2
Administrator
W2R's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: New Orleans
Posts: 40,017
I'm sort of the opposite. I love fiddling with my spending spreadsheet and so I update it daily and pay attention to how my spending is going. Each day I enter anything I bought in cash and account for the amount of cash left in my wallet. Also, each day I choose to manually enter any charges that day to my checking account and credit card.

I do projections of my spending by the end of the year on that spreadsheet. While I am at it, I record my income from SS, mini-pension, interest, and so on. I check and make sure that big items like my property tax, house and car insurance, and estimated income tax payments have cleared the bank (and mark that by those expenses on my spreadsheet).

My spending spreadsheet starts out with a sort of template with all the usual and expected charges each month, by category, and then I add lines as needed. I have already set up my 2018 spreadsheet. My kind of fun.
__________________

__________________
Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we shall be lost in its unshored, harbourless immensities.

- - H. Melville, 1851
W2R is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 09:30 AM   #3
Recycles dryer sheets
Trooper's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Chandler, AZ
Posts: 254
Quote:
Originally Posted by W2R View Post
While I am at it, I record my income from SS, mini-pension, interest, and so on.
Just curious...what's a mini-pension? Is it just a low-dollar pension, or a new type of pension I've never heard of?
__________________
Trooper is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 09:37 AM   #4
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: Florence, AL/Helen, GA
Posts: 2,345
We live a somewhat frugal life, and budgeting is not required. I periodically watch my investments and make adjustments, but that is about it.

It is a semi full time job just opening the mail and moving the massive numbers of papers somewhere. I try to keep business simple so ninth inning is required.
__________________
Bamaman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 09:39 AM   #5
Administrator
W2R's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: New Orleans
Posts: 40,017
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trooper View Post
Just curious...what's a mini-pension? Is it just a low-dollar pension, or a new type of pension I've never heard of?
It's what I call my tiny pension. I am grateful to get it, but it is quite small and not one of these "full boat" pensions like so many people used to get back in the old days. Of course some still do, but not as many as was once the case. I rely mostly upon my investments for income now that I am retired, and my pension takes care of less than 15% of that income.

I also call it my "itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka-dot" pension, thinking of this song:

__________________
Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we shall be lost in its unshored, harbourless immensities.

- - H. Melville, 1851
W2R is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 09:53 AM   #6
Recycles dryer sheets
Trooper's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Chandler, AZ
Posts: 254
Quote:
Originally Posted by prototype View Post
I do keep track of my exact income for the year. These are basically pension, distributions and withdrawals from my investment/brokerage accounts, and perhaps a few other odds and ends which arenít many (Iíll use $75K as an end of year total income for example).

So at the end of the year if I have $45K left in checking/savings I know I spent $80K on everything including taxes for the previous year.
I like the simplicity of that, but we have a couple of items for which your method wouldn't work. For example, we "accrue" for certain future large purchases like new cars, new AC unit on the home, etc. Each year we fund those based on life expectancy of current vehicles, and future cost of new ones.
As such we count that funding as an "expense" in the current year, even though no cash outlay.
__________________
Trooper is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 10:03 AM   #7
Full time employment: Posting here.
Helena's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 663
.

I keep track of my exact spending daily and my liquid assets/investments monthly.
__________________
Helena is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 10:06 AM   #8
Moderator Emeritus
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 11,056
After years of tracking our expenses to the cent with Quicken, I now only track our portfolio withdrawals (our portfolio is our only source of income). I determine how much I will pull out of our portfolio in the upcoming year and set up appropriate monthly withdrawals. Some of the money we withdraw is spent right away, and some of it is saved for future expenses (like a big trip or a new roof). But as long as I don't have to double dip in our portfolio, which would be a huge red flag, I know that our spending is on track and that's really all I care about.
__________________
FIREd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 10:08 AM   #9
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
audreyh1's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Rio Grande Valley
Posts: 17,726
We have a very rough “kitchen sink” budget.

But we do track expenses quite carefully facilitated by Quicken. I run some reports every month or two to see how we are doing. We usually come in under budget, so by the end of the year I know what we didn’t spend.

We don’t budget accrue for large purchases because we have substantial funds already set aside in short-term investments and unspent funds get added to that.
__________________
Well, I thought I was retired. But it seems that now I'm working as a travel agent instead!
audreyh1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 01:28 PM   #10
Full time employment: Posting here.
kaudrey's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Alexandria, Va
Posts: 970
I like playing with my spreadsheet, but I also only keep track of some bigger expense items: Travel/Vacation, Vehicle, Real Estate, Capital Expenditures, Pets, and Work costs (commuting, clothes, dry cleaning), Health Care, and Taxes. Everything else falls under "Living Expenses", which is the difference between my income and all of these categories.


I'm still working. I suppose I should separate out restaurants and entertainment, because that is a significant dollar amount, but that's about where my "couch potato" level of effort kicks in....
__________________
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less travelled by...
kaudrey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 02:00 PM   #11
Recycles dryer sheets
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 406
In the nearly two years of ER I find myself doing nothing more than tracking the total spending amount for each year. So far it is very close to predicted. And predicted itself has a cushion relative to tools like FIRECALC, i-orp, my own SS from when i was working, etc.

This is not what I expected. really thought i would be tracking and categorizing to a fine degree just as I did while working and planning for ER. Seems as though all my time spent with analysis and tracking tools for both job and financial planning went out the window once the simple joy and relaxation of ER became a reality for me. it's great.
__________________
mamadogmamacat is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 02:44 PM   #12
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Indialantic FL
Posts: 1,212
I don't use quicken, nor a spreadsheet, no budget, and don't balance the checkbook. Pretty much a couch potato. But I do know my numbers. I check my cc statements and bills most of which are on autopay. Move money into and out of primary checking to/from high yield savings or other credit union accounts as needed (rebalancing our spending money accounts)
__________________
JimnJana
"The four most dangerous words in investing are 'This time it's different.'" - Sir John Templeton
jimnjana is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 03:35 PM   #13
Full time employment: Posting here.
Red Badger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Piedmont Region
Posts: 663
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimnjana View Post
I don't use quicken, nor a spreadsheet, no budget, and don't balance the checkbook. Pretty much a couch potato. But I do know my numbers. I check my cc statements and bills most of which are on autopay. Move money into and out of primary checking to/from high yield savings or other credit union accounts as needed (rebalancing our spending money accounts)
+1.
Just make sure the inflows >/= outflows.

Also, checks? My remaining few have Wachovia listed as the bank. I may write 1 or 2 a year...
__________________
Never let yesterday use up too much of today.
W. Rogers
Red Badger is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 03:45 PM   #14
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Marita40's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: St. Paul
Posts: 1,205
I'm still working and single. One year I tried a careful, detailed spreadsheet type budget for each category of spending. It drove me crazy. I've decided I do much better just living within my means on a month to month basis. That is, with my biweekly paycheck, I pay myself first into my savings/retirement accounts (automatic deductions, so I never think about it), pay my regular bills, then live off whatever remains throughout the month. It is a balancing act: if I buy something fun, I cut back a bit on restaurants. Etc. Works for me.
__________________
Marita40 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 03:58 PM   #15
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
audreyh1's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Rio Grande Valley
Posts: 17,726
Over two decades ago, I set up categories in Quicken. As transactions are imported, most categories are autofilled as Quicken learns the payees. Occasionally I have to assign a category, but it’s rare.

So now after importing transactions, I know exactly where my spending went. I just select the report and view the spending by category. Very easy, and very easy to compare to my budget.
__________________
Well, I thought I was retired. But it seems that now I'm working as a travel agent instead!
audreyh1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2017, 10:24 PM   #16
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
Sunset's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Spending the Kids Inheritance and living in Chicago
Posts: 5,345
When I worked, I didn't track any spending, just the total $$$ I had at the end of the year.

After retirement, I didn't change for the first 2 years, then I because bugged because some folks here could say they spent $x on y per year.

So I got an app for that, on my phone and track exactly what I spend each day as I spend it.
Once a month, I transfer the monthly total category amounts (about 20 numbers) to a spreadsheet on my computer, so I can have pretty charts and compare over years (in the future).

I still do the total asset value at the end of the year (this is going to be a great year).

It's all easy and convenient.
__________________
Sunset is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2017, 12:24 AM   #17
Full time employment: Posting here.
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Albuquerque
Posts: 534
This is my fifth year of tracking pre-retirement expenses and I record all my expenses in about 15 categories on a spreadsheet. While this exercise has given me confidence that my retirement income will cover my spending, sometimes I wonder if all the tracking is that necessary or if it just makes me feel good that I am somehow “planning for retirement.” Several of the categories (e.g., groceries, utilities, gifts) are consistent from year to year but total expenses can vary as much as $10K. The increase is almost always due to home repairs.

I could probably switch to couch potato expense tracking and focus on tracking the more important categories but I actually enjoy writing down my expenditures. Also I want to continue the detailed approach for at least the first few years of retirement because I plan to move to a higher cost of living area and to rent at first. So I am interested in determining how much more I will spend and the cost of renting vs owning a home. And I want to know how much my health expenses increase over the years and want to closely monitor my travel costs at first since this will be a significant portion of my retirement budget.
__________________
Retired on 9/30/2017; age 62
ABQ2015 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2017, 12:51 AM   #18
Recycles dryer sheets
shortstop14's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 245
Guess I'm a real couch potato. We've never really had a budget, we just tend to not spend much. So in retirement, I just track total spend per month. The only expense categories I track are unusual large one-time expenses, and travel expenses. So it's easy to determine the average run-rate of normal living expenses in the aggregate. As long as total expenses are within my safe withdrawal range, I'm happy.

If the time for cutbacks occurs, travel would be reduced. I hope things never need to get more granular than that. If they do, I supposed we'd do a detailed budget for a couple of months, and decide on cuts from that.
__________________
shortstop14 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2017, 04:29 AM   #19
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
DrRoy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Michigan
Posts: 1,989
I have always tracked investments monthly and continue to do so. Before RE this year, I never tracked spending closely. Our discipline always had us spending less than our income and we saved 15-25%, so I did not see the need. This year, I have tracked spending monthly in about 10 categories, mostly out of curiosity. I am not sure if I will continue with the categories next year - maybe just the monthly total.
__________________
"The mountains are calling, and I must go." John Muir
DrRoy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2017, 04:59 AM   #20
Recycles dryer sheets
truenorth418's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 496
I keep a monthly budget so I update that at the end of every month with actuals. But December is a big month for me to finalize next yearís budget, maybe the year after.
__________________

__________________
truenorth418 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Retirement Account "couch potato" management question prototype FIRE and Money 5 07-03-2013 10:38 AM
couch potato investing. frank FIRE and Money 10 06-01-2012 06:12 PM
Budgeting/Expense Tracking - Practicalities FUEGO FIRE and Money 245 04-14-2011 09:34 AM

 

 
All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:53 AM.
 
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.