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Old 01-31-2016, 08:09 PM   #21
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Right now I use an Open Office spreadsheet. Previously I used Excel and MS Works way back in the stone age. I started with First Choice on a 286 back in 1991
OK, I'm using Open Office too. I just called it Excel because I think of it that way. However I haven't really had Excel since I retired because I'm not willing to pay for it.
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Old 01-31-2016, 10:11 PM   #22
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Our credit union and credit cards keep all the records. I can see all the activity using my phone.
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Old 01-31-2016, 10:15 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by CountryGal View Post
Thanks for the responses so far! I am a recent retiree and want to get a handle on expenses to see where we can cut or better control them (or figure out if I need to find another job). I am working to get all the detail I can ...
I'll be the (mostly) odd man out, and say why bother? Like LARS said earlier:

Quote:
For me, the important number is total month spending. The rest of the detail is more a curiosity.
Total spending is pretty easy if you pay everything out of one, or two accounts like we do. Just note the 'debits' on the account(s) for each month. Then, don't forget to add in 'phantom' expenses - an amount to set aside for a car replacement, maintenance budget, etc. That will tell you if you are within the retirement budget you set up.

Details? We are in the habit of only purchasing things that we feel are of value. As long as we do that, and the total is OK, what do the details matter? If I need to cut, I'll start thinking about what I could do w/o, or do with a lesser item (eat out less, sub chicken for rib eye, fewer concerts, cheaper seats, etc - whatever is discretionary). I fail to see how the detail of " I spent $xxx.xx on 'groceries', or $xxx.xx on gasoline" would help me. Am I going to drive less? Why am I driving more than I want? Wouldn't I just not do that? And if I want to do that, that seems like a bad place to cut from. And "groceries" doesn't tell me anything about chicken drumsticks versus rib eye, it's just a lump number, it probably includes toilet paper, etc.

I really don't understand how this detail helps anyone, as long as they track the total.

-ERD50
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Old 01-31-2016, 10:38 PM   #24
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Details? We are in the habit of only purchasing things that we feel are of value. As long as we do that, and the total is OK, what do the details matter?
-ERD50
We have never been good at watching exactly where all the money was going and I have to admit that this has been an eye opener.

While things I might buy on Amazon on a whim may be ok when working, they aren't a good idea when living on less than half that amount. I also need to get a better idea of what we will need year in and year out during retirement. While I had done some analysis in the past, I am trying to take a closer look, now that I have time.

So far we have cut out the daily paper expense and trimmed cable. I am also working to ditch the landline and replace it with OOMA.

Once we get through the first few years of retirement, I think we can just watch the monthly expenses to see if we are staying on track.
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Old 01-31-2016, 10:49 PM   #25
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For me, the important number is total month spending. The rest of the detail is more a curiosity.
This is my Big picture mentality. But if that total figure shows any "drift" I'm gonna wanna know what's causing it. That's why I run a tally of categories of things.
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Old 01-31-2016, 10:52 PM   #26
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I'll be the (mostly) odd man out, and say why bother? Like LARS said earlier:



Total spending is pretty easy if you pay everything out of one, or two accounts like we do. Just note the 'debits' on the account(s) for each month. Then, don't forget to add in 'phantom' expenses - an amount to set aside for a car replacement, maintenance budget, etc. That will tell you if you are within the retirement budget you set up.

Details? We are in the habit of only purchasing things that we feel are of value. As long as we do that, and the total is OK, what do the details matter? If I need to cut, I'll start thinking about what I could do w/o, or do with a lesser item (eat out less, sub chicken for rib eye, fewer concerts, cheaper seats, etc - whatever is discretionary). I fail to see how the detail of " I spent $xxx.xx on 'groceries', or $xxx.xx on gasoline" would help me. Am I going to drive less? Why am I driving more than I want? Wouldn't I just not do that? And if I want to do that, that seems like a bad place to cut from. And "groceries" doesn't tell me anything about chicken drumsticks versus rib eye, it's just a lump number, it probably includes toilet paper, etc.

I really don't understand how this detail helps anyone, as long as they track the total.

-ERD50
I kept very detailed records with Quicken and spreadsheets for 20+ years and the information reviewed periodically was not enlightening as we seem to have spent for what was needed and only bought things we considered of value. We had no problem identifying our spending patterns and had LBOM for years. Like EDR50 above, we don't spend time rigorously categorizing spending but are only interested in staying within our target budget.

We set a monthly budget based on what we need to spend for fixed costs and estimate discretionary items. We track that through CC and ATM cash pulls. Every so often, I check a month or two and if we are not on track, we see where things went off and resolve it. It works for us.
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Old 01-31-2016, 11:11 PM   #27
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I'll be the (mostly) odd man out, and say why bother?



Total spending is pretty easy if you pay everything out of one, or two accounts like we do. Just note the 'debits' on the account(s) for each month. Then, don't forget to add in 'phantom' expenses - an amount to set aside for a car replacement, maintenance budget, etc. That will tell you if you are within the retirement budget you set up.

Details? We are in the habit of only purchasing things that we feel are of value. As long as we do that, and the total is OK, what do the details matter? If I need to cut, I'll start thinking about what I could do w/o, or do with a lesser item (eat out less, sub chicken for rib eye, fewer concerts, cheaper seats, etc - whatever is discretionary). I fail to see how the detail of " I spent $xxx.xx on 'groceries', or $xxx.xx on gasoline" would help me. Am I going to drive less? Why am I driving more than I want? Wouldn't I just not do that? And if I want to do that, that seems like a bad place to cut from. And "groceries" doesn't tell me anything about chicken drumsticks versus rib eye, it's just a lump number, it probably includes toilet paper, etc.

I really don't understand how this detail helps anyone, as long as they track the total.

-ERD50
+1

We're also pretty much bottom line folks when it comes to tracking spending. All our expenses seem to run through the checking account other than the withholding taxes taken from our pension checks.

Most months (sometimes I procrastinate and have to catch up a bit) I note the total expenses for the month along with the top 2 - 3 - 4 contributors such as paying our property taxes or an expensive repair or purchase. Sometimes there's the complication that the credit card bill was high and I have to go look and note what that was. But, at most, it takes about ten minutes per month.

If I thought detailed data and analysis would allow us to increase our satisfaction from the things and experiences we spend our money on, I'd make the effort I guess. But so far, it seems like just knowing what we spend every month, what any unusual big hitters were and what the bottom line is for the year is seems to be working OK.
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Old 02-01-2016, 01:20 AM   #28
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+1

We're also pretty much bottom line folks when it comes to tracking spending. All our expenses seem to run through the checking account other than the withholding taxes taken from our pension checks.

...If I thought detailed data and analysis would allow us to increase our satisfaction from the things and experiences we spend our money on, I'd make the effort I guess. But so far, it seems like just knowing what we spend every month, what any unusual big hitters were and what the bottom line is for the year is seems to be working OK.

+1 on the bottom line crowd.

A while back we tracked every expenditure as well as we could for a year or two. We didn't learn anything actionable.

Since then, we track gross annual spending (with monthly checkpoints throughout the year), using bank statements through which all spending passes (like youbet, tax witholding being our only exception).

I figure the best we can do is to spend carefully on individual purchases. We don't have much of the usually touted fat to trim, like routine eating out, lattes, impulse shopping, etc. We reign in systematic "leaks" like too big cable or data plan, or other services. After that, ongoing slice and dice accounting just isn't very helpful in our case.

We do have big discretionary items - e.g. giving, unusual travel, one-time home improvements or similar - but we know the cost of each, and could postpone or scale accordingly should we ever need. So I guess we track/estimate a few categories: 1) taxes (for estimating payments, timing ROTH conversions, etc.), 2) giving (stays pretty constant), 3) unique/big travel, 4) other one-time/big expenses, and 5) all routine personal and houehold spending. Then the trick is to do number 5 well, day-to-day.

We did this for a few years prior to retiring and found things to be pretty consistent. It's been working fine for keeping an eye on the new regime two years in.

As a counterpoint, I had a friend once tell me that she found finer-grain budgeting very liberating, in that with a budget in place, she didn't have to make many day-to-day judgement calls about whether or not a puchase was in line - it was either within the budget or not. I can see that, too.
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Old 02-01-2016, 04:40 AM   #29
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I've used Quicken longer than I can remember. Also, I use credit cards everywhere I can, for several reasons, one of them being that it is easier to track budget categories. I also like the cash back, and I hate paying 4.02 for something and scratching around for 2 cents, or receiving 98 cents in cash which winds up under my driver's seat.
I remember being embarrassed to use CC for small purchases as it took longer than cash, but now, with swipers everywhere, I get annoyed in the checkout line while the person in front of me slowly counts out $57.86 in exact change.

But back to your point: having used Quicken for years, I feel I have a pretty good handle on my budget as I enter RE, and have everything in place to monitor spending in these first years. If I am overspending, I think it will help me identify what I can and should just live without.
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Old 02-01-2016, 05:40 AM   #30
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Personal Capital user here, for spending only. I track investments separately in MS Money.

I never had a budget or spending spreadsheet before setting up my checking and credit card accounts in PC two years ago. I focused on investment results, the bottom line net worth, and keeping the large expense categories closely managed for the first thirty+ years of my adult life, with "good enough" results.

It's been very enlightening to see the spending data over a couple of years, but I'm comparing to a "before" without detailed tracking of expenses, not between two methods of tracking.

One unexpected benefit: I see incorrect credit card charges immediately, rather than at the end of the month when the statement arrives.

Like some here, my motivation to track expenses in more detail was fueled by a need get a handle on projecting w*rking life spending vs. future ER spending.

I have found one limitation to using Personal Capital is it is only set up to track spending through accounts that can be accessed online. The lack of a method to track payroll deductions for taxes and insurance leaves a big hole in projecting post-ER expenses, so I have to work a separate spreadsheet to see all of the components that make up my real bottom line.

Are Mint, YNAB, Quicken, etc. set up to include entries for payroll deduction expense categories? Do you use those features?
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Old 02-01-2016, 06:05 AM   #31
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Many years ago, on a board such as this (possibly this one... can no longer remember), someone was kind enough to post their spreadsheet, which provided me with my start. In a small/insufficient effort to pay it forward, I list below Column A of my spreadsheet, which I've refined over the years. Hope this helps at least one person.

Overall, I'm a brute-force person. I take each credit card bill and enter each item, by hand, into that month's spreadsheet column, in the appropriate row. I also migrate all checking account entries, by hand, excluding credit card bills (obviously). I have a row for ATM withdrawals, and I don't worry about where the cash went. (For the most part, I assume it goes to similar places, on average, over time.) Also, one oddity - I buy a LOT of stuff on Amazon, but don't bother tracking down what I buy. I just enter it under Books (ie, Amazon)! This is completely incorrect, but it tickles me to do it.

Happy to answer any questions.

HOME EXPENSES
Real Estate Tax
Virginia Power-Electric
Washington Gas
Fairfax Water
Cell Phones-Verizon
Cox Cable
Poplar Park HOA
Furnishings/Appliances
Lawn
Home Supplies, Repair, Maintenance
Other
Total HOME EXPENSES

DAILY LIVING
ATM
Wegmans+ Groceries
Costco-Target-WalMart
Personal Supplies / CVS
Clothing
Restaurants
Dry Cleaning
Salon/Barber
Massage/Pedicure
Other
Total DAILY LIVING

TRANSPORTATION
Fuel
Repairs/Maintenance
Registration/License
Personal Property Tax
Other
Total TRANSPORTATION

HEALTH
Doctor
Prescriptions-all
Dentist
Labwork
Exercise, Yoga
Andres Frame
Weight Watchers
Other
Total HEALTH

INSURANCE
Auto
Health
Homeowner's
Umbrella
Life
Other / LTC
Total INSURANCE

RELIGION/CHARITY/GIFTS
CBE Dues
Other CBE Expenses
Charitable Donations
Other
Total RELIGION/CHARITY/GIFTS

ENTERTAINMENT
Netflix
Movies
Concerts
Theater
Books
iTunes
Other
Total ENTERTAINMENT

PETS
Pets
Other
Total PETS

SUBSCRIPTIONS
Newspaper
Magazines
Club Memberships
Total SUBSCRIPTIONS

VACATION
Travel
Lodging
Food
Rental Car
Entertainment
Europe 2016 Trip
Gifts
Pets at Vet
Other
Total VACATION

MISCELLANEOUS
Checkfree fee
Postage
Other
Total MISCELLANEOUS
Total:
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Old 02-01-2016, 07:38 AM   #32
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We have tracked every penny spent for over forty years. For many years we used Microsoft Money. When MS shut that down we moved everything to Moneydance.

The big advantage to tracking everything is, for example:

Last summer we were in San Francisco (well, Vallejo, actually) and parked the RV in the City Owned parking lot and took the Ferry across the Bay for a day in the City with the Granddaughters. We parked at 7:00 am and returned at 6:00PM to find a pile of glass on the passenger side. Yeah, we were burgled. There was a little over $7,000 worth of stuff taken -- the Insurance claim amount. This included about thirty items from $20 to $1,800. State Farm was not that interested until I was able to produce receipts for every item... some going back to 2001. I would not have been able to do that without knowing where to look for those receipts -- not to mention reminding me of several items.

Tracking expenses has been, also, pretty handy for warranty claims.

I spend maybe a couple hours a month on this so it is not very disruptive to my life... YMMV.
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Old 02-01-2016, 08:09 AM   #33
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Details? We are in the habit of only purchasing things that we feel are of value. As long as we do that, and the total is OK, what do the details matter?
This is basically us.....we charge everything we possibly can, check/track the monthly totals and enter them into Excel; other columns note property taxes, condo fees, utilities, cash withdrawals.

We purchase what we 'need' and what (generally travel related) we 'want', but we never confuse 'wants' with 'needs'.
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Old 02-01-2016, 08:30 AM   #34
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I download all of our credit card transactions into Excel and assign a category to them. We use very little cash and I don't bother tracking where that goes.

I do it because I'm an analytical type. I also look at the overall cash burn per month and wonder where it's going when our mortgage is only $700/month. It's good for me to be able to see what we're spending in discretionary categories such as travel and charity, because then I realize that we could cut back significantly if we had to (not that I think it will be necessary). It's also interesting to see the cash flow differences in our new, smaller house. We spent a bundle getting the old one ready to sell and making changes that we wanted to the new one, and now that the dust has settled I can finally see that our expenses have decreased by about $400/month. Woo-hoo!
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Old 02-01-2016, 09:09 AM   #35
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Since 2005 I have used an Excel spreadsheet to track all spending. Currently there are 31 categories that track 100% of all spending. We simply record expenses as they occur, for example if we order something on line, we record it that day into the spreadsheet, we don't wait until we receive a CC statement. In many cases the "add comment" function is utilized to detail the expense which is especially useful in the "Miscellaneous" category.

We don't have a budget other than a total of estimated spending for each category. We can easily compare spending by month and year by category. By tracking expenses over the years we were able to fine tune priorities in our spending, for example, do we really get that much value from those magazine subscriptions? When you see some of these totals over the years you glean out the costs that do not seem to be justified, at least to us.

Nowadays, the spreadsheet is fine tuned enough that we have not made changes in several years except to increase some estimates based upon inflation or changes to lifestyle. Our travel/vacation expenses have increased the most since retirement.
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Old 02-01-2016, 10:19 AM   #36
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I have been using Excel spreadsheets for many many years. I run almost everything through the checkbook so it's very easy to sum up at the end of the month. My entertainment money I keep in cash and don't track anything other than the total per month.
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Old 02-01-2016, 10:49 AM   #37
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Lots of great information here! Thank you and keep it coming.

Htown Harry: "Like some here, my motivation to track expenses in more detail was fueled by a need get a handle on projecting w*rking life spending vs. future ER spending. "
- This is exactly why I am doing this. Also to help gauge if I need to find another job or if I can fully retire. I am just a bit overwhelmed with all the mechanics of pulling the data together.

sakowitzm: I too buy a lot on Amazon. Not completely sure if I want to mix those transactions with everything else or not yet. There is so much there. Food, Supplements, Books, Electronics, Gifts, and more. I may do as you do and have an item for Amazon.

Thanks for sharing all your categories. My spreadsheet is very similar, except I am using two columns. One for the description and one for the category.

RonBoyd: How is it you capture and organize your receipts? Doing it for everything seems daunting.

Years and years ago I did a good job of keeping an eye on expenses. As incomes rose we could afford more of the discretionary spending and I didn't have time to watch things closely. But things were much simpler then. No Online banking - only one checkbook. No online purchases. No Paypal.

As I pulled the information together it was great to answer questions as they came to mind. How much did we spend in last few years on kids college and expenses? How much did we spend on Home Maint? How much did we spend on Home improvements? How much have we spent on pets and do we really want another one? How much did we really spend on vacations in past 2 years? HOW much am I spending on stuff on Amazon?? How much are we spending on Medical expenses?

The data will help a great deal in putting together a retirement budget/forecast.
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Old 02-01-2016, 10:53 AM   #38
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I use a spreadsheet. The Numbers program came with a check register template that lets you categorize each transaction to whatever you want.

So for instance, you can have travel or sub categories of travel like specific trips if you take more than one in a year.

Then it aggregates the totals from each category and makes a bar chart of all of them.

Yes I also use credit cards heavily like others here, for rewards and convenience. I've used the annual reports from the credit card companies but didn't like how they categorized many transactions so I just make them own.

So with unique categories, it's not easy to import transactions into it. So I just enter them manually, it's not too bad, even across 5 or 6 credit cards. Also obviously have to manually record transactions out of my checking account, which aren't that many each month.
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Old 02-01-2016, 11:08 AM   #39
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I use a spreadsheet. The Numbers program came with a check register template that lets you categorize each transaction to whatever you want.
I will have to check that out. At the detail level I am trying not to be fussy about the categories assigned by any import. Hoping I can just consolidate similar categories when I roll up the data. I can always go back to change manually if I want.
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Old 02-01-2016, 11:17 AM   #40
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too buy a lot on Amazon. Not completely sure if I want to mix those transactions with everything else or not yet. There is so much there. Food, Supplements, Books, Electronics, Gifts, and more. I may do as you do and have an item for Amazon.
I always assign my Amazon purchases to the proper category such as Miscellaneous, Video Games and Apps, House Improvements/upgrades, clothes, or whatever. If I don't know the very minute I make the purchase, it goes in Miscellaneous and then at the end of the month I go through my Miscellanous to see if anything should be re-assigned. I don't have a separate category for gifts or haircuts or some other things, so they just stay in Miscellaneous.

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Thanks for sharing all your categories.
OK, I'll share mine too then just in case they might be helpful. I use two sets of categories. Four years ago I modified my categories to make them simpler, and use the new, simpler ones. However at the end of the month I go through all my spending for the month and record everything according to the old category totals as well, on another page of my spreadsheet. The totals must agree. Double the work? OK, I love doing this kind of stuff, what can I say.


PRESENT CATEGORIES

Miscellaneous
Video Games, apps
food
car
house
Utilities
Fitness
Clothes
Medical
Income Tax

OLD CATEGORIES:

groceries
restaurant
lawn mowing
cable
natural gas
water
cell phone
clothes
fitness
medical
gasoline
car maintenance
car insurance
house improvements/upgrades
house maintenance
house insurance
miscellaneous
electronics
property tax
income tax
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