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Old 09-26-2012, 10:33 AM   #41
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I think we tried to track expenses when the kids were little but it fell by the wayside pretty quickly. Tracking deficit order here.

I can see where the information would be interesting (especially finding out about the Victoria's Secret purchases) but at this point, for most of you successful FIREs, does it really change your behavior? Do you change your spending habits based on your tracking results, or do you change your budget to accommodate the results?

I'm wondering that, also. It's part of why I want to start tracking things closer, for awhile at least. On one hand, just knowing that I have to write it down and track it may make me think twice about buying. But then again, I'm so frugal anyway it may not make much difference.
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Old 09-26-2012, 10:45 AM   #42
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I'm wondering that, also. It's part of why I want to start tracking things closer, for awhile at least. On one hand, just knowing that I have to write it down and track it may make me think twice about buying. But then again, I'm so frugal anyway it may not make much difference.
Maybe it won't make much difference, but if you are like me you are curious and want to know where the money went anyway.

I think that perhaps we have been spending a little less when eating lunch out. Since we are both recording it now, I think we tend to instinctively gravitate towards our less expensive favorite restaurants more frequently.
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Old 09-26-2012, 11:51 AM   #43
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We track expenses in Quicken. All major purchases are on CC but we don't track the cash spending as we have a "his and hers" category budgeted at $400 per month for both of us. Tracking down to the penny is too cumbersome and unnecessary for our needs.
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Old 09-26-2012, 11:55 AM   #44
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I think we tried to track expenses when the kids were little but it fell by the wayside pretty quickly. Tracking deficit order here.

I can see where the information would be interesting (especially finding out about the Victoria's Secret purchases) but at this point, for most of you successful FIREs, does it really change your behavior? Do you change your spending habits based on your tracking results, or do you change your budget to accommodate the results?

We found tracking expenses does change some behavior due to to result. Tyically the change is in the form of looking for a better deal as we see some of the steady bills slowly climb like food, cable & cell service, insurance etc. By tracking and watching expenses we still I think consume the same amount of service and goods but have kept total expenses the same for past 5 years so holding our personal inflation in check. Granted some line items are more and some are less but total the same.
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Old 09-26-2012, 03:12 PM   #45
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I don't track cash expenses. The last time I drew out cash was July 7th, when I took out $200. I still have $117 left.
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Old 09-26-2012, 03:14 PM   #46
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Since we get 2% back on all things AMEX that's the principal spending vehicle. DW uses cash at a fairly consistent rate; she rolls her eyes at me keeping meticulous track of the investments and expense, so I'm fine not bugging her about where she spends the cash. These days, I'd guess about 3-5% of expense is cash that is not tracked.
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Old 09-26-2012, 04:24 PM   #47
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We think one of the advantages of deep LBYM living is that highly accurate tracking of the smallest bars on your personal spending Pareto chart becomes meaningless, especially during your withdrawal years. 3% - 5% in a misc cash bucket doesn't seem like an issue. Therefore we keep track of items paid by CC, direct deduction or check (because there is little effort involved) but are more than content to let small cash purchases fall into a single misc bucket.
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Old 09-26-2012, 05:33 PM   #48
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On the few occassions that I use cash, I make sure to keep the receipt or if none exists I jot down the amount on a scrap of paper. Then once a month when my credit card statement arrives, I record the both the credit card and cash expenditures in an Excel spreadsheet that is segmented into several categories by month.

Where applicable, in addition to the dollar amount I also track the number of gallons, cubic feet, etc. used for such things as electricity, water, national gas, and gasoline.
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Old 09-26-2012, 05:45 PM   #49
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I keep a spreadsheet of all expenses. It's in Google Documents with DH and I both having access. I use it all the time to record expenses but DH hasn't accessed it since ...... maybe 2009 when I emailed him the password and he accessed it just to make sure it worked. He's just not interested. Sigh.

I used to use a PenFed credit card for everything but in an effort to get DH in touch with our monthly finances he suggested that we go to all cash for things that aren't paid online (except for car gasoline using the PenFed card at the pump). I keep a small file box with the monthly cash in 3 categories (groceries, eating out, and other) and each section has a list of all the expenses that the cash was used for. I track to the penny with a running total. DH knows where this is, does not care to ever go near it and has no idea what we've spent in any category.

We each have our monthly pocket cash that we do not keep track of. I always know where mine went, what I have left and my surplus at the end of the month (I can't think of things to spend it on) goes into a savings jar.

Our lives are very simple so this is not difficult at all. So far this month I've recorded 14 expenses, not counting recurring monthly bills (6) paid online or set up for autopay.

Tracking expenses is easy and I enjoy doing it. DH prefers to be clueless (I've known him since he was 16 and he's always been this way) and he trusts that I'm not frittering our assets away on lottery tickets, a shoe fetish or a boy toy.
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Old 09-26-2012, 05:59 PM   #50
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My Beloved set up a VERY elaborate spreadsheet in Excel. When we buy anything we get a receipt (unless it is from a vending machine). We also try to enter everything on the day it is spent. Well over 20 years, no big discrepancies. We also spend very little cash. Groceries once a week using credit card, gas every month ditto. It tracks what percentage we are in each account so we can easily see, "Hmmm...perhaps a couple of bean meals this week, food's not looking too healthy." We don't ever look at a flush account and think it's time to spend more in that area, though.
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Old 09-26-2012, 06:16 PM   #51
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We think one of the advantages of deep LBYM living is that highly accurate tracking of the smallest bars on your personal spending Pareto chart becomes meaningless, ... Therefore we keep track of items paid by CC, direct deduction or check (because there is little effort involved) but are more than content to let small cash purchases fall into a single misc bucket.
+1

For a couple of years, a few years back, we tried to track *everything* to the penny. We just put everything manually in a spreadsheet, so it was a big pain. We were already pretty well aware of significant recurring expenses as well as any individual expenses of consequence. A frugal lifestyle doesn't present that much opportunity for unexpected day-to-day leaks. We might have had a couple of surprises, but nothing we'd change our behavior over.

Now we just use the one bank statement (through which everything else ultimately runs) to come up with an accurate annual figure. That plus the pay stub (for withheld items that don't make it into the bank) gets us close enough for estimating total household expenses that will need to be covered in retirement.

The detailed process was perhaps instructive and reassuring, but in our case not very helpful for a continuing effort.
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Old 09-27-2012, 09:02 AM   #52
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We are pretty heavy cash users.

I grab receipts and put them in my wallet, enter them in a Quicken cash account a couple times a week, and compare the Quicken balance to cash in my wallet.
If there is a meaningful differential, I enter a transaction labeled "Missed" to catch up.
The Missed is probably about 5% of the total transactions.

My wife uses the same system, but with paper and pencil.
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Old 09-27-2012, 09:50 AM   #53
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We use very little cash. I keep a $20 bill in each vehicle and I withdrew $20 last month from the ATM. I just enter the ATM withdrawals as "misc" in our budgeting software.

Small purchases go on our debit card to satisfy the 12 debits/mo requirement to get the 2.5% interest our credit union offers.

Nearly everything else goes on a rewards cc which is automatically paid off in full each month.

I use YNAB (You Need A Budget) to track income and outgo. It has a handy iphone app which allows me to enter transactions on the fly.
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Old 09-28-2012, 01:48 AM   #54
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I download all my debits from my Bank of America account since January 1, and divide the total by number of months. Pretty basic but I don't have time for a more elaborate approach...
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Originally Posted by David1961 View Post
Iím wondering how you do this? The expenses from credit cards or checks are no problem, but what about cash purchases? Do you keep a notebook with you at all times and record every time you get something from a vending machine or get a $5 sub at Subway? Do you have a spreadsheet that you fill in each day? Do you write down credit card purchases when you make the purchase or write them down when the statement comes?
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Old 09-28-2012, 02:51 PM   #55
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This seems to be 2 topics in 1.

First is how frequently and what method do you use to track expenses. Historically, I have logged onto bank accounts maybe once a week to check balances and purchase history. I also created a budget spreadsheet in excel to guesstimate monthly expenses.

I am researching various money management software tools such as mint.com's, yudlee, personal capital and quicken. I'm probably going to use a free one like mint's though. These programs break down expense by category and automatically update daily.

The 2nd topic it seems is how you pay for items, such as food. I rarely use cash anymore. Why wouldn't I put as many purchases on a cash back or rewards card as I possibly can? It's free money from the credit card companies subsidized by those with credit card debt. I'm shocked that so many here use cash.
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Old 09-28-2012, 04:54 PM   #56
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This seems to be 2 topics in 1.

First is how frequently and what method do you use to track expenses. Historically, I have logged onto bank accounts maybe once a week to check balances and purchase history. I also created a budget spreadsheet in excel to guesstimate monthly expenses.

I am researching various money management software tools such as mint.com's, yudlee, personal capital and quicken. I'm probably going to use a free one like mint's though. These programs break down expense by category and automatically update daily.

The 2nd topic it seems is how you pay for items, such as food. I rarely use cash anymore. Why wouldn't I put as many purchases on a cash back or rewards card as I possibly can? It's free money from the credit card companies subsidized by those with credit card debt. I'm shocked that so many here use cash.
I just read today in a newspaper article concerning MasterCard' s growth prospects. In USA total transactions are about 50-50 between cash/paper checks and electronic. The rest of the world it's 85 % cash 15% electronic. I was also surprised that Japan transactions were 3 to 1 cash/checks over electronic.
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Old 09-29-2012, 12:36 AM   #57
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Another home accounting issue is what to do with the receipts from credit card transactions and other sources? I'd like to throw them away immediately, but they could be necessary to dispute a charge, for instance. On the other hand keeping the paper means building up bundles of them that take time to sort and shred eventually. So, after we digitized our records before moving abroad I just started scanning each receipt using a ScanSnap scanner and the software that comes bundled with it. The software does OCR so we can search documents by content as well as by keyword and scan date. I have only rarely had to consult a credit card receipt, but it does happen sometimes.

If tracking all of our income and expenses is in the nature of a hobby, then scanning credit card receipts is probably OCD, but there it is.
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Old 09-29-2012, 07:37 PM   #58
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... I just started scanning each receipt using a ScanSnap scanner and the software that comes bundled with it. ...
What? I'm not alone in the universe scanning all receipts with a ScanSnap? I'm so glad I found this forum!
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Old 09-29-2012, 11:09 PM   #59
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I track spending using Mint, because it is mostly automated. We mostly use our credit cards for spending, and I often chalk up Cash Withdrawals as "Misc" because it is so low of a % of our spending.

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Old 09-30-2012, 03:05 PM   #60
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I know there are posters here who track all their expenses very closely. Iím wondering how you do this? The expenses from credit cards or checks are no problem, but what about cash purchases? Do you keep a notebook with you at all times and record every time you get something from a vending machine or get a $5 sub at Subway? Do you have a spreadsheet that you fill in each day? Do you write down credit card purchases when you make the purchase or write them down when the statement comes?
Currently, I count ATM withdrawals as expenses and when I need more cash, I make another withdrawal, but this is not real accurate Ė I may withdraw the money in September but not spend it until October. Itís close enough, but I want to start tracking closer. Any suggestions will be appreciated.
I track the main expenses using debit card, I avoid as much as possible to use the credit card, but when using cash I just register how much and when I got it from the ATM. I am very bad with details so I use large categories of expenses in my budget and control sheat, including a fixed amount to be used freely monthly. I never use cr
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