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Old 07-19-2015, 09:41 AM   #21
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Yes, you can create new categories or subcategories. I have installed Quicken on two computers, but use it mostly on my laptop. If you set up the file location to be on a networked or shared location, then they will use the same data record but I do not do this.

I do not have a budget, as my expenses are not rigidly structured. I need tracking data to make discretionary spending decision through the year. If I have surplus money, I will do some home improvements, for example. Or I can take another trip.
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Old 07-19-2015, 09:49 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tmm99 View Post
I see a lot of people here using Quicken. I have been using Mint to track my expenses and my spending trend. Can Quicken do more than what Mint can do? (You cannot create new, main categories with Mint for one.) Can you use Quicken from multiple computers?
You can create new categories and subcategories as needed in Quicken. Quicken isn't multi-user, but this is how we use it from two computers: Ours is a Mac household and Quicken is installed on DW Mac Mini (PC version of Quicken running under Fusion VM). I access her computer via Screen Sharing from my Mac Pro and can run Quicken remotely.
We both have the mobile Quicken app on our phones and enter essentially all our transactions in real time. When we are back at home at the desktop computer, we sync and all our transactions are quickly up to date without having to key them in. This has saved much time tediously entering transactions. Now we mainly use the desktops for running reports and analysis.
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Old 07-19-2015, 09:51 AM   #23
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Ridiculously habituated to Quicken. At 3% WR plus pension and yet to take SS, have no need to "budget" but have innate need to keep track of where it's going and if something exploded what we could live on. I've done this for 4 years of retirement and in so doing have used this to crank the 2.5% to 3%, so it has a purpose not in controlling as a budget but to encourage spending it more freely.

One other benefit of Quicken (or other such program). I make notes sometimes as to what something was for, and travel expenses are pretty obvious (tix to say London). Then when we start pondering "when was it we did x or y?) I can go back in the database and find that "wow! that was a lot longer ago than we thought!"
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Old 07-19-2015, 10:02 AM   #24
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I will add here that Quicken is not without its quirks. It has some bugs that have driven me mad. I have learned to work around it, but there has been some swearing and cussing.
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Old 07-19-2015, 10:11 AM   #25
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I tracked my expenses/spending by categories for a number of years before I retired and for a short while after I retired. It "was" a useful exercise for me. My "needs expenses" were very consistent over the years. Utilities, food, taxes, insurance, etc. After a while, I found I could just add on inflation and be pretty close each year without all the tracking. However, my "want expenses", traveling, hobbies, vices, fun stuff, etc varied a lot year by year. Anyway, I quit all the tracking (except for one or two that I need for tax purposes). Today, I just keep track of my total network worth. As long as it is going up, I just don't worry about it anymore
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Old 07-19-2015, 10:14 AM   #26
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It's weird but I track our expenses more closely now than pre-retirement.
+1 except for the weird part; I don't think it's weird.

When you are earning, there are 2 things you have some control over - income and expenses. Worst case, you can (hopefully) work longer or harder or get a second job or whatever to keep income continuing.

When you stop earning, there is 1 thing you have some control over - expenses.
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Old 07-19-2015, 10:20 AM   #27
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When we first retired, I set up a budget spreadsheet. Then when we looked at the actuals, we laughed. What were we thinking with that budget?

But we do maintain a handle on total spending, especially for extraordinary items. We also eliminated all excess spending in the first year of retirement: extra credit cards, charges from telcos and cable cos, use of electricity, etc. And our total spend is well below 4%.

And we often walk to places that we would have driven to when we worked. It is amazing how far you can walk and just enjoy the experience, even developing alternate routes just to explore.

And, of course, we take advantage of seniors' discounts, like shopping on Tuesday, eating at 5:30. In Mexico, comida is served from 2-4 in the pm, so we arrive at 4 for our first and main meal of the day, eating a light breakfast and dinner at home when it is convenient.

There is also Groupon for even more savings. To us, managing the spend line is more important than tracking. That is what got us minimizing telco/cable expenses initially.
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Old 07-19-2015, 10:23 AM   #28
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I meticulously tracked spending for 2 years before I FIREd. I used a template from the Microsoft library and expanded upon the categories as I went along.
Once I had a firm handle on expenses, I was able to determine I could actually FIRE, even with 8 years to go until I could apply for my own deferred pension. I had access to plenty of emergency cash just in case.

These days I do a more macro level approach to tracking spending...my credit union just added FinanceWorks capability (free) to the accounts in late 2014.
I have one checking account set up for automatic withdrawal on every bill except credit cards, property/school taxes, trash, and water. I have a separate account used only for income via direct deposit. I manually do transfers from income to bill-paying account as needed. I pay the credit cards manually online so it forces me to review each monthly statement.

All I had to do was electronically link my two accounts, categorize a few transactions that FinanceWorks could not auto-determine, and voila.
I also get weekly email notifications from the credit union, telling me all balances, all upcoming bills, and other summary info. I also get notifications of large deposits, so that triggers me to do a manual transfer if I need to.
I do not get into extreme detail on the credit card payments from my bill paying account. I get a rough categorization from the cc year end statement.

Pretty cool, and all at no expense to me to use the FinanceWorks software.
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Old 07-19-2015, 10:49 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by DEC-1982 View Post
+1 except for the weird part; I don't think it's weird.

When you are earning, there are 2 things you have some control over - income and expenses. Worst case, you can (hopefully) work longer or harder or get a second job or whatever to keep income continuing.

When you stop earning, there is 1 thing you have some control over - expenses.
You mean we can't control our investment returns by buying/selling the right stocks at the right time, even going short when appropriate?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Car-Guy View Post
... Anyway, I quit all the tracking (except for one or two that I need for tax purposes). Today, I just keep track of my total network worth. As long as it is going up, I just don't worry about it anymore
I was also cavalier when the market rained money. But recently, the market god turns a bit stingy. Maybe he is only that way towards me. Darn!
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Old 07-19-2015, 10:50 AM   #30
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I went from budgeting using Quicken when that was just checkbook balancing and budget program to stopping and just using a mental note to back to budgeting (but not with Quicken) when FIRE'd. Now I feel naked if I don't record my spending.
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Old 07-19-2015, 11:06 AM   #31
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I only track total monthly spend. The number was set up with flexibility since we tend to travel frequently. For the past 48 months the number has been right on when reviewed at an annual level (monthly can vary). Just increased the monthly number by 8 percent.

It takes 5 minutes to do each month. Just add up cash withdrawals (few) and electronic payments of rent, utilities, credit cards, etc.

What is surprising is that our lifestyle has changed enormously since that budget was set. House sold, renting, down to one vehicle, more travel, more money spent on healthy foods zero on fast/prepared foods, etc. Yet the number has been stable these past 48 months. Perhaps it was the extra ten percent margin for error that we added.


Like others I am more focused on our asset values since this drives and supports a portion of our living costs.
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Old 07-20-2015, 09:55 PM   #32
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Moneydance

When MSMoney left, I switched to Moneydance. It may not be quite as full featured as Quicken, but coming from MSMoney, I liked it better. It downloads transactions in Quicken format, so it's compatible with everything. $49, but no forced upgrades...I'm still running the 2011 version I originally purchased.
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Old 07-20-2015, 10:14 PM   #33
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Every day I enter all my spending, to the penny, into an Excel spreadsheet. There I have columns for Date, Category, Sub-Category, Amount, exactly what I bought and how I paid for it.

Then I balance what I entered in Excel with my bank account balance, CC balance, and my wallet contents. At the end of the month, I add up the categories and spending for the month. I like my method of tracking spending and I am retired, so I have plenty of time to do it. It only takes maybe five minutes each day, if that. I look forward to doing this every day because it's my kind of fun.
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Old 07-21-2015, 02:33 AM   #34
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I was between jobs for about 10 months a couple of years ago and finally sat down and tracked spending via a spreadsheet. Fortunately, there was enough online history from the bank and credit cards that I could see where everything went for the previous two years.

Once I had that information, before creating the budget, I was able to quickly identify areas where I could get the biggest bang for the buck in terms of reducing spending: auto/home insurance, electricity consumption, etc. and an eventual house refinance once I was working again. Oh and I was on an ACA plan during that time, so it was in the budget. It was good practice for retirement.

After I was working again, we eased up a little on some things (like eating out) but kept most of the budget as it was. We also owned property in another state, which we sold, so that both added money back to savings and eliminated a number of items from the budget. Also, because we have a real budget now which represents significantly lower spending than just 2 years ago, we're now able to save close to 40% of my salary as we round the final curve before retirement.

We still track via spreadsheets. I have Mint, but need to dig deeper into it as well as checking out other more automated trackers since it's a pain in the rear to manually enter everything (though that exercise puts it square in your face exactly where the spending goes on an item by item basis)

At any rate, knowing where the money goes, knowing what's coming up in a few years (college for my daughter), along with eventual house downsizing, and running every retirement calculator out there gives me reasonable confidence that FIRE is just a few years away. It's also good to know that if circumstances warrant, we could FIRE today or take significantly lower pay/lower stress jobs and be just fine.

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Old 07-21-2015, 04:04 AM   #35
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I take a look at my spending every month or two to see how expenses are on track year-to-date, after all credit cards, accounts, etc. are reconciled.

This is a simple automatic report in Quicken - actually two, one is for the basic expenses, and another that adds discretionary spending such as gifting, one-off or large item purchases, major travel expenses, etc. Then I can compare it with how much of the cash I have left that I set aside for the year. I also calculate my "run rate" - i.e. my projected expenses for the year based on my YTD spending.

This spending review doesn't take much effort, as the reports are one click to generate, and the spreadsheet is easy to update. Most of the work is reconciling the credit card statements and bank accounts.
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Old 07-21-2015, 09:59 AM   #36
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I still don't understand how CC statement and bank statements gets one down to the granularity to see where the money is going and make decisions.

We spend a lot at Costco, and grocery stores for example. But that doesn't tell me much of anything useful. Everything from toilet paper and water softener salt is bunched in with discretionary items.

Do you people actually go line-by-line on the cash register receipt and categorize each purchase? And how do you identify things like buying a high grade of something versus a lower grade? If I wanted to further economize, I might learn that buying lower grades of bacon, hamburger versus steak, etc, might save me $X per month. But that would seem to take a lot of figuring, a lot of judgement, a lot of categories. What does entering a prime steak as "grocery" versus entering hamburger as "grocery" tell me - they just both come up as "grocery"? But there is a savings there if I want to pursue it, but how would I see it?

I know what my total spending is (it only comes from two accounts, I just add up the withdraws, and add back any reimbursements or 'transfers' (like moving money from savings to fund a Roth IRA contribution). But I really don't know the detailed breakdown - after utilities, mortgage, insurance, property tax, etc - the big hitters. We try to be careful with our purchases, looking for value. I'm not sure what I'd gain with a bunch of penny-level numbers - what would they really mean to me? What action could I take based on them?


-ERD50
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Old 07-21-2015, 10:38 AM   #37
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I don't bother separate out items from a receipt. For example:

* What I spend at Home Depot or Lowe's goes into "Home-Maintenance" category, unless it is a big ticket item of several hundred dollars like my garage steel cabinets, then it may get classified as "Home-Improvement".

* What I spend at grocery stores goes into "Food:Groceries". There are no separate categories for toiletries, nor for booze.

* I do care to separate out the gas for my RV vs. gas for the cars. The RV fuel cost is several thousand a year, and goes in "Travel:Fuel Expenses". The latter goes into "Auto:Fuel Expenses"

* There is no distinction between restaurant meals during travel or in town. It's eating out all the same. It goes in "Food:Restaurants".

* If I happen to buy some cheese from Costco when going there to buy a TV for example, which costs a lot more, then the whole receipt is considered "Electronics" and goes into "Shopping:Electronics".

So, it's not that hard, and requires minimal work once the credit card statements get downloaded.
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Old 07-21-2015, 11:29 AM   #38
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I have a "cash" expense line in my budget for everything like groceries, liquor, taxies, other small purchases made by cash. Have never tried to split this stuff out. Very consistent from year to year and only represents about 5% of total spend. Really non discretionary stuff with little value to me in knowing where it goes.
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Old 07-21-2015, 11:33 AM   #39
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I still don't understand how CC statement and bank statements gets one down to the granularity to see where the money is going and make decisions.

We spend a lot at Costco, and grocery stores for example. But that doesn't tell me much of anything useful. Everything from toilet paper and water softener salt is bunched in with discretionary items.

Do you people actually go line-by-line on the cash register receipt and categorize each purchase? And how do you identify things like buying a high grade of something versus a lower grade? If I wanted to further economize, I might learn that buying lower grades of bacon, hamburger versus steak, etc, might save me $X per month. But that would seem to take a lot of figuring, a lot of judgement, a lot of categories. What does entering a prime steak as "grocery" versus entering hamburger as "grocery" tell me - they just both come up as "grocery"? But there is a savings there if I want to pursue it, but how would I see it?

I know what my total spending is (it only comes from two accounts, I just add up the withdraws, and add back any reimbursements or 'transfers' (like moving money from savings to fund a Roth IRA contribution). But I really don't know the detailed breakdown - after utilities, mortgage, insurance, property tax, etc - the big hitters. We try to be careful with our purchases, looking for value. I'm not sure what I'd gain with a bunch of penny-level numbers - what would they really mean to me? What action could I take based on them?


-ERD50
When I reconcile my credit card statements I look at each receipt. Most receipts will match one category such as "groceries". And Quicken automatically fills those in for me in most cases. But I buy various things from some stores, so sometimes it might be "software" or another time "entertainment" for example. And yes, I look at each receipt when I reconcile my statements and make sure the category is correct, including the very rare split. For travel spending it is broken out by lodging, dining, tours, transportation, etc. I find that level of granularity useful for trip planning purposes, and it's usually by receipt, not the items listed on the receipt.

Most of my Costco receipts are under grocery, but monthly there is at least one prescription purchase which will be a separate receipt, so I make sure that is listed as medical prescription - that might become important for tax purposes as well as budgeting. Or if we bought a ladder, or something for the garden, or home "office", or tax software those will go in different categories.

Sounds like pretty much what NW-Bound does. And I also have a major category fuel, and subcategories auto and motorhome. Same for maintenance, parts, repairs, registration, etc. I like to have the vehicle expenses split out.

So I make sure categories match before I run my YTD spending report to see the breakdown.
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Old 07-21-2015, 11:34 AM   #40
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I use Mint to track everything. However, if it isn't a fixed monthly expense in gets lumped into a category I call "Household". This includes everything from food to back to school supplies to flowers for the garden. If it's not a fixed monthly bill, it's "Household". My fixed bill categories are:

Mortgage
Car & Home Insurance
Life Insurance
Medical Insurance
Electric Bill
Water/Trash Bill
Phone
Internet

Our 2015 budget has $4068/month in the household category and YTD we are under budget by just over $6100. That's the number I really care about and I don't care what the money is spent on. This has worked for me since 2005 when I started with Quicken.
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