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Old 07-26-2015, 05:17 PM   #81
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Ok, everyone has convinced me to at least give it a try. So now I'm open to suggestions on how to arrange my spreadsheet.
Currently my intent is to do this:

Date AldiGroceries JewelOsco Sams Costco CarGas Elec HouseHeat Water

But am I falling into a trap by listing out stores I shop at and some groupings (as I don't care where I buy car gas from) .
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Old 07-26-2015, 05:40 PM   #82
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Originally Posted by Sunset View Post
Ok, everyone has convinced me to at least give it a try. So now I'm open to suggestions on how to arrange my spreadsheet.
Currently my intent is to do this:

Date AldiGroceries JewelOsco Sams Costco CarGas Elec HouseHeat Water

But am I falling into a trap by listing out stores I shop at and some groupings (as I don't care where I buy car gas from) .
The trick is to include sufficient detail to answer the questions you want to answer. If you don't care where you buy gas, one Gas category will be enough. I don't even take it to that level. I have an Auto category (which includes gas, servicing, and any auto related purchase, such as a microfiber cloth), an Auto Insurance category, and an Auto Loan category (which has just defaulted to zero!). I have just one Groceries category, and that includes household cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc. There is a Household category that includes new sheets, kitchen equipment, carpet cleaning, etc. My Clothing category includes clothing and dry cleaning. Grooming is mostly haircuts, but could include a day at the spa, a pedicure, etc. My Sport category is mostly Golf, but YMMV. For example, if you boat and hike, you might want a separate category to track spending on each activity. Obviously boating (buying, repairing and storing the boat, insurance and fuel) will be much more expensive than hiking (boots). With that kind of information, you can decide whether keeping a boat is really of value to you.

I would suggest starting with major categories such as Housing, Healthcare, Auto, Travel, Insurance, Taxes, and whatever else matters to you. I suggest having a maximum of 5 subcategories in each category to begin with. After a couple of months it will become clear where you need more detail, and which subcategories you don't need (like my Auto Loan!).

The other suggestion I have is to minimize, or even eliminate, the Miscellaneous category. Everything should have its place.
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Old 07-26-2015, 08:24 PM   #83
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I started using the Fido full view app this year, it has my CC and bank accounts linked so captures everything. Just looked at last 6 months and am spending above normal, and have a lot of data to show me where, need to take some more care on clothing, groceries and vacations.


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Old 07-27-2015, 12:12 PM   #84
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The trick is to include sufficient detail to answer the questions you want to answer.
Now that they have a ready to eat fancy-food section in the grocery store, that might be a new split receipt item.

For me, it's all about separating out discretionary. So, for instance, fuel for the car while on a trip goes into 'travel' instead of 'gasoline'. I'd rather have a device on the car that collects data about what you're doing (grocery shopping, joy riding, going to w*rk, etc) and have it allocate auto insurance and maintenance to the mileage, lol!
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Old 07-27-2015, 12:29 PM   #85
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Another Excel user here. I calculated expenses for two years prior to ER and developed a draft budget using an Excel template, which I have customized to answer the questions I am interested in. For example, I separate lifestyle expenses, taxes, savings and debt repayment. For each spending category (e.g. Groceries, Travel, etc) I calculate the YTD variance from the budgeted amount. I prepopulate data in each category that has a constant monthly or quarterly amount. I maintain one worksheet per calendar year.

For me, daily data entry would be too frequent. I make most purchases on one credit card and save all my receipts for the month in a Ziplock bag which I keep at home. On the first day of the month I download all credit card charges and bank withdrawals from the previous month to an Excel spreadsheet. Then I assign categories, sort the data by category, and calculate subtotals. I enter the subtotals in my budget worksheet. I then reconcile the worksheet entries with the receipts in the Ziplock bag, in case there was anything outstanding from a previous month or an expense that was charged on the last day of the month which is not on my statement (for consistency I use the date it appears on the bank statement). I also enter any cash transactions in the appropriate categories. I file any receipts for items with warranties or items and services that might be tax deductible. I keep any late receipts in the Ziplock bag for the current month, and shred the rest.

My spreadsheet does the calculations and I enter "notes to the financial statements" below. Notes might include "under budget in June: good job!" Or "expect higher expenses in August, Joe's wedding" or "don't forget tax installment in September". I find these notes very helpful in analysis, planning and tax preparation. This established method requires about 30 minutes' effort once a month. It works for me.
Very close to what I do. BTW, I also have "major categories". For example, I have two items for food: groceries and restaurants. But I also have a major category called "Food" which is the sum of the two. Also "utilities" sums up gas, electric, water, mobile phones, etc. I make pretty pie charts, too, with the major categories.
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Old 07-27-2015, 12:35 PM   #86
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For me, it's all about separating out discretionary. So, for instance, fuel for the car while on a trip goes into 'travel' instead of 'gasoline'.
My Travel category covers everything I consume while I'm traveling, including gas, food, restaurant meals and event tickets. However, if I buy a T shirt while on vacation, it is classified as Clothing, a CD is Entertainment and a piece of art is Household. The difference (as I see it) is that these items are not consumed while traveling. I get to bring something home for future use.
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Old 07-27-2015, 12:36 PM   #87
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The trick is to include sufficient detail to answer the questions you want to answer. If you don't care where you buy gas, one Gas category will be enough. I don't even take it to that level. I have an Auto category (which includes gas, servicing, and any auto related purchase, such as a microfiber cloth), an Auto Insurance category, and an Auto Loan category (which has just defaulted to zero!). I have just one Groceries category, and that includes household cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc. There is a Household category that includes new sheets, kitchen equipment, carpet cleaning, etc. My Clothing category includes clothing and dry cleaning. Grooming is mostly haircuts, but could include a day at the spa, a pedicure, etc. My Sport category is mostly Golf, but YMMV. For example, if you boat and hike, you might want a separate category to track spending on each activity. Obviously boating (buying, repairing and storing the boat, insurance and fuel) will be much more expensive than hiking (boots). With that kind of information, you can decide whether keeping a boat is really of value to you.

I would suggest starting with major categories such as Housing, Healthcare, Auto, Travel, Insurance, Taxes, and whatever else matters to you. I suggest having a maximum of 5 subcategories in each category to begin with. After a couple of months it will become clear where you need more detail, and which subcategories you don't need (like my Auto Loan!).

The other suggestion I have is to minimize, or even eliminate, the Miscellaneous category. Everything should have its place.
Exactamundo! Major categories and minor for me include:
Mortgages (used to have 2 under here, now only one)
Utilities: Electric Gas Water Sewer Garbage Internet Ooma Mobile
Insurance: Homeowners Umbrella Life LTC Health Dental Auto
Taxes: Property IRS
Charitable giving: church, misc
Entertainment: Netflix Amazon misc
Home Maint
Food: Grocery restaurant
Clothing
Auto: gas maint/repair
HOA
Memberships
Medical/Dental not covered by ins.

I also have a column for items that I get reimbursed for due to work as well as for HRA reimbursements.

It really depends on what you're interested in.

Big-Papa
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Old 07-27-2015, 01:19 PM   #88
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It is definitely an individual thing...My categories are : 1)Mortgage 2) utilities 3) food 4) Gas 5) Entertainment 6) Misc... (Toiletries, supplies, etc) 7) Unplanned... Gifts, car repairs 8) Savings... Fortunately my monthly pension income is significantly more than my monthly expenses, so I can plug gaps with leftover money if ever necessary...


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Old 07-27-2015, 03:30 PM   #89
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I do the same thing, categories across, every day of the year running down. Fill in whenever an expense happens.
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Old 07-27-2015, 10:14 PM   #90
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... Sometimes it is interesting to know some tidbits by playing with Quicken when I have nothing better to do. For example, I just saw that I spent $1700/yr for gas when I was still working part-time (wife already ER'ed), but only $500/yr in the last 12 months (not including RV fuel of course). And the grocery bills, including all household sundries were $5700 in 2010, but only $3000 in the last 12 months. Whoa! What's happening here?
That unexpected big drop in groceries kind of worried me, as I recalled in another thread that Karen Carpenter died of anorexia. Are we really eating so little now?

So, I looked again at my Quicken screen, and took a bit of time to find the discrepancy. What happened was that my wife got another credit card to get some bonus, and she has been using that card for some groceries. As I did not care to get into that card account to get info, I just marked the card payments made from the checking account as "shopping". So, there goes our mysterious savings on food!

No anorexia yet in the NW-Bound household, even though we are on the skinny side.
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Old 07-28-2015, 01:32 PM   #91
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Originally Posted by Sunset View Post
Ok, everyone has convinced me to at least give it a try. So now I'm open to suggestions on how to arrange my spreadsheet.
Currently my intent is to do this:

Date AldiGroceries JewelOsco Sams Costco CarGas Elec HouseHeat Water

But am I falling into a trap by listing out stores I shop at and some groupings (as I don't care where I buy car gas from) .
I would suggest never using specific store names, as that could get confusing if a store closes, changes name, you decide to shop somewhere else, etc. I also expect you would have overlap between your store names and general categories. What would you use if you bought a grocery item from Sams, or something for your car from Costco?

Does it really tell you anything meaningful for cost tracking purposes if you purchased from Sams vs. Costco for example? Why not have Warehouse instead, or Drugstore instead of Jewel/Osco. Of course there's going to be a certain amount of overlap whether you use names or these categories. That's why I break out receipts into multiple categories (though I understand not everyone has the tolerance to do that).
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Old 07-28-2015, 06:44 PM   #92
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I would suggest never using specific store names, as that could get confusing if a store closes, changes name, you decide to shop somewhere else, etc. I also expect you would have overlap between your store names and general categories. What would you use if you bought a grocery item from Sams, or something for your car from Costco?

Does it really tell you anything meaningful for cost tracking purposes if you purchased from Sams vs. Costco for example? Why not have Warehouse instead, or Drugstore instead of Jewel/Osco. Of course there's going to be a certain amount of overlap whether you use names or these categories. That's why I break out receipts into multiple categories (though I understand not everyone has the tolerance to do that).

I agree. The only reason purpose of monitoring your expenses besides staying under budget is to track where your money is going....Not to who it is going to. Just set up basic categories and be consistent. For example in past threads, some classify eating at a restaurant as being in the food category, while others drop it into the entertainment column.


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Old 07-28-2015, 07:16 PM   #93
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My DW and I just use mint and a single credit card for everything which we pay off every month (and accumulate enough points to buy Christmas gifts thus reducing one major cost ).

Mint is pretty good but only works if you are fairly consistent and don't use lots of cash.

We look at expenses fairly holistically and try to stay under our monthly spending level on average over time. With kids expenses are lumpy sometimes. We only have a few "buckets." Mortgage and home expenses, "monthly bills," food (separate for groceries and restaurants), "entertainment" (anything non crucial), car, and miscellaneous. Believe it or not we don't have a "kids" bucket which surprises me. They just raise everything else a little .

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Old 07-28-2015, 10:58 PM   #94
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I see what people mean, by categories vs specific stores.

I will keep for now my store specifics, as I'd like to know how much I spend at them, but I realize especially for Costco and Sam that what I consider groceries is often bought there so the exactness of the tracking is pretty fuzzy since I won't be itemizing each thing in a receipt. If its mostly groceries, I'll just put it in groceries.

I realize I'm making this harder on myself than it would have to be, but I won't use anything to directly access my spending information (like CC accounts or banks).

One habit I find I have to change is where I empty out my wallet, if I do it at the computer, its easy to enter the receipts, but not if the wallet is in the kitchen
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Old 07-28-2015, 11:40 PM   #95
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I realize I'm making this harder on myself than it would have to be, but I won't use anything to directly access my spending information (like CC accounts or banks.
I'm not sure I understand this. Are you saying you don't use credit cards or banks? Debit cards? Do you do all your transactions in cash?
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Old 07-28-2015, 11:46 PM   #96
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I'm not sure I understand this. Are you saying you don't use credit cards or banks? Debit cards? Do you do all your transactions in cash?
I think what was meant there was that the person didn't like to use automatic tools like Mint that directly access credit card and bank accounts to retrieve information.
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Old 07-29-2015, 07:13 AM   #97
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I realize I'm making this harder on myself than it would have to be, but I won't use anything to directly access my spending information (like CC accounts or banks).
+1
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Old 07-29-2015, 08:18 AM   #98
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I think what was meant there was that the person didn't like to use automatic tools like Mint that directly access credit card and bank accounts to retrieve information.
I don't like to use such tools either. That's why I download my data to Excel and analyze it myself.
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Old 07-29-2015, 08:41 AM   #99
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I think what was meant there was that the person didn't like to use automatic tools like Mint that directly access credit card and bank accounts to retrieve information.
Exactly, it makes all this data input stuff harder, but I feel safer doing it this way.
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Old 07-29-2015, 11:06 AM   #100
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The trick is to include sufficient detail to answer the questions you want to answer.
Exactly. I like downloading all of our transactions from the credit card sites and then keying in whatever came out of our checking accounts and assigning my own categories. Travel, for example, is separated between travel to visit our son and his family every few months (3 hour drive, night in a hotel) and "Other". If things get tight, we can cut way back on other travel but not seeing the granddaughter! I'm also tracking the one-time costs of making changes to the house we just bought plus sale and moving expenses since those are non-recurring.

If I really want to check by merchant it's pretty easy to do a Pivot Table but I've found that Costco, for example, is coded several different ways depending on the store location and sometimes even differently for the same location.
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