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Tracking your money
Old 07-31-2005, 07:51 PM   #1
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Tracking your money

For the last several years I've kept track of my money as closely as possible. Get a receipt for everything, and enter it into the computer (I use gnucash, think Quicken 10 years ago). I'm thoroughly fed up with the process, and I don't think I get any benefit from it anymore. Occasionally I'll look at the numbers, but more for grins than anything. I'm tempted to just stop keeping track altogether. What do you do? Is there a useful middle ground that I'm missing?

Thanks for commenting,
Tim
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 07-31-2005, 08:06 PM   #2
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Re: Tracking your money

I dont budget, so I dont know where a middle ground is? Are you on a fixed budget that you are doing this or you just trying to figure out how much you need in income? I put everything on 1 credit card so it would be easy to look at everything. I think you can download that info.
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 07-31-2005, 08:08 PM   #3
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Re: Tracking your money

I keep track of almost everything. Having a balanced checkbook and knowing what money is coming in and out of our account is important to me because a) I'm anal and b) because my husband and I use a joint account and often make large purchases semi-independently. We are frequently separated, and emailing the Quicken files back and forth is handy and keeps things from getting too screwed up. If it were just me I could probably use mental accounting and just balance everything at the end of the month.

We also try to put everything on debit or credit and use online bill pay so we don't have to worry too much about the receipts. Cash is more difficult, and I try not to use it much. I kept close track of cash for a while, but it became way too tedious.
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 07-31-2005, 08:11 PM   #4
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Re: Tracking your money

I don't really have a budget. In my mind I keep track of large purchases and I try not to make too many of them. That's about it. Right now I've got plenty of money coming in (and hopefully I'll end up saving more than I currently am). Maybe I should just make a large Other category that includes all cash expenses. That would make keeping track a lot less work.

Tim
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 07-31-2005, 08:49 PM   #5
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Re: Tracking your money

I use MSMoney that came free with this computer to track things loosely. By loosely, I mean that I rarely enter in any transactions by hand. I download all transactions from my online bank and brokerage (TD Waterhouse). MSMoney remembers that an online bill payment to Cingular is in the category "cell phone" and so on, so I don' t have to enter any categories for anything. I don't divide up the credit card bills, I just have a category "credit card". Nevertheless, since I use Citibank 5% cash-back card only for gasolines and groceries ... I know what I pay in a year for those categories combined. I use another frequent-flyer credit card for everything else.

I haven't done anything with a receipt in a long time. I don't use cash, but charge everything including a 50 cent pack of gum. I always press "No" when asked for a receipt at the gas pump. Don't ask me what I spend on eating out, because I just don't know. I imagine I could have separate credit cards for gas, groceries, eating out, clothes and other, which would make everthing sort of self-sorting. I have not downloaded a credit card bill into MSMoney, but I suppose I could....sounds like too much work.

So the budget is loose, the categories are now automatically determined with maybe a couple of 'hand' edits per month.
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 07-31-2005, 10:38 PM   #6
 
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Re: Tracking your money

Flowgirl, here's a trick we've used to keep out of trouble with a joint account, I don't know whether it will work for you.

Pretend that it is two accounts, and just do a "virtual transfer" of money from one to the other when necessary. For example, if there's $2,000 in the account, pretend that there's $1,000 in FlowGirl's account and $1,000 in FlowGuy's account. If you need to buy something for $1,500, call FlowGuy and say "Hey, transfer $600 into my account," and then you both record that "transfer" in your accounts.

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Re: Tracking your money
Old 07-31-2005, 10:38 PM   #7
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Re: Tracking your money

I have a written budget, but I don't keep track of everything I spend.* Based on my budget, I know what I should be saving each month.* I keep track of my net worth growth (not including home) on a monthly basis.* If I see my savings at the end of the month isn't what it should be, I tighten the belt by spending less and/or working a few more hours until I'm back on track the following month or within a couple of months.

I do the same thing with my eating habits.* I don't keep track of each calorie I take in, but I do weigh myself each month.* If at the end of the month I gain weight, I try to eat less and/or exercise more until I'm back to where I want to be.

*
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-01-2005, 12:32 AM   #8
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Re: Tracking your money

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
Flowgirl, here's a trick we've used to keep out of trouble with a joint account, I don't know whether it will work for you.

Pretend that it is two accounts, and just do a "virtual transfer" of money from one to the other when necessary.* For example, if there's $2,000 in the account, pretend that there's $1,000 in FlowGirl's account and $1,000 in FlowGuy's account.* If you need to buy something for $1,500, call FlowGuy and say "Hey, transfer $600 into my account," and then you both record that "transfer" in your accounts.

DW and I have been married for 30 years. (I think it might work out okay ) We were both engineers before retirement. I traveled extensively for work. She was very actively involved in a wide range of activities. We tried all kinds of approaches to keeping track of our checking accounts. Our ultimate solution was to have two separate accounts and to transfer money back and forth between them whenever we needed to. This is basically the same solution that Trombone-Al mentioned but we took it a step further and actually kept two accounts and made real transfers. With online banking, this is pretty easy to do.
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-01-2005, 06:33 AM   #9
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Re: Tracking your money

Quote:
Originally Posted by nuisance
For the last several years I've kept track of my money as closely as possible. Get a receipt for everything, and enter it into the computer (I use gnucash, think Quicken 10 years ago). I'm thoroughly fed up with the process, and I don't think I get any benefit from it anymore. Occasionally I'll look at the numbers, but more for grins than anything. I'm tempted to just stop keeping track altogether. What do you do? Is there a useful middle ground that I'm missing?

Thanks for commenting,
Tim
Tim,

I agree that tracking your money can be a pain if you spend too much time and/or if you don't like your tracking method.

I putz with the mutual fund balances almost daily as the market flips and flops and save that silly info to a bar chart with a DJIA line chart overlay. Its very pretty but doesn't mean much.

The best spreadsheet for me is one I update when I feel like it... quarterly or semiannually. It lists all significant assets then subtracts liabilities and displays a net worth number. It is not complicated. Its not commercial. It paints a better picture. Since I save the "old ones" I can watch my assets grow as my debt shrinks. I like that. All it takes to update is the statements for each account.

If you're an xls spreadsheeter and want a copy, just PM me.


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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-01-2005, 07:38 AM   #10
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Re: Tracking your money

We have joint accounts all round, never track anything really that cannot be captured by direct download in Quicken. We do not have his and hers of anything. It is all ours. My father always used to say, if I have to sit on the floor, the "she" (mother) has to sit with me. Implying that, as mother managed the money, if she spent it they both lost out. While that is a bit of a philistine approach, it worked for them, and works for me, although I manage the funds not my wife. If we need anything we typically talk about it no matter what it is, within reason. Then just go buy it. I am the type that price compares for everything anyway, I enjoy the challenge and am amazed by the price differences between (dare I use the word) retailers.

I update it once a month, with Quicken by downloadinf the info from all the institutions, and never sign up for an institution that does not have Quicken download compatibility. Not always automated, but as long as I can get a QFX file once a month, that is all I need.

We pay for EVERYTHING on our AT&T Cash Back cards (and I mean everything too, you name it, it goes on there, If they do not take it, we shop elsewhere). I use our Skymiles card once a year or for large purchases, just to keep it rotating.

We do not worry about the small stuff that slips through the accounting system or for some reason does not get tracked. I NEVER look and analyse what has been spent on what, simply what is the bottom line at the begining of each month. We always spend less than we get in dividends. The net worth is always rising, unless we have a major purchase.

SWR
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-01-2005, 09:44 AM   #11
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Re: Tracking your money

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlowGirl
* Cash is more difficult, and I try not to use it much.* I kept close track of cash for a while, but it became way too tedious.
I hear what you are saying.* We have the same issues.* What I do now is every Sat when I update Quicken $100 goes back into the pocket.* That way I at least know where I started from and what I have left.

JDW
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-03-2005, 10:06 PM   #12
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Re: Tracking your money

Thank you for all your comments. I think for now I'm just going to stop tracking my cash expenses but keep tracking my other accounts. It'll cut back on my work a lot.

Tim
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-03-2005, 10:20 PM   #13
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Re: Tracking your money

Tim,

Are you doing this for a "Your Money or Your Life" type look at where your money goes?

We are currently tracking all of our expenditures for a year to see exactly how much we spend so that we'll have a starting point for figuring an ER budget. I think more than a year would drive us a bit crazy too.
I think after the year we will just track total out per month, credit card bill plus total cash out.

Some people like to know exactly what was spent, like the Kaderli's have been doing it for years in their travels and I think Nords said that he does it too. It is interesting and does make you think about what is important or not (especially when you are trying to determine if it is worth working a couple of extra years so you can have your... motorcycle, lattes, NFL season ticket, or whatever)
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-03-2005, 10:55 PM   #14
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Re: Tracking your money

Quote:
Originally Posted by nuisance
Thank you for all your comments. I think for now I'm just going to stop tracking my cash expenses but keep tracking my other accounts. It'll cut back on my work a lot.

Tim
Tim, that's what I do. Once a month I enter the items from my bank statement onto a spreadsheet that allows me to track catagories of spending, but I don't nickel and dime it - Cash just says Cash, RiteAid just says RiteAid, not pantyhose, lipgloss, etc. etc.

Oops. TMI.
But you get my drift
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-03-2005, 11:25 PM   #15
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Re: Tracking your money

I hardly keep track of my cash at all. I just try not to buy anything unnecessary and I usually wind up with a few hundered dollars left over at the end of the month. When I was making less and my budget was more tight, I would project my expenses out for two months to get a feel for how much I could spend.
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-04-2005, 10:23 AM   #16
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Re: Tracking your money

No, there's really no specific goal in my money-tracking currently, but I do occasionally refer to it.

Tim
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-04-2005, 11:03 AM   #17
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Re: Tracking your money

For about 3 years (15 years ago) I tracked every cash expenditure over $1 so I could understand my spending habits for basic budgeting purposes.* Then I started using a variety of computerized checkbook programs and paid off the mortgage of my McMansion in 54 months through a lot of scrimping and obsession by 1995.* * After that, I was able to begin after-tax retirement savings in earnest.

Now remarried, DW has her income deposited into her own account and gives me a fixed amount for our household expenses.* Her mad money is hers.* My income goes into the household expenses account;* we both are pretty frugal, so there have been no disagreements concerning spending.* *

I now use Quicken for our tracking and budgeting along with a few spreadsheets for* personalized tracking and projections.* Two years into retirement, I am now getting comfortable that we can survive and live what we envision as our retirement lifestyle.

JohnP
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-05-2005, 09:55 AM   #18
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Re: Tracking your money

Being a PT, I pretty much operate on cash withdrawn from ATMs on my US checking account.

I use Quicken to track cash; it only takes about five minutes each day. Then, every three or four days I count my cash on hand and make a recconciliation.

Interestingly enough, pre ER I detested "tracking spending." Now it's just part of my daily routine and really does not consume that much time.

Trips to the beach are easy-all expenses are charged to "Recreation."

Lance
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Re: Tracking your money
Old 08-05-2005, 10:15 AM   #19
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Re: Tracking your money

MS Money has worked wonders for me for tax purposes. Print the annual report and fax it to my accountant ... taxes DONE. Since I track spending in the same buckets as the schedule E.

Also like to determine underperformers in the rental portfolio .... but budgeting is not my game. Haven't budgeted ever. Frivoulous spending is easy to identify without a budget.
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