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Old 02-03-2013, 01:15 PM   #21
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I started from the Quicken categories (we don't use them all), then added a few of my own (well - really mostly subcategories).

Here is a Quicken 2012 list from an article:
Quicken 2012 All-Inclusive Category List - For Dummies
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Old 02-03-2013, 01:34 PM   #22
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Location: Southwest Florida
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Here are the categories I use for budgeting in Quicken:
Auto gasoline
Auto tags & insurance
Auto maintenance
Auto replacement reserve
Mortgage interest
Mortgage Principal
Homeowners' Association fee
House cleaning
Electricity
Propane
Homeowners Insurance
Lawn, Landscaping, Irrigation
Real estate taxes
Residence - general/washing/paint/household items/repairs/maintenance
Household supplies
Pool & Cage
Phone, Cable, Internet
Water
Medigap Ins.
Medical Rx Insurance
Medicare Part B Ins.
Medical/Dental Exp. - other
Entertainment & Travel
Income Tax
Groceries
Gifts
Umbrella Insurance
Cats
Computer/Newspapers/Books/Magazines/Kindle
Charity
Clothing & cleaning
Home Equity Line Interest
Investment Expense
Personal
Postage & Supplies
Sports Equipment, Photography
IPhones
Toiletries
Reserve for contingencies

I've done this for most of my life. I don't hold myself to a budget, but I like to make a financial plan every year and then see how the actual results compare. It not only gives me a sense of what I can afford but also serves as reassurance I'm not spending beyond my limits.

Bruce
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Old 02-03-2013, 02:05 PM   #23
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From Quicken, hence the []:
[Common Electric]
[Common Third Car] (until DS graduates)
[Common Christmas]
[Common Clean House]
[Common Eating Out] (and general entertainment)
[Common Groceries]
[Common Home Improvement] (all the irregular stuff)
[Common House] (the small stuff)
[Common House Escrow]
[Common Landscape]
[Common Medical]
[Common Miscellaneous]
[Common Mortgage Pmt]
[Common Owes Retirement] (budgeted money that is in investment account instead of checking)
[Common Phone and Data]
[Common Pool]
[Common Alarm]
[Common Natural Gas]
[Common HOA]
[Common Tax Liability]
[Common Travel]
[Common Utilities]

Plus a bunch of individual budget categories, including car repairs, car insurance, auto gas, clothes, and savings that are not shared expenses. All of the budget accounts exactly balance out all of the checking and credit card accounts. And "Saved Stocks" categories for everyone that exactly balance out investment accounts.

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Old 02-03-2013, 03:09 PM   #24
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We don't track our expenses, but do an after the fact analysis, to make sure we're on plan (Optimum/Nominal/austerity).
The asterisks are the columns we use to track our extra expenses on our Florida home and the campground. These will fall away, in the next few years, as we sell and retreat to a single home. All other expenses are ongoing.
Food home
Eat out
Rent *
Upkeep *
Hse Taxes *
Hse Ins.*
Phone Internet TV
Utilities *
Cars Ins., Deprec., Gas
Car Lic and Reg
Repair/Replace *
Fun/sin etc.
Medicare and Supp
Dental/Optical/Meds
Nursing Home Ins.
Misc./news/cleaning/personal care

* separate total columns for Fla home and Campground

Our entire planning is a little different, as it's based on net worth and life expectancy. A spend down for the remaining years...
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Old 02-03-2013, 04:59 PM   #25
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If you really want to read about some advanced categorizing check out the YNAB forums.

You Need A Budget

This is a link to a thread on categories:

Show me your cateogories! : YNAB's Four-Rule Methodology

Most of the posts here are some variation of categories by category subject - Housing, auto, food, etc. I do that myself.

However, another way to do it that is intriguing is to categorize by priority of expenses rather than subject. So some have categories like: monthly bills, irregular bills, lumpy expenses, rainy day, etc.

Anyway

my current categories with subcategories, listed after the master category:

Irregular Expenses

Auto - Fuel; Auto Repair|misc; Tolls|Misc; Auto Insurance; Auto Purchase

Food - Groceries & Supplies; Dining Out

Household - HH Repair|Maintenance; HH goods; Computer|Office; HH & Umbrella Insurance; Real Estate Taxes; Cleaning; Mortgage

Home Improvement - Electronics|Decorative; HH Furniture; Major Improvement; Major Appliances

Utilities - Electricity; Natural Gas; Water; Garbage; Phone; Internet and TV

Healthcare - Health & Dental Insurance; Medical & Dental

Personal - Clothing|Personal ME; Clothing|Personal DH; Entertainment, Financial, Fitness; Gifts & Donations; Life Insurance; Vacation|Travel; Cash Miscellaenous

Pets - Pet Food & Supplies; Veterinarian

Children - DS, DD

DH Spending - DH Spending, DH Computer

ME Spending - Me Spending, Me Computer, Me Reserve (set aside to save for future computer)

Reimbursable - Loan or Work expense; Loan - DD; Loan - DS (these are minor amounts if we pick up something for a child who pays us back for it)
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Old 02-03-2013, 05:57 PM   #26
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I started using Easy Envelope Budget Aid APP
https://www.eebacanhelp.com/features.php

It's a cloud based. The free version allows for 20 categories, but you can upgrade to an unlimited number. The free version allows two different smart phone to share one budget. Spending is automatically updated across devices. It seems to be a simple free expense tracker where two work off one budget. I would be interested if others have experience with this app.
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Old 02-03-2013, 07:38 PM   #27
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I don't keep too many categories initially, but when the year is over and I receive some documents I can expand it out to a few more categories.

Because I live in a large co-op apartment complex, I do not know the allocation of my maintenance payments to items such as property taxes (net of property tax rebate) and the co-op's mortgage interest until I receive the 1098 form.

Once I receive my co-op's annual report, I can further divide more of my maintennce payments into additional categories.

But just looking at my general bills, I have the following categories:

Co-op Maintenance
Internet+Telephone (billed together, later split)
Electricity (excluding my share of the co-op's electric and gas expense)
Medical and dental expenses including health insurance
Auto +Home Insurance (excluding my share of the co-op's insurance)
Income Taxes
Car (excluding parking which is part of my maintenance)
Cash expenses (I rarely use the plastic)
Other credit card bills
Other bills, non-credit card
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Old 02-05-2013, 05:27 PM   #28
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I use 3 categories. Credit card, non credit card and off budget. I buy everything I can on the CC and I have a target number that I would like to be below. If I am over for the month I try to make it up the next month. Non credit card is all the normal bills like utility, Internet, trash pickup and the like. Off budget would be a major home repair or renovation, new car, or major medical expense. Basically non credit card does not change much. Credit card I have control over. Off budget gets paid out of savings which will always be there as long as I keep the credit card budget on target. A very simple budget process. I want to save x. I make y. I have z fixed expenses. (Y-(x+z))/12=CC monthly target.
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Old 02-05-2013, 05:43 PM   #29
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I have big categories, and most have sub categories.
Examples of my big categories and sub categories:

Auto (fuel, repair, tolls, parking)
Investment (401k contributions, brokerage account contributions, 529 contributions)
Groceries (don't do sub categories - it's everything from Vons and Costco)
Taxes (all of the payroll tax stuff, property tax)
Insurance (auto, home, medical, dental)

I also have some other smaller categories that I track - right now one example is labeled with my in-laws names. It's all the expenses associated with getting guardianship of them - including travel, court fees, doctor/psychologist fees, etc. In the past when they lived with us part of the year we helped them with groceries, travel, etc... and I wanted to track how much.
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Old 02-05-2013, 06:58 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShortInSeattle
We're using the Mint.com categories which is a pain. We used to customize ours in Quicken, and while we love Mint bending our brains to think about it "Their way" is a challenge. You can make custom subcategories but that's it.
Your persistence should be commended! I tried to use Mint and after a month decided it was a PIA. I'm just too old school or too dumb, one of the two. I have never found a way that was quicker than my paper ledger and pen with about 7 columns. I track about 2-3 times a year just to confirm, not budget.
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Old 02-05-2013, 09:31 PM   #31
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I use 3 categories. Credit card, non credit card and off budget. ...
I've become a fan of simple, too.

A few years back we tracked everything we spent for a couple of years, very carefully, with lots of categories, though with admittedly not the best tools/methodology. What PITA that was. It was not very revealing of anything useful either (i.e there's not much we would change based on the information that was gathered).

Not to drift from the intent of this thread, but I now formally track only two categories on a regular basis. The first is "gross expenses" - which we get from statements from the bank through which all of our expenses ultimately flow (with the exception of several items directly withheld from the paycheck, which are added in at the end of each year). That gives us a good idea of the number we need to target for retirement income (as well as the year to year deviation). The other is "projected retirement income" from a spreadsheet of account balances, assumptions and particulars of our situation. As we approach retirement, I am much more interested in accurately tracking the investment and projected income side, and whether that looks to be sufficient in the big picture, than I am in knowing what we spent on clothes or dog food.

On a day to day basis, we've determined that we are living sufficiently frugally and below our means that we don't need to focus too closely on where, specifically, all the routine expenditures go (or where the leaks are, since there aren't that many). That allows us to keep our eyes on the overall prize. We are careful in our spending - i.e. we buy the things we need or will value, and exercise care in what we pay for them, without being "cheap" or obsessing over it. We obviously know what we spend on taxes, major purchases, out of the ordinary travel or similarly unique expenses. It's just that we no longer see much advantage to tracking all the rest of it, as we exercise due diligence along the way, and that's the best we can do in any event. As long as we keep the big picture in line, the rest more or less falls in place as we go.
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Old 02-06-2013, 05:08 AM   #32
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I have given up keeping track of DW's expenses. She keeps her own checking account and pays insurance and the electric bill and I pay the rest.

My categories are:

Cash - (all $ taken out of atm - I don't break down where the cash is spent)
Condo - (HOA, taxes, insurance, etc - all condo expenses)
Home - (all home maintenance expenses & real estate taxes)
Dining, entertainment,travel - (as one category)
Auto
Utilites
Groceries
Medical
Misc
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Old 02-06-2013, 05:26 AM   #33
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Taxes got left off, but how do you keep track of deductions if you don't know where the money goes? Or if retired no mortgage just standard deduction.

spending.JPG
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Old 02-06-2013, 06:12 AM   #34
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...but how do you keep track of deductions if you don't know where the money goes?

Attachment 15967
After a bit of sleep, I realize I should qualify my post above. We do keep track of charitable deductions (e-folder on pc and paper folder). We know our real-estate taxes for deductions. We know each year's taxes from our returns. If we go on a major trip, we build a budget, track all expenses and know what it cost. Similary, we know our insurance bills and see our regular bills each month, etc. But we no longer systematcially track the entire household budget in detail in one place, except for gross outlays and projected gross income, which we track very closely. Perhaps we'll change our thinking when we get to withdrawal phase and may decide to watch things more closely for a bit to see how spending behaviors change.
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Old 02-06-2013, 06:19 AM   #35
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At tax time I just use my online checking history and my online credit card history to get the amounts for deductions. Both are sortable so it is not a problem for me. My wife used to track everything down to the penny but over the years I have converted her to the dark side. Everything except the little bit of cash we spend is already tracked somewhere. If I want to know what spent on child care I can go to discover card and look it up.

I have recommended tracking every penny to people who ask me for financial advice. It is hard for the average non frugal person to understand what 6 20oz mountain dews a day costs them a month if that don't write it down.
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Old 02-06-2013, 09:17 AM   #36
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I've become a fan of simple, too.

A few years back we tracked everything we spent for a couple of years, very carefully, with lots of categories, ... It was not very revealing of anything useful either (i.e there's not much we would change based on the information that was gathered).
I emph that point - that's my observation also.

For me - No categories.

After the fact, I do track my overall spend amount by just summing the WD from the two accounts that we write checks or WD cash from, and then adjusting for anything reimbursed. I also adjust for money that was just a transfer, versus 'spent' (IRA contributions, etc). That number has been very steady for us, and very simple to do.

If I'm looking for something specific, I can dig for that. And I try to make notes on 'exceptional' expenses as I go, before memory fades (house painted, major remodel, car, appliance replaced, etc).

I have sometimes put some work into breaking down the recurring expenses, but again, no action came from this. So I see I spend $X for internet/phone? $Y for insurance? $Z for property tax? I already look into what I can do to optimize those expenses, the number doesn't really do anything for me. If you are looking for value in all your expenditures, I fail to see what the tracking does. It's already optimized, what is gained? If I had to cut, it would take a life-style change. No thanks - will do that only if/when required.

-ERD50
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Old 02-06-2013, 11:41 AM   #37
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Old 02-06-2013, 12:26 PM   #38
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I have sometimes put some work into breaking down the recurring expenses, but again, no action came from this. So I see I spend $X for internet/phone? $Y for insurance? $Z for property tax? I already look into what I can do to optimize those expenses, the number doesn't really do anything for me. If you are looking for value in all your expenditures, I fail to see what the tracking does. It's already optimized, what is gained? If I had to cut, it would take a life-style change. No thanks - will do that only if/when required.
I tend to be a spender and I've learned that I need to keep a very close eye on spending. When I tracking spending closely (I've done so since 1988) I tend to be more realistic. When I don't track spending closely I tend to budget more pie in the sky (for example, I budget what I would ideally like my food budget to be rather than what it has historically been over time). Through tracking spending I know that I need to either budget more to food or change what I am doing.

Some people do well on other types of keeping tracking. One approach I like for that is people who basically take X% off the top for saving, Y% for committed expenses (mortgage, utilities, etc.) and then whatever is left over is free to spend and for that it really doesn't matter whether you spend it on vacation or reading books or Starbucks, etc.
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Old 02-06-2013, 02:58 PM   #39
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I tend to be a spender and I've learned that I need to keep a very close eye on spending. When I tracking spending closely (I've done so since 1988) I tend to be more realistic. When I don't track spending closely I tend to budget more pie in the sky ...
In that case, it makes sense for you. Each of has to do what works for them. I just honestly don't think it would influence my spending.


Hmmm, DW is reasonably frugal, but her and the kids do seem to pretty regularly run up a pretty good monthly bill at Kohls (clothes, accessories, etc). I know they don't buy expensive stuff, and they shop the sales (seems like everything goes on sale there). I suppose I could tally that bill (would be easy, she pays off the store card by check each month), and if it is a big % of the monthly expense, ask her if all this is really 'value added'.

On second thought, that seems like really, really bad idea! With repercussions! I might tally it up though, just to consider if there is any 'value' to bringing it up - a little birdie is telling me, "No Way!".

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Old 02-07-2013, 04:55 AM   #40
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Every weekend, for the past 4 years, I've downloaded checking & credit card transactions from my bank's website. Copy & paste into an Excel spreadsheet then allocate to one of the categories below:

auto
cell phone
charity/gifts
clothes
electricity
groceries/restaurant
house/yard
insurance
internet/tv/land line
medical
personal
pet
taxes
vacation

I'm not too concerned with a lot of detail in the categories. If I see a major shift in a category I can go back to the downloaded transactions for the detail.
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