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Tracking finances
Old 06-18-2006, 03:54 PM   #1
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Tracking finances

Hi all -
I don't currently keep "track" of expenses like many of you do. I pretty much save a certain amount a month, and then spend out of the rest. Sometimes I add more to savings, sometimes I take some out of savings for vacations (seldom for anything else). Sometimes I've taken out for PCS moves, but I'm reimbursed for those expenses, but I wonder sometimes if I'm putting everything back into savings that I've taken out. Somewhere however, I must be taking out a little more than I'm putting in, because if I divide the amount I've saved by the number of months I've been saving, I should be coming out with a number higher per month (because of returns) that I've saved over the years, but I'm not. So, I must be spending a little more somewhere.
When I first started saving, I was very anal about everything. Now, I don't keep so much track, because I feel much more comfortable with how much I've saved. However, I don't want to be too lax.
I use Ameriprise for most of my investments, but there are two things that bug me about the way they do their statements. The statements show total value of accounts one year ago compared to this year. This doesn't show how much I've invested over the year, or how much I've taken out; so basically I don't know what the totals are comparing how much the investments have grown, and how much I've put in (or taken out) during the past year.
What do you use to keep track? Are you using homemade spreadsheets or something like Microsoft Money? I want something easy to use, and don't want to spend a lot of money on something that will take up time and that I won't end up using.
Another thing that bothers me about my current statement is that it's not showing return on the funds! I have to go back and figure it out myself. Will the Money program help me do this?

Thanks
Michelle
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-18-2006, 05:21 PM   #2
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Re: Tracking finances

Hey Michelle,

What I have done for a while is to keep track of our expenses on Excel each Jan, April, July, Oct. I did not want to take the time to do it every month, but wanted some kind of reliable historical record to refer to and the simple way has worked well for me.

I keep track of major catagories that makes it as easy as possible (notice that easy and simple are important to me). I track whatever comes out of my checking account as I pay all bills from that account. The catagories are generally the same (credit card, ins, water, electricity etc) only the amounts vary.

It works for me, hope it works for you also...
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-18-2006, 05:38 PM   #3
 
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Re: Tracking finances

I use Quicken to track expenses. If you input accurate data and categories, it will spit out great reports. But you must be disciplined about inputting data. If you categorize a monthly expense, it will do it for you the next month.

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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-18-2006, 09:29 PM   #4
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Re: Tracking finances

Quicken will track your expenses, your savings, and your investment performance. Of course you have to enter all that data to get a full historical record, or you can just begin from a start date of your choice.

Ameriprise probably doesn't want you to see how much they're getting of what you're putting in, and what expenses/taxes are doing to your performance...

I don't remember what branch of the service you're in-- but when you PCS, are you able to take out a few months' advance pay? This is a good way to pay your savings ahead as well as make sure that the money doesn't trickle through your fingers. Of course it could also reduce TSP contributions, so I guess it has to be used with caution.
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-19-2006, 09:58 AM   #5
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Re: Tracking finances

Virginia,

Here's the key: use Quicken and set things up so that everything is entered for you. That is, use your credit card for all purchases (pay off balance each month of course), and have Quicken download your credit card information every month. Pay all bills via your credit card, too.

You can set up Quicken so that it recognizes that transactions that start with "Chevron" are gasoline purchases, for example.

You can also download your financial investment data to Quicken so that you don't have to enter each dividend manually.

You can get a snapshot of your spending and investment performance at any time. Also, I found that once I started doing this, I found that my true expenses were different from what I had estimated.
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-19-2006, 10:50 AM   #6
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Re: Tracking finances

I think that I may try Quicken. Actually I may go out today and get it. It's time to take better control of things! You're right Nords - I think that the company doesn't want me to see the actual returns. I get 10 page statements, and there's never anything there that's up front with how my investments are doing!

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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-19-2006, 10:52 AM   #7
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Re: Tracking finances

Boy, I want to get on your Christmas list, Indexter! *(See December spike).

I use Quicken to death--if I got paid for the hours I spend in front of it, I'd be FIREd already! *You can even import your transactions instead of manual entry if you want. *

Google Ameriprise's record and how much they've paid for their sins already.

Sarah
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-19-2006, 10:58 AM   #8
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Re: Tracking finances

Well gee, now the question is - should I spring for quicken premier - it's 79.99!
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-19-2006, 11:29 AM   #9
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Re: Tracking finances

Quote:
Originally Posted by virginia
Well gee, now the question is - should I spring for quicken premier - it's 79.99!
Nah-- download the cheapest version and decide if you like it. You can always upgrade later.

The investment performance features are nice to have, but if you hate the interface and the checkbook then spending the extra money will make it even more painful. You might decide that the Basic is enough for what you want to do, and anyway Intuit forces you to upgrade by changing data structures is always adding new features every other year.
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-19-2006, 11:43 AM   #10
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Re: Tracking finances

Check the price at Costco as well, that's where I got mine. Rebate for $20 made it the cheapest option. I went for the deluxe. After rebate, $50.
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-19-2006, 02:33 PM   #11
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Re: Tracking finances

Check on line for software purchases. There are a number of sites that have heavily discounted prices such as the one listed below; Charge the purchase to your credit card and you can usually download the program within a couple of minutes -- although some sites take hours to provide the download link.

http://www.hexxo.com/software_down_list.php

Quicken Premier Home and Business for $24.00 [There's even greater savings on Adobe and Macromedia software.]

There's an online manual and Quicken is very easy to use.

I've used this site a number of times and have never had a problem.

The only other way to get it cheaper is to look at crackz sites,where you can obtain software codes to unlock many demo programs. Be ware, many of these site area source for viruses and many have pop-up windows of hardcore images.

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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-19-2006, 02:42 PM   #12
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Re: Tracking finances

Last year I bought MS Money 2004 Premium edition, new in the box, for $8.95 at Half Price Books. They had Quicken as well, but I was leaving Quicken after more than 15 years and was not in the mood to look at the price but I assume it was the same or close.

It was a year old when I bought it, but I saved a bundle and from what I have read elsewhere most users of either Money or Quicken feel that the yearly upgrades are not worth the money.
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-19-2006, 02:44 PM   #13
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Re: Tracking finances

Quote:
Boy, I want to get on your Christmas list, Indexter! *(See December spike).
You have to get in line behind the propery tax collector.

That spike is partly due to property taxes, and partly due to the change from entering credit card transactions manually (recorded when I paid the bill) to having them downloaded (such that they are entered when the actual charge takes place).
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-19-2006, 03:28 PM   #14
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Re: Tracking finances

Yeah, that makes sense Indexter, but I'm not going to complain about my property taxes any more if that spike is representative of what you pay!* * Yikes!* Something to be said for living in an (unincorporated) county down South.* Whew!
I like the planners in Quicken Deluxe and being able to track investment values by having them downloaded each day.* I wish I didn't look, but I do.* I don't use the budgeting feature, prefer Excel for that.* The downloading of investment value is the reason I went with Deluxe.* I don't download the other stuff, prefer to enter it manually.* And, well, I have (Shhhhhh) dial-up at home.
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-21-2006, 10:49 AM   #15
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Re: Tracking finances

I used Quicken for three years, but finally tired of all the hassle. After a three year hiatus from tracking expenses at all, I started using an excel spreadsheet. For me, this has been a lot simpler. All my financial institutions offer the option to output transactions to a spreadsheet, so it is just as easy as Quicken was.
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-21-2006, 12:25 PM   #16
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Re: Tracking finances

MS Money for me and have been using it over 10 years now. I tried Quicken in the early days but Money was already on a computer I bought so I started using it. I only upgrade about every 3-4 years and will be due to do so next year if I feel like it. 10 years of hard data is pretty valuable but not predictive. My life situation has changed far too many times over the past 10+ years so each year is almost unique. The only things that are somewhat predictive are utilities, taxes and basic house hold spending. The big items are the ones that seem to come out of no where and create the biggest dent in the budget.

I am too lazy to learn a new program so I guess I will stick with Money for a while longer.
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-21-2006, 05:12 PM   #17
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Re: Tracking finances

I developed a multi sheet spreadsheet that integrates varies financial information, banking accounts, current and anticipated 2 year expenses, forcasted budget for 40 years, and forcasted financial growth for 40 years to name a few. I spend about 3 to 5 hours a month maintaining the data.
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-21-2006, 11:35 PM   #18
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Re: Tracking finances

Pen and notebook paper. Quite a technological advance over my previous system using the back of old envelopes.
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-22-2006, 12:00 AM   #19
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Re: Tracking finances

Quote:
Originally Posted by vagabond
I developed a multi sheet spreadsheet that integrates varies financial information, banking accounts, current and anticipated 2 year expenses, forcasted budget for 40 years, and forcasted financial growth for 40 years to name a few.
I read this and I am trying to decide if you are joking. It seems like it almost has to be a joke, but then I can't remember anything in any of your other posts that would indicate that this would be your type of humor.

Is this a joke?

Ha
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Re: Tracking finances
Old 06-22-2006, 04:41 AM   #20
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Re: Tracking finances

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yipee-Ki-O
Pen and notebook paper. Quite a technological advance over my previous system using the back of old envelopes.
Same here, but it's not a notebook yet, just two pieces of paper and a paper clip.
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