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Old 06-07-2017, 10:36 AM   #21
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I don't have a "budget", but I do keep track of every cent I spend.
I just use a spread sheet, divided into spending categories. I enter
everything I spend every day to make sure I don't forget anything.

It's a way to make sure I don't let spending get out of hand, although
I am cheap so that's not likely to ever happen

It's also a way to reassure myself I'm never going to run out of money.
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:42 AM   #22
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I kept track of two years as in recording them two years before I retired to see what kind of expense I have. After retirement, I used the bank statements monthly and record exactly the bank statements. The beginning account subtracts spending should be what the ending balance. This is how I keep track of spending. All on Excel spreadsheet.
Edit to add, all credit card payments are under one category per bank. I don't keep track per category of what I spend under Costco. I use the KISS method.
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:43 AM   #23
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I use monopoly money I have a loose budget. One the 3rd of the month, automatic transfers move money to several sub savings accounts for non-monthly bills including property taxes, travel, car insurance, dental, car maintenance,life insurance etc. The other bills are set to pay automatically and a set amount transfers to a checking account to cover credit card spending.

I put as much spending as possible on credit cards to get free travel. I place monopoly money in an envelope equal to what I have in the credit card account. Every time I spend money, I take out monopoly money out of the envelope. This acts as a place holder. I can see exactly how much I have so I don't overspend. When there's no more monopoly money in the envelope, that's it for the month.

We've done it this way for years and it works great for us. It a nice way to track without accounting for every penny. We just round up or down to $5. Everything goes on a credit card. We only have a small cash amount each month for the barber and farmers market

And then when the other non-monthly bills come up-I transfer the money and bill pay it through my checking account.
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:48 AM   #24
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I'm a numbers person so it comes naturally. I use Excel and enter everything manually because some of the credit card transactions have to be broken into multiple categories (e.g. Costco purchases, which may include groceries as well as home maintenance stuff and items I donate to charity). It also helps me track where I could cut back if I had to- my "core expenses" are pretty low. Finally, I'm seeing the happy results of the downsizing 2 years ago; it cost more than expected after we fixed the old place to sell and made changes to the new place, but utilities are SO much less here.

Last month I took a look at the substantial travel expenses YTD and broke it down further into 2017, 2018 and 2019 (I have a deposit on a cruise I'll likely take in early 2019). I felt better when I saw that $3,000 of it was for future years. Pivot tables are your friend!
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Old 06-07-2017, 11:08 AM   #25
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I've tracked expense for years, I just enjoy doing it. I currently use Numbers for Mac but any spreadsheet like Google Docs or Excel work just as well. Before computers I did this on a yellow pad,

All the automatic payments like utilities, insurances, property tax just get carried over every month. Then I track daily expenses in three major categories - Groceries, Gas and Other. All these "normal" monthly expenses add up to less than DH's pension so there is a line item for Savings (which is my favorite category!)

Non-monthly and lumpy expenses (medical co-pays and deductibles, travel, home repairs, car repairs that are not maintenance, etc) get accounted for after the normal expenses. This way I can compare how we do with the monthly expenses and then overall with total spending.

The explanation makes it sound more complicated than it is, it's really very simple.

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Old 06-07-2017, 11:10 AM   #26
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+1 for customized excel spreadsheet. I have almost 5 years of tracking everything we spend in the records. Got the idea from the good folks on this forum. I'm amazed at how consistent our year to year spending is.
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Old 06-07-2017, 11:20 AM   #27
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We use a Google Sheets spreadsheet broken down by categories we want to track. Our main categories are: Food & Drink, Housing & Utilities, Transportation, Entertainment, Personal (which includes health, clothing, gifts/charity, etc), and Travel.



We try to limit cash purchases as we need to try to enter them daily to not forget them. At the end of the month, we log onto our credit card and bank accounts online and manually copy data into the spreadsheet, rounding the numbers. We also keep the receipts of stores like Costco and some supermarkets when buy multiple categories of items like food and pharmacy to allow us to break those purchase down.
In the totals section, we track total spend obviously but also track Total Core Spend to identify and trend what our base FI number is and Total Spend excluding big one time items (like property taxes or yearly insurance bills) to see how smooth our spend is month to month.

At the end of the year, the totals in each sub-category gets transcribed to a master financial Excel spreadsheet which we use to track and forecast all financials to get the big picture.
Similar to others, this is kind of second nature to me as the nature of my work is track and forecast spend during the lifecycle of a project.

Obviously, tracking spend doesn't have to be this complicated. It can be as simple as tracking cash flow of what's coming in and what's going out. But I think you need to get more detailed if you want to know where you can best make tweaks to your spend. Eg. One interesting idea on another board was breaking out what your spending your food dollars on; how much you're spending on protein, processed foods, fruit and veg, etc.
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Old 06-07-2017, 11:40 AM   #28
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We've been debt free since 1994 and have always LBOM's. No rental properties, etc.

My wife tracks our expenses very closely, but I just do a check once a year after we get our W-2's (which I hope this is our last year for them). I know our gross incomes and subtract out everything on the W-2's that gets taken away. I also know how much we "save" each year and subtract that out. What's left, is what we spent.

"My number" is usually always within $1000 of my wife's and I do tract that from year to year. I know my "method" is pretty simple, but I also know we aren't spendthrifts, so I never fear that we overspend.
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Old 06-07-2017, 11:40 AM   #29
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+1 for MoneyDance.
You can use it as a check book manager, and it has reports that show you how much you have spent in the last month, quarter, year, etc.

It has a budget module that is three times as hard to use as an Excel spreadsheet, but one you've set it up, a budget report is also helpful.

The reports are not customizable (except for date range), but if you are a spreadsheet user, you can export and customize if something doesn't meet your needs. Third party developers have some extensions that are generally available at no/low cost.

Costs less than Quicken, can use it forever without upgrading. When they make an upgrade, prior version users generally can upgrade for free or half the cost. Good support online, and an active user community for questions, comments, help.

- Rita
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Old 06-07-2017, 11:42 AM   #30
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We use a combination of Quicken and an Excel spreadsheet. DW created the spreadsheet, it takes in our income at the top, subtracts out estimated/budgeted spending for the month, and at the bottom is our discretionary spending amount for that month.
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Old 06-07-2017, 11:47 AM   #31
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My current system uses Fidelity Full View to accumulate and categorize transactions, mostly from credit cards. I check it once a week or so and correct categories or split transactions as needed. At month-end, I transfer category totals to an Excel spreadsheet that has many years of history and projections.

In the past, I've used Quicken, Mint, and Personal Capital. Most of our accounts are at Fidelity, so I feel more secure using their account aggregation tool. Personal Capital is very good for investment tracking and analysis, but somewhat lacking for expense tracking.
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Old 06-07-2017, 11:52 AM   #32
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I use Mint to capture the transactions, and then summarize the data on a spreadsheet.
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Old 06-07-2017, 12:52 PM   #33
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Abandoned Quicken over a decade ago. Too many bugs, too many changes version to version, and just not worth the amount of time it required to make useful to us.

We find Mint difficult to beat for its cost and simplicity for tracking spending. Works well with DW and I having the app on our phones to quickly see if we are running out of month or running out of money. Only have a handful of recurring costs that are setup as recurring or once/twice per year larger payments. Most of our monthly expenses are automatically imported & categorized and fall into the "Everything Else" bucket in Mint's budgeting tool; it is nice to be able to get reports with more categorization detail when needed.
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Old 06-07-2017, 01:13 PM   #34
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ok my way is not fancy, its a close guesstimate. I know how much my pension is every month, this is my only income it gets direct deposited into my checkbook. heres how it worked, for example. balance on January 1 $10,000 plus pension $90,000 equals $100,000. Balance on december 31 was $45000. This means i spent 55K. then i flipped thru the checkbook and look for large withdrawals. They pop out. House tax 6k, car ins 2k, utilities 7k, house ins 3k. cable phone internet 2k. bride uses credit card for many things they gave a year end spending summary 12 k. i get 200 a week cash for take out resturant etc, thats 10k a year. then the rest was charity and gifts. i wanted a ballpark #, i didnt retire to look at my net worth daily, or worry about going over the food budget by a few bucks. if you need to keep track of the very penny then u need one of these other systems.
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Old 06-07-2017, 01:14 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Car-Guy View Post
When I tracked spending, I just used an Excel spreadsheet. Haven't tracked spending since well before I retired. I don't even track (balance) my checkbooks anymore. I'll glance at my accounts on-line about once a month to look for erroneous charges but that's about it.

I track my annual NW but that's about as much detailed as I care about.
I like to look at my velocity of networth...see how fast it's been climbing in my accumulation phase. Took a steep ride up past few years of my IT career.

As for budget...Google Sheets, 3 columns: Last Year, Current Year, Savings Potential

Then I look at each line item of budget compared to last to control costs and plan for future costs.

Here are my line items - recently added child birth

Food
Mortgage - 1st
HomeInsurance
PropTaxes
TruckPayment 15th
CarPayment 15thGas/Elec 15th
Util3mosTrash
Comcast Internet 15th
CarInsurance
CarRegistration
Gas for Vehicles
Haircuts
Netflix
AmazonPrime
CostCoMbrship
Cellphone 15th
VehicleMaintenance
CostCo/WalMart/Target
Clothes/DryClean
KidFormula
Diapers
DayCare
DentalCosts
MedicalCosts
MedicalChildBirth
Gifts
Travel
Fees
CASH
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FIRE in 2031 @ 50yrs old (+/- 2yrs) w/ a hypothetical $2.5mil portfolio, 3 appreciated homes worth $1.0mil and rental income to fund my gap years until RMD. Assets will go to an inherited IRA where I plan on watching the investments grow until I die or the trust gets executed.
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Old 06-07-2017, 01:31 PM   #36
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One way I simplify tracking is to not itemize cash purchases. When I get cash from an ATM I just list it as "Cash." Where that money goes is irrelevant. It's normally less than 5% of annual spending so not significant.

Unlike many here, I make most small purchases with cash, and so does DW. Being an old fart, I just can't bring myself to use plastic for anything under about $20.

Also, nearly all restaurant meals are paid for with cash because every time my credit card has been cloned for fraudulent purchases it was shortly after using it in a restaurant (usually far from home). So I made it a practice to never again let the card out of my sight and I haven't had a fraud instance since I started doing that (several years now).

Of course that means I have to carry enough cash for a restaurant meal, but I get good piece of mind from knowing I'll avoid the chance of fraud and the hassle of replacing the card.
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Old 06-07-2017, 02:39 PM   #37
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I use Google Docs. I have only three categories: Income Taxes, Capital (loosely, long-lived assets that cost more than $5K), and everything else. I don't budget. It takes me 30 seconds to make the entries every month.
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Old 06-07-2017, 02:53 PM   #38
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Been using Mint since 2011 and am on it almost daily. Takes about 30 seconds to see that nothing is amiss in my financial life. As a benefit, helps me keep an eye on DW and kids spending. Sometimes I know they've spent money before they do. LOL
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Old 06-07-2017, 02:56 PM   #39
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Having a set amount of uncategorized cash is good way to simplify. We'll do that for certain travel situations.

In Vancouver, pretty much all the restaurants nowadays, that take cc's, have portable cc machines which they bring to you to enter you pin.
I've only had one cc compromised (knock on wood) and it was a work cc during a biz trip. I only used it four times during that trip: 1 big chain hotel, 2 chain restaurants, and 1 taxi.
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Old 06-07-2017, 03:20 PM   #40
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Quicken here.

I found it easy to hook my checking account and credit card accounts to it. Now I only have one checking and two credit cards all from the same bank. This made tracking spending easy!

When it came down to it, I really did not have to track most of my spending. Discretionary spending was far more important. I pretty much knew the bigees. Mortgage, food, fuel, auto, heat, etc. and while they may go up, they are not show stoppers, nor is there much I can or would do about them. On the other hand, how much I spent on things like hobby, beer, boats, planes, night outs, Amazon!, small stuff mostly. What happens to the change from a $20 bill. There I was somewhat clueless.

We went to a no cash basis. Everything by check or credit card! I even charged a seventy-five cent drink one time. Once we did this, it became real easy to see where the money went.

I still download to Quicken, but it is more habit than necessity.
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