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Thread: Tracking my spending

  1. #11
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    I started out with paper and pencil in little notebooks. I'd do daily pages of expenses and then tally it up weekly by hand to see what I see what I spent. With the emergence of the computer I graduated to an Excel sheet I created myself, like Herbgeek's, and I set up formulas to calculate totals for the month as well as a formula delta between budgeted and actual. I did that for several years.

    Then I got into Dave Ramsey and used his tracking system for a short time, but found it cumbersome, so I followed tips from other Ramsey fans and emigrated to YNAB, which is what I do now. Unfortunately they went from an offline version of the software to a web-based version which I don't like as much, because I like knowing if there's an internet outage I can still access it, and also because it's now a yearly subscription instead of a one-time cost. But it's quite user-friendly, once you learn the basic set-up. And I love the reports I can generate.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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  2. #12
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    I used to track and did it with a pocket notebook and keeping ALL receipts. I then transferred it to Gnucash, so I could check categories and such. (normally transferred it all at the end of the night, before going to bed)

  3. #13
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    I've been tracking for years but no longer use categories, just one monthly grand total. I can't be bothered with spreadsheets, etc., so I use a pen and scratch paper. At the end of each day, I scribble the day's total. At the end of the month, I add it all up. I keep a running monthly average as well and then figure a final average for the year. This might seem too simple, but my spending has gone down every year while my savings have gone way up.

  4. #14
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    One other thing (may be OT, but why track money if I don't feed it into a budget?): When I budget I use a version of the categories laid out in Warren's "All Your Worth": The overall categories are "Must-Have's" "Wants" and "Savings." So in my "Must-Have's" are the basic things: rent, utilities, "basic" food (groceries, essentially), gas, basic home needs, etc. Wants are entertainment, "splurge food" (take-out, for instance), vacation, gifts, etc.

    I like this because it tells me exactly how much fat I could cut if I really want or need to get aggressive about non-spending.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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  5. #15
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Storyteller
    So, do you track your spending? If so, what are your mechanics and thinking behind your strategy?
    We started tracking spending before I left Corporate America five years ago. We wanted to see what kind of income we needed to bring in once mine went away. Job 1 was discovering what we were spending our money on.

    My workflow is pretty much like herbgeek's. I'm using a Mac-only personal-finance app which works very well. But I'm a bit concerned about the app's long-term future (only product of a small developer and updates are long-promised but infrequent), so I'm looking to transfer to Gnucash. I do not have the app hooked into our smartphones or our bank accounts, primarily because I want to categorize things my way without having to massage so much of whatever is uploaded from elsewhere.

    It's worked well for us. Spending money/cash is a little hard to categorize so it balances out. So we try to put categorizable expenses (groceries, eating out, fuel) on a card and just watch the overall amount of cash taken out of the bank. When it seems like we're taking out more than we think we should, we'll revisit that.

    The biggest issue is with some of DW's spending. Not that she spends money! But debit card/CC entries for places at which DW has spent money are just "amounts at certain places". Without a receipt, it's very difficult to categorize properly (for history and budgeting). But DW is an adult not given to being a spendthrift and she brings in most of our income. Some of it is reimbursed by others (she buys groceries for her mother, etc.). So I think she's entitled to spend money without The Spanish Inquisition. That spending adds up to around $200-250 a month, though, so there's a bit of a hole in our finances. That amount doesn't make us or break us, so I don't plan to change anything.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

  6. #16
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    I started keeping track of every penny I spent two years before I retired which helped me see where the money went and how much. I was 46 at the time but was hoping for an early out deal from the state. The early out came about and that was 15 years ago. The savings from expenses of employment (car, gas - 45 miles one way-, upkeep, clothes, office expenses, lunches, buying something for dinner on the way home rather than cooking, etc..) helped tremendously in being able to retire. I still write down every penny I spend mostly out of habit. I use a small notebook and every cent I spend goes into a category. I do not have limits in my categories but am frugal enough to not need any. My husband, conversely, if it is in his hands, he spends it. He has no idea where his money goes but as long as ends continue to meet I guess that is okay.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by catherine View Post
    One other thing (may be OT, but why track money if I don't feed it into a budget?): When I budget I use a version of the categories laid out in Warren's "All Your Worth": The overall categories are "Must-Have's" "Wants" and "Savings." So in my "Must-Have's" are the basic things: rent, utilities, "basic" food (groceries, essentially), gas, basic home needs, etc. Wants are entertainment, "splurge food" (take-out, for instance), vacation, gifts, etc.

    I like this because it tells me exactly how much fat I could cut if I really want or need to get aggressive about non-spending.
    That is such a great book, Catherine!

  8. #18
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tybee View Post
    That is such a great book, Catherine!
    yeah, I really like it! Makes so much sense, and is so informative.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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  9. #19
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    SteveinMN:

    In our house the domain of budgeting, paying bills, and managing finances is mine. We do things on a "common pot basis". Virtually every time there is a transaction there is a receipt, and the expectation is receipts are all turned over to me for analysis and filing. Also, for unreciepted transactions -- like the Salvation Army Kettle, the barber -- the expectation is to make a best effort to let me know promptly.

    BUT, I believe that adults can become uncomfortable and feel overly-controlled if there is a demand that they report everything to the designated manager of the family finances. So to maintain a higher comfort level, I say that I am not "obsessive" about this... I am not trying for 100% accounting for every cent. There can be ATM withdrawals or "cash back" on debit card purchases which aren't necessarily explained. If I ask, it is OK with me if the expenditure is called "walking around" or "jingling" money. In my experience cutting open-ended slack is not a budget-buster. I enjoy the voluntary co-operation of my dear wife, and she can spend a little money on a guilty pleasure when she wants to. I think that's the way I would want it if the roles were reversed. While my records and analysis are not 100% accurate, I am quite certain I have a handle on where more than 98% of the family expenditure is going.

  10. #20
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dado potato View Post
    SteveinMN:

    In our house the domain of budgeting, paying bills, and managing finances is mine. We do things on a "common pot basis". Virtually every time there is a transaction there is a receipt, and the expectation is receipts are all turned over to me for analysis and filing. Also, for unreciepted transactions -- like the Salvation Army Kettle, the barber -- the expectation is to make a best effort to let me know promptly.

    BUT, I believe that adults can become uncomfortable and feel overly-controlled if there is a demand that they report everything to the designated manager of the family finances. So to maintain a higher comfort level, I say that I am not "obsessive" about this... I am not trying for 100% accounting for every cent. There can be ATM withdrawals or "cash back" on debit card purchases which aren't necessarily explained. If I ask, it is OK with me if the expenditure is called "walking around" or "jingling" money. In my experience cutting open-ended slack is not a budget-buster. I enjoy the voluntary co-operation of my dear wife, and she can spend a little money on a guilty pleasure when she wants to. I think that's the way I would want it if the roles were reversed. While my records and analysis are not 100% accurate, I am quite certain I have a handle on where more than 98% of the family expenditure is going.
    The Dave Ramsey budget has a category for "blow money" (having lived through the Studio 54 era, I'm never comfortable with that term) which is an agreed upon sum of money that each person gets with no conditions--they can blow it any way they want. However, there is a lot of room for a person to feel controlled. I know DH felt that way at times when I filled his envelope with his blow money every week, even though I filled up mine with the same amount. It was like giving a kid an allowance. But we did save more money during that time.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
    www.silententry.wordpress.com

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