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User Topic: Personal finances/budget question
Amazonia
♀ Member
Member # 32810
Question  Posted: 6:15 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

Background: I have never been good with budgets. My philosophy with money is "spend less than I have" and I generally have a good idea of roughly how much is in my bank accounts, on my credit card, etc. I don't carry a balance, pay off my card in full every month, and have no debt aside from school loans (which I'm paying down at slightly above the required rate, because the interest is quite low).

I shuck away a few or several hundred dollars into savings each month and call it good; but at the same time, I constantly feel panicky when thinking about the future, I don't let myself spend on things like vacation (which I could probably afford if I would budget/save for it specifically), and I have no investments beyond my 401K (15% of my income goes there pre-tax, so I'll probably be able to retire someday...I think?)

Problem: While I'm not in debt and am building savings, I don't budget. I don't know (or limit) how much I spend on meals out, clothes, online shopping, etc. The only thing that keeps me from overspending is feeling guilty whenever I spend money on anything. Several times I have sat down and drawn up a budget based on my income and savings goals, and then...never looked at it again.

Bottom line: Currently, I'm finding that the hassle of actually keeping track of where I spend outweighs my desire to know where my money is going. I want to feel more in control, but need to find a sustainable way to keep track, instead of starting strong, getting overwhelmed, and then giving up. So I'm curious what works for others.


My Question for YOU (and the tl;dr version): For those who do use a budget, how/when/how frequently do you track your expenses?

Do you keep your receipts? Write it all down? Use the Dave Ramsey envelop method but not keep track? Enter into a spreadsheet at the end of every day/week/month? Use Mint to pull the info directly from your credit card/bank statements?


Clarification: I'm more curious about the actual act of recording your finances, not the "how to save money" aspect of budgeting, if that makes sense.

[This message edited by Amazonia at 6:22 PM, November 14th (Thursday)]


"You yourself deserve your love and affection as much as anybody in the universe." -Buddha
"Let's face it, life is a crap shoot." -Sad in AZ

Posts: 13181 | Registered: Jul 2011
GabyBaby
♀ Member
Member # 26928
Default  Posted: 6:27 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

You're in my personal Happy Place, lol.

I use an excel spreadsheet to track expenses for each pay period. (If you PM your email address, I can send you a blank copy).

I update at least once a week, but if I'm honest, I look at it nearly daily because it is faster to do it that way than to try to remember what I spent earlier in the week.
When used with online banking, it makes it VERY easy to track spending and budget for larger upcoming expenses.

EDITED TO CLARIFY:
On the spreadsheet, the columns across the top show pay periods.
Each row then lists individual credit cards, bills, etc.
My spreadsheet spans a two to three year period where I try to budget and anticipate expenses (vacations, car registrations, back to school shopping, etc) so that I can start socking away money rather than react by using credit cards.

[This message edited by GabyBaby at 6:30 PM, November 14th (Thursday)]


Me - 41
My Rockstar (Hubs #2) - 46, faithful, & an absolute doll!
DD(20) and DS(18, PDD-NOS)
6 Furkids (4 Dogs and 2 Cats)

The Cheater:
WXH (serial cheater, 12+ OW. Undiagnosed SA?)
Married 18yrs

Note: I edit often for typos/clarity.


Posts: 5492 | Registered: Dec 2009 | From: United States
I think I can
♀ Member
Member # 17756
Default  Posted: 6:53 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

Start using quicken. You can download all your transactions straight to the program, and categorize than as clothes, eating out etc. then you can just pull up a record of how much you spent on each category last month, last year etc etc.


I'm not the winner, I'm the prize.

Posts: 8714 | Registered: Jan 2008
Nature_Girl
♀ Member
Member # 32554
Default  Posted: 6:57 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

Girl, get yourself Quicken! It's awesome!

Now, it does take time once you install it to set up your bank account info. You also need to have your online banking info handy. Input that info & password and BINGO! Quicken will download your data from the bank. You don't even have to manually enter it. It updates all the accounts, the credit card, the very few stocks/investment accounts I still have (which will soon disappear in the QDRO). There are reports that the program automatically generates for you to give you an idea of where your money is going.

Download it! It's easy!


Me = BS (Stay-at-home-mom)
Him = EX-d out (abusive troglodyte NPD SA)
3 elementary school-aged kids
Together 20 years
D-Day: Memorial Weekend 2011
2013 - I DIVORCED HIM, I'M FREE!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBOJpIwF47Y

Posts: 8725 | Registered: Jun 2011 | From: USA
embee
♀ Member
Member # 41100
Default  Posted: 7:10 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

I am a HUGE!!!! fan of the appropriately named You Need a Budget. http://www.youneedabudget.com

You can try it free for a month to see how you like it. It's basically an envelope budgeting system on steroids. Because of how the program works, your money can sit wherever you prefer, any account that's convenient, rather than having to physically put it in envelopes - or have a million different accounts for budgeting purposes. EVERYTHING you want - checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards - are part of your budgeting. The biggest thing it's accomplished for me is that its setup HIGHLY discourages overspending on credit cards. When you track a transaction on a credit card, it still subtracts from your overall budget, which is based on the money you actually have. That was like a revelation to me, lol!

There is a mobile app you can use to track your transactions while you're out and about, but the full-featured desktop version is really fantastic. The problem - at least for me - with stuff like Mint, Quicken, etc. is that the focus is really on tracking spending vs. actually budgeting. YNAB does both, and really well.

The biggest stumbling block for a lot of people is that you are meant to enter your transactions manually. You can do it on the fly, or save receipts for later. There are options to import transactions from statements, but the method really works best when you are intimately aware of your spending, which I know from experience does not happen when everything's automated. All the same, you can pretty much adjust how it works to meet your needs. I suggest checking out the "rules" on their website to see if the philosophy appeals to you, because if it does, you'll love the actual program.


Me: BS, 26
Him: WH, 28
D-Day: 10/23/13
Separated

"Are you hurting the one you love?
You said you got to heaven, but it wasn't enough."


Posts: 57 | Registered: Oct 2013
BeyondBreaking
♀ Member
Member # 38020
Default  Posted: 7:32 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

Do you use a debit card?

A really EASY way to track your spending is to go through your monthly statement when it comes in the mail. I use a highlighter pen: pink for food/grocery, green for bills, yellow for daughter expenses like daycare, etc..., orange for gas, and blue for personal things (clothes, games, whatever). The problem with using the computer is that I will download an app or make a profile on a website...and never go there again. Doing it on paper is super easy for me, and takes no time at all

Once you have a handle on how much you spend on average, you can try to make a budget that is reasonable and you will notice patterns that will help you cut costs if/when you ever need to.


I have been cheated on by 3 different men, and I have more DDays than anyone ever should. I am here, just trying to pickup the pieces.

At least the current man "only" cyber-cheated.

"Love means never having to say you're sorry."


Posts: 809 | Registered: Jan 2013
Issaquah
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Member # 34484
Default  Posted: 7:47 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

I love using mint to track my spending. You can google the website. It's internet based, you link it to your accounts and it tracks your spending for you. There is some effort in setting it up - linking your accounts and creating budgets (spending categories), but once that is done it will track your spending in different categories - like utilities, rent, groceries, eating out, coffee shops, shopping, insurance,etc. It guesses what transactions are and puts them in categories. Like it knows Kroger or Safeway is "grocery", Starbucks is coffee shop, Target is shopping etc. If it doesn't know what category to place it in you can do it manually and then have it "remember" that vendor. I believe you can also split transactions into different categories. You can also create savings goals as well. It has been very eye opening for me to see where I overspend (eating out and groceries). It's free (which means you do get some annoying ads) and I also have an app for it on my iPhone where I can see how much I've spent - before I walk into Starbucks

I have also heard of mvelops as an alternative to mint, you could check that out as well.


BS - Me, 41 SAHM back in grad school
WS - Husband, 43 SA dx in March 2013
T-20, M-18 college sweethearts
Multiple DDays since 1999 - OW's all the way back to engagement
Most recent DDay 8-12,false R 1/13
DD-11, DS 13 with ASD

Posts: 776 | Registered: Jan 2012 | From: Virginia
Amazonia
♀ Member
Member # 32810
Default  Posted: 7:53 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

HIGHLY discourages overspending on credit cards. When you track a transaction on a credit card, it still subtracts from your overall budget, which is based on the money you actually have

This is already how I mentally function.

Do you use a debit card?

I have one, but I don't use it. When I'm in the US 99% of my spending goes on my credit card. I get really good rewards (and have an excellent credit rating) but I treat it like a debit card - it's paid in full the same day the bill comes each month.

EASY way to track your spending is to go through your monthly statement when it comes in the mail. I use a highlighter pen

I do go over my bill each month and verify my spending, because often enough I find things that were charged wrong that I do double check it. I don't print anything out though; everything is electronic.

I'm moving to a cash economy country in a few weeks, so this will no longer be an option for a few years. Unfortunately neither will an auto import into Quicken (thank you to those who recommended it!) or another software, since there'll be no record anywhere unless I keep it.

I also have an app for it on my iPhone

I will still have a smartphone, so this is something to consider... an app... hmm...


"You yourself deserve your love and affection as much as anybody in the universe." -Buddha
"Let's face it, life is a crap shoot." -Sad in AZ

Posts: 13181 | Registered: Jul 2011
Issaquah
♀ Member
Member # 34484
Default  Posted: 8:03 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

Since you're going mostly cash I think there is another program called the Birdy where you text yourself (or it??) what you spent that day, it categorizes it using hash tags(or some type of coding) and I believe it emails it to you??? I've never used it but did read about it 6 months ago when I was looking into budget support programs.

If it's what I remember, it might work for you.


BS - Me, 41 SAHM back in grad school
WS - Husband, 43 SA dx in March 2013
T-20, M-18 college sweethearts
Multiple DDays since 1999 - OW's all the way back to engagement
Most recent DDay 8-12,false R 1/13
DD-11, DS 13 with ASD

Posts: 776 | Registered: Jan 2012 | From: Virginia
phmh
♀ Member
Member # 34146
Default  Posted: 8:12 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

Why do you want to budget? Just because you feel you should? Because you are curious about where you spend your money? Some other reason?

I use mint, and while I have set up budgets in the system, I don't really follow them at all.

You say you've set up budgets in the past and not used them -- why was that? (I'd hate to have you spend a lot of time setting them up again just to have them still unused!)

My financial situation sounds similar to yours -- I buy what I want, but since I am very low maintenance, I don't want that much, it doesn't cause me problems. I pay my credit cards in full every month.

One thing I do like about mint is being able to see trends over time -- net worth, monthly spend on groceries, cash balance, etc. You can enter cash transactions in (though of course have to remember to do it!) and all linked account transactions import automatically. Quicken is probably similar.


Me: BW, divorced, now fabulous and happy!

Married: 11 years, no kids

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. -Michelangelo


Posts: 3093 | Registered: Dec 2011
Amazonia
♀ Member
Member # 32810
Default  Posted: 8:22 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

Why do you want to budget?

To feel in control of my finances. I stress about money a LOT and deal with a ton of guilt when spending money. I mean, I can walk out of the grocery store with basic groceries (eggs, bread, some ham, a few bananas, etc., maybe $15 for 2 weeks worth of lunches) and feel guilty about it all the way home. I was brought up in an extremely frugal home, and now live with this underlying sense that Spending Money is Wrong. I want to get out of that mindset and spend (and save!) responsibly. By choice, not guilt.

You say you've set up budgets in the past and not used them -- why was that? (I'd hate to have you spend a lot of time setting them up again just to have them still unused!)

I'd hate it too. That's why I'm here instead of making another spreadsheet.

I get caught at the part where I am supposed to collect receipts everywhere I go, bring them home, sit down, organize them and type numbers into a spreadsheet. I hate receipts. I never take them. I throw them away. They clutter my purse. I never record how much I tipped. Etc.


"You yourself deserve your love and affection as much as anybody in the universe." -Buddha
"Let's face it, life is a crap shoot." -Sad in AZ

Posts: 13181 | Registered: Jul 2011
Nature_Girl
♀ Member
Member # 32554
Default  Posted: 8:52 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

I get caught at the part where I am supposed to collect receipts everywhere I go, bring them home, sit down, organize them and type numbers into a spreadsheet. I hate receipts. I never take them. I throw them away. They clutter my purse. I never record how much I tipped. Etc.

I'm the same way. They are nothing but paper clutter.


Me = BS (Stay-at-home-mom)
Him = EX-d out (abusive troglodyte NPD SA)
3 elementary school-aged kids
Together 20 years
D-Day: Memorial Weekend 2011
2013 - I DIVORCED HIM, I'M FREE!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBOJpIwF47Y

Posts: 8725 | Registered: Jun 2011 | From: USA
scaredyKat
♀ Member
Member # 25560
Default  Posted: 9:40 PM, November 14th (Thursday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

I like Mint.com and there is an app...but it's quirky, takes some setup. And I transfer the spending from it into a self made spreadsheet I made on my computer...


Me-BS-59
HIM-SAFWH-63
Damn autocorrect is responsible for the silly errors, sorry!

Posts: 2895 | Registered: Sep 2009 | From: In my head
ISPIFFD
♀ Member
Member # 26367
Default  Posted: 3:35 PM, November 15th (Friday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

When I'm in the US 99% of my spending goes on my credit card. I get really good rewards (and have an excellent credit rating) but I treat it like a debit card - it's paid in full the same day the bill comes each month.

So since you're already using mostly cc for spending, setting up mint.com would be pretty simple. Everything from your cc, your bank, and any other financial institution (investment, target.com red card, paypal, really anything online) can be set up to flow into mint. Then you just open mint up whenever you feel like it, set up one budget initially and keep tweaking it as more transactions come in.

The picture you get keeps getting clearer and clearer as more data comes in. In case you couldn't guess, I'm a huge mint fan (it has occasional problems, but really, for a free product, it's pretty darn spiff). I set up budgets all the time when I realize there's something I spend on every X months but forget about (home insurance, Sam's club membership, getting my snow tires put on/taken off, etc). You don't have to touch a pencil to paper at all, and all the entries happen sort of automatically, although you can move them from one category to another if you want. Sometimes mint guesses that my $50 charge at Target might be for groceries but I know that it was all cat food and litter for example.

Anyway, I always wanted to set up a budget for myself but never stuck with it until I found this program that makes it so easy even I can't not keep up with it

[This message edited by ISPIFFD at 3:36 PM, November 15th (Friday)]


Me: BW (54)
Him: WH (61)
7/14/11 - Divorced

Posts: 1724 | Registered: Nov 2009 | From: another world
lieshurt
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Member # 14003
Default  Posted: 3:45 PM, November 15th (Friday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

I can walk out of the grocery store with basic groceries (eggs, bread, some ham, a few bananas, etc., maybe $15 for 2 weeks worth of lunches) and feel guilty about it all the way home.

I don't believe a budget is going to resolve your problem because you already have control over your finances and spending. You have been taught to feel guilty, so budget or not, you will still feel guilty no matter what. Since you are already frugal and financially responsible, I believe it would just be a waste of your time trying to document expenses. Instead, I would focus on trying to eliminate that guilty feeling that you feel when you spend money. Feeling guilty for purchasing basic foods items just isn't emotionally healthy and from what I've seen, that guilt only gets worse as people age.


Posts: 13352 | Registered: Mar 2007 | From: Houston
phmh
♀ Member
Member # 34146
Default  Posted: 6:33 PM, November 15th (Friday), 2013View ProfileEdit MessagePrivate MessageHomepage

lieshurt has a point.

Ama, maybe you need to redefine the budget -- I must spend at least $x on food or $y on clothes every month, as opposed to it being your limit. Maybe it becomes your floor?

I hear you -- I grew up extremely poor and always promised myself that I wouldn't be as an adult, yet some of those guilty feelings accompany me when I want to make a purchase. Probably because I also scrimped and saved so much the first 10 or so years out of school so I could adequately fund retirement and pay for XWH's medical school.

I don't feel guilt anymore, but perhaps sometimes a perverse pleasure out of self-denial? (I am blaming my German heritage and Catholic upbringing!) Every time I bike to work I think "That's $2 I'm not paying for parking!" Ridiculous.

I'm sure you'll figure out something that works for you.


Me: BW, divorced, now fabulous and happy!

Married: 11 years, no kids

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. -Michelangelo


Posts: 3093 | Registered: Dec 2011
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