January 13, 2011

Progress has begun to be made. Or, progress has begun to have been made… Has made progress begun? I’m too tired to make that make sense.

A couple of nights ago I made some real good progress on creating a spreadsheet in Excel to track my spending. I had everything down in a Word document, so it wasn’t too much effort to transfer that over. I started to add some snazzy colors and borders and shading… then I went ahead and did something that pretty much negated the whole process.

After hearing a friend’s input and (in a nice bit of synchronicity) hearing a mention on NPR’s Marketplace, I started an account on Mint.com. So far I’m fairly impressed. Luckily, the majority of my accounts were actually found by their system. “Majority” because I can’t remember my passwords to all of them…

I wasted a good bit of time mucking around with all the possible ways to view your charts. That seems to be the main point of the site, give you different ways of looking at your money and how you spend it. Oh, that and selling you financial services. But… that’s to be expected from a free, online service. It also seems easier to me to change and set categories for spending than Quicken did, which is a major plus.

There are a couple negatives that pop out to me. First, (and this may be nit-picky) since it’s pulling data directly from my bank, purchases don’t always show up on the same day as they’re actually made. So purchases I made in December are showing up for January. Bigger picture, this isn’t really an issue, but I like the idea of tracking week-to-week how I spend my money. Some purchases (like food from the cafeteria at my job) take several days to show up. If I wanted to track my weekly (or even monthly) food expenditures it might get a little confusing using this service.

Secondly, this gives me a good macro sense of how I spend my money, but I really need that micro picture as well. For example, I’m really bad at remembering (or even caring, really) how much I spend on different items in the grocery store. Normally my thinking goes… “I need bread. I like that bread.” And a purchase is made. I’m thinking the only way I’m going to be able to track that sort of spending is to do it myself.

So the Excel sheet I started isn’t a total wash. Next step is to start converting it over to track items I buy at the grocery store. I figure if I track what I buy, where I buy it, and for how much… I’ll start to a.) remember more easily how much things cost and b.) make smarter purchase decisions.

And hey, how about that? An update less than a week from the previous. Who’da thunk it?

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One Response to January 13, 2011

  1. I use MS Money to keep track of finances and budgeting. I create a budget and have been doing so for years but have yet to have the discipline of following it. HAH. At least with Money I can look back at what i’ve spent and saved and earned and borrowed and get a clear picture through a gazillion types of reports and graphics of how i’ve not followed my budget and wasted money instead. I’ve been using it for 10 years so its neat to see the year over year changes in addition to the monthly variances. It lets me download all my bank statements and investment statements directly into it so that’s useful also. Then i just review the downloaded transactions and classify them according to category. Even that though i have not been as disciplined in. i set a goal to download new data every 2 weeks and review but i’ve not done an import since um…october. oops! it’s really bad to admit b/c until i download and look at stuff in money im not reviewing my transactions and every once in awhile in the process i find an anomaly like a double card charge or something. Good to catch those things immediately and not 6 months later so i really need to be more disciplined.

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