Welcome to Day 2 of Where’s My Money Going? Month! This February 2009, I’m challenging readers (and myself) to track spending manually for 28 days. Don’t worry if you’re late to the party, better late than never.
So I’ve committed to tracking our spending manually this month. There are a lot of good methods for tracking spending and even ruling out automatic methods I still had a lot of options to choose from. I could go as low-tech as a sheet of notebook paper or as high-tech as entering all the information manually into Quicken. I chose the middle road.
Gathering Spending Information
To start, I’ll be getting the information about our spending from two sources. First, I’m saving all receipts and asking my husband to save his, at least for cash purchases. We’ll put them in an envelope on the bookcase by the kitchen. Second, I’ll double-check the transactions with our online banking. I’m committing to put aside 10 or 15 minutes in the evening…easy enough to do during a tv show if one is careful…to record all that day’s data.
I’m going to be tracking spending in two different programs. First, I’ve adapted the free [download#8#nohits] to include a spending log ([download#12#nohits]) at the beginning. The idea is that I can track each purchase and then assign them to categories in the budget I’ve outlined. I’m focusing more on the spending patterns this month than the budget itself, but I still want to have it there to shape things.
If you want to use either spreadsheet but don’t have Microsoft Excel, just get the free Open Office suite.
Over the last year, I’ve had a number of friends (including some who aren’t PF bloggers and don’t read PF blogs) recommend the You Need a Budget (YNAB) program. It has a similar layout to my updated [download#8#nohits], except that when you record purchases in your spending log (register) they automatically show up in your budget as well (you have to create the budget first). I haven’t had much luck with the budgeting parts of Quicken and Mint, so this excited me.
So I’ve decided to do a trial of YNAB Pro and see whether I like it more or less than my spreadsheets (it looks and acts rather like a very pretty spreadsheet, which I like). I think doing them at the same time will prove a good comparison. YNAB Pro has the functionality to import downloaded transactions, but I won’t be using that right now.
I considered the parallels of using YNAB basic, which is essentially an awesome spreadsheet. It’s like my budget spreadsheet on steroids, but good steroids, the kind that make you get over whooping cough. But I think the Pro software is even easier to use and has more options.
I’ll be reviewing YNAB later on this month, along with Quicken, Mint & Quicken Online, Gnu Cash, etc. While getting set up, I was very impressed by the philosophy of YNAB and the in-depth tutorials they offer.
This post was part of Where’s My Money Going? Month. Tomorrow, I’ll post a reader’s story of how his financial tracking and budgeting needs and methods have changed over the last few years.