Money To Live

October 25, 2011

Four ways I track our finances

Filed under: budgeting,goals,net worth,savings — by moneytolive @ 1:36 am

Cash flow: MS Money

MS Money essentially provides an electronic checkbook register. Though Microsoft has stopped releasing new editions of money, the Sunset Edition still works fine. I plan to keep using it until either my banks stop exporting files in a compatible format or the Windows operating system gets too fancy to open the program.

I use the register to plan out our finances for the next several months. Right now, our major transactions are entered through the end of 2011: paychecks, mortgage payment, typical bills and expenses. A few times a year, I plan out our income/expenses for 3-6 months. On a weekly basis, I download all bank transactions, reconcile the accounts, and look ahead at the next few weeks in detail.

Net worth/ goal tracking: Excel

Once a month, I review all of our accounts and update a spreadsheet to track our net worth and goals. The results are aggregated and compared against the past. I print out two summary pages to show R. Sometimes he looks at them; sometimes he asks for a thumbs up/down summary.

Mortgage payments: Excel

While the mortgage is part of my monthly review of our finances, I track it in a separate Excel spreadsheet. This way, I can play with making extra payments to see how the payoff date changes.


For a long time, I did not tracking our spending by category. In part, this was due to laziness, and in part, I didn’t want to know. I don’t need it verified that I spend $150-$200 per month at coffee shops. Seattle is the home of Starbucks, you know.

Since we’ve done a lot around the house, I flag all home-related purchases in MS Money. We saved up and have money set aside in a savings account for these expenses. That’s ok for tracking one category but tedious for tracking a lot of categories. While Money does have some built-in categorization features, they’re not smart enough to easily categorize my transactions.

I decided to try for reviewing spending by category. So far, it’s great and meets my specifications:

  • Aggregate credit card and bank info
  • Intelligent categorization
  • Easy to use, useful reports
  • Not a time suck

October 20, 2011

Am I keeping a secret from my husband?

Filed under: budgeting,family finances — by moneytolive @ 1:24 am

Disclaimer: Financial secrets are generally very bad. Especially if they involved credit cards, separate bank accounts, or fraud.

I keep track of nearly all aspects of our finances – goal tracking, retirement planning, bill paying, day-to-day budgeting. I work out our cash flow several months in advance, so I always know what’s coming.

Financially, things aren’t looking good for the next few months. My income is way down (baby due in late October), and our expenses are way up (baby due in late October). We have enough money to pay for everything, but it’s eating through our day-to-day cash buffer.*

Should I tell R about it? So far, I haven’t.

It’s temporary. Though my income is down, I am doing some freelance work that will replenish our cash buffer (and a little more), but I don’t know when I’ll receive the money.

There’s still money in the bank. We’re not going to overdraw the checking account; we’re not going to have any credit card debt.

I don’t want to worry his pretty little head. I’ve found that if I make an off-hand comment about running out of money, R interprets the situation as much worse than it really is. When I made a comment about spending all of our money on renovations, I meant that we spent all that we had budgeted, while he thought I meant that we spent *all* of our money. I was glad when we resolved that miscommunication!

I’m planning a more important conversation in a few months. Kids are expensive, and they change the family budget. While I have read all about budgets and kids, there’s still a lot of uncertainty with how a kid will affect our budget. My workload is flexible, and I have not decided how much to work, which affects how much we pay in childcare. Within the next few months, we will sit down for a conversation about how the baby is affecting our budget and goals. I care more about that conversation than our current cash flow. I don’t need his input for managing our current cash flow; I need his input as we juggle our goals and budget.

So, should I tell him about our bank account balance?

If R reads this, I guess he’ll find out.


*This cash buffer is separate from our emergency fund.

October 17, 2011

Financial planning – should you count on a raise?

Filed under: career,earn more — by moneytolive @ 3:00 pm

I’ve had two jobs with amazing raise/promotion potential. At one, I was told, "You’ll be making five times your current salary in 3 years." Three months later the company imploded. At the other, I was told, "You’ll get a $20k raise each year." Less than 6 months later, there were layoffs.

I’m skeptical about promised raises.

Several months ago my husband came home with information about his possible raises in fall 2011. His manager said he’d most likely be in a certain band, so we had a good idea of what type of raise/bonus he’d get. Should the projections be factored into future financial plans?

I did factor the raise and bonus into our finances, and what do you know … the bonus was cut in half. His manager’s prediction was right on target, but the bonus was reduced because R had only been on the job for half the year. The raise was exactly as predicted. I reread the raise/bonus information sheet, and sure enough, in tiny print at the end there was a statement that compensation increases may be prorated.

While R was a little disappointed by the smaller bonus, I was mostly amused. Once again, predictions of bonuses and raises do not pan out.

October 16, 2011

Why no posts for so long?

Filed under: babies,family finances,insurance — by moneytolive @ 12:33 am

It’s been a crazy year. While I thought about the blog regularly and drafted a few posts, it had to take a back seat.

As my (financial) life has changed, so will the focus of this blog. A lot more emphasis on family finances because that’s where I’m at now. Over the past year, R and I have sorted out our joint finances, and while I’d like to say we’ve gotten better at talking about money, I’m not sure that’s true. I’ve learned all about home remodeling on a budget, health and car insurance, and how expensive babies are (a little one is due in two weeks).

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