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.

Budgeting: Mint.com

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 Mint.com 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
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