I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

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Gambler
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I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Gambler » Sat Jul 04, 2015 12:46 pm

so on paper, I estimate I will spend $2300/month in 2015. (mortgage, real estate taxes, home/car/umbrella insurance, utils, gas for car, entertainment, etc.)
incase I forgot some small items, I added 10% so I gave myself $2500/month, which is $30k/yr.

on jan 1, I wrote down how much $ I have in my bank accounts.
accounting for my take home pay, I spent ~18k from jan1 to June 30. that's $3k/month.

so I'm spending $500/month more and I cant figure out where.

My bank's billpay keeps track of how much I paid to my mortgage company, utils (gas/electric/water), insurance, and real estate taxes.
and it's within $25/month of my estimates.

95% of the rest of my spending is on credit card.
I don't want to go through line by line of my credit card for the past 6 months.

Is there an easier way?
or an easier way for the next 6 months?
"Always be thankful for what you have no matter how much or how little" -EternalOptimist

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LAlearning
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by LAlearning » Sat Jul 04, 2015 12:52 pm

Mint.
I know nothing!

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Phineas J. Whoopee
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Phineas J. Whoopee » Sat Jul 04, 2015 12:57 pm

It's low-tech, old-fashioned, and ruthless.

Go to cash and use the envelope system.

Once you've brought your spending under the control of your own will, you can branch out to earn a little interest.

I don't suppose that's an answer you were hoping for.

It will work anyway.

And no, Dave Ramsey didn't invent it.

PJW

stan1
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by stan1 » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:01 pm

Mint or Quicken will help with the data capture so you don't need to enter everything yourself -- but you may still need to spend some time making sure everything is categorized correctly. Your credit card issuer may also have some analysis tools built into their website to show you where money is being spent. Little things like a $2 coffee every morning and a $5 lunch every day add up quickly (just those two are $7/day times 250 work days per year = $1750).

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by stlutz » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:03 pm

Before I read the full OP, I was thinking, "Put it all on the credit card so you can easily go through it line by line." :happy

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Grogs » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:09 pm

Big picture, I think the answer is that you will have to go through the CC statements if that's where the overflow is happening. It's just a matter of how hard that will be. I can export a .csv from both my checking and primary credit card, and paste them into Excel. When I was generating my budget, I took a year's worth of transactions, sorted them by the payee, and then used that to decide what categories to use. Once you've done that, you can hopefully see where your excess is.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by retiredjg » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:09 pm

It seems it can only be in three places.
  • -unexpected spending (you'd probably remember this)

    -frittering it away on credit cards

    -frittering it away with cash
Somewhere, you have underestimated what you spend on ____ and ___ and maybe ____. I don't think there is an easier way than line by line.

The usual suspects would be Starbucks/clones, eating out, snacks, alcohol, and the "stop at the grocery for milk" items. Maybe you could pay attention to just those things (or whatever you consider the most likely suspect to be) for a month or two.

ft2010
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by ft2010 » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:20 pm

Grogs wrote:Big picture, I think the answer is that you will have to go through the CC statements if that's where the overflow is happening. It's just a matter of how hard that will be. I can export a .csv from both my checking and primary credit card, and paste them into Excel. When I was generating my budget, I took a year's worth of transactions, sorted them by the payee, and then used that to decide what categories to use. Once you've done that, you can hopefully see where your excess is.
+1. Check online features from CC. Amex has online tools to analyze spending include summary on "Year-to-Date". Many CC companies have at least a download feature to export CC transactions to various e-format files -- you then can analyze those data, if not for the entire year-to-date then at least last 3 month to identify some pattern. Also check ATM/cash withdraws from your bank -- it maybe small amount each time but cumulatively significant over time.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by matonplayer » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:24 pm

LAlearning wrote:Mint.
+1.

MN Finance
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by MN Finance » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:39 pm

I just started with mint. Works well. Quicken I'm sure is also good. Since it links to your bank account it will track everything. If you try using a cc, it will be impossible to track everything.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by livesoft » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:42 pm

Gambler wrote:95% of the rest of my spending is on credit card.
I don't want to go through line by line of my credit card for the past 6 months.

Is there an easier way?
or an easier way for the next 6 months?
My credit card companies have a year-end statement available online with all the charges divided up into categories for one to see. I don't have a budget and do not use Quicken, Mint, YNAB or anything to track categories myself (it's either "credit card" or a utility expense. I even put insurance on a credit card to get the cash back.

So one year, I was curious and did look at the categorized (by the CC company) charges. It was interesting, but not earth shattering. Maybe yours would be earth shattering?
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Independent
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Independent » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:54 pm

Gambler wrote: or an easier way for the next 6 months?
The "easier way" is to get rid of the credit card.

Hit the ATM once each week, put a fixed number of dollars* in your wallet, don't spend money unless you have cash in your wallet. Problem solved.

Okay, in the modern world you probably have some recurring expenses that you want to keep on the credit card. Maybe cell phone, Netflix, cable, or whatever. Fine. Since you know what you've committed for them, add them to the mortgage, utilities, ... etc when you're calculating your cash allowance.

"But, I want to buy books online". Fine. Before you hit the "buy" button, find your wallet, take that number of dollars out of the wallet, put them into your "already spent" envelope. On your next ATM date, get your cash from that envelope instead of the ATM.

*This is ($2,500 minus mortgage,utils,insurance,RE tax) divided by 4.33

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Ron » Sat Jul 04, 2015 2:26 pm

Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:It's low-tech, old-fashioned, and ruthless.

Go to cash and use the envelope system.
+1

Keep the credit cards in a drawer (or better yet, frozen in ice). With a cash system, you can't spend what you don't have.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by sirsa » Sat Jul 04, 2015 2:37 pm

Use mint. Add credit card account. Look at "Trends".

I disagree with people asking you to use cash. As long as you are disciplined enough to pay your balance in full every month and don't spend extravagantly you should continue using your credit card.

mistike
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by mistike » Sat Jul 04, 2015 3:24 pm

Check if your CC company(ies) offer CSV download. If yes, put everything in Excel. If not, go over your statements. It may be boring, but I guarantee you will get a lot from this exercise. Including a few surprises.

If this is *really* too much for you, then track every expense (categorize them, even broadly) for one month.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Toons » Sat Jul 04, 2015 3:29 pm

"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by randomguy » Sat Jul 04, 2015 3:37 pm

Independent wrote:
Gambler wrote: or an easier way for the next 6 months?
The "easier way" is to get rid of the credit card.

Hit the ATM once each week, put a fixed number of dollars* in your wallet, don't spend money unless you have cash in your wallet. Problem solved.
Not really. The problem isn't spending too much money. That may or may not be an issue. The problem is not knowing where that 500 is going.

I am guessing going through a couple months of statements will clear it up pretty quickly. You will either see a ton of stuff you missed or that you grossly unfair underestimated some category. So times that is unavoidable ( you plan for 2 dollar gas and get 4. Or super hot summer) and some is just delusional thinkin.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Phineas J. Whoopee » Sat Jul 04, 2015 3:58 pm

I appreciate OP's question was about discovering what the money goes toward.

The envelope system suggestion, once again not something Dave Ramsey invented, is intended to identify precisely what it is that's over budget. It will reveal it like none other, and with no effort.

I also appreciate that might not have been what OP hoped would be a response.

In the envelope system, that for which there's no cash available is the answer. Information gathered. Problem solved.

PJW
Last edited by Phineas J. Whoopee on Sat Jul 04, 2015 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by jackholloway » Sat Jul 04, 2015 4:04 pm

We use credit cards exclusively, and an envelope system. Good software and going through line by line is needed, but that does not take that long - if you blow two hours on it, and find $500, your hourly rate is not bad.

Consider Mint, YouNeedABudget Envelopes for Mac, or Budget for Mac. All can download your CC, and all can let you enter automatically.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by longinvest » Sat Jul 04, 2015 4:47 pm

I use GnuCash. It can import data downloaded from my bank, so it's quite convenient for me, and totally free!
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Sidney » Sat Jul 04, 2015 4:55 pm

mistike wrote:Check if your CC company(ies) offer CSV download. If yes, put everything in Excel. If not, go over your statements. It may be boring, but I guarantee you will get a lot from this exercise. Including a few surprises.

If this is *really* too much for you, then track every expense (categorize them, even broadly) for one month.
I did this for a couple of years right after I retired to see how I tracked per original budget. It is easy.
I always wanted to be a procrastinator.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by BlueCollarLawyer » Sat Jul 04, 2015 6:44 pm

I've been having this problem too. I've done the line by line only to find out that it's due to several one time expenses related to licensing costs related to my profession and housing repair expenses. I think any realistic budget has to plan for the year rather than monthly expenses because some costs only come up once a year. My savings plan is also probably a little too aggressive for my current circumstances.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by frisbee » Sat Jul 04, 2015 7:12 pm

Mint. Totally automated. Painless to setup.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by DSInvestor » Sat Jul 04, 2015 7:20 pm

If your budget $2500/month in all spending, subtract out the bills that are not paid via credit card (i.e. mortgage, property tax, condo dues, medical insurance, other insurance etc). If this leaves you with 1000/month which you expect to charge on your credit cards, look back at your prior statements to see if the monthly statements exceed $1000 and then look at that month's charges item by item.
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Crimsontide » Sat Jul 04, 2015 7:29 pm

Are you still unemployed? What else do you have to do, go through it line by line and figure it out...

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by The Wizard » Sat Jul 04, 2015 7:32 pm

I don't care for mint. I'm in charge, not it.
The OP probably bought a new vacuum cleaner, a pair of binoculars, and an extra weekend trip somewhere, none of which was allocated in his austerity budget.
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Pajamas » Sat Jul 04, 2015 8:09 pm

$500 a month is less than $17 a day. My guess is that you are taking cabs, buying coffee, buying lunch, having a drink after work, and making other small purchases and they all add up to $500 OR you make a few larger purchases each month such as a pair of shoes or dinner at an expensive restaurant that you didn't include in your budget. Could be both. People in NYC joke about how it costs $20 to leave your apartment and really it is so easy to spend that much on nothing. Sunday Times $5, coffee at Starbucks $4, round trip subway $5.50, fruit from a cart $5.50 and there's your $20.

You "can't figure out where" the $500 is going? If you aren't willing to look at each line of your credit card charges over a year or even the six months of this year, I think you may not be committed to budgeting your money and really looking at where you spend it. That is so easy to do. I do it every month to check against the saved receipts for errors and have done so for decades, ever since I got my first credit card at 18 years old.

For several years I tracked literally every cent I spent with Quicken. What I learned from that is that it was a lot of unnecessary trouble and didn't affect my actual spending since I am very conscious about all spending regardless. Now I simply look at my credit card annual statement which is categorized roughly and check to see how much cash I withdrew from the bank for cash incidentals.

If you are trying to create budget, my suggestion is to look at what you actually spent in in the last year and project that over the next year with changes for known increases like the cable bill and insurance plus any changes you want to make in variable categories like dining out.

If you are trying to reduce what you spend, look at what you might think are fixed instead of variable/optional costs like cable and automobile insurance and see if you can reduce them by shopping around or cutting consumption and then focus on the variable categories of your spending. No doubt you have "weaknesses" in your spending, whether it is happy hour or new shoes or $20 lunches every day or a $5 coffee three times a day.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Independent » Sat Jul 04, 2015 8:59 pm

randomguy wrote: Not really. The problem isn't spending too much money. That may or may not be an issue. The problem is not knowing where that 500 is going.

I am guessing going through a couple months of statements will clear it up pretty quickly. You will either see a ton of stuff you missed or that you grossly unfair underestimated some category. So times that is unavoidable ( you plan for 2 dollar gas and get 4. Or super hot summer) and some is just delusional thinkin.
The poster specified that he was not willing to go through his credit card statement detail, so I provided an alternative within his parameters.

I expect that if he goes the cash route, he will find out where the extra money is going. He will become much more involved in his spending on a day-to-day basis.

I don't know for sure, but it's possible that his concern about the extra $500 is primarily about spending too much, and the "where is it going?" question is a just a means to an end (spending less). If so, the cash system gets to the goal directly without going through the intermediate step.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by randomguy » Sat Jul 04, 2015 10:35 pm

Independent wrote:
randomguy wrote: Not really. The problem isn't spending too much money. That may or may not be an issue. The problem is not knowing where that 500 is going.

I am guessing going through a couple months of statements will clear it up pretty quickly. You will either see a ton of stuff you missed or that you grossly unfair underestimated some category. So times that is unavoidable ( you plan for 2 dollar gas and get 4. Or super hot summer) and some is just delusional thinkin.
The poster specified that he was not willing to go through his credit card statement detail, so I provided an alternative within his parameters.

I expect that if he goes the cash route, he will find out where the extra money is going. He will become much more involved in his spending on a day-to-day basis.

I don't know for sure, but it's possible that his concern about the extra $500 is primarily about spending too much, and the "where is it going?" question is a just a means to an end (spending less). If so, the cash system gets to the goal directly without going through the intermediate step.
I expect he will get to day 21 and be broke:) Seriously it will probably take like 2 hours to go through 6 months of credit card statements and get real numbers. You will spend more time going to the ATM:). If you are not willing to do that, you just don't care.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by cheese_breath » Sat Jul 04, 2015 11:13 pm

Does your wife or child have their own check book or credit card drawing on your accounts?

Any major purchases you forgot about?

Do you track your eating out and entertainment expenses?

Gambling? (Your name is Gambler)

Send me your last 6 months cc statements. I'll go through them for you if you'll split the savings with me. :D
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Sat Jul 04, 2015 11:43 pm

Here's the problem with going all cash.....you have no idea why you ran out of money on the 20th of the month. You have no tracking of it. You learn nothing.

I use credit cards for everything and pay off every month. If I need to know what I spent last month that put me over budget, I can do it looking at cc statements.

If the OP is unwilling to look at statements, I suggest he add $500 a month to misc expenses and be done with it. I doubt it's that he's forgotten that he pays $500 in co-pays on dr visits and prescriptions, but he might have.
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Dandy » Sun Jul 05, 2015 8:59 am

When I was about to retire I need to get a better handle on what my retirement expense would be. I run everything through my checking account so all the outlays are in one place.

I set up a relatively simple excel spreadsheet with about 20 categories e.g. one for each credit card, one for each utility, one for each type of insurance, categories for ATM withdrawals, etc. Each month I go through my check register and post the entries to their categories - it takes about 15 minutes. It gives me a good idea of what my ongoing monthly expenses are. I have some formulas that calculate my average ytd expenses and compare that to prior years to see what trends there are. If there are unusual expenses that will distort my data I make a note/and or create a separate sub total. I don't adjust for income - e.g. if I spend $100 on medical and $80 is reimbursed - I don't net it out. Too much work - anything unusually large is footnoted - only if there is a problem will I dive into details.

I review our credit card bills when received and see no need to dive down into those details to find out how much we are spending on eating out (a lot) and on gifts for grand kids (too much?) etc. As long as my monthly and ytd numbers are reasonable why bother. It is quick and shows that while monthly outlays can vary a lot the trend over time is pretty consistent.

If the expenses were getting out of line I'd know that quickly and would probably look more closely at our credit card bills - that hasn't been necessary. Having each month's data on a spreadsheet makes it easy to spot month to month changes e.g. monthly auto insurance has gone up x dollars. That prompted a decision to shop around for a better deal. You can also see what major expenses are coming up by looking at months from last year -e.g. that the annual home ins. premium is due next month.

Sounds a bit complicated but it isn't - maybe an hour to set up and 15 minutes each month. - not a process your CPA would use but effective and easy.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by BigJohn » Sun Jul 05, 2015 9:16 am

Gambler wrote:95% of the rest of my spending is on credit card.
I don't want to go through line by line of my credit card for the past 6 months.
If I was 20% over my budget and had 6 months of past data available to figure out why, I'd spend the time necessary to go through line-by-line rather than wait another 6+ month trying another system to get to the answer.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by randomguy » Sun Jul 05, 2015 9:23 am

Jack FFR1846 wrote: If the OP is unwilling to look at statements, I suggest he add $500 a month to misc expenses and be done with it. I doubt it's that he's forgotten that he pays $500 in co-pays on dr visits and prescriptions, but he might have.
My experience is that most people that make budgets up out of air just miss things. The 10% fudge factor takes care of some of that but it is often surprising to see how much money leaks out in a year for things like gifts, misc medical , and various "one time" events. I found it a lot more realistic to build a budget off past spending and then think about where to cut. It is easy to say that 500/month for groceries seems reasonable. But if you have been spending 750/month, you either have to change you habits or your budget.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by 4nursebee » Sun Jul 05, 2015 9:25 am

I try to save every receipt. At the end of the month (on a day off, does not have to be actual month) I total up the receipts. First I go thru them, line up in piles based upon what they were for. I keep track of the following: Food total, food out, food out percent, food per day, utilities (phone cable gas electric), transportation, taxes ( a big deal for my SO so maybe we can get more than itemized deduction in our state), entertainment, and total.

This might not be "easy" but it provides feedback 12 times a year. Each month takes a couple hours.
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by cheese_breath » Sun Jul 05, 2015 9:35 am

randomguy wrote:
Jack FFR1846 wrote: If the OP is unwilling to look at statements, I suggest he add $500 a month to misc expenses and be done with it. I doubt it's that he's forgotten that he pays $500 in co-pays on dr visits and prescriptions, but he might have.
My experience is that most people that make budgets up out of air just miss things. The 10% fudge factor takes care of some of that but it is often surprising to see how much money leaks out in a year for things like gifts, misc medical , and various "one time" events. I found it a lot more realistic to build a budget off past spending and then think about where to cut. It is easy to say that 500/month for groceries seems reasonable. But if you have been spending 750/month, you either have to change you habits or your budget.
+1 When a budget contains a 10% fudge factor it's not a budget. It's a wish list. Budgets need to be tracked and verified even if it means going through 6 months of cc statements line by line.
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by dbr » Sun Jul 05, 2015 9:48 am

mistike wrote:Check if your CC company(ies) offer CSV download. If yes, put everything in Excel. If not, go over your statements. It may be boring, but I guarantee you will get a lot from this exercise. Including a few surprises.

If this is *really* too much for you, then track every expense (categorize them, even broadly) for one month.
This. I have nothing against Mint, Quicken, or whatever, but one of the biggest advances in personal finance in the last fifty years is the ability to use spreadsheets to look at the numbers and answer questions such as this one.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Traveler » Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:18 pm

I use an Excel spreadsheet and track everything. I log an expense when I buy it (not when I pay for it because I use a credit card and may not pay for something I buy today until next month). It's become relatively sophisticated over the years, although it's probably too tedious for most. HOwever, if you do this for a couple months (or just look through your credit card statements as others have mentioned), you will quickly see where most of your money goes.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Independent » Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:50 pm

randomguy wrote:I expect he will get to day 21 and be broke:) Seriously it will probably take like 2 hours to go through 6 months of credit card statements and get real numbers. You will spend more time going to the ATM:). If you are not willing to do that, you just don't care.
Did you miss the "weekly" or "divide by 4.33" in my post?

I think that running out of cash on the 5th day of the week is a fine way to get motivated.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by BigPug » Sun Jul 05, 2015 1:22 pm

BlueCollarLawyer wrote:... due to several one time expenses related to licensing costs related to my profession and housing repair expenses. I think any realistic budget has to plan for the year rather than monthly expenses because some costs only come up once a year.
I agree with this.

I used to track my expenses closely using an Excel spreadsheet. I no longer use it, but when I did, there were always two spikes every year - - in June, when my annual professional dues are paid, and in January, when I inevitably travelled out of my cold-weather state for a warm vacation.

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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by randomguy » Sun Jul 05, 2015 10:41 pm

Independent wrote:
randomguy wrote:I expect he will get to day 21 and be broke:) Seriously it will probably take like 2 hours to go through 6 months of credit card statements and get real numbers. You will spend more time going to the ATM:). If you are not willing to do that, you just don't care.
Did you miss the "weekly" or "divide by 4.33" in my post?

I think that running out of cash on the 5th day of the week is a fine way to get motivated.
Doesn't really matter if it happens on day 5 or day 21 (I didn't actually do any math). You are still stuck without knowing where the money went. Is it because you spend 20 bucks too much on groceries, has an extra 150 miles of driving that cost you 15 bucks in gas, 10 bucks for a gift for some random work party, and so on. You are back to making guessing and excuses (those 500 dollar tires are a one time thing. So what buying a new 30 dollar bathing suit, 70 dollar plumber visit, 60 buck wet vac rental,....) rather than just nowing where money is going. In the end yiou are going to have to track the money. Might as well just skip right too it.

fidobogo
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by fidobogo » Sun Jul 05, 2015 10:48 pm

longinvest wrote:I use GnuCash. It can import data downloaded from my bank, so it's quite convenient for me, and totally free!
As a techie, I like GnuCash because it's open source, it doesn't snoop on your data like the various online financial data aggregators do, and it has a nice underlying double-entry accounting engine.

Back to the OP's question: GnuCash will let you do a monthly budget, and you can see where you're over, but unfortunately budgeting is not as simple in GnuCash as it is in some other software. If having to put significant work into figuring out GnuCash before you had your budget would result in you not doing a budget, then my guess is that you'd be better off using something else.

takeshi
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by takeshi » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:06 pm

stan1 wrote:Mint or Quicken will help with the data capture so you don't need to enter everything yourself -- but you may still need to spend some time making sure everything is categorized correctly.
+1 I also use Mint though I do have to go through and checl the categorization of transactions from time to time.

Cash is certainly another possibility but I have far less tracking and analysis tools with cash than I do with credit cards. Cash is certainly an effective spend limiter but cash just vaporizes for me and it doesn't help me to understand where it all went. Of course, YMMV and you have to do whatever it is that works best for you.

feh
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by feh » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:43 pm

matonplayer wrote:
LAlearning wrote:Mint.
+1.
+2

crit
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by crit » Mon Jul 06, 2015 2:12 pm

I've just signed up for Mint. Looks good but: it appears that I cannot use Trends to compare spending across months, just look at a total over a given period of time.
If I click on "compare food spending to last month" under "graphs to try" on the left, it does implement "compare to: spending last month" but there's no dropdown or menu or way to say, compare across 3 months.

Is this a temporary bug in their software, or is it really this un-useful for actual comparison tracking?

dolphinsaremammals
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Mon Jul 06, 2015 4:56 pm

Independent wrote:

"But, I want to buy books online". Fine. Before you hit the "buy" button, find your wallet, take that number of dollars out of the wallet, put them into your "already spent" envelope. On your next ATM date, get your cash from that envelope instead of the ATM.
Or get access to overdrive/ezone via your library website and get free books instead.

playtothebeat
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by playtothebeat » Mon Jul 06, 2015 5:13 pm

crit wrote:I've just signed up for Mint. Looks good but: it appears that I cannot use Trends to compare spending across months, just look at a total over a given period of time.
If I click on "compare food spending to last month" under "graphs to try" on the left, it does implement "compare to: spending last month" but there's no dropdown or menu or way to say, compare across 3 months.

Is this a temporary bug in their software, or is it really this un-useful for actual comparison tracking?
Go to Trends.
On the left column under "Spending", select "Over Time"
Then select or type in the category/merchant/etc you want in the text box labeled "Show transactions that match any"

surfstar
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by surfstar » Mon Jul 06, 2015 5:37 pm

[b]Gambler[/b] wrote: so I'm spending $500/month more and I cant figure out where.
I'd wager that the casinos have it

;)


oh, and another Mint recommendation. But to go back 6months, line by line, should suffice. Do it one evening with wine and/or beer (and be sure to note that in your budget!)

Tc99
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by Tc99 » Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:16 pm

This won't help you for your past 6 months unless you want to backtrack and enter all that in but what has worked great for me was YNAB. You will know exactly where every dollar goes and you can set it up to budget exactly $2500 each month.

The only caveat is you will have to go through your banking and credit card statements each month and designate what you spend to certain categories. This really does not take much time at all once you get used to it and I think it is very easy to do. It will take a little tweaking at first but after that easy sailing.

You also get the bonus feature if you choose, of being one month ahead living this month off of last months income.

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gardemanger
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Re: I'm spending 20% more than what i estimate. Easy way to track my expenses?

Post by gardemanger » Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:38 pm

crit wrote:I've just signed up for Mint. Looks good but: it appears that I cannot use Trends to compare spending across months, just look at a total over a given period of time.
If I click on "compare food spending to last month" under "graphs to try" on the left, it does implement "compare to: spending last month" but there's no dropdown or menu or way to say, compare across 3 months.

Is this a temporary bug in their software, or is it really this un-useful for actual comparison tracking?
It's because you just signed up and you thus don't have any historical data yet.

No two people are going to be happy with exactly the same system. Mint.com works very well for me and my needs.

Mint is the easiest way I've found to track your spending and set up a budget, based on your current actual expenditures and then adjusting from there. And it's free. Sometimes that means you get what you pay for, but it's added some good functionality over the years and is considerably less bumpy than it used to be with downloading transactions from different financial institutions, though it still coughs up a hairball now and then.

I've been using Mint consistently for more than five years. I don't do a lot of cash spending. I use credit cards or ACH transfers for most of my spending and pay off all credit cards each month, never carrying a balance. I've been through the phase of over-using credit cards and carrying balances but that was a good 20+ years ago and never got too bad before I wised up and learned to live within my means. I never put my credit cards in the freezer or went to cash-only and never felt I needed to, but other people might have to do other things to break the habit of credit card abuse if they have it. Still, I think you can practice fuller awareness of what you're spending, as you're spending it, without needing to put cash in budget envelopes. Mint is actually a good tool for that.

For me, using credit cards for my spending really streamlines the process of tracking expenditures. I do enter my cash expenditures by hand but they are really so minimal and few that I usually enter them from memory soon after making them. (Try that as an exercise in being mindful of what you're spending!) I used Quicken back in the days before you could download transactions and I used to meticulously enter all my expenses from receipts. That took a hell of a lot of time. I'm just as happy not to spend my time and limited energy that way now.

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