How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

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Gamma Ray
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How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by Gamma Ray » Sun Oct 16, 2016 11:45 pm

I've been using Ace Money for over 10 years, it's been extremely helpful and with years of data, I can see how much I've been saving overall and where my money was going, but it's strictly manual and time consuming, there is no way to link accounts or update automatically.

So I've been told Quicken can handle this, but the large number of negative reviews on Amazon worries me. I am not an extreme beginner but I am not experienced on book keeping / personal finance software either.

Someone else suggested Mint, but they said it has its shortcomings, same as YNAB.

To make it short, all I want to know is where did my money go over the years, and if Quicken is a good solution for this, will it be able to pull data from store accounts like Amazon, etc, because while my Checking account can show a payment to Amazon, it won't be able to itemize what I spent it on.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by ClaycordJCA » Mon Oct 17, 2016 12:11 am

I've used Quicken for years. You set up bank, credit card and investment accounts. It can download transactions by account from most banks, many credit cards and brokerages. Sometimes a fee is charged (for example, $3 per month by Wells Fargo). But you will need to categorize the expenditures, although you can memorize recurring transactions. And if a transaction is for items in different categories, you will need to manually split it to reflect the amount attributable to each category. You can run reports to show expenditures by category. So, not completely automatic but fairly easy to use and saves me a lot of time.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by bogleblitz » Mon Oct 17, 2016 12:43 am

I use Mint and it is free. works great for me.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by Mudpuppy » Mon Oct 17, 2016 12:50 am

Every solution is going to have some shortcomings for some people. You need to determine what will be "good enough" for you. Start by determining your goals and the nature of your data sources.

Here are a few questions to consider. Is aggregating by merchant name sufficient or do you want to aggregate by merchant type? Are transactions automatically tagged with merchant type or will you need to do that yourself? Will you be able to build spending categories from merchant types or do you need something more refined?

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by dumbbunny » Mon Oct 17, 2016 2:41 am

Gamma Ray wrote:How do you analyze your spending?
Quicken since 1990. And if I didn't use Quicken I would use Excel. I don't mind posting my transactions from my receipts once a week while watching TV or listening to music.
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by sperry8 » Mon Oct 17, 2016 3:59 am

dumbbunny wrote:
Gamma Ray wrote:How do you analyze your spending?
Quicken since 1990. And if I didn't use Quicken I would use Excel. I don't mind posting my transactions from my receipts once a week while watching TV or listening to music.
I use excel. I download my transactions from my cc's each month and can see where everything is going. I don't get to micro levels, just macro. Rent, car, insurance, entertainment, food/grocery, other. Something like that. Just the largest segments (so you can see where savings can be attained).
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by AlohaJoe » Mon Oct 17, 2016 4:18 am

Gamma Ray wrote:will it be able to pull data from store accounts like Amazon, etc, because while my Checking account can show a payment to Amazon, it won't be able to itemize what I spent it on.
I'm not sure anything does this but I haven't really kept up with Mint/Quicken/etc. I think others may have overlooked this part of your post.

What you point out is one of the challenges of budgeting I found when dealing with modern megastores. If you just spent $150 at Wal-Mart was that $100 on groceries, $20 on clothes, and $30 on garden supplies? Or some totally different mixture? Amazon offers similar problems, as you point out.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by sperry8 » Mon Oct 17, 2016 4:25 am

AlohaJoe wrote:
Gamma Ray wrote:will it be able to pull data from store accounts like Amazon, etc, because while my Checking account can show a payment to Amazon, it won't be able to itemize what I spent it on.
I'm not sure anything does this but I haven't really kept up with Mint/Quicken/etc. I think others may have overlooked this part of your post.

What you point out is one of the challenges of budgeting I found when dealing with modern megastores. If you just spent $150 at Wal-Mart was that $100 on groceries, $20 on clothes, and $30 on garden supplies? Or some totally different mixture? Amazon offers similar problems, as you point out.
I don't think such granularity is required on an ongoing basis. Do it for one full month. That's it - you'll then get an idea of where you spend exact monies. But on an ongoing basis, buckets are close/good enough. Perhaps do a full granular month annually to be sure habits haven't changed. But I found after doing granular for this short time - that I could pull back to macro levels where larger spend occurred. It is in these macro areas where your time is best focused. Made me re-shop for auto insurance, re-look at healthcare, re-look at cell phone bills, etc. But really looking at whether I buy brand name or generic - the savings just isn't there (not saying not to buy generic, just saying unless you make a wholesale change to buy generic at all times it is less important as the one-offs).
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by larklea » Mon Oct 17, 2016 6:52 am

MIcrosoft Money. It's no longer supported, but is still available. Can't beat the price. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/downloa ... x?id=20738

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by JDCarpenter » Mon Oct 17, 2016 8:21 am

Also a very long time quicken user; I download transactions for all accounts on a daily basis and have been tracking spending in pretty tight categories for more than 20 years (i.e., a lot of useless detail resides on my hard drive). It would do everything you'd like via downloads and quick category assignments except for distinguishing between various items at amazon/WMT/grocer, etc., which would require you to apply category data from your receipts or memory.

Despite my continuing use of the program, I think it would be overkill for you unless you also want to track investments. My perception is that there are other, cheaper/easier ways to just track spending. I'd look at other options.
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by dbr » Mon Oct 17, 2016 8:32 am

I use Excel.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by BeerTooth » Mon Oct 17, 2016 8:54 am

I use YNAB for this purpose. It links to your bank accounts and pulls transactions for you. You tag them by category and it gives you a dashboard view of where your money is going. For Megastores that sell items from multiple categories, I just estimate a rough proportion for each visit/order: 20% "groceries", 80% "house maintenance" for each visit to the store. Since I update it several times a week, it's easy to recall the proportions for my most recent Amazon order, etc.

https://www.youneedabudget.com/

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by DetroitRick » Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:06 am

We are happily using Quicken (2016 Premier at the moment) to analyze our spending. And to track net worth components, including investments. I'm the rare user without significant complaints. We have so many accounts, especially now that we've begun managing those of an elderly relative, that it has become indispensable. The interface may be a bit old and clunky, but the whole thing just works for us - connecting to every institution we work with (banks, credit unions, credit cards, brokerages). With the push of a button each morning, all accounts/transactions are updated and the manual steps to categorize our expenses are quick and easy. You can add a budget and track against it. And I find the bill reminders to be especially useful.

As far as level of detail it will track, you have several choices depending on how much manual effort you want to expend. Spending can be tracked by category, or if more detail is desired you can create sub-categories that then roll up. Example - you can have a broad category such as "Home Expenses", and then create sub-categories for whatever finer detail you need. Such as Home Expenses: Utilities, Home Expenses: Repairs, and so on. When a transaction is downloaded, you can split the expense from a given merchant into whatever classification scheme suits you. The finer the splits, the more potential input work you have - so it is a balance. In addition, Quicken gives you a second categorization tool that you can opt to use as needed - a Tag. This is a secondary classifier, in addition to the expense categories, that allows another aggregation scheme without changing your broad categories. It might be used to aggregate expenses for a project that crosses multiple expense categories. I'm sure most of the other online financial packages can do similarly.

In selecting Quicken, or any other personal financial software, be mindful of the level of effort you want to expend, the learning curve, and what exactly you are trying to achieve. Tracking income and spending is pretty easy and there are lots of online packages that will do the trick. Investment tracking capability adds a whole new level to the selection process. Right now, I can't see an alternative for us. But your choice depends on what you need - and I would consider Mint, YNAB and others too. Take a look at things like integration with your financial institutions, report capability and (if it interests you) the ability to import and export data.

As to the negative Quicken reviews, and there are lots, consider these specifics in evaluating them. #1 - Lots of people object to the 3-year upgrade cycle (if you want Quicken to download from your institution, you have to upgrade every 3 years. Personally, I am not bothered by this, but this is a yes/no issue. #2 - Problems are usually concentrated within the first few months of version release. I learned to balance this concern and avoid upgrades in, roughly, the first 3 months. I seldom have issues. #3 - There was a rash of problems early in the year where issues with the Quicken ID - people didn't have it, or the one they had didn't work. This appears to have been fixed. #4 - like most consumer software companies - the phone support experience is not stellar. I've been able to avoid this route for years by using their online community instead. #5 - most personal financial software has a learning curve, especially if you are a power user. Personally, my big objections to Quicken are that it doesn't technically support home networking (but I've been doing it anyway for years without issue), it has a bit of a 1990's look to it, and it has a new owner (could be good, could be bad, could mean nothing).

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by mpowered » Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:05 am

I use a combination of mint.com and personalcapital.com.

Mint is mainly for monthly/yearly monitoring of spending/budgeting. I think it works very well as long as you are diligent about making sure your expenses are categorized accurately.

The real shortcoming of mint is the investment monitoring. Personal Capital does a MUCH better job at that, so I've removed all my investment accounts from mint and simply track them all in Personal Capital.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by triceratop » Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:10 am

I'm an open source software nerd/geek, and I enjoy using (and hacking on) GnuCash. It meets my needs, and I know there is enough complexity there to handle most of my future needs when my finances become more complex than now (no debt for now...).
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by michaeljc70 » Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:10 am

I use Quicken and have for over 20 years. It does everything you need. The software has stagnated and improvements been minor for many years. It does work though. Quicken was recently spun off from Intuit, so that may help improve the software (Quicken loans just became such a bigger part of their business that they didn't spend $$$ on it).

Unlike Excel, Quicken can download transactions from almost every major brokerage, credit card or bank. That saves a lot of effort and helps not miss transactions (that aren't cash).

Mint is pretty rudimentary, but may work for you. It just doesn't have a lot of the reporting and capabilities Quicken does. I would venture that most people on Mint don't bother to properly allocate transaction using splits. That means allocating a paycheck between income, state taxes, FICA, medicare, deductions, etc. Or a purchase at Target between hygiene items, alcohol, clothing and prescriptions. Without doing that, you will not get an accurate picture of what you are spending on.

Quicken will also automatically keep track of things like a mortgage or car loan and properly record what is principal and what is interest.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by tuningfork » Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:31 am

Gamma Ray wrote:To make it short, all I want to know is where did my money go over the years, and if Quicken is a good solution for this, will it be able to pull data from store accounts like Amazon, etc, because while my Checking account can show a payment to Amazon, it won't be able to itemize what I spent it on.
Quicken will work, as will Microsoft Money, as will Moneydance (and probably others, although those are the three I have personal experience with). All three of them let you login to your bank's web site, download transactions and import them into the software. Quicken and Moneydance (and MS Money used to until it was mothballed) also support automatic downloading of transactions from some financial institutions without you having to perform any manual steps. They differ in which institutions are supported (Quicken tends to support more than Moneydance), and after a few years Quicken automatic downloads stop working to "encourage" you to pay for an upgrade. Moneydance does not stop automatic download support on older versions so you have more flexibility to choose when or if to upgrade.

All three of these programs let you "split" a transaction into multiple sub-transactions, called splits. You have to do this manually. So if you have a $200 purchase at Amazon, you can select that transaction and split it into the parts you want to track, say $150 for clothing and $50 for books.

All three let you define whatever spending categories you want, so you can track your spending as coarse or as fine as you want. They come with some default categories but you can change them.

I currently use Moneydance but I used Quicken and MS Money previously. The three programs vary in their user interface look and feel and customization, what sites work with automatic downloads, what reports are available, and upgrade policies. At the core all three are pretty much the same.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by lightheir » Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:37 am

Mint.com has great reports that summarizes spending habits.

The auto uploaded of cc data works great and us a huge time saver.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by nimo956 » Mon Oct 17, 2016 11:30 am

In my opinion, you are going about this backwards. Start with a high level budget where you map out income and savings:

Income = Savings + Spending

As long as you are hitting your savings target, you can spend the rest on whatever you want. No need to track anything.

The first thing you want to do is determine roughly how much you need to save each year to meet your goals. This may not be well-defined yet and it will change over time as you get closer to retirement, but it's just a place to start.

Let's say you imagine a 30 year retirement on $100k+CPI per annum (in today's dollars). If we assume we can draw down somewhere between 3-4% of our portfolio per year, then your target is $2.5m - $3.3m (in today's dollars).

Given your current assets, work out roughly what you need to save each year to reach your target. To do this, I'd create a high and low case for nominal return for portfolio, nominal savings growth rate (the change in the amount you save per year), and inflation.

As an example, let's say you are starting out at 25 with no assets and plan to retire at age 65. This is obviously flexible, but let's call the low case 5% nominal return, savings stays same each year, and 3% inflation. Let's call the high case, 6% nominal return, 3% savings increase each year, and 2% inflation. Excel shows that you should be saving between $30k and $70k per year to reach $2.5m in today's dollars.

I'd skew towards the mid-high end of the range to be conservative, but let's say you target $50k per year for savings.

For your annual budget, plot out your annual income, deduct $50k and that's what you're left with for expenses. Deduct all the fixed, recurring expenses like mortgage/rent, utilities, insurance (medical, dental, disability, life, home), taxes, gas/transport, groceries, etc. What's left covers your variable expenses: eating out, vacations, shopping, etc.

If you can't find a balance that makes sense then you need to revisit either your basic assumptions about your retirement goals, or your fixed expenses. You have to compromise on one or the other if you want to fund a certain level of variable spending.

Edit: To give you my own breakdown I target roughly:

48% savings
18% taxes
13% housing + utilities
9% restaurants/shopping/vacation
5% hobbies
4% groceries + gas/transport
3% insurance
50% VTI / 50% VXUS

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by englishgirl » Mon Oct 17, 2016 3:09 pm

michaeljc70 wrote:....

Mint is pretty rudimentary, but may work for you. It just doesn't have a lot of the reporting and capabilities Quicken does. I would venture that most people on Mint don't bother to properly allocate transaction using splits. That means allocating a paycheck between income, state taxes, FICA, medicare, deductions, etc. Or a purchase at Target between hygiene items, alcohol, clothing and prescriptions. Without doing that, you will not get an accurate picture of what you are spending on.

...
Mint will let you split transactions if you want to. It's probably true that most people don't bother to do that, I certainly don't do it regularly but I have done in the past when it was important to me.
Sarah

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by heartwood » Mon Oct 17, 2016 3:54 pm

larklea wrote:MIcrosoft Money. It's no longer supported, but is still available. Can't beat the price. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/downloa ... x?id=20738
+1 I have over 10 years of records.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by LadyGeek » Mon Oct 17, 2016 7:25 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum (cash flow).
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by peterinjapan » Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:04 pm

My method is, work all the time so that you don't have time to spend any money, and it piles up. Or in my current case, pays down my mortgages since I own three properties.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by FiveK » Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:37 pm

Add me to the list of long time Quicken users who can find some faults with it but haven't found anything better.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by michaeljc70 » Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:01 pm

FiveK wrote:Add me to the list of long time Quicken users who can find some faults with it but haven't found anything better.
+1

It is not perfect, but is more comprehensive than any of the other options I've seen.

There are a lot of features. I don't use many, but there are a lot of planning tools, Morningstar portfolio X-ray, asset allocation analysis, cash flow analysis, tax planners and things like that.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by delamer » Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:26 pm

FiveK wrote:Add me to the list of long time Quicken users who can find some faults with it but haven't found anything better.
Agreed. As far as assigning categories to downloaded transactions goes --

1. As someone mentioned earlier, once you download a credit card transaction with Safeway as the payee and designate it as belonging in the "groceries" category then Quicken will remember that category for future Safeway transactions.

2. Of all the transactions that I download, I probably have to split one into multiple categories about once every 15 transactions. Unless you want a lot of very fine detail or shop a lot at superstores for groceries, clothing, and car batteries on the same charge, it isn't a big deal.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by heyyou » Mon Oct 17, 2016 11:39 pm

As long as you are hitting your savings target, you can spend the rest on whatever you want. No need to track anything.
Good advice.

Various end of year numbers show your gross income, withholding, and savings contributions. You spent the rest of your money. Doesn't matter if it was on partying or paying the electric bill, the money is still gone.

Are you a slow adopter of new personal electronics?
Can you look the salesperson in the eye, and say "I can't afford that" when you are shopping for expensive items?
Do you save most of each pay raise after spending the initial increase on a celebration?
Do you view more income as an opportunity to save more, instead of spending more?
Jack Bogle said a lot when he said "It is simple, but not easy."

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by DireStraits » Tue Oct 18, 2016 7:52 am

larklea wrote:MIcrosoft Money. It's no longer supported, but is still available. Can't beat the price. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/downloa ... x?id=20738
Same here, other than I'm still using the 2003 version. :D

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by junior » Tue Oct 18, 2016 8:11 am

englishgirl wrote:
michaeljc70 wrote:....

That means allocating a paycheck between income, state taxes, FICA, medicare, deductions, etc.

...
Mint will let you split transactions if you want to. It's probably true that most people don't bother to do that, I certainly don't do it regularly but I have done in the past when it was important to me.
I use transaction splitting at mint for purchases but I only analyze my net income. I don't see the point of tracking FICA, medicare, etc. I only track take home pay after taxes.

Mint does this well but the trick is to not use the default categories for transactions, but come up with your own categories that make sense to you. For example by default Mint will distinguish between coffee shops, fast food, and retaurants. I don't see the point of that so went with just one category "retaurants" to cover all of that.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by runner3081 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:36 pm

I am a bit OCD and use a Google Spreadsheet to log each transaction.

And yes, I do split them when I go to Walmart. $x.xx Food, $x.xx Clothes, etc.

Been doing this for 3 years now and it is very eye opening and a great tool for our family to use. I do admit that we don't shop or spend much money. I couldn't imagine this approach working for most "normal" spending people :)

I have a yearly sheet that is built with formulas to pull the numbers and show under/over budget (any excess), etc for the year.

My wife kind of hates it along with my other financial spreadsheets for Net Worth, etc. She said that out entire life is on a spreadsheet.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by midareff » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:44 pm

Retired so maybe I look at things a bit different. I do everything in excel from investments to the budget book and everything in between. My pension (3% annual cola for life) and SS pay all our bills. .. and maybe a bit. Portfolio pays for luxuries and upscale travel and I know reasonably close to how much I have to spend each year at current 4% WR and how many trips that means.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by opus360 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:50 pm

tuningfork wrote: Quicken will work, as will Microsoft Money, as will Moneydance (
All three of these programs let you "split" a transaction into multiple sub-transactions, called splits. You have to do this manually. So if you have a $200 purchase at Amazon, you can select that transaction and split it into the parts you want to track, say $150 for clothing and $50 for books.

All three let you define whatever spending categories you want, so you can track your spending as coarse or as fine as you want. They come with some default categories but you can change them.
Is there a program that will automatically allocate expenses based on receipt? Scan/take picture of the receipt, load it into these programs (prefer if there is an app that will automatically upload it), then the program will automatically allocate the expenses into food, clothing, books, etc.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by bloom2708 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:52 pm

http://www.personalcapital.com

I've been quite happy with the features/functions at PC.

You are not able to split a single transaction to multiple categories or add your own categories. At first I thought this was not great, but less is sometimes more. I don't really need to track spending down to the penny.

You will have to politely decline a call to discuss your investments. I just stated I am my own adviser.

It is excellent as a Net Worth tracker. I also like the cashflow Income vs Expenses views. They have a good retirement planner/calculator as well.
Last edited by bloom2708 on Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by texas lawdog » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:55 pm

Mint (or any other software) will take an investment of time either from setting up the accounts or categorizing the spend patterns. I personally use Mint to analyze my high level spend patterns without going down into much detail (i.e, all of my Amazon activity is classified as shopping without analyzing if it's books, movies, etc).

Quicken negative reviews might be associated with Turbo Tax (both owned by Intuit). They lost quite a bit of business a couple of years ago trying to get users to pay for additional schedules that were free in prior versions. They paid mightily for the mistake and had to issue refunds and apologies for customers that were in the middle of filing tax forms just to find out they had to upgrade to the $99 premier version.

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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:58 pm

Life is too short to log each expenditure into a book or software.
I use a checkbook to log inflows and outflows. I use my extra time enjoying life today (like helping new posters on the forum :wink: ) :) Tomorrow is promised to no one.
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runner3081
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by runner3081 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:01 pm

Grt2bOutdoors wrote:Life is too short to log each expenditure into a book or software.
I use a checkbook to log inflows and outflows. I use my extra time enjoying life today (like helping new posters on the forum :wink: ) :) Tomorrow is promised to no one.
Most people feel that way. To me, I actually enjoy it. It is an addition to life, not a subtraction.

mptfan
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by mptfan » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:03 pm

runner3081 wrote:
Grt2bOutdoors wrote:Life is too short to log each expenditure into a book or software.
I use a checkbook to log inflows and outflows. I use my extra time enjoying life today (like helping new posters on the forum :wink: ) :) Tomorrow is promised to no one.
Most people feel that way. To me, I actually enjoy it. It is an addition to life, not a subtraction.
Me too. I actually enjoy entering transactions into my Google spreadsheet and fiddling around with it and finding new ways to manipulate the numbers and generate reports. I guess that makes me a nerd, but who cares, to each his own.
Last edited by mptfan on Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Rainmaker41
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by Rainmaker41 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:04 pm

I tried various platforms that sync to accounts & cards. The issue I ran into derives from the fact that I currently split rent and utility costs with two housemates. I gave up always manually telling the budgeting system to only look at a portion of those expenses, and also to ignore payments from my housemates to me.

Now, I use goodbudget, which is essentially an electronic 'envelope' system to track monthly spending manually. As long as no category goes wildly off budget I figure it's OK. Even if it did, the explanation would almost certainly be that I had budgeted incorrectly in the first place. Goodbudget is probably not needed, since I track all accounts on a monthly basis in a Google spreadsheet anyway, letting me project forward a ways.

I care more about the big picture questions. Are my automatic transfers to retirement & cash savings accounts continuing on schedule? Is my checking account balance essentially what I projected it would be a few months ago (1 month's expenses plus a small buffer at the start of the month)?
Last edited by Rainmaker41 on Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Mike Scott
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by Mike Scott » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:05 pm

I have about 25 years of past monthly budget summaries in a ledger book. It takes about 5 minutes a month at most to update it and I have enough blank pages left for the rest of my life.

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RyeWhiskey
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by RyeWhiskey » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:18 pm

I don't have a family so I may have a simpler financial setup than most, but I analyze my spending in an easy manner:
One checking account for joint expenses, and at the end of the month I go back and tally up the (non-fixed expense) totals for the month into four basic categories: groceries, gas, restaurants/bars, shopping. That's it. Takes 5 minutes and goes into a google docs spreadsheet should I need to review it later for some odd reason. I used to use Mint and did use Personal Capital for a while, but I found these sites distracting and time-consuming. Simplicity, as always, is key. :beer
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Leif
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by Leif » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:20 pm

I'm generally not too concerned with analyzing my spending. However, in trying to project cash flow in retirement I did some basic analysis.

Using a spreadsheet I added all the major categories I could think of. That gives me an estimate of my yearly expense. I thought of items like a new car every 10 years, prorated by year, which some may forget unless they are making payments. Many of my regular bills are paid via autopay/billpay, so the numbers are not difficult to obtain. Taxes and such as taken from the previous year.

DVMResident
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by DVMResident » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:36 pm

Very crudely through reserve budgeting:

Expenses = gross income - taxes - savings

I don't really care if I purchased a clothes one month or picked up the check with a group of friends the next month. I can account for the big ticket items (housing, health care, insurance) fairly easily. IMO, the small stuff isn't worth the effort to track. All I really care about gross inflows and outflows so I can confirm savings:expenses is the right ratio.
Last edited by DVMResident on Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

simmias
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by simmias » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:40 pm

I used to religiously enter all expenses into Microsoft Money until I realized Mint would do 95% of the work for me and give me exactly what I need to analyze my spending.

michaeljc70
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:42 pm

mptfan wrote:
runner3081 wrote:
Grt2bOutdoors wrote:Life is too short to log each expenditure into a book or software.
I use a checkbook to log inflows and outflows. I use my extra time enjoying life today (like helping new posters on the forum :wink: ) :) Tomorrow is promised to no one.
Most people feel that way. To me, I actually enjoy it. It is an addition to life, not a subtraction.
Me too. I actually enjoy entering transactions into my Google spreadsheet and fiddling around with it and finding new ways to manipulate the numbers and generate reports. I guess that makes me a nerd, but who cares, to each his own.
I am detail oriented and enjoy having the data. I spend probably 2 minutes a day on average. The transactions download and are automatically assigned. I just need to make sure they are to the right category and split them if needed.

I don't have a detail budget. I have an overall amount and just compare to that. If categories go up a lot (or down) over time, sometimes I make adjustments. Particularly if I go over my overall budget.

People always say they know (like through magic) what they are spending without tracking. I think most people would find a lot of things surprising in the way they add up.

As to not splitting transactions, I would think that would severely limit the data. If you go to Target (or Costco, Sams, Walgreens, etc.), what is that recorded as? There is a difference between groceries, clothes, toilet paper, a gift, electronics, etc.

michaeljc70
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:47 pm

Rainmaker41 wrote:I tried various platforms that sync to accounts & cards. The issue I ran into derives from the fact that I currently split rent and utility costs with two housemates. I gave up always manually telling the budgeting system to only look at a portion of those expenses, and also to ignore payments from my housemates to me.

Now, I use goodbudget, which is essentially an electronic 'envelope' system to track monthly spending manually. As long as no category goes wildly off budget I figure it's OK. Even if it did, the explanation would almost certainly be that I had budgeted incorrectly in the first place. Goodbudget is probably not needed, since I track all accounts on a monthly basis in a Google spreadsheet anyway, letting me project forward a ways.

I care more about the big picture questions. Are my automatic transfers to retirement & cash savings accounts continuing on schedule? Is my checking account balance essentially what I projected it would be a few months ago (1 month's expenses plus a small buffer at the start of the month)?
It sounds like you have a system that works. At one time, I had a similar situation. It is not that hard to handle with Quicken. If rent is $1500 split three ways and you pay it, you enter that transaction like debit checking credit rent. If the 2 roommates give you $1000 in cash, you credit cash and debit rent.

You could also set up a liability account to track what they owe you if they don't always pay on time. $1500 debit checking and credit rent $500 and "Roommates Owe" or whatever $1000. When they pay credit $1000 to cash and $1000 to liability account.

I did the latter. I have an accounting background, so I tend to track things closely.

MrsRoos
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by MrsRoos » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:51 pm

I love Personal Capital as it segments all your transactions (Credit card, banks, debit cards etc.) into various spend buckets. I also use it to keep track of my net worth. Best of all, it's free!
“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist.” - Kenneth Boulding

michaeljc70
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:56 pm

opus360 wrote:
tuningfork wrote: Quicken will work, as will Microsoft Money, as will Moneydance (
All three of these programs let you "split" a transaction into multiple sub-transactions, called splits. You have to do this manually. So if you have a $200 purchase at Amazon, you can select that transaction and split it into the parts you want to track, say $150 for clothing and $50 for books.

All three let you define whatever spending categories you want, so you can track your spending as coarse or as fine as you want. They come with some default categories but you can change them.
Is there a program that will automatically allocate expenses based on receipt? Scan/take picture of the receipt, load it into these programs (prefer if there is an app that will automatically upload it), then the program will automatically allocate the expenses into food, clothing, books, etc.
No. How would it do that? It would need to know that some abbreviation on the receipt is a certain thing. The same item is listed different at many stores. Even doing it manually myself, some things are hard to decide what category to put it in. How would it know a sweater is a gift or a clothing expense?

Dottie57
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by Dottie57 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 4:08 pm

michaeljc70 wrote:
mptfan wrote:
runner3081 wrote:
Grt2bOutdoors wrote:Life is too short to log each expenditure into a book or software.
I use a checkbook to log inflows and outflows. I use my extra time enjoying life today (like helping new posters on the forum :wink: ) :) Tomorrow is promised to no one.
Most people feel that way. To me, I actually enjoy it. It is an addition to life, not a subtraction.
Me too. I actually enjoy entering transactions into my Google spreadsheet and fiddling around with it and finding new ways to manipulate the numbers and generate reports. I guess that makes me a nerd, but who cares, to each his own.
I am detail oriented and enjoy having the data. I spend probably 2 minutes a day on average. The transactions download and are automatically assigned. I just need to make sure they are to the right category and split them if needed.

I don't have a detail budget. I have an overall amount and just compare to that. If categories go up a lot (or down) over time, sometimes I make adjustments. Particularly if I go over my overall budget.

People always say they know (like through magic) what they are spending without tracking. I think most people would find a lot of things surprising in the way they add up.

As to not splitting transactions, I would think that would severely limit the data. If you go to Target (or Costco, Sams, Walgreens, etc.), what is that recorded as? There is a difference between groceries, clothes, toilet paper, a gift, electronics, etc.

I was surprised. (Both good and bad) When I downloaded a years worth of transactions into quicken. I categorized all transactions. And could see my spending rate. I don't think a budget is always necessary either. But it is goood to do saving first and then the rest is spendable.

Hukedonfonix4me
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by Hukedonfonix4me » Tue Oct 18, 2016 6:28 pm

mpowered wrote:I use a combination of mint.com and personalcapital.com.

Mint is mainly for monthly/yearly monitoring of spending/budgeting. I think it works very well as long as you are diligent about making sure your expenses are categorized accurately.

The real shortcoming of mint is the investment monitoring. Personal Capital does a MUCH better job at that, so I've removed all my investment accounts from mint and simply track them all in Personal Capital.
+1
"While some mutual fund founders chose to make billions, he chose to make a difference." | -The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing

Beck49
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Re: How do you analyze your spending? (Where is my money going?)

Post by Beck49 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 6:44 pm

I'm impressed with the effort so many put into logging these data. If you have a Fidelity account I would suggest you give Fullview a try. It not only tracks all investments, in Fidelity and elsewhere, but puts all credit card, checks, and other outlays into expense categories, tracks net worth, bank accounts etc. It takes a little customization, and once a month I have to manually change about 6 entries. It's not without it's flaws, but serves the purpose of tracking what I consider my core expenses vs nice to haves as I approach retirement and need a clearer picture to establish an LMP portfolio.

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