How to easily organize personal finances

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
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kris10w04
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How to easily organize personal finances

Post by kris10w04 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 1:29 pm

Hey everyone! I'm just joining what I've heard is a really great place for suggestions and advice.

My first question is how do you all organize your personal finances in a simple, easy way? What are the main areas you focus on?

Thanks!

radiowave
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by radiowave » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:03 pm

Not sure what you are asking - could you give us a little more information?
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livesoft
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by livesoft » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:06 pm

I pay for everything with a cash-back credit card and then I pay that bill in full every month. The credit card company organizes everything for me on the bill.
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VictoriaF
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by VictoriaF » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:08 pm

I keep several types of spreadsheets for:
- taxes
- assets
- expenses
- credit cards

I also create custom spreadsheets for specific purposes, e.g., planning retirement.

I don't use commercial software. Creating my own spreadsheets forces me to think about every cell I create and every number I enter. Creating new spreadsheets and modifying existing spreadsheets is fun. Maintaining spreadsheets is easy.

Victoria
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BogleMelon
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by BogleMelon » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:11 pm

For budgeting I use YNAB 4. A life changing! Also with it I don't need separate bank accounts for each goal, so it is 1 checking and 1 saving account. (You have to be a ynaber to know how this works, oh and it does work!).
For CC, I use most of the time 1 CC which is City (2% reward on everything)
For investing: Vanguard (3 fund portfolio)
That is almost it.. Feel free to ask specific questions..
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Topic Author
kris10w04
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by kris10w04 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:36 pm

radiowave wrote:Not sure what you are asking - could you give us a little more information?
Yes. Right now I have a budget and then I have a spending log, debt tracker, and a savings/retirement tracker. I was curios what others use as far as "categories" or topics. I'm thinking I want to also have something that tracks info like life insurance contacts for my husband and myself, maybe also Will information when we finally get one.

Topic Author
kris10w04
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by kris10w04 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:38 pm

VictoriaF wrote:I keep several types of spreadsheets for:
- taxes
- assets
- expenses
- credit cards

I also create custom spreadsheets for specific purposes, e.g., planning retirement.

I don't use commercial software. Creating my own spreadsheets forces me to think about every cell I create and every number I enter. Creating new spreadsheets and modifying existing spreadsheets is fun. Maintaining spreadsheets is easy.

Victoria

I'm with you. I like creating and maintaining my own spreadsheets. I didn't think about having a taxes spreadsheet. Probably should start one since I think we're to the point we could do better itemizing if we really paid more attention to the tax aspect of our finances.

delamer
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by delamer » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:55 pm

kris10w04 wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:I keep several types of spreadsheets for:
- taxes
- assets
- expenses
- credit cards

I also create custom spreadsheets for specific purposes, e.g., planning retirement.

I don't use commercial software. Creating my own spreadsheets forces me to think about every cell I create and every number I enter. Creating new spreadsheets and modifying existing spreadsheets is fun. Maintaining spreadsheets is easy.

Victoria

I'm with you. I like creating and maintaining my own spreadsheets. I didn't think about having a taxes spreadsheet. Probably should start one since I think we're to the point we could do better itemizing if we really paid more attention to the tax aspect of our finances.
There is a free TaxCaster app that you can use to estimate federal taxes under different scenarios. Even if you decide to do your own spreadsheet, you can use the app as a check.

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kris10w04
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by kris10w04 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:11 pm

delamer wrote:
kris10w04 wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:I keep several types of spreadsheets for:
- taxes
- assets
- expenses
- credit cards

I also create custom spreadsheets for specific purposes, e.g., planning retirement.

I don't use commercial software. Creating my own spreadsheets forces me to think about every cell I create and every number I enter. Creating new spreadsheets and modifying existing spreadsheets is fun. Maintaining spreadsheets is easy.

Victoria

I'm with you. I like creating and maintaining my own spreadsheets. I didn't think about having a taxes spreadsheet. Probably should start one since I think we're to the point we could do better itemizing if we really paid more attention to the tax aspect of our finances.
There is a free TaxCaster app that you can use to estimate federal taxes under different scenarios. Even if you decide to do your own spreadsheet, you can use the app as a check.
Thank you! That sounds helpful.

livesoft
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by livesoft » Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:13 pm

I don't do spreadsheets. I don't feel there is any need for them. I do use the free download MS Money to see my investments, but not my spending.
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radiowave
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by radiowave » Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:17 pm

I find a spreadsheet is very helpful in pulling data across multiple accounts, e.g bank, investments, credit cards, etc. I did have them all linked not to long ago but got nervous with potential online hacking. One thing I found very helpful, was to spend a good weekend getting all files organized, labeled, and in a locked, secure room. Now if I need something, I know exactly where it and pull the file. it was worth the weekend's work (at least it was cold and raining :)
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helloeveryone
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by helloeveryone » Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:23 pm

VictoriaF wrote:I keep several types of spreadsheets for:
- taxes
- assets
- expenses
- credit cards

I also create custom spreadsheets for specific purposes, e.g., planning retirement.

I don't use commercial software. Creating my own spreadsheets forces me to think about every cell I create and every number I enter. Creating new spreadsheets and modifying existing spreadsheets is fun. Maintaining spreadsheets is easy.

Victoria
Could you share what types of things should go on the spreadsheet for retirement? (things I can think of are - 1) Taxable Retirement accts 2) non taxable retirement accts 3) estimated SS payments 4) non retirement accts 5) assets - cars, house, etc...6) expenses in retirements)

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Christine_NM
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by Christine_NM » Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:27 pm

I would be lost without my spreadsheets. I start a new one each year (copy the old one and clear out the old year transactions).

I track asset allocation, portfolio accounts, income and tax estimate for current year on one page. I keep Decembers and delete other months.

There is a page for each month's check register. Mostly ACH transfers and debit card purchases these days.

Another page has a budget for the past several years, to see how spending is increasing. It is. No decreasing yet.

Another page is an exercise log and a diary of sorts.

(This grew out of a paper notebook where every Saturday I'd write down my stock prices from the newspaper and refigure my allocation with a hand calculator.)
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marti038
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by marti038 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:31 pm

VictoriaF wrote:I keep several types of spreadsheets for:
- taxes
- assets
- expenses
- credit cards

I also create custom spreadsheets for specific purposes, e.g., planning retirement.

I don't use commercial software. Creating my own spreadsheets forces me to think about every cell I create and every number I enter. Creating new spreadsheets and modifying existing spreadsheets is fun. Maintaining spreadsheets is easy.

Victoria
Good to know I'm not the only one; although I do use mint for tracking day-to-day purchases. The spreadsheet for that required too much upkeep.
Last edited by marti038 on Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sschullo
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by sschullo » Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:32 pm

My setup is so simple, any 12 year-old or my grandmother who only spoke Italian and died in 1938 could understand.
I use a combination of SS and M* to organize my holdings so I can track my portfolio. I also use Vanguard's portfolio analyzer and have used their CFP advisers a couple of times to help rebalance. I have enough invested to qualify for a Vanguard CFP adviser on the house. My Vanguard portfolio ER is about .07%.
Everything else I use a credit union, one debit and one credit card.
I have never earned a high enough income where I had to deal with taxes in any significant way. I use Turbo tax.

Never needed to to budget because I paid myself first when I was working, and this habit of living within my means came from a farm family that lived frugally and through the barter system for much of the early part of the 20th century. My parents dairy farm income was about $1.50 per month during the Great Depression. By the time I came along, they still did not make much money.

It was only in the 1950s that my mom made any significant money working on the assembly line with 3M. Living frugally is easy because neither my hubby and I never had an excess money either. Never bought a new car until I retired, when I could afford one.
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Rainmaker41
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by Rainmaker41 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:46 pm

Cash account balances tab with columns for each month to allow projections months down the line. This also serves as the budget section, although really only insofar as it allows future projections to be based on incurred and projected spending partway through the current month. I use a plain envelope-system app (Good Budget) for budgeting. I periodically revise planned monthly transfers to cash savings to reduce checking 'surplus' projections whenever income situation changes. Savings is precisely allocated to buckets, so I have a love/hate relationship with interest.

Tax liability calculator tab.

Payroll records tab for each tax year that can optionally feed into the tax liability calculator, using both received and projected income. Arguably this only serves to keep me informed (albeit quite accurately at any given time) of the year-end tax refund or debt. I know roughly what TurboTax will say months ahead of time, and exactly what it will say once I know what my last payroll of the year looks like.

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Ice-9
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by Ice-9 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:56 pm

For spending, I don't bother with a spreadsheet. I mostly use my various cashback credit cards' websites to look at my spending (as livesoft suggested), but I also use the account aggregation website Personal Capital to put it all together so I can query, for example, all restaurant purchases on all cards in the last month. Others use Yodlee or Mint in similar fashion, and actually I hear those other websites might be better for tracking spending whereas Personal Capital might be stronger for tracking investments. Many Bogleheads have expressed concern over using an online aggregation account to track all these things and feel safer using their own local spreadsheet or software on their own computer, but I'm comfortable with Personal Capital. To each their own.

I also don't budget in the typical sense, because the day my paycheck arrives I have money automatically sent to investments and online bank accounts for particular savings purposes before I can spend it. I figure what's left after all those transfers is fair game for spending each pay period. Occasionally, I analyze my spending on Personal Capital and, for example, note if I've recently gone overboard in restaurant or grocery spending and a change of course is needed. My wife and I do monitor restaurant spending particularly closely, because we know that's our weakness.

For asset allocation, I keep a spreadsheet to monitor how close I am to my target asset allocation across several accounts. One sheet on a Google Spreadsheet calculates the total for each fund based on the Ticker and the number of shares, and another sheet accumulates these balances into a total for each asset class and lists how far off each is from the target balance. I use conditional formatting to highlight an asset class in yellow when it drifts above or below the rebalancing limits I've set - doesn't happen too frequently, but it's a handy little feature.

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VictoriaF
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by VictoriaF » Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:07 pm

helloeveryone wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:I keep several types of spreadsheets for:
- taxes
- assets
- expenses
- credit cards

I also create custom spreadsheets for specific purposes, e.g., planning retirement.

I don't use commercial software. Creating my own spreadsheets forces me to think about every cell I create and every number I enter. Creating new spreadsheets and modifying existing spreadsheets is fun. Maintaining spreadsheets is easy.

Victoria
Could you share what types of things should go on the spreadsheet for retirement? (things I can think of are - 1) Taxable Retirement accts 2) non taxable retirement accts 3) estimated SS payments 4) non retirement accts 5) assets - cars, house, etc...6) expenses in retirements)
My statement was rather general. As clarification, even for the retirement I had several spreadsheets with various purposes, including:
- Calculating my federal pension based on my relevant earnings, unused sick leave, and the reduction for early retirement.
- Calculating whether to take the federal pension right away, together with the Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB). Or to wait for a few years to avoid the pension reduction due to retiring early, and estimating medical insurance costs in the interim.
- Calculating annual Roth conversions under the ceiling constraints of certain tax brackets and floor constraints of minimizing my eventual Medicare Part B payments.

The things you have mentioned such as retirement accounts and estimated Social Security payments have been in my other spreadsheets for many years long before I retired.

Victoria
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bonfire
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by bonfire » Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:16 pm

cash back credit card to pay most bills. credit card balance is set to auto pay. I use Mint to track and conglomerate all banking investments and budget. Its not perfect but good enough for me at the pricepoint of free.

Bill

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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by Peculiar_Investor » Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:30 pm

I've used Quicken for as long as I can remember. I started with a basic setup and didn't worry too much about categorizing and such. The key was making sure I saved more than I spent. For example, in the beginning I tracking credit card spending as a broad category.

Over time as I became more comfortable with the program, I expanded the level of detail that I tracked. That's when I started to break down the credit card spending to the individual transactions.

I've passed along using Quicken to my children when they started to have income or expenses to track, roughly around the time they started university or college.

Quicken can be complex if you want it to be. That's a good thing, but it tends cause problems for those just starting to track their income/expenses. My advice is always to start simple to get a handle on the big picture, then refine over time to the level of detail that is appropriate to your circumstances.

Another example, I track ATM withdrawals to cash as 'Cash'. I know of others who want more detail, so track their spending of that cash, to the penny. If that works for them and isn't too much of a burden, all the power to them.

Bottom line, track the level of detail that works for you, not what others do.
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Toons
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by Toons » Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:53 pm

"how do you all organize your personal finances in a simple, easy way"

Quicken :happy

https://www.quicken.com/quicken2017star ... %20-%20New
"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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tinscale
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by tinscale » Tue Mar 28, 2017 5:14 pm

kris10w04 wrote:
radiowave wrote:Not sure what you are asking - could you give us a little more information?
Yes. Right now I have a budget and then I have a spending log, debt tracker, and a savings/retirement tracker. I was curios what others use as far as "categories" or topics. I'm thinking I want to also have something that tracks info like life insurance contacts for my husband and myself, maybe also Will information when we finally get one.
Maybe you are looking for something like this?

What is the Big Book of Everything?

In a nutshell, it is a notebook filled with all of the information anyone could possibly need to know about you. The idea is that in our lives we have countless things that we are involved in. On rare occasions, other people need this information and no one knows how to get it. That's where the Big Book comes in. By filling this out and keeping it current, you can simplify the effort others have to take on your behalf.

Uses for the Big Book are:

After you pass away. People will know what accounts to cancel, have access to your email, know where important papers are kept, and otherwise streamline what is already a painful process.

Filling out applications. The information in the book is often found on various applications, by having the book you can look that stuff up at a moments notice.

Making sure you know what your assets are. By going through and inventorying all of your assets, you have a better idea of where you are financially.

Forcing you to prepare for emergencies. By filling out the forms, it will force you to be better prepared when an emergency strikes.

Check it out. You can download for free at http://www.erikdewey.com/bigbook.htm

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gasdoc
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by gasdoc » Tue Mar 28, 2017 5:50 pm

Toons wrote:"how do you all organize your personal finances in a simple, easy way"

Quicken :happy

https://www.quicken.com/quicken2017star ... %20-%20New
Yes. Quicken is not planning software because it looks backward, not forward. But it easily organizes finances by categorizing so that you can at a glance see where your money is going and make changes to "right the ship" when necessary.

gasdoc

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Sandtrap
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by Sandtrap » Tue Mar 28, 2017 7:05 pm

DW is an accountant. She takes care of personal/domestic things and business ventures outside of what I do. Turbotax plus spreadsheets on Excel.
I take care of R/E investments, the investment portfolio, and ongoing investments and so forth.
It's worked out well for over 35 years.
This is what we do. I hope it provides an actionable example for you to use. :happy
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delamer
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by delamer » Tue Mar 28, 2017 7:28 pm

gasdoc wrote:
Toons wrote:"how do you all organize your personal finances in a simple, easy way"

Quicken :happy

https://www.quicken.com/quicken2017star ... %20-%20New
Yes. Quicken is not planning software because it looks backward, not forward. But it easily organizes finances by categorizing so that you can at a glance see where your money is going and make changes to "right the ship" when necessary.

gasdoc
It allows you to set up a budget, which I consider forward-looking. It will tell you how your spending compares to your budget throughout the year.

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Toons
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by Toons » Tue Mar 28, 2017 7:58 pm

delamer wrote:
gasdoc wrote:
Toons wrote:"how do you all organize your personal finances in a simple, easy way"

Quicken :happy

https://www.quicken.com/quicken2017star ... %20-%20New
Yes. Quicken is not planning software because it looks backward, not forward. But it easily organizes finances by categorizing so that you can at a glance see where your money is going and make changes to "right the ship" when necessary.

gasdoc
It allows you to set up a budget, which I consider forward-looking. It will tell you how your spending compares to your budget throughout the year.
+1 :happy
"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee

DaftInvestor
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by DaftInvestor » Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:19 pm

An free alternative to quicken if you want to track cash flow and where your money is going is mint. Very easy to use and with it linked to your credit cards you can get a very good idea of how much you spend monthly on groceries, clothing, dining, etc.

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1210sda
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by 1210sda » Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:39 pm

livesoft wrote:I pay for everything with a cash-back credit card and then I pay that bill in full every month. The credit card company organizes everything for me on the bill.
Livesoft, I like your approach.

In reviewing my budget, I find that I too could pay for most expenses with a CC, with the following exceptions: church, petty cash expenditures, property tax payments and estimated tax payments to the fed. Tax Assessor charges a 3 or 4% fee for using a CC and I'm not sure what the IRS would charge. Do you know if there is a fee with the IRS for using a credit card?

1210

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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by avalpert » Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:45 pm

1210sda wrote:
livesoft wrote:I pay for everything with a cash-back credit card and then I pay that bill in full every month. The credit card company organizes everything for me on the bill.
Livesoft, I like your approach.

In reviewing my budget, I find that I too could pay for most expenses with a CC, with the following exceptions: church, petty cash expenditures, property tax payments and estimated tax payments to the fed. Tax Assessor charges a 3 or 4% fee for using a CC and I'm not sure what the IRS would charge. Do you know if there is a fee with the IRS for using a credit card?

1210
The cheapest way to pay the IRS by credit card is at 1.87%.

https://www.irs.gov/uac/pay-taxes-by-cr ... debit-card

spammagnet
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by spammagnet » Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:29 am

1210sda wrote:... I find that I too could pay for most expenses with a CC, with the following exceptions: church, ...
My wife's church collects pledges through an online service. That service accepts credit cards for scheduled monthly/weekly donations.

Boats day
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by Boats day » Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:42 am

This is a ridiculous question.

Please be more specific :oops:

red5
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Re: How to easily organize personal finances

Post by red5 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:45 am

VictoriaF wrote:I keep several types of spreadsheets for:
- taxes
- assets
- expenses
- credit cards

I also create custom spreadsheets for specific purposes, e.g., planning retirement.

I don't use commercial software. Creating my own spreadsheets forces me to think about every cell I create and every number I enter. Creating new spreadsheets and modifying existing spreadsheets is fun. Maintaining spreadsheets is easy.

Victoria

I do exactly this as well. I also find it fun. Doing it yourself gives you a deeper understanding of how things work.

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