help with picking program to manage budget

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Topic Author
Hoosier CPA
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2016 9:43 pm

help with picking program to manage budget

Post by Hoosier CPA »

There are a lot of discussions on here about various software programs for managing spending and budgeting. I'd like to pick a program and really dive into it and use it. My primary goals are (1) to start track spending by category and once we have a better sense of that (2) prepare a spending plan that we can live off of. It needs to be something my wife and I can both use - she generally isn't all that interested in this sort of thing but handles nearly all our household spending. We make decent money and save a good amount in a 401k but otherwise generally don't keep much in savings, which adds stress. My sense is that we consume more than we need to but haven't tracked it at all. We put most of our spending on credit cards, so it's kind of the opposite of the YNAB philosophy - we sort of spend next month's income this month and then pay for it when the card bill comes.

I'd like to change this and figure it's time to work together on a spending plan. Programs I've looked through in the past but haven't used are Quicken, moneydance, YNAB, everydollar, personal capital. Is there a good review somewhere that compares these or can you provide a recommendation? I'm not interested in using this to track net worth or investments yet - right now my goal is to get on a spending plan that we are both involved with and can use for making decisions.
Pacman
Posts: 182
Joined: Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:50 pm

Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by Pacman »

Given that your a CPA, what about excel? I personally like free :happy
mhalley
Posts: 8871
Joined: Tue Nov 20, 2007 6:02 am

Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by mhalley »

You didn't mention mint which is the goto free option. I would sign up for it and the free trial if ynab and see which one you like best.
Showdown reviews:

http://lifehacker.com/budgeting-softwar ... 1764607246
https://investorjunkie.com/50373/mint-vs-ynab/
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Toons
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Location: Hills of Tennessee

Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by Toons »

Quicken 25 years here.
Highly Recommend.
Deluxe Version :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
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WoodSpinner
Posts: 1935
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Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by WoodSpinner »

Hoosier CPA wrote: Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:54 am There are a lot of discussions on here about various software programs for managing spending and budgeting. I'd like to pick a program and really dive into it and use it. My primary goals are (1) to start track spending by category and once we have a better sense of that (2) prepare a spending plan that we can live off of. It needs to be something my wife and I can both use - she generally isn't all that interested in this sort of thing but handles nearly all our household spending. We make decent money and save a good amount in a 401k but otherwise generally don't keep much in savings, which adds stress. My sense is that we consume more than we need to but haven't tracked it at all. We put most of our spending on credit cards, so it's kind of the opposite of the YNAB philosophy - we sort of spend next month's income this month and then pay for it when the card bill comes.

I'd like to change this and figure it's time to work together on a spending plan. Programs I've looked through in the past but haven't used are Quicken, moneydance, YNAB, everydollar, personal capital. Is there a good review somewhere that compares these or can you provide a recommendation? I'm not interested in using this to track net worth or investments yet - right now my goal is to get on a spending plan that we are both involved with and can use for making decisions.
In the end, doing this is not so much about which tool to use--rather it is about the discipline and habits to track your expenses and manage to a budget. Any of these tools should do the job and you will learn so much more about what works well for you and your family by jumping in and working through the issues than by reading comparisons of different tools.

For my family, we are on a twice a month bill paying, expense analyzing cycle and it takes about 2 hours a month total. We use Quicken and I have been very happy with it and like the combination of customization and control I get with some well thought out software and reporting. It is not perfect by any means, but in the end it is just a tool.

The harder issues you will face is figuring out what the different purchases were for and comparing that to a budget you and your wife have set. Don't be surprised if you hit some emotional landmines between you and your wife as you go through this exercise. Often times, one of you may feel defensive about explaining an expense -- my recommendation is to focus on understanding the category rather than the justification for the expense.

Good luck, budgeting and tracking expenses is a worthwhile exercise and will greatly simplify many aspects of your financial life.

Anyway, that's my $.02 and experience with managing expenses and a budget for the last 26 years.

Best of luck 8-)
Topic Author
Hoosier CPA
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2016 9:43 pm

Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by Hoosier CPA »

Pacman wrote: Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:58 am Given that your a CPA, what about excel? I personally like free :happy
Yeah I do use Excel all day long, and I do a lot of work with budgeting at work on a volunteer basis with a non profit.

The issue I've had in the past using Excel for tracking home/household expenses is the tediousness of manually entering transactions (or downloading and importing). My goal is to have something that shows how we're doing each month and that is more or less up to date. If it was just me, it wouldn't be an issue. But we need to figure out how to work together on this, as I typically handle finances but she handles the majority of the spending.

To clarify a bit I'm hoping to find a tool that will be useful for us to work together on. Perhaps it's more of a discipline and priority issue...
Topic Author
Hoosier CPA
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2016 9:43 pm

Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by Hoosier CPA »

WoodSpinner wrote: Thu Aug 24, 2017 9:58 am
Hoosier CPA wrote: Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:54 am There are a lot of discussions on here about various software programs for managing spending and budgeting. I'd like to pick a program and really dive into it and use it. My primary goals are (1) to start track spending by category and once we have a better sense of that (2) prepare a spending plan that we can live off of. It needs to be something my wife and I can both use - she generally isn't all that interested in this sort of thing but handles nearly all our household spending. We make decent money and save a good amount in a 401k but otherwise generally don't keep much in savings, which adds stress. My sense is that we consume more than we need to but haven't tracked it at all. We put most of our spending on credit cards, so it's kind of the opposite of the YNAB philosophy - we sort of spend next month's income this month and then pay for it when the card bill comes.

I'd like to change this and figure it's time to work together on a spending plan. Programs I've looked through in the past but haven't used are Quicken, moneydance, YNAB, everydollar, personal capital. Is there a good review somewhere that compares these or can you provide a recommendation? I'm not interested in using this to track net worth or investments yet - right now my goal is to get on a spending plan that we are both involved with and can use for making decisions.
In the end, doing this is not so much about which tool to use--rather it is about the discipline and habits to track your expenses and manage to a budget. Any of these tools should do the job and you will learn so much more about what works well for you and your family by jumping in and working through the issues than by reading comparisons of different tools.

For my family, we are on a twice a month bill paying, expense analyzing cycle and it takes about 2 hours a month total. We use Quicken and I have been very happy with it and like the combination of customization and control I get with some well thought out software and reporting. It is not perfect by any means, but in the end it is just a tool.

The harder issues you will face is figuring out what the different purchases were for and comparing that to a budget you and your wife have set. Don't be surprised if you hit some emotional landmines between you and your wife as you go through this exercise. Often times, one of you may feel defensive about explaining an expense -- my recommendation is to focus on understanding the category rather than the justification for the expense.

Good luck, budgeting and tracking expenses is a worthwhile exercise and will greatly simplify many aspects of your financial life.

Anyway, that's my $.02 and experience with managing expenses and a budget for the last 26 years.

Best of luck 8-)
Thanks - I am considering Quicken as I use Quickbooks quite a bit for work, but there seems to be a lot of criticism of it on here too.
JohnFiscal
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Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by JohnFiscal »

I started out in the mid-1990's giving Quicken, MSN Money, and my own Excel spreadsheets all a chance. I thought that either of the commercial programs would be much better than my own spreadsheets. But my experiment proved that for me using Excel was the choice and still is. My workbooks are not automatically integrated with the web servers at Vanguard, my banks, credit cards, etc as some of the new web-based software is. But I don't find this to a be hindrance. I have routines (VBA) developed to quickly transfer Vanguard and related information from CSV files into my spreadsheets (this used to be a tedious task, updating the worksheets for distributions, now it takes under a minute).

I do maintain ledgers in Excel for all my accounts (investment, credit cards, etc). This is because I've been doing this for 25+ years. Now that I can view the information on websites for all (or most) financial accounts there is really little need for me to maintain my own separate set of books. Yet I continue to do so, maybe my mood will change at some point.

I have thought about switching over to a database system. This could make entering a transaction rather simple as it would then internally take care of switching funds around from my internal reserves and sub-accounts, etc. But I do like the "live" reporting that the Excel worksheets provide. I have thought for years about converting to a database and I have even made prototypes, but the fact that I have a smoothly working system leads to think why "fix" it.

To try to make the system more comfortable with my spouse, I use some Google sheets to keep track of some expenditures (as made via credit cards) in certain categories...following our "budget". I can then simply copy/paste the information into my Excel sheets. I know that some people work exclusively with Google sheets, but I can't, they are too clunky for me.

Planning for my spouse to take over the reins if/when it need be is a concern too. That would be hard enough with a commercial program but with home grown spreadsheets that could be very difficult (although I try very hard to make all my spreadsheets, both at work and home, "transparent" and easy to use...my work workbooks are used easily by a lot of other people).
JohnFiscal
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Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by JohnFiscal »

Actually, for the OP, I never used to "budget". I did not have a formal "budget". Instead, my Excel workbooks had my checking account ledger and I would project that out for the year with anticipated expenses. And I would set my regular savings so that the graph of the balance was essentially flat.

That worked great when I was single. Then a dozen+ years or so ago I decided to make an actual written tabulated budget sheet...based on reading about these in the old MSN Money forum. Then I found that it was actually useful to me, with the complexities of my newly-married life. I set up detailed categories for income (one-for salary) and expenses (many many). Then I used that to pre-populate my Excel checkbook register. It was very informative to do this. However, it's only at the time that I set up my year's budget and expenses that this is useful (in December of the prior year). Once it is established there is little need to refer back to. Sometimes I do refer back but it never really drives my spending.
ThriftyPhD
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Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by ThriftyPhD »

Hoosier CPA wrote: Thu Aug 24, 2017 10:28 am
Pacman wrote: Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:58 am Given that your a CPA, what about excel? I personally like free :happy
Yeah I do use Excel all day long, and I do a lot of work with budgeting at work on a volunteer basis with a non profit.

The issue I've had in the past using Excel for tracking home/household expenses is the tediousness of manually entering transactions (or downloading and importing). My goal is to have something that shows how we're doing each month and that is more or less up to date. If it was just me, it wouldn't be an issue. But we need to figure out how to work together on this, as I typically handle finances but she handles the majority of the spending.

To clarify a bit I'm hoping to find a tool that will be useful for us to work together on. Perhaps it's more of a discipline and priority issue...
I use gnucash and have recently entered all of this year's expenses into it. It's been very informative seeing where all of our money comes in and goes out. I have found that the tediousness of manually entry has had one benefit. I try to spend less so that I have less to enter. :sharebeer However, once everything is setup it's been pretty painless to maintain. A few minutes each weekend to enter in bill payments, credit card purchases, pay stubs.
JohnFiscal
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Location: Florida

Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by JohnFiscal »

This concept of the tediousness of manual entry. I'm a bit at a loss for this. If I don't manually enter my particular transactions, then how do I know that the ones that I might download (as from checking, savings, credit cards) are accurate?

One method would be to retain physical receipts (or emailed electronic receipts) and confirm/verify against the financial institution (bank, store, etc). That's certainly possible. Why do I like to have my own ledger rather than depending on the accuracy of the institution? In my case I guess I am old school. But with modern information technology perhaps this is no longer necessary. For now I'll continue this method. Maybe when my screws of my financial smarts start coming loose I'll go more for simplicity.
SouthernCPA
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Re: help with picking program to manage budget

Post by SouthernCPA »

CPA here as well. I created a new company file on QB and setup a chart of accounts for my families expenses. I evaluate our spending as if our household is a business of it's own and monitor the balance sheet.

It was easier for me to keep the same setup that I use day to day than try and reinvent the wheel. At the end of the day, your family household is its own entity with income, expenses, assets and liabilities so it's easy to keep track of it that way for me because it's the language I speak in.
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