The Many Ways to Know and Control the Flow of Your Dough

How do you know what it costs to be you? That's my question for the day, dear GRS reader.

I've come a bit full-circle in what I think is most important when it comes to financial success. When I was a young, low-paid teacher, I focused on penny-pinching and budgeting. As I got older, I spent more time on investments. Now, I'm coming back to the importance of keeping tabs on expenses. Perhaps it's because investing hasn't been as rewarding over the past several years. Perhaps it's because it seems like financial security seems a bit more precarious these days. Maybe it's because the way I think about the whole kit-and-kaboodle — whether you call it budgeting, or cash-flow management, or a spending plan — a bit differently.

After I left teaching, I became a financial adviser with one of those big-name, full-service brokerages. During our three weeks of training in the Big Apple, we never learned about budgeting — it never even came up. Neither did debt management, financial calculations, or how to choose the right investment account. We only learned about investing (sorta), how to find clients with lots of money, and how to sell, sell, sell.

Back in 1999, I left the suits for the no-dress-code Motley Fool (well, we have a few rules — such as no Viking helmets with strapless evening gowns), and I wrote a few articles about budgeting. I also began using Quicken, but I pretty much stuck to using a trusty spreadsheet for determining how much we made, where it was going, and where it should go. I didn't maintain it as regularly as I should have, but it was crucial to have when we had to make a big decision, such as buying a house or having another kid.

Budgeting often conjures up connotations of self-restraint and denial, but as a financial planner, I've begun to value it more for its informational purposes. Consider the following:

  • How can you determine whether your emergency fund is big enough without knowing how much you spend each month?
  • How can you plan for retirement without knowing how much money you'll need each year in retirement?
  • How do you determine the proper size of a life insurance policy without knowing how much your family would need if you joined that Great Tax Shelter in the Sky?

Yet I also recognize that staying on top of the ebb and flow of the household cash flow can be a challenge. So I thought I'd consult the one type of financial adviser who is more likely to know a thing about budgeting, and those are fee-only advisers, especially those who get paid by the hour (as opposed to being paid by commission). You won't find these people at Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley. They tend to be independent Certified Financial Planners who belong to like-minded associations, such as the Garrett Planning Network or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). Many of these folks have spent years helping people analyze their expenses and build a budget.

Specifically, I asked the Garrett folks — who kindly let me attend their annual retreat a couple of weeks back — what works, and what they recommend for their clients. I also pinged some of my more budget-savvy friends and colleagues for their tips.

Here's what they all told me.

Find the right tools
One of the reasons many people don't have a proactive plan for where their money will go is because they haven't found the system that works for them. To be effective and enduring, it has to suit a person's resources, habits, and personality. It becomes even more complicated when a spouse or partner is involved.

It all starts with choosing the technology that you're eager to interact with, even if that's just a notebook. In fact, that's what some planners recommend. Here's the advice of Jennifer Cole, CFA: “Get a small notebook and write down everything you spend, as you spend it. The act of writing it down may cause you to think twice before opening your wallet. And it will help you discover where the ‘missing money' goes.” In their new book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, John Tierney and Roy Baumeister cite a study in which dieters who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as other dieters. I suspect this same principle of “more awareness equals less consumption” applies to spending as well as eating.

These days, you have plenty of options for keeping tabs on your cash:

  • Spreadsheets: Ever since VisiCalc (the first spreadsheet program for personal computers, available in 1979), people have used rows and columns to analyze and track their spending. Nowadays it's even easier because there are plenty of free templates available on the Google Docs and Microsoft Office websites. Plus, if you have a smart phone, you don't have to wait until you get home to enter information; just pull the file down from the cloud. This also makes it easier for couples to both have access to the family financial info from just about anywhere.
  • The old envelope system and modern equivalents: The theory behind this strategy is to set aside a certain amount each paycheck for various expenses — whether they be the weekly grocery bill or the annual insurance premium — and put the money in an envelope until it's needed. Know you spend $1,000 during the holidays? If you get paid twice a month, then you'd stuff $42 from each paycheck into the “holidays” envelope. While you can use actual envelopes, new-fangled services such as Mvelopes, PearBudget, Inzolo, and YouNeedABudget.com can help with the process. Or you can just set up separate savings accounts and have money automatically transferred after every paycheck clears.
  • Financial software and websites: There's no shortage of services looking to help you with your spending, including Quicken, Mint, Hello Wallet, and GnuCash, which download information from your various accounts and help categorize your spending, often including pretty pictures and graphs. Then there are those that help you save for specific goals, such as SmartyPig and Payoff. (Have experiences with these tools? Let us hear the pros and cons in the comments section below.)
  • Mobile applications: Surprise — there's an app for that! Besides the apps that go along with the aforementioned financial software and websites, there are several others, such as Budget, EasyMoney, HomeBudget, and Moneydance. Another way to use your phone to track spending: Leave a voicemail for yourself every time you open your wallet, and tally up the expenses at the end of the day.
  • Pencil and paper: You don't need to plug in to budget. For clients who prefer the old-fashioned method, Liane Warcup, CFP, recommends The Budget Kit by Judy Lawrence, which features “fantastic worksheets and serves as a simple and thorough guide to creating and keeping a budget.” For a handy expense tracker to keep in your wallet, check out the “Spend Less Kit” a few fellow Fools created several years ago.

Find the system that will stick
The method of monitoring your money you choose will depend on the types of things you'll actually do. If you know you're not the type of person to record every expense in a notebook or on your phone, then look into one of the tools that will pull information from your bank and credit card statements (though you'll lose track of purchases made with cash).

Also, you have to be realistic about how much detail is necessary and doable. Justin Nichols, CFP, teaches a personal finance class at Kansas State and requires his students to track their spending. He says, “I think one reason people are overwhelmed is that they see a budget with 112 categories. So I have my students take a simplified approach: All their variable expenses are entered into just one weekly line item. In the end, it doesn't matter how much they spent eating out or on haircuts, it only matters that all their combined variable spending per week is within their budgeted amount. Then, if they blow their budget week in and week out, they can dig deeper into the detail tab to see what item is putting them over.”

Then there's the whole question of when you'll actually make yourself sit down and do the work. I like the advice of Robert Oliver, CFA, CFP: “I recommend setting aside a specific time each week to work on paying the bills and tracking expenses. For me, it's Sunday night after my kids are in bed. I find a weekly process is good to make sure nothing slips through the cracks and to assure that receipts and transactions don't build to an overwhelming level.”

Reap the benefits of smart money management
The type of spending plan you choose will depend on your circumstances. If you're in debt, not saving enough for your goals, or regularly find yourself crunched for cash, then a detailed, robust plan is necessary, at least until you've eliminated the debt, built an emergency fund, and have boosted your savings. On the other hand, if you're debt-free and have no problem saving enough for your goals, it's less necessary; however, you still might give some of these tips a try — you may discover ways you've been spending money in a less-than-optimal way.A quick way to track this can be by checking your credit report.

Just remember that planning to have enough for retirement and other goals starts with having a plan for how you'll manage your day-to-day expenses. As Michele Clark, CFP, told me, “After nearly 20 years of working with individuals, I've noticed a trend. The people who know where their money goes are the people who have managed to save enough of it to afford their goals. The people who are flying by the seat of their pants are usually not on track to meet their goals, and our conversations are about working longer and student loans for their children.”

More about...Budgeting

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Wil W
Wil W
8 years ago

Mint.com is awesome. My wife and I started using it just before we got married. It has been a great way to manage our money and to insure transparency with the other regarding it.

Kathleen
Kathleen
8 years ago
Reply to  Wil W

I second the awesomeness of mint.com. It’s really helped me keep track of my budget and get excited about goals. And the cash expenses thing is not an issue if you have a smart phone. I can just go into my mint app and add cash expenses at any time.

thefrugallery
thefrugallery
8 years ago
Reply to  Kathleen

Mint.com has truly changed my financial life. I particularly like the “goals” feature where it allows you to setup goals and it monitors your progress. Like you said Kathleen, the smart phone capabilities make it so easy! There’s no excuse not to do it!

Keith Brawner
Keith Brawner
8 years ago
Reply to  Wil W

Mint.com – easily the best.

Mark
Mark
8 years ago
Reply to  Wil W

I am also a big fan of Mint. I make most of my purchases via a cash back credit card (which I pay off every month, don’t worry!), and being able to log in and see the vast majority of my spending already categorized is a huge help. I tried both pen and paper and spreadsheets before that, and always feel off the wagon after a week or two. That got even worse when my wife and I combined our finances. Now, using mint, we have a solid, current picture of our spending. The biggest drawback I’ve seen is that… Read more »

Cath
Cath
8 years ago
Reply to  Wil W

How do you find out if your credit union is associated with Mint?

SB @ One Cent At A Time
SB @ One Cent At A Time
8 years ago

Good lessons on the basics of personal finance, the crux of it.

STRONGside
STRONGside
8 years ago

The set time per week to focus on finances, pay bills, and manage money is a great tool. It helps me stay focused and motivated, and it also helps me to not dwell on finances 24 hours a day. Sort of like investing in an index fund, you can still be smart with your money, without making rash decisions.

JulienP
JulienP
8 years ago

I’m using for the last year MoneyCenter of Boursorama Banque (in french only)
It’s totally free and let setup category, propose automatic rules.
I import manually my belgian accounts (but it knows how to automagically import all major bank in France) and setup objectives of revenues & expenses. And there are different graphics to have an easier overall view

In summary, it’s very neat and user friendly.
I advise it to any french speaking person

BIGSeth
BIGSeth
8 years ago

I use Mint. It works great most of the time but when it fails thre is nothing you can do but wait for them to fix it. This is more often than I would like.

If they were smart they would charge me $50 a year for a Pro status or something where I could actually get problems fixed sooner, or have an investment tracking tool that worked at all. I would gladly pay it.

LA
LA
8 years ago

Off topic: Clicking through to the Fool’s benefits…well, let’s just say I was blown away. Even if I can’t wear a Viking helmet with a strapless evening gown, the rest of the benefits are INCREDIBLE. Do they have a waiting list of people to work there?

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

I’m still quietly weeping over the benefits page. Will come back later to read article when I’ve pulled myself together.

smirktastic
smirktastic
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

As a lifelong Packers fan, I would NEVER and I mean never wear a Viking helmet with anything 🙂

Kara Chambers
Kara Chambers
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

LA, yes indeed there is a waiting list to work at the Fool, I’d recommend if you are interested you should follow us on Twitter @TheMotleyFool or on Facebook or LinkedIn (Just search for “The Motley Fool” Readers of GRS would likely make great Fools!

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

Standard ole vanilla spreadsheet here. Works like a champ. I consider budgeting ‘managing my financial empire’, and have spent many an enjoyable Saturday morning with a big mug off coffee and said trusty spreadsheet. Not super exciting, but it sure does work.

Dan M53
Dan M53
8 years ago

Love the title of the post. Sounds like a line out of a Barenaked Ladies song.

Brian
Brian
8 years ago

We don’t usually have direct control over our income or our investment returns. We always have direct control over our spending – making it the most powerful lever in our financial lives. Leanring where your money goes, is the first and best step to getting a handle on that powerful financial lever. It’s hard to imagine a simpler way of tracking expenses these days than downloading monthly credit card bills into a simple personal finance program (I use seven year old MS Money software.) I use the credit card for EVEYTHING, and always pay the bill in full each month.… Read more »

javier
javier
8 years ago

I do’nt use a real expenses tracking tool like a spreadsheet, but until the moment I’m saving as much as I want, sometimes even more.

Do I have a problem Doc?

Pamela
Pamela
8 years ago

I love the advice to find what works for you and will stick. For years I used Quicken for the PC and liked it just fine. It worked great. But then I went Mac and the screenshots of Quicken for Mac looked terrible. Not to mention all the bugs Mac users reported. I switched to Moneydance mostly because it worked well for the Mac and was “pretty.” Yes, I know I’m shallow. But I work with “ugly” computers everyday. When I get home, I really need a touch of beauty–even if it’s only a nicer font on a program. Hey,… Read more »

KSK
KSK
8 years ago

For years, I used Quicken for Mac. It was ugly, but worked; plus, it did a good job with helping us track expenses. Then after upgrading to Quicken Essentials, I had all sorts of problems with it downloading my banking information. I’ve since migrated to Finance Works, which is essentially Mint through my regional bank. I’m really liking how it works for me.

C.Rivers
C.Rivers
8 years ago

This is a very timely post for me. I tried Mint a year ago and went back to Quicken on my Mac, and just this morning revisited Mint to see if it would make it easier to track my husband’s accounts. Unfortunately Mint no longer works with our main bank, and I’m considering whether it would be worthwhile to find another bank just for that reason. I am the financial tracker in the family, and my husband never looks at his statements so it would be very easy for fraudulent charges to go overlooked on his accounts.

CalebNYC
CalebNYC
8 years ago

My wife would attest that we’ve had a bank account with a crazy about of banks, and tried many different ways of managing our money since we’ve been married – i.e. cash only, credit only, debit only, 4 checking, 1 checking…..but we haven’t really found the right “fit” yet. Despite paying off 10k in debt and many failed attempts at budgeting over the last two years, it feels like simple is the solution. Knowing exactly where to find the information you are looking for. As a long time user of Quicken, its quite a drag at how ugly and weird… Read more »

Sara
Sara
8 years ago

I think you hit the nail on the head with your reasons for budgeting. I am pretty confident at this point that I can live within my means without tracking anything, but I budget mainly to monitor my cash flow rather than to restrict my spending. I adjust my budget every year based on my actual spending. It was extremely useful to have this information when I was calculating how much of a mortgage payment I could afford, and how much I could spend on a new car. I have tried a few free budgeting programs, but I keep going… Read more »

mom of five
mom of five
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

We’ve been budgeting for several years and continue to do so. I’m not sure how helpful our current budget is in determining how much we’ll need for retirement. So much of our current income goes to the kids – in obvious areas like braces, food, and tuitions, but also less obvious ones, like gas, utilities, and the cleaning lady. It’s all sort of mixed together and hard to separate it out. Maybe we’re being foolish but right now we’re projecting we’d like about a third of our current income in retirement, but until we’re much closer and the kids are… Read more »

Well Heeled Blog
Well Heeled Blog
8 years ago

I’ve tried Mint, PearBudget, and a few other budgeting/tracking mechanisms. All those had pluses and minuses. Now I’ve reverted back to a trusty Excel spreadsheet and Pivot tables. I used to think it’s not as essential to look at spending if you are paying yourself first (as I always do with automatic deductions and maxing out retirement funds), but I was wrong, at least for me. Once I started keeping tabs on expenses, I’ve noticed all these LITTLE LEAKS in my spending pattern that are not a big deal on their own, but after 2 weeks of $4 lunches every… Read more »

Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago

SmartyPig fan here! It’s so easy to set up multiple goal “accounts” so you have one designated spot for your emergency fund, vacation savings, etc. The money is slightly less liquid and can take a couple of days to transfer back into your normal checking account, but I think that’s a good thing if it keeps me from dipping into the money when I shouldn’t. I also love the bonuses you get if you withdraw your money as a gift certificate. For example, almost my entire “entertainment” budget gets spent at Amazon.com. Now I use a SmartyPig “goal” to withdraw… Read more »

Tom
Tom
8 years ago

I use SmartyPig, and one thing I’d like to point out, if you want to transfer money out of there that is not equal to 100% of your goal, it is incredibly tedious. We had a landscaping account, but only wound up spending half of the money we had set aside in that goal. I had to create a 2nd goal equal to the amount I wanted to transfer out, fund it with $25 new dollars from my checking account (because that’s how new goals work), wait a few days for the new goal to be 100% funded (they don’t… Read more »

Liz
Liz
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I use SmartyPig too and could be missing something, but you could have cashed out your entire account to checking, then started a new goal afterward to hold the remaining funds after you had paid off the landscaping. That would reduce the amount of time for the money you needed to actually land in your checking account. I’ve only ever had to wait 2-3 days for money cashed out from my goals to show up in my checking account.

Laura+in+Cancun
Laura+in+Cancun
8 years ago

We use an Excel sheet that I set up, which is great since we do almost everything in cash. Before using it, we had no idea where all the money was going. After a few months getting used to it, we’re now able to budget a lot for trips and fun stuff, not to mention savings

njcatherine
njcatherine
8 years ago

Very timely for me, too! I’ve just spent an hour trying to reconcile my YNAB accounts. To be honest, I think it’s a little too over-the-top for me. I think once I really get it, it will be helpful but at that point I think I’ll qualify to be an accountant (which I’m not by far–right-brained free-spirit here). My most user-friendly tracking system has been my own Excel sheet that I set up to track a “rolling budget” (kind of what YNAB purports to do) that accounts for the variances in my income due to self-employment. The cons of it… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago

This post is highly informative and I took several things away with me after reading it. I stick to a more simplified approach using Excel spreadsheet. I like to see all my spending details on one screen without having to scroll because then I can take in the big picture without distraction. I am easily distracted LOL I have found daily tracking to be a life saver and the only way in which I have been able to control excessive spending over the years. I really liked your idea of maintaining a similar spreadsheet for my weight loss goals and… Read more »

Seth
Seth
8 years ago

The problem with MINT and similar programs is that it tracks spending and is not a budget. I have found that YouNeedaBudget is a fantastic program that combines both the tracking and the budgeting into one program. I’ve been using it for 3 years now and it has helped me to do small things like save for Christmas gifts over the course of a year to large things like pay off student loans. I’m also constantly amazed at the size of my checking account (formerly, I routinely overdrafted) but I am always mindful that each dollar in there has a… Read more »

Laura @ LivingOurWay
Laura @ LivingOurWay
8 years ago

We go through our bank account every so often and write down what we are actually spending. Then we look at the areas that are possible to cut back and do so.

Julie
Julie
8 years ago

THE POOR PERSONS TOOL – GIFT CARDS and AUTOMATIC PAYMENTS. This is a bit different then the tools that every one else is talking about, but electronic tools don’t work for everyone, and some folks are hopeless at tracking expenses. I work with people who have very, very little money and continually overspend or manage badly what they have to the point of getting eviction notices and food bank hampers every month. Sometimes you don’t need a way to track your bad spending patterns, you just need a way to make sure the money is going to where it is… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  Julie

I can see the benefit to using gift cards when cash tends to fly out the window, but there’s a distinct cost. Those cards mostly have activation fees. I pay my cat-sitter with Visa gift cards (at his request because … cash flies out the window) and there is a $3.95 to $4.95 fee each time on a card worth $50 or $75. That’s a big percentage. If gift cards serve as a good short-term way to get in the habit of managing spending, that’s great – but I wouldn’t recommend it over the long term. It’s not actually teaching… Read more »

Julie
Julie
8 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

Where I live there is no activation fee for the cards I mentioned. You’re right, it’s an imperfect solution but a good start in making some intentional choices to take control of your money. Practicing intentional choices are like muscles you flex and build. The hope being of course that some day a person would have the self disipline to keep cash in their pocket.

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

Where I live this would make even more sense. The main grocery store (it is a far longer drive to get to a different one that wouldn’t be more expensive) has a customer program that gives money off on gas (10 cents off a gallon per $50 spent). Gift cards count toward this — that is, you can buy lots of gift cards there, get the 10 cents added on) and use the gift cards (no activation fees except for the credit card ones) for cash. Then when you buy gas, you get a percentage off groceries — which you… Read more »

Alice @ EarningMyTwoCents
Alice @ EarningMyTwoCents
8 years ago

I love Easy Envelope Budget Aid (EEBA) for managing my money. It’s an envelope budgeting system that has a free website and corresponding app for Android and iPhone. It’s really easy to use and has helped me keep tabs on where my money is going and automatically fund special envelopes for savings, travel, Xmas gifts, etc. Also, its great for couples because two people can share and update the budget in real time so you both can know how much you have available and where its going. http://www.eebacanhelp.com I tell everyone about this app cause it’s awesome! My newlywed friends… Read more »

K.C.
K.C.
8 years ago

We started out using the envelope method 30 years ago and gradually adopted a system that combines a paper-based ledger and electronic spreadsheet. I’ve always promoted the informational aspect of budgeting. Good financial decisions result from good information, as Robert points out.

You can hate the time and effort it takes to create and maintain a budget, but you can’t argue with the results. The last quotation in the post says it all.

Russell
Russell
8 years ago

One of the best parts of our budget is that it helps us save for regular but non-monthly expenses. When it’s time to pay our car insurance bill or my student fees, it’s nice to know that we’ve been saving up for it and can cover the expense.

We just use Excel and a notebook, but it helps us keep our priorities balanced.

Youthful Investor
Youthful Investor
8 years ago

Keeping track of your finances can be an easy way to save for investing. For example if you forget the due date for your credit card bill and get hit with a $30 late fee that is $30 you could have invested or saved for a project.

You need to know how much you have, plan for how much you will need, and keep track of what you have to pay and when. Keep the dates in a calender. Scheduling payments automatically could be dangerous if you are tight on finances or run into an emergency.

bg
bg
8 years ago

It took me a long time to find a good system. I ended with a) paying almost everything by (European) debit card to track expenses more easily and sum them up in an Excel sheet at the end of each month, and b) using a cash spending tracker (Expense Manager) on my Android. The latter is rather new but I really wanted to know where my cash went and every other method before failed. As the smartphone goes everywhere with me, this works fine. I don’t do actual budgets yet but I’m going to look into that next year, when… Read more »

retirebyforty
retirebyforty
8 years ago

I knew it! All financial advisers I talked to always try to sell me crappy mutual funds. That’s why I’m doing my own investing these days.
Keep track of cash flow is tedious, that’s why people can’t keep up with it. I use a spread sheet and I blog about my cash flow to keep accountable. If I don’t blog, then I probably would have quit keeping track long ago.

cc
cc
8 years ago

i’m surprised no one has mentioned sub-accounts/extra savings accounts! ramit sethi got me hooked on them, and i find them super useful. i’m a freelancer so my cash flow is pretty irregular, but i stash most of the money i need for day-to-day bills in one savings account, specific higher bills in different accounts, and several savings goals accounts. you can even use nicknames- for example “conference fund $600 by 4/12”, “xmas fund $300 by dec”- the goal and date are built right in there. it’s also totally liquid- no waiting for disbursements or whatever’s up with the smartypig stuff.… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago

I’m boring, just have a word document where everything is listed, and an excel worksheet of ingo, outgo and net (which can be graphed). this is done once a month. I feel we can do better but it may reguire more detailed/frequent recordkeeping than we do and the motivation doesn’t seem to be there. Our main tool is have the money that is saved taken out outomatically, and everything else gets worked around that.

Sara
Sara
8 years ago

I switched to iBank this year because the Mac OS made my old Quicken stop. I really like iBank. Budgeting (or simply tracking our spending) has saved our lives. I used to pay bills when the stack got big enough to notice, and cry for a day after it was done. After some soul searching, we paid off 35K in credit card debt through a 5 year debt management program, and the fear set me straight into tracking every little thing. Things I realized about me: I don’t really ever say no to myself. Self employed and also an artist,… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

How do you know what it costs to be you? That’s my question for the day, dear GRS reader. I know what it costs to be me in 2 ways: 1) I reduce what I spend to an absolute minimum (meaning: a maximum reduction). This is not “to save money” but to reduce the total amount of information that I need to process. The less I spend, the less I have to keep track of. Therefore, by default, I know I cost very little. 2)Ha hahaa okay, I confess, I haven’t been keeping track lately. I AM TOO BUSY. Can… Read more »

Kingston
Kingston
8 years ago

Notebook and pencil for planning spending in the coming month, then tracking the actual spending in that month. Also for tracking, on a monthly basis, personal savings balance, reserve fund for rental property expenses, and retirement account. I use the notebook in conjunction with a calendar on which all major expected expenses for the year are plotted — rental property taxes, water & insurance; auto insurance; now, tuition bills, etc. It’s all very low-tech, but seems to work. I like the notebook because it’s small enough (5″ x 8″ or so) to fit into my purse and can be pulled… Read more »

Kris
Kris
8 years ago

I use MoneyWell on both my Mac and our iPhones. (All 3 versions sync using Dropbox.) It’s based on the envelope budget system, and I really, really like it. I also have a shared Google spreadsheet with my husband where we total up each month’s expenditures on Needs/Wants/Saving and see how close we are to the Balanced Money Formula. Your post today inspired me to write my own blog post about our finance tracking and how useful it’s been for us! (I’m not a finance blogger, so my post is primarily aimed at friends and family.)

http://www.web-goddess.org/archive.php/postID/10180

Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey
Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey
8 years ago

Would you believe if I say I still use the old envelope system? When paycheck comes in, I put the budget allocation for each bill and utility envelope so that when the bill comes in, the money is ready and if there is any change, we add it up on our savings.

Drizzt
Drizzt
8 years ago

I realise not many people wants a tool that does scheduled transactions. i thought it is very important for my enveloping method with Quicken.

Mint doesn’t work well with international people

here is how i do envelope budgeting

Joe Delfano
Joe Delfano
8 years ago

I have used many different tools to try and stay on top of my finances. So far I have to Mint.com is the one that I felt get the job done.

mabu
mabu
8 years ago

Inflow and Outflow of income are best manage @ puffinatmabu.com

Kjirsten
Kjirsten
8 years ago

I’ve been using Calendar Budget for about a year now and really like it for the spending plan. I can see what days I’ll have events or dinners/tickets to buy and be prepared. I can set the categories to be as broad or detailed as I want, and I can set a budget on a monthly basis. I know it’s the same information as a spreadsheet, but having it in a calendar just makes more sense to me. It’s also a pay-service, so I’m not being as frugal as some, but again – it works for me. My real problem… Read more »

Vince Thorne
Vince Thorne
8 years ago

I have found the best way to prevent large fluctuations in flow is to add a large buffer tank. the same is true with cash flow. If you have a sizeable emergency fund you can absorbs upticks without going in debt. Then you can watch your spending for a couple of months until the stash replenishes. No sleep lost!

jennydecki
jennydecki
8 years ago

I use an excel spreadsheet to track bills and expenses (they are separate so if something horrible happens I know what I absolutely need to pay my bills and what I can cut if needed). To track bills I use PageOnce. I used to be a Mint fan but PageOnce (it’s a mobile app) is…WOW..I love it. It tells me when my next bills are due and how much they are and updates when I’ve paid them. It has charts and pie graphs and whatnot too. I paid for the full version of the app – but there is a… Read more »

Kyle @ EngageYourMoney.com
Kyle @ EngageYourMoney.com
8 years ago

I actually just wrote a post about this on my blog. Tracking your money easily and effectively is extremely difficult. I’ve found that SW like Mint and Mvelopes don’t work for me, and that the old literal envelope method doesn’t work for my wife and I either. We’re trying out using debit cards as envelopes, and it’s working pretty well. Without pushing the blog too hard, I put all the details there.

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