Using Quicken to Analyze and Correct Bad Spending Habits

Comic books have always been one of my money demons. Geeky, but true. I used to buy the actual comic magazines: Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men. As an adult, however, I graduated from spending just a buck or two for a comic to buying hardbound compilations and trade paperbacks costing $20, $50, or more.

No matter how smart my money choices, I've made it a priority to keep detailed records of my finances. Tonight I dug through four years of Quicken data to see if my comic book spending habits have changed. (They feel like they have, but I wasn't sure.) Here's what I found:

  • In 2004, I spent $1640.10 on comic books. That fall, I decided I wanted to eliminate my debt.
  • Apparently my finances weren't a big priority, though. In 2005, I spent $2810.52 on comics.
  • My spending peaked in 2006, during which I spent $3,202.91 on my beloved DC Archives and Marvel Masterworks.
  • This year, however, I've only spent $807.89 on comics!

My worst period of comic book spending came just before I started Get Rich Slowly. From October 2005 to March 2006, I spent $3519.34 on comics — almost $600 a month. (That money would nearly have been enough to fully fund a Roth IRA!) During this time, I was spending everything I had freed from paying off debts — and my Christmas bonus! — to buy comics.

Times have changed. During the past three months, I've spent only $93.33 on comics. Here are some steps I'm taking to limit my spending:

  • I purchase comics on DVD for those titles that are available. (For example, you can buy every X-Men comic ever published for $40. Or every Spider-Man comic. Or every issue of the Fantastic Four.)
  • I purchase only those titles that interest me. This sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to come home from the comic book store with a stack of Aquaman books. Aquaman? Good grief.
  • I've begun to narrow my focus to collecting comic strip compilations, which I find more interesting than comic books.
  • I'm allowing myself a budget of $500/year. This should be ample for collecting the material I truly love and intend to read.
  • I am selling the parts of m collection in which I have no interest, the things I bought just for the sake of buying. (Such as the afore-mentioned Aquaman books.)

I'm already happier about my collection. I don't feel guilty about it anymore. It feels fun again. It's not wrong to indulge in a hobby you enjoy so long as this doesn't come at the expense of other financial goals.

When you track every penny you spend, it's easy to explore your personal finances in this kind of detail. It's one reason I log my spending in Quicken. Wesabe and Mint (and other online personal finance tools) let you do the same thing. When was the last time you took a look at your past few years of spending?

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Fabulously Broke
Fabulously Broke
13 years ago

I’ve only just started tracking my expenses not even 3 months ago… but I can’t wait to run reports in Excel and with pretty graphs to see my debt spiral down and my net worth increase 🙂

I too am a HUGE fan of trade paperbacks.. and I have a growing list of the new ones I have yet to buy…

Jon
Jon
13 years ago

So the DVD collections are pretty good? I’ve been looking at those lately on Amazon.

Gwenda
Gwenda
13 years ago

For the majority of comics that we don’t actually need to own but still want to read, my husband and I rely on our local public library. If they don’t have the particular graphic novel you’re looking for, they can get it through interlibrary loan. This has MAJORLY reduced our comics spending.

Annie Jones
Annie Jones
13 years ago

We track everything we spend, too. We use Budget for Windows. I like it because it’s easy to use and I’ve never learned Quicken. But the point is to use something that works for you to track spending, right? It’s good to look at past trends and stop negative ones that may just be beginning to develop. As for comics, I’m not into those, but into cookbooks. In order to keep spending at a minimum and space in our house at a maximum, I have set stipulations on my buying. I subscribe to only one cooking magazine at a time.… Read more »

David
David
13 years ago

Of course, other personal finance software programs do this as well.

Cat
Cat
13 years ago

I use Mvelopes (http://www.mvelopes.com), which is just an online envelope budgeting system. When I used Quicken, I could see how much I had already spent on bad habit purchases, but I didn’t have a good grasp on anything but my total checking account balance. With the envelopes, I know I’ve only got $28 left this month to spend on trade PBs (Volume 9 of Fables, here I come…).

Peter Glyman
Peter Glyman
13 years ago

If anyone is looking for some other web-based personal finance apps…I hope you check out http://www.geezeo.com. Geezeo is free, makes it easy for you to track where your money goes with over 6000 financial institutions.

Thanks,

Pete Glyman
Co-Founder, Geezeo

tba02
tba02
13 years ago

I have Quicken but seem to spend more time modifying/fixing entries than actually using the other tools within the application. Yodlee suits my limited needs and is available from both work, home or on the road. The reporting tools keep improving as well. I’ve explored Mint(Beta)and Wesabe as well, but Yodlee just plain works for me, I am not interested in the social aspect of the others. With data now being populated for over 6 months the spending trends are beginning to show legitimate trends (and my quicken data starts about the same date so there is no advantage for… Read more »

Sam
Sam
13 years ago

While I hate Quicken and it hates me as well, I do enjoy the graphs and reports.

joecab
joecab
13 years ago

You’d accept the FF on DVD over the actual comics or even reprints? SACRILEGE!!

Actually a lot of back issues, including the FF surprisingly, can be had for pretty cheap as long as you only look for reading copies.

Still, I also still spend way too much on my comics habit, and thanks for the tips.

Starving Artist
Starving Artist
13 years ago

This is a very eccentric spending choice, JD. I know it was a problem, but it gave me a chuckle.

mikwat
mikwat
13 years ago

I have been very happy with the free web-based Yodlee Moneycenter: http://moneycenter.yodlee.com

Angie
Angie
13 years ago

In theory, I love Quicken–I love numbers and I love the idea of knowing where all our money is going, to the penny. In practice…good grief, I get tired of doing it. I keep track of the monthly balances of all our bank accounts in an Excel file, so we’ve got a “macro” picture of how things are going, dating back the past few years. That’s very helpful. It occurs to me as I type this that one of the things I’ve found so onerous about Quicken is that I feel obliged to keep up the data on *all* our… Read more »

brad
brad
13 years ago

From a letter I wrote to an environmental magazine in 2003: “Sometimes being anal pays off. I’ve been using Quicken since 1996 to track all my expenses, and I see here that I’ve spent $6,178.56 on gasoline over the past seven years. Of that total, $1,339.41 went to Mobil, $747.09 went to Exxon, and the rest to BP, Shell, and assorted other gas companies. “In late 2001, I decided to stop buying gasoline from Mobil and Exxon due to their efforts to derail action on climate change and to hamper the effectiveness of key research bodies such as the Intergovernmental… Read more »

Chris
Chris
13 years ago

Does anyone use the automatic transaction downloads? I don’t think I would have the discipline to manually track all of my spending!

Most banks will allow Quicken or other software to download all of your transactions and all you have to do is categorize them. I can keep a tight grip on my cash flow in less than 5 minutes a day.

I thought this was a well-known feature but I don’t see many comments mentioning it. It’s THE reason I use Quicken.

brad
brad
13 years ago

Automatic download is great if you trust your bank will enter everything correctly, or if you use Quicken for Windows; in my experience a lot fewer banks offer that feature for Quicken for Mac. My bank did for a few years but then dropped support for the Mac version so I had to go back to manually entering my data and paying bills via a website rather than from within Quicken. But the main thing I liked about banking directly from within Quicken was reconciling; it was such a snap compared with reconciling against a printed bank statement!

Russell Heimlich
Russell Heimlich
13 years ago

Quicken is great because it lets you save common reports so it’s a snap to check back every few months. I like to see where all my spending goes on a per category basis. Helps keep me in check.

Mariette
Mariette
13 years ago

I have Quicken, but I haven’t gotten around to using it for this purpose – I’ve been using excel spreadsheets. You’ve inspired me to try it!

Comic books huh? My spending vice is travel, I love visiting other cultures and collecting stories (one of these days I’ll get around to writing articles about them and trying to get them published – but that’s a separate issue.) And even on a budget it can get expensive – there’s only so much financial wiggle room on the plane ticket and I don’t have the time flexibility to courier.

BillinDetroit
BillinDetroit
13 years ago

I have Quicken for my PDA (T-Mobile DASH with Windows Mobile 6 for an OS of sorts). Can anyone recommend an alternative? I can use the Quicken software, but I like to explore alternatives when I can.

Chris Hunter
Chris Hunter
13 years ago

Comics are my vice as well.

A lot of really good comics are coming out right now and I’ve had to cut my pull list dramatically in order to not get sucked into the spending vortex.

What are some of the current titles that you collect, JD? Love to hear about what you read.

Also, what plugin are you using for followup comments via email? I’m trying to find the same plugin to use for my blog. Help a comic lovin’ brothah out?

Peter Glyman
Peter Glyman
13 years ago

@BillinDetroit We’re still working on expanding our mobile functionality. Currently you can check your bank and credit card balances at multiple bank accounts using text/sms. Our site works nice on the iPhone too.

We are looking at building a mobile “smart” phone application that could work locally on a phone but it’s not on the short list for development.

Thanks,

Pete Glyman
Co-Founder, Geezeo
http://www.geezeo.com/profile/pglyman

Ragazzo
Ragazzo
13 years ago

To BillinDetroit, Personally – Quicken is a ‘been here done that’ type of application for me. It is not intuitive enough and requires my patience in manually entering all of my data (unless I want to pay extra to have certain transactions downloaded). The alternative I found and swear by is Mvelopes. Not only is it costing me less than my annual Quicken upgrades were but it’s saving me over 10% of my monthly income! It’s by far the most intuitive and user-friendly application I’ve ever used and I love that I can check my funds to spend in real… Read more »

Jim
Jim
13 years ago

Thanks for the fun story about Quicken use. I use it to track my automotive addiction.

You can take a look at Quicken Home Inventory this year as well. It rolls into your net worth in Quicken, and you can track each individual inventory item with multiple pictures.

Jim
Quicken Product Manager

Amy
Amy
13 years ago

The idea of online money management seems nice and convenient, but the Mvelopes revenue model seems a bit scary – and not so financially sound. If I don’t pay them monthly for perpetuity I lose all my financial records?

Suzanne of New Affiliate Discoveries
Suzanne of New Affiliate Discoveries
13 years ago

Ha, ha, love the comparison to the Roth IRA funding! Thanks for the insight, I’m featuring this in this week’s “Sunday Seven”

Cat
Cat
13 years ago

@Amy: I was concerned about that aspect of Mvelopes as well, but you can export a wide variety of reports as PDF, comma-delimited, or Excel files. I’ve got backups of everything.

The thing I really like about Mvelopes over Quicken? Mvelopes immediately identified all four of my ING accounts – Quicken makes me download three of them manually because only one account can be assigned to the login ID. (Funny, it worked for my multiple Fidelity accounts, but it won’t work for banking.)

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