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Keeping track of personal finances – how do you do it?

Posted by on Monday 9 August 2010 in frugal | 1 comment

How do you keep track of your money from day to day?

Considering my love of both frugality and numbers, I don’t actually have a particularly good handle on my finances. I have a rough picture in my head of things – how much my standard incomings/outgoings are, how much I’ve spent in addition to those, how much I have in savings and how much I have on my paid-off-in-full-each-month credit card – and I check my bank balance reasonably regularly so nothing really passes me by — but I’ve been thinking lately that it would be better if that picture was in sharper focus. It’s hard to say how much growing our own food is saving on our food bill or how much an insulation measure saves us on heating unless we know what we’re spending in the first place.

All my accounts are paperless/internet-based and I use finance software as part of my job so it makes sense to manage things on my computer/online – but I’ve not been able to find an app (either online or offline) that does what I need. I’m not asking for the moon on a stick but I want to be able to import statements from my bank, manually create/delete transactions, define categories & assign stuff to them easily, produce useful reports and most importantly, not feel it’s a chore to do (because if it feels like a chore, it won’t get done). I’ve spent a good number of hours over the last couple of days looking into different options but all either had major show-stopping flaws or were that complicated/clunky to use that I would actively prefer to do actual chores than that.

(Offline, on Ubuntu/Linux, I tried GNUCash, Grisbi, KMyMoney and Homebank. Online, I tried Xero Personal & the very US-focused Mint.com. I also tried to try the multi-platform YNAB – You Need A Budget – but the free trial just wouldn’t download for me, no matter what I tried.)

A couple of friends suggested just using a spreadsheet, which I think are great for overall finance planning but would involve a lot of manual data entry work for keeping a track of every transaction — and I want that “every transaction” focus or I won’t have gained anything over my mental map.

Do you use dedicated software, or a spreadsheet, or some other computer-based method? Or do you still keep a track of things on paper? If so, how does that work out for you? Any advice, tips or software recommendations would be gratefully received!

One Comment

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  1. Louba

    My solution isn’t very complicated but it works for me! I have a spreadsheet that shows all my fixed incomings and outgoings and what I have left once these are paid. A chunk then gets tranfered into an account which is only for fluctuating living expenses, shopping, fuel and so on and a chunk (if I’m lucky!) goes to savings. That way I can monitor my spending online through the one account. Not perfct but it does what I need it to. If you have a look on the forums or Moneysavingexpert you might find something that does what you need, some of the posters are serious spreadsheet fanatics and very happy to share, they might well be able to point you to something which can link to a bank account and does what you need. Good luck!

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