We’re now on Day 3 of Rock Your Finances. By now you should have
Today we’ll be discussing how to track every penny that comes in and out of your account. This is the only way that you’ll gain some insight on where your money has been and what it’s been up to. What’s even better is that you’ll see how your spending habits have caused you to miss out on saving more or paying down debt.
Track Every Penny. Every Dollar Has A Job
Yodlee or Mint
My favorite way to do this is to aggregate all of my financial accounts into Yodlee or Mint. Once everything has been uploaded, I’m able to see all of my income and expenses broken down in a pie chart with each section containing the related expenses. Here’s a breakdown from Moneycrashers:
Creating a Yodlee account is extremely simple and straightforward. You will need to select a user name and password, answer a few personal questions for security purposes, and you’re off!
Yodlee MoneyCenter allows you to upload accounts of any and every variety: checking, savings, investments, loans, 401k, pensions, credit cards, and any other account type you may have. You will need to enter your previously-existing online user name and password at each institution to properly add those accounts to your Yodlee account. As long as you can access your information online, you should have no issue adding your existing accounts.
The budgeting tools at Yodlee include a monthly budget goal tracker where you can see how much you spend in different categories and set up long-term financial goals for those budget categories. There’s also a specific goal savings tool, a cash flow analysis, and a credit card utilization chart. If all of these are used in conjunction with one another, they add up to one heck of a budget tracking program.
With all of this information at your disposal for free, you should have no reason to avoid putting your finances in order any longer.
Spreadsheets Are Your Friend
If you’d prefer a spreadsheet there are several out there that will enable you to do this, however you’ll need to track your spending closely with this method. I have friends that truly track every penny using a spreadsheet so it can be done. Here are a few of my favorites:
In Donnie’s post, Budgeting with Google Docs, I found this awesome and well designed spreadsheet which breaks everything down by pay period. The best part about this spreadsheet is that it calculates what’s left over as you load your expenses. This is key information for those who need to know how much money they can blow once all bills are paid. This helps you avoid nasty bank overdraft fees or that embarrassing trip to the restaurant where the waiter returns your card because it’s been declined.
Grab a copy here!
Myexceltemplates.com created this personal bi-weekly budget template lets you keep track of your bi-weekly income and expense according to your pay schedule. I personally use a hacked version of this spreadsheet in addition to Yodlee which helps me track all expenses, income and any monies left over without a job or purpose.
Budgets Are Sexy, as always has a great resource of several budgeting templates, one of which I’m sure will suit your needs:
A colorful and easy way to track your budget and overall Financial Snapshot! Room to budget per paycheck, detail your net worth (if you want), credit card balances, savings funds, total income, and an extra budget just in case.
Once you’ve reviewed the options above, set aside some time today to load your income and expenses over the last 30 days.
- Choose a month that doesn’t have random expenses as with Thanksgiving or Christmas (extra high grocery bills anyone? Christmas gifts much?).
- Review the transactions and categorize them accordingly
- Review your splurges and think about how best to use that money during the next pay period
- Set up your budget within realistic limits and expectations. If you’ve been spending $600 per month eating out then you may need to ramp that down to $300 this month and then $150 next month. Going cold turkey rarely teaches discipline.
Be patient during this process. It’ll be challenging to look at where your money has been over the last few months but you’ll have a sense of relief because now you know better and you can start all over now.
What’s your favorite budgeting tool? Spreadsheets or an account aggregation system?