How Do You Budget?

Published on December 6, 2008

When I moved into my new house at the end of September, I took on a lot of new financial responsibility that I’ve never dealt with before (mortgage, monthly utility payments, outstanding debt on large purchases, etc). As such, I’ve been a little overwhelmed in trying to keep up with what payments I’ve made and, more importantly, where my money is going each month. In short, I want to track my money.

There are a number of avenues I’ve briefly explored, some of which require a lot more effort than I think I’m willing to exert. Mint.com looks really interesting, and looks a lot like what I want, but I’m leery of giving out my banking and credit card information to a third party. The same can be said for Quicken Online. Non-web software solutions are a possibility, but obviously restrict my ability to view the data from anywhere. They also often require more manual input than their online counterparts.

How do you keep track of your money? Do you have a tried and true means of seeing where you spend? How do you keep track of what bills have been paid? Any tips from you seasoned veterans would be helpful for a newbie like me.

3 Comments

kip

I make interest on my checking account (only like 1%), which is compounded whenever a statement is made (about the 18th of every month). So I always pay all of that month’s bills after that interest is computed (that way I have the most money in my checking account when interest is compounded). So the way that I keep track of what’s due is basically just to pay all the bills at the same time every month. Other than that, I just keep an Excel spreadsheet that is the equivalent of a checkbook, and balance it once or twice a month.

The only way I have to keep track of what types of things my money is going to is by checking my online credit card statements, which has broad categories (like “gas”, “groceries”, “retail”). Since I put nearly everything I buy on my Discover card, this works reasonably well, but I wouldn’t claim that I’m any kind of example to follow.

Michael

i think mint.com is Great. with the credit and bank institutions safeguards for identity theft, i weighed my terrible budgeting skills against the somewhat more distant eventuality of identity theft.

i started using it in august, and they’ve been actively developing and enhancing it since then, i have not been using it as actively in november or december, so i don’t know if others would also slack over time, but i tell myself i’ll be back on top of it soon.

it has email alerts so that does help keep on top of it.

if you are looking for something different, check out pearbudget, they have a free trial, and a free spreadsheet if you can find it, but they are now pushing their (not free after the trial [$3/month?]) web service

Thanks for the info, Michael. I was wondering if anyone here had tried Mint. It looks like exactly what I want, but I was a little apprehensive of giving out my information. At some level, however, I could always change my password to “lock them out” so to speak.

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