Just a little blog about me and mine.

More Budgeting Basics October 2, 2008

Filed under: family,finances — Katie @ 2:24 pm

I’ve written before about managing our household budget, and my struggles with keeping track of expenses.  I set up a spreadsheet, created realistic but frugal goals, found a great envelope for storing our receipts, and kept track of every penny that came in and out of the house…for a good 2 weeks.  Now there are stacks of receipts on the dresser, in the car, on top of the envelope even, everywhere except actually in the envelope, and certainly nothing entered into the spreadsheet.  

My failure to keep up with our spending is also complicated by having a new schedule that involves less family eating out (a good thing, really) but more separate purchases that, in the absence of record keeping, leaves the other half clueless as to where our money is going.  PL spent $8 bucks at Starbucks!  Starbucks!  What in the world did she order that cost $8 at Starbucks? (Full disclosure:  I spent $8 for yuppie beer at a bar, two different times, when she was home studying).

My seemingly simple spreadsheet became a royal pain as I realized that the running total for a category, say, groceries, became cumbersome when I had to keep adding dollar amounts to the formula, and was made only slighly less painful by opening a second sheet to record actual trips and calculate the total, and linking that cell to the main total.  See, it’s crazy and makes no sense.  No wonder I quit.

The other challenge is that we make purchases that come out of different accounts so it’s hard to just glance at the checking account and see how we’re doing.  For Kroger credit card purchases (gotta love that 15 cent discount…now if they only had gas) I have to brave the world’s worst credit card website that looks like a 17 year old created it, in 1999, and it takes a couple of days for purchases and payments to show up.  There is also the behemoth credit limit card, which I’ve noticed I tend to use more and more when I am not paying enough attention to our finances and don’t want to worry about balances or credit limits. 

It’s the start of a new month now and with a new family member to feed and house (fortunately O’Malley has an abundance of chewed up but functional leashes and collars, so we don’t have as many start-up expenses with the new pup) I probably should revisit the idea of “not spending more money than you have.”  So stupid.  So unfair.  I want a scooter.  And a macbook.   

I decided to try out the free program Mint, which will consolidate all of your accounts into one place and help you set budgets and identify spending trends.  It seems to be free because they will show you different offers for credit cards or checking accounts that could save you money, but they aren’t intrusive ads and easy to ignore.

So far, I really like it, especially the fact that it’s smart enough to figure out if it’s a restaurant or a gas station or a utility bill.  You can easily change the category if you want and split purchases into multiple categories.  It also lets you set category budgets, has sub-categories (under auto there is insurance, gas, etc…which is the way I like to break it up), and allows you to add notes and labels to expenses.  Other cool features include pie charts and bar graphs of your spending by category and by month or year, comparisons to others in your own or different cities, and custom alerts if your account is under a certain amount, if your spending in one category is higher than your budget, and many other things. 

The big thing that is can’t do is let you pay your bills online, which sucks, but it’s free and has pie graphs.  To hopefully remember to pay the bills now that I won’t be logging into our checking account regularly, I set up a gmail email alert each Monday morning to tell me to pay bills.


2 Responses to “More Budgeting Basics”

  1. PL Says:

    Just FYI, it was a chicken salad sandwich, a vanilla almond biscotti (yum!), and a soda. Ironically, I spent $8 at Starbucks and didn’t even get coffee!

  2. […] January 7, 2009 Filed under: finances — Katie @ 11:47 am A while back I wrote about signing up for the site Mint as a way to better keep track of our multiple checking, savings, and credit card accounts and the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s