Poll: How Do You Keep Track of Your Finances?

So, how do you keep track of your finances? Do you use a specialized piece of software like Quicken or are you a spreadsheet kind of person? Or maybe you simply fly by the seat of your pants and just hope you don’t bounce a check? However you do it, I want to know.

As for myself, I’m torn. As much as a computer geek I am, I have a difficult time sticking with a software for any length of time. I’ll get the urge to download and set everything up in Quicken, only to find that a few months go by and I’m only updating it once a month. I would like to use some sort of software diligently, but I really only keep info in Quicken for checking up on the basics, otherwise it is a balanced checkbook and just regular monitoring of accounts online. I think for the new year, one of my resolutions will be to make more detailed tracking a priority.

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Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle

My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

43 comments
Steve Penner
Steve Penner

I've been using www.moneyledgers.com for my personal and home based business bookkeeping stuff. It's very good at automatically splitting my expenses between home and business at any ratio I setup. Much simpler than any other program I've tried..

Eric Poulin
Eric Poulin

I find http://calendarbudget.com to be the simplest and most powerful tool for my family needs. Its the only thing we use and helps us plan into the future very effectively.

Janet
Janet

I also use YNAB. I've used it over a year and I really like it.

rstlne
rstlne

I've been using Quicken since the 90s, upgrading only when it tells me that online services are about to expire.

Harrison
Harrison

I mainly use Mint and moneytrackin.com for my finance tracking. Both of them are web application and they are convenience for me.

Honest Dollar
Honest Dollar

1) Quicken to track my net worth.
2) Mint.com to track my spending habits.
3) Excel to plan my investment directions and to track other miscellany.

I find Quicken very aggravating and lacking in a couple of key areas (like how it tracks transfers between personal accounts). That's why I prefer Mint.com for spending / budgeting. I've always been an Excel nerd, and I love having control over both the input and the output in Excel.

Arthaey Angosii
Arthaey Angosii

I use Yodlee and Google Docs.

I used to use Quicken, but like other commenters have said, I'd fall off the wagon of data-entering eventually. Yodlee automatically downloads everything for all of my accounts (and rewards programs, too), so I don't need to do anything except categorize transactions and play with graphs.

Rehoboth Realtor
Rehoboth Realtor

I just simply keep a balanced checkbook and use my online banking accounts to keep track of bills, but unlike most people, I own two homes mortgage free, both of my cars are paid for and I only have two credit cards that I never use, so I have about 10 bill per month that are all on auto-pay. I do use an excel spreadsheet to keep track of my stock investments.

Centsible Shopper
Centsible Shopper

I use Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace software. It's simple, but it works for me.

Katie
Katie

My husband and I have been using Mvelopes for about 2 years now. It's been amazing for us. I had always wanted to use the envelope system for budgeting our money but felt very weird about having cash lying around. I was also too lazy to create a complicated spreadsheet to do it for me. And then there's the having to enter all the transactions by hand.
Mvelopes has made it all so easy. It downloads the transactions for us and it's all Flash so it's just drag and drop. I can also check on my finances from anywhere there's an internet connection.
The only bad thing is that it's pay to use. I think the plan we're on has it at $13.50 a month. I'm pretty sure that it's saved us at least that much each month in not spending what we can't afford.

http://www.mvelopes.com

andy
andy

I use Quicken. I have all my accounts set to download automatically (except my primary banking relationship - my bank and Quicken do NOT get along).

I download activity once a day (including my checking account) in ther afternoon (I leave my house too early in the morning for the accounts to be updated), check the credit cards for any "strange" entries and pay bills on the websites as needed (I use Outlook and Quicken Scheduled Payments as reminders).

I typically have everything PULL from my checking account, as it allows me to schedule the payments for the last possible moment, and in the event I do not have the funds, will hit my overdraft. My bank's billpay does not process payment if you have insufficient funds. Since I check my accounts in the afternoon, I can resolve any overdrafts without being charged interest since they are settled on the same day!

The only items I write checks for the deductible contributions (for proof) and for my water bill. My electric/gas bill are billpay from my bank (they don't accept credit cards). Virtually everything else is processed by credit cards.

I have a second checking account where I pull money at non-primary bank ATMs because they have fee reimbursement. This is usually just for lunch money, as my office has an ATM & kitchen in the building.

The Paperboy
The Paperboy

I have been using excel for the past 3 years. Like you, I cannot stick with a piece of software for one reason or another. Besides, I think it's important to know the formulas in the background and to develop different worksheets to track cash flows, investment performance and budgets.

Belandrew
Belandrew

I use Moneydance. Quicken and MS Money got too bloated and Moneydance does everything I need.

Richard from NY
Richard from NY

I use Microsoft Money 2002... Yep ya hear me right! 2002. I have also used the freeware Money Manager EX as well, but prefer a little more power. I am also an Excel wizard but tend to spend too much time tweaking the sheets.

Ryan
Ryan

I tried using quicken, but quickly went back to my home-made spread sheet. It works for me.

Frugal pursuit
Frugal pursuit

While I do keep a balanced checkbook, I also have a spending plan outlined in a notebook for every month. Since I use credit cards, I need a way to keep track of where the money is going. And once the money is gone in a particular category (even if spent via credit card), I cannot spend any more. This method has kept me on track for a while now.

Todd
Todd

You Need A Budget, www.youneedabudget.com
works well for me also.

Anitra
Anitra

Quicken (although my husband does most of the updating), plus a whiteboard in the kitchen for some of the continous-spending categories (personal allowance or "fun money", as well as groceries).

jodie
jodie

I've been using MS Money for years. I'm still on the 2004 version and don't plan on upgrading. I track all transactions on my own in here and then compare to what the bank says - that way I know if they screwed up. ;) I also have an extensive spreadsheet in Excel that houses the budget, loan amortization schedules/payments, estimated taxes, etc. MS Money does that stuff but I prefer to do it on my own.

MoneyNing
MoneyNing

I'm in the spreadsheet overload camp :) I installed Microsoft Money but I don't really use it. I always go back to my spreadsheets :)

Michael Langford
Michael Langford

I do 3 things:

1. I keep track of all Bank/Credit accounts with Mint.com

2. I automate my bills and a "theoretical minimum payment" of all my CC's

3. I adjust my investments quarterly (and they're fed with the automated monthly bills).

Mint is great. It's a free, web based quickenesque program. Try it out, or look at their demos (I'm not affiliated, I just like it).

To automate my bills, I use 3 bank accounts. BA1 (Called Holding) is a checking account. This is the account I pay Credit Cards off from, and from which I use paypal.

BA2, Called "Check Clearing" is a bank account I write automated bills out of. It has the amount of money required to pay all outstanding bills in it + $100.

BA3 is Savings. It is a savings account. I keep enough money here to get me through some emergency until I can get money out of investments. (Usually a couple grand).

When I deposit income, enough goes Holding to pay off CC's, the balance goes into Savings.

On the 25th of every month, the amount required to pay all my bills is transferred from Savings to Check Clearing. On the 27th, all bills are written out of Check Clearing.

Effects of the system: The only bills I need to review are my Credit Cards. That I do via mint, then login and pay them via the card website. This has the advantage of making me pay attention, therefore minimize these expenditures. If I forget to deposit some income, the savings account gives me a buffer. I have an "automated balance alert email" which emails me when I bust below the "1 month of expenses" line, so I know when I've screwed up.

Mint sends me an account summary every Friday. One of the CC's sends me an email statement reminder near the end of the month. When that occurs, I pay them all (checking out their balances via mint).

As far as savings and investments, "extra" money slowly builds up in my savings account. That's really cool. When it gets above a certain amount (usually 3x monthly expenses), I make an additional buy of whatever I buy on my investment plan.

Investments: I use sharebuilder, and use their low cost automated investment ($4 a buy) to buy some ETF's. I occasionally buy an option or two, but usually to counteract market risk, not increase risk. I have a post tax account and a Roth IRA there I automatically invest into. This money is part of my "monthly bills" as far as my system is concerned, so I don't even notice it going away.

Laura
Laura

We use Google Docs Spreadsheet for our joint account.

Tabatha
Tabatha

Wow. I never knew there were so many online budgeting sites. I'm definitely going to check out clearcheckbook.com.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Interesting, there are a lot of sites and other software programs I wasn't really aware of. I need to check those out. Thanks!

Beth
Beth

I use an excel spreadsheet (but I also balance my checkbook faithfully).

I created my own spreadsheet, but I've recently decided for www.youneedabudget.com. I have no reviews yet (it's only been a couple weeks), but my intitial impression is that it works quite well for me.

Ben
Ben

I use Quicken to track individual accounts, inflows and outflows, and Excel to track my net worth, do budgeting and do planning.

That's in part because I have all kinds of bad data in Quicken because I've set up my credit card accounts in Quicken, and record my payments to them, but never record the charges against them, so I have bogus data there, so Quicken's net worth calculations are incorrect.

I also really like having point in time historical data in Excel, so I can see what my net worth was by month, and can then calculate the delta over any interval I want.

Steve
Steve

I use Microsoft Money, have been for 12 years. I'm in it every day and update it religiously. I can't imagine trying to keep track of all our financial stuff without it. It's the one absolutely critical program there is on my computer.

Jamie
Jamie

www.justchecking.com is what I use.

IT Gal
IT Gal

I use a combination of yodlee and google docs. Used Money for years but I like the online programs now because I can access the info from various pcs. I tried mint.com but it wasn't nearly as flexible as yodlee.

FinanceAndFat
FinanceAndFat

I use Quicken and I've used it for about 12 years. I've stopped updating though- I currently use the 2004 version. I realized that there weren't any truly 'new' features to justify the upgrade expense. I think it's something that once you have it set up the first time, you only need to spend a few minutes a day to keep it up to date.

I also export some data to Excel for reports and graphs that I customize in a way that makes sense to me.

Kevin
Kevin

I'm with AJ. I use http://www.clearcheckbook.com. It offers great flexibility in organizing my finances and I can access it wherever I have access to the internet, or if I send a text message to their checkbot, I can check my balances. I also find having to manually enter each transaction helps me get a better handle on what I have in each account.

Clearcheckbook has a lot of the features of Mint, but without the automatic import.

d.a. - All In Good Health
d.a. - All In Good Health

I use Moneydance. It's much simpler (and cheaper) than MS Money or Quicken. A quick download from my bank and credit cards, a quick import into Moneydance, and it's done. Moneydance also provides some simple reporting tools so I can get a quick glance at where the money is going.

mjmcinto
mjmcinto

I use a combination of yodlee.com and excel. Excel is where my budget is (has been for years), and yodlee is where I track my expenses, balances, etc.

@Matt - I'm not sure if mint doesn't keep track of other accounts, but I know yodlee (it's a site w/the same basic concept) does. It works w/the institutions I have my investments with, along w/all of my loans/mortgages.

GP
GP

I also use Bank of America's "my portfolio" section. It can pull account data from accounts held at other institutions (even salie mae). It also allows you to include hard asstes (e.g. car, house). I used to use MS Money but this is easier. It even has some nice reporting features.

Frank Black
Frank Black

I use Quicken to track checking, savings, credit cards and investment accounts (Roths and non-retirement mut. funds), and a spreadsheet to track how I've divided up my savings account (money for xmas, car insurance, homeowner's insurance, property taxes, free savings, charitable giving).

Robert
Robert

I've been using Quicken since way back in the early 90s. I like it, though I am not enamored of the "3 years and no more online for you!" feature, which is nothing more than ill-will towards the users.

alex
alex

I have found that www.calendarbudget.com is all I need. It has a google calendar like interface and keeps tracks of categories. What I really like about that approach is that it lets me budget and see my bank account in the future - that way I always know how much much money I have at any given point in time. (I tried a ton of other programs - from MS Money to GNUCash but all seems like they were too much).

AJ
AJ

I use clearcheckbook.com - it's a simple web checkbook register, it's free and doesn't need any account numbers to use. An added bonus is that you can send SMS texts or IM messages to update the register.

I never kept a good record of my money until I found clearcheckbook.

Matt Wolfe
Matt Wolfe

I've been using a combination of mint and excel to keep track of my finances. I'm thinking about either switching over to Quicken or MS Money though. Mint doesn't keep up with investment accounts, car loans, mortgages, etc. It's just banks and credit cards.

From the poll results so far, I think I'm leaning towards Quicken.

Punny Money
Punny Money

I pay for everything with "interesting trades."

Stephanie
Stephanie

I use a combination of Bank of America's "My Portfolio" (which is basically like an online version of Quicken), NetworthIQ (to track my progress), and walletproof.com, where I track all my expenses.

Still thinking about mint and other sites like that, but so far, so good.

SingleGuyMoney
SingleGuyMoney

I use an Excel spreadsheet but I just downloaded Moneydance to keep track of individual categories.