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Time for a new budget!

August 8th, 2006 at 11:51 am

I've been using the same budget for years now. Not the same numbers (I wish!), but the same format. And it's just not working.

I've got too much stuff as "miscellaneous" or just flat out not listed (like car maintenance, for example). At first it was $5 here, $10 there each month, no big deal. But now there are just too many purchases of all sizes falling through the cracks, and I really need to get a clearer picture of where our money is going. We charge almost everything to a credit card that we pay off monthly, and the latest statment was much, much too large. We had the money to pay it, but I had to dip into savings, which is NOT a good thing. We've got to nip this in the bud, and right now.

So, I'm going to bite the bullet on Friday (payday) and buy Quicken (right now it's all in a plain old Excel file). We use Turbo Tax for taxes and they are compatable, so I figure it's the best bet. I've already sat down and listed every single catagory and sub-catagory that applies to us in my Excel sheet, so it should be quick to get everything transfered over to the new program (by hand, I doubt it will be able to import it, but who knows!). Now it will just be a matter of getting Tim to give me all his receipts, so I can mark stuff in the appropriate place! It should even help at tax time, now that you can choose to deduct either your sales tax or state income tax. We can track our actual sales tax spending and pick the one that gives us the bigger deduction. IL state income tax is only 3%, so given how much we spend, I think sales taxes could wind up being a higher deduction!

I'm a spread sheet geek, so I'm actually looking forward to getting this all set up. I think it will go a long way towards helping us met our financial goals.

4 Responses to “Time for a new budget!”

  1. fern Says:

    Yeah, there seems to be some sort of happy medium between catch-all expense categories that are too vague, or too many categories such that it becomes meaingless cus you're really not categorizing any more.

    I do have two generalized categoires, "Household" and "Maintenance." The former is a catch-all, but i only put stuff there that doesn't seem to fit elsewhere, and the latter is strictly home repairs. I also maintain a separate category labeled "Major Expenses" which is for any purchase over $500, since these are usually one-time expenses and this way i can tell at a glance when i'm looking over a previous month's expenses where the $$ went.

    The longer you do this sort of thing the better you can finetune it.

  2. boomeyers Says:

    Good luck using it! I am still a pen and paper girl, but I have always been interested in Excel and Quicken. I wish you the best in trying to import!

  3. Dido Says:

    A couple of points: (1) re Quicken. Quicken 2007 is shipping now if you go to the sites like Amazon. You can still find Quicken 2006 on the web for half the price. There aren't really that many differences. In 10 years of using quicken, I've only upgraded twice: once when I changed from Mac to PC and once when I thought I'd make use of more features.

    What I like best about Quicken is that I can set it up to download my bank data.

    But that *still* doesn't tell you what you actually spent the money on. When I was just relying on Quicken, it was not unusual for me to look at an expenditure and STILL have no idea what it was for--especially if it was to a place like Target.

    Which leads me to my second point (2): Quicken is just not a budgeting program. It's much better at recording retrospective expenditures than at helping you plan for the future. There's some cheaper budgeting software out there that might better help you do that. If you're a spreadsheet geek (I am), you might like a program out there called You Need A Budget. Jesse, the guy who developed it, hangs out on the forums here. I've been using it for a couple of months and so far am satisfied. There are other budgeting programs as well--Make$Cents and Budget by SnowMint, both of which are envelope budget systems (the latter is more visually oriented). There's also another system called Personality Budgeting whose developer also hangs out on the forums here. In any case, if it's *budgeting* software you're looking for, Quicken might not be your best solution.

    Great job on listing all the categories out for yourself--that ought to come in handy whatever system you use!

  4. elgin526 Says:

    Thanks everyone!

    And Dido, I figured that's what will happen, that Quicken will tell me where my money went, not where it's supposed to go. I'll still use my old Excel file (with updated catagories) to plan my monthly buget, but I need to know where my money went to know where it will (most likely) be going, if that makes any sence! But I'll check out those other programs and see if they might fit our needs better, thanks for the tips!

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