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A lot of people believe that budgets just don’t work. I personally believe that budgets have their part in financial plans and that anyone who is concerned with their financial future should know exactly where their money is coming from and where it is going.

What are some ways to track your income/spending? As most of you are computer savvy (since you are reading this blog), there are 3 mainstream programs that financial geeks use:

  1. Excel or any spreadsheet program
  2. Quicken
  3. Microsoft Money

Excel/Spreadsheet Program
This is a great way to start your budget and get a clearer picture of where your money is going. Simply create two columns, monthly expenses and monthly income. This is a quick and dirty way to figure out if you’re living within your means and a detailed picture of where you can cut expenses if need be.

Quicken

A very popular program for Canadians. What I like about Quicken is that it accounts for Canadian tax law and displays your net worth as soon as you open the program.

Microsoft Money

This is the program that I personally use. The reason why I use this over the others is because I can update my portfolio holdings over the web, and it automatically adjusts within the Microsoft Money program. This is helpful if I make a few trades away from my home computer and I want to update my portfolio tracking software. Even though I have the Microsoft Money Canadian edition, it just doesn’t seem as Canadian friendly as Quicken. If Quicken had a better portfolio feature, I would seriously consider switching to Quicken.

A feature that I really like about MS Money is the cash flow estimator which is great when you want to keep a minimum balance in your bank account. You can put in scenarios of “if I spend X on X date” what would my bank account look like 3 months from now?

Once you enter all of your bills and income sources into MS Money, you can create a budget separated by categories. If you enter an expense that is greater than your allocated budget for that category, you’ll get a nice popup window that tells you that you’re spending too much. I have a separate category for my wifes misc spending that I keep a close eye on .. shhh. ;)

What do you guys use to track your expenses?

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26 Comments

  1. Chris Spurvey on April 5, 2007 at 9:47 am

    A few weeks ago I began using a free Excel spreadsheet that is available on the web for budgeting. It can be found at http://www.pearbudget.com/
    I found this upon seeing it mentioned on a few other blogs.
    It is decent for sure for budgeting.
    However, based on your thoughts on MS Money and Quicken I am going to take a closer look at these seeing as they are more than just a budgeting tool.
    Chris
    PS. Keep up the great work FT. Great stuff!! You have inspired me to take all this stuff a bit more seriously.

  2. Jon Lee on April 5, 2007 at 9:52 am

    I haven’t started keeping track of my expenses yet but when I do, I think I’ll use Google Spreadsheets for the “work-anywhere” factor.

  3. Mike on April 5, 2007 at 10:02 am

    I use excel. We don’t have strict budget per se but I try to keep track of our total spending for the month and the bigger expenses.

  4. Marshall Middle on April 5, 2007 at 10:13 am

    I use Microsoft Money right now and am happy with it.

  5. Kevin Beitel on April 5, 2007 at 10:37 am

    I am using Quicken XG 2007… Just upgraded from XG 2006 and I am checking out the additional features and different interface(as you get when you upgrade any software). I use multiple methods when checking my financial status. I use a budget to gauge and focus fund allocations, I use cashflow reports to find additional surplus, and my final indicator is… Are the accounts in overdraft? Just kidding! Account status is another indicator I use to gauge if I can cheat funds to other allocations in surplus circumstances. I do not look at the big picture reports (ie net worth.) I know that it is important and helps focus your goals. I am just so busy working in the trenches that rarely do I bother to look up and see what is going on. ( (I will have to work on that…)

    Anyway, take care all…

    Kevin

  6. Julien Nephtali on April 5, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    I used Money to track my finances for the last year. But I found I was always reconciling manually most of my transactions especially the transfers between different accounts (checking to credit card, checking to saving).
    I switched to GNUCash(http://www.gnucash.org/), I am in the process of importing all my MS Money data into it. I like the straightforward approach of GNUCash. I believe I will enjoy this software much more than Money. It’s also free which is a big plus.

  7. Clayton on April 5, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    If you dont have a way to see where your money is going and you want to get a hold of your finances, the first thing you must do is begin tracking it. It’ll open your eyes. Even something as simple as an excel spreadsheet is leaps and bounds better than nothing. Another spreadsheet that you can use is available at:

    http://www.fasttracktocashflow.com/freestuff.php

    Scroll down to the “Financial Report Card”

  8. David on April 6, 2007 at 12:52 am

    Here’s yet another free budgeting program:
    http://abassis.com/abassis-finance-manager.html

    David

  9. rishabh on April 8, 2007 at 3:15 am

    I’ve been using Money (Not the one by Microsoft) for a while now, and I like it. jumsoft.com

  10. Mike on April 8, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    I personally use Quicken right now, however, I am evaluating YouNeedABudget (YNAB) Pro for my budgeting.

  11. pesli on April 29, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    I have tried a software by Parcus Group. Is a excel spreadsheet type. Does your personal budgeting, financial planning, share valuation, real estate analysis, insurance and taxation. Only for US$24.
    Check it out at:
    http://www.parcusgroup.com/

  12. theBadMoneyGuy on September 11, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    Greetings:

    I would like to include my pick. I have been using http://www.mvelopes.com/ for 8 month’s now.

    It is an online application and you pay a monthly fee, but it (and the Envelope Budget concept) has helped me quite a bit. I did use MSMoney, but I was not satisfied with the budget component that it had. I wanted the ability to have a budget line accumulate if it was not spent etc. There are some features from MSMoney that I wish it had but otherwise I think it is the best of it’s kind (pure budget) out there.

    In addition, it promotes the “month ahead funding”. I use this approach and it works well for my wife and I where all my paycheques for this month are actually used next month.

    The Envelope approach forces you be proactive and that has worked well for us.

    Just my 2 cents.

  13. […] Yan wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptGreetings:. I would like to include my pick. I have been using http://www.mvelopes.com/ for 8 month’s now. It is an online application and you pay a monthly fee, but it (and the Envelope Budget concept) has helped me quite a bit. … […]

  14. […] birur wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptYan wrote an interesting post today onHere’sa quick excerptGreetings:. I would like to include my pick. I have been using http://www.mvelopes.com/ for 8 month’s now. It is an online application and you pay a monthly fee, but it (and the … […]

  15. 25 Ways I Save Money | Million Dollar Journey on December 3, 2007 at 5:04 am

    […] I track my spending/budget with Microsoft Money. […]

  16. Sergei on January 24, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    I just started using GnuCash and like it so far.

  17. Rosie on February 25, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    I make a budget in Excel. I create major headings and estimate how much I spend each month on each. At each pay period, I then enter this amount into the column and know it is how much I have to spend and that’s it. I then track how much I spend by making withdrawals from the column each time I spend money in that category. It’s strict but it works. I always have money in my account and I always have enough money for the things I want or need most. It requires a lot of self-discipline but I was forced to do this when I was teaching budgeting to my students. Didn’t want to be a hypocrite. :) It also lets me know how much I need to be earning to meet all of my expenses. If I come up short then it tells me I need to scale back my expectations or work more hours. The choice is mine.

  18. Spider man on March 13, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    i prefere Microsoft money a nice software.

  19. jane on April 11, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I use an excel spreadsheet, with columns: date, particulars, actual, commitment, credit, balance. When I make an actual payment, I move it from the commitment column to the actual column. The totals at the bottom of the commitment, actual and credit let me know what the totals are for each column. In theory, by the end of the month, all the commited money should have been moved to the actual. The balance account lets me know how much money to carry over (loss if there is a overdraft feature) for the next month. Works well for me.

  20. […] we are in the digital age, instead of using ink, you can use a simple spreadsheet program or money management software like Ms Money or Quicken. If you like to do everything online, you can use Google’s online […]

  21. […] your favorite spreadsheet program (or other money management software). In one column include all of your sources and income and the amount. In another column, calculate […]

  22. Robert on November 15, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Do you know of any software I can you use on a MAC?

  23. Scott on November 15, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Robert — download ‘Microsoft Office for Mac’. It’s made my computing life a whole lot easier.

    Other than that, Mac ‘business’ apps are very weak (they had a decade-long contract with MS so they are just starting to develop their own version of spreadsheets etc.).

  24. amanda on January 27, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Term life insurance is a serious savings… but in the long run it is going to end up costing you more. ie. When you’re 20 yrs old and you purchase a 10 yr term insurance, if you’re not dead by the time you’re 30, 1. you’ve invested in nothing 2. your premiums will increase substantially every term 3. if you develop any health conditions you may not be able to be reinsured, or will have to pay extra for less serious things (high blood pressure etc.) 4. at some point, you will no longer be insurable and you will be left with nothing from your investment

    Whereas with a universal life insurance, you pay until you die, but it doesn’t matter what happens to you healthwise, your death will be insured. There are other fees built into a policy that you can opt out on to save you money, but term insurance policies, even though they are cheaper, are meant for more temporary fixes, ie. you have a dangerous job you don’t intend to keep, a financial boost for your children before they become adults, a financial boost for your spouse until you’ve had time to set some money aside for retirement

  25. […] software has its own advantages, frugal trader has a review of two above mentioned software on his […]

  26. […] has different options; you can find a review of some of them here. Pick the one that works for […]

  27. Bill on April 17, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    For creating zero balance budgets, we created BudgetSketch to be effective but drop dead simple to use. It is free and always will be.

  28. Steve on November 23, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    What’s the point of using budgeting software that is taking away from your income – the point of budgeting is to save money – not spend more!

    I didn’t sign up for mint simply because the first thing they ask for is:
    1) who is your bank
    2) Give us your bank username and password

    These 2 things alone set off red alarms since the bank discloses never to give this information out. I’m also a web developer and know system security…. who knows how they’re storing your bank login details.. I don’t want anyone storing that!

    I’m trying out BudgetSketch now, looks like something that fits the bill, err budget!

    Steve

  29. Pankaj on April 8, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Hello FT

    Just curious if there is any kind of a software which can actully track finer details of finances. Say for example I input my mortgage, debts (CC and LOC) ,income,expenses details in addition to my saving targets like RRSP’s by the time of my retirement, investment profolio as to how much I want it to be in say 10 years or 20 years.

    I am looking for a SW program which can tell me how close I am to my financial goals on daily/weekly/monthly inputs.

    Thanks in advance.
    Pankaj

  30. Jeff on June 10, 2011 at 1:34 am

    I recommend Fortora Fresh Finance. Very easy to use, lots of features. For both Mac and PC. http://www.fortora.com

  31. Colin on October 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Mint.com for the win. Changed the way I look at my personal finances. Automatically syncs with all of your accounts – bank, credit cards, investments, mortgage – even auto-calculates your net-worth instantly! :)

  32. Chris on December 6, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I use mint.com and love it :)

  33. CJ on April 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Microsoft Money, while no longer updated, is now a free download from Microsoft.

    I’ve attempted to use Quicken and find it awful compared to MS Money, Quicken having all kinds of bugs, not to mention being difficult to use.

    I’ll keep using MS Money until it won’t run on whatever the prevailing platform of the day is. At that point, I may just maintain an old workstation just for MS Money, since nobody seems to have come up with anything better.

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