I realized a few days ago that while I talk a lot about saving money, getting out of debt, and having a budget, I have never explained to you how I keep track of our budget and finances. There are so many different methods out there. Some people just use paper. Other people like software like Quicken. Other people like online software like Mint or Mvelopes. I have used some of those methods in the past to track my budget but I always come back to Excel.
Each budget, no matter how it is done, has to have categories. Some of mine are Housing, Transportation, Household, and Loans. Each category has sub categories. By using Excel, I can use formulas so it keeps track of everything for me. I don’t have to do any math! I can enter how much I anticipate for sub-category as projected cost then enter the actual cost as the month goes on.
Adding money spent
Each week after I pay the bills and do the grocery shopping, I update my actual amounts. If we do shopping earlier in the week, I might update the budget then too but typically I only do it once a week. Once an item in my checkbook register has been added to my Excel budget, I put a “B” next to it so I know I already added it. I know some people use their budget or online banking to also keep track of what they have currently in their account but I do not. I do check my balance online but I keep track of everything in my checkbook register as well. This helps with when I do have to write checks, etc.
Adjusting for differences
Each month is a little different with the amounts spend in some sub-categories. For example, this month we will eat out more often due to Mother’s Day and my birthday so that sub-category is a little higher than normal. I also need to fix and inspect my van this month so my vehicle maintenance sub-category is quite a bit higher than normal. At the end of each month, I rename the file for the following month. After I am sure that it saved correctly as two different files, I open the file for the next month and adjust all the projected costs and remove all the actual costs from the current month and save again. I don’t like to do this until I’m sure I have two files so that I don’t accidentally lose all of the current month’s information.
I’ve been tracking my budget this way since 2008 so it has become second nature for me. No matter what method of budget tracking you use, it is important that you track your budget and finances somehow. Hopefully if you have been struggling with finding a method that works for you, this little glimpse into my budget tracking will help you. 🙂