Sunday, December 31, 2006

Get Your G's Together, G: #1 Budgeting

This is my first article in the series, "Get Your G's Together, G" where I will address some financial basics in case any of you made a New Year's resolution to be more financially responsible.... or at least to consider being more financially responsible. I don't consider myself an expert on these subjects since most of my education is from FatWallet Forums or other blogs, so don't be afraid to rip me a new one if I deserve it. Well, maybe you could be a little gentler, but I'd appreciate feedback if you know something that I don't.

One of my New Year's resolutions was to start tracking my expenses and creating a budget. To do so, I need some sort of program or system. My friend Andrew, who is the one who actually got me thinking about budgeting, gave me the software he uses. I'm going to give it a try, but I realize that not everyone has access to the same software. Therefore, I scoured other blogs to see what other PF bloggers had found useful. My main requirements for a program are that it must be free, functional, and fun. Free because, well, we're either poor or cheap or both. Functional because, well, it has to work. And fun, because well, I get bored easily if it's not fun.

Here are my top choices:
AceMoney Lite tops my list because it meets all of the prereqs, and surprisingly, one of the few that did so. It allows files to be imported in QIF(Quicken) or OFX format which are formats compatible with almost all, if not all banking systems. This was a huge factor for me since most of my purchases are on my credit card; if I can import my statements, everything is easier. You can also create a budget and track how you do in any given time period as well as seeing where your spending goes. This is only the tip of the icebergy - there are so many more features that you can take advantage of once you check it out.

SimpleD Budget is another great program and worthy of the name. Out of all of the programs I looked at, this actually looks the most fun because you can view everything in the form of graphs and piecharts. While it may seem superficial to point out how "fun" a program is, for I doubt budgeting ranks high among people's hobbies, so anything that makes budgeting interesting helps. The only downside for me is that it doesn't have the ability to import files in the ways mentioned above, but if you pay mostly in cash or don't mind inputting values, this is a program with a good feel.

I found both of these over at My Money Blog, where there is a huge compilation of budgeting tools, so take a gander over there to see the full list.

Here are some alterternatives:
Where are the Excel spreadsheets, you ask? Now I realize that most people have Excel on their computers, but technically, it isn't free. However, for those of you who like Excel, I found an excellent spreadsheet.

I looked at many spreadsheets, but the one Savvy Steward has created is my favorite.
He has two tables - one for "daily records" and another for a "table of totals." In the "daily records" he inputs and categorizes and on the table of totals he can tally all of the daily records together. What I find convenient is that once you categorize spending in "daily records", it is automatically tallied together for the table of totals. It also shows what your projected expenses would be if you kept at the current pace, so you can see how you should adjust future spending. Since it's a regular spreadsheet, you can easily modify it for your purposes. If you don't like this format, there are plenty of spreadsheets out there if you just do a search. Just be sure to type in "sheets" instead of "Sheen" or else you may get some unflattering glamour shots of certain celebrities.

For those of you who don't have Excel, an open-source equivalent of MS Office is available at My old computer died, and I didn't have a copy of MS Office, so I've been using this, and I've been satisfied. I would guess that the average user wouldn't notice any difference - I don't.

And finally, for those of you who are old school, here's a throw back to the times when we didn't have this oversized calculator and the only surfing you did was at the beach. has forms you can print out and fill in.

I looked at some other blogs that have some resources, and they may have what you're looking for if it isn't here. Here's the best of the rest:
I Will Teach You to Be Rich
Consumerism Commentary
Frugal for Life

I hope you find these useful, and if you have any other suggestions of good programs or spreadsheets, please post them here!

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Anonymous Savvy Steward said...

Hi Stingy Students. Thanks for taking a look at my Excel budget spreadsheet. I've been using it for the past two years to track my spendings and have added some improvements along the way.

January 3, 2007 at 11:33 AM  

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