I want to start posting numbers. I’ll hold off for the time being and discuss my method(s) for tracking accounts.
Back in 2005 my power was shut off and I believe this became the catalyst for my many things including an increased interest in the world of personal finance. I began my career early the following year. I followed blogs like Get Rich Slowly , Free Money Finance , Consumerism Commentary , Wise Bread, and The Simple Dollar. Some of these blogs were quite different 13 years ago. They’ve all come along way.
Around this time I took my spending plan from simply monitoring my checking account online to expense tracking in software.
the old and the powerful
I start budgeting with Quicken and Microsoft Money. I believe my first copy was Quicken 2006 and as I mentioned it was my first exploration in to personal finance software. I enjoyed tracking the expenditures and budgeting for future purchases. Maybe I should have explored a career as a CPA instead of becoming a construction project manager. One of my favorite features of Quicken was it’s ability to forecast. I used Quicken for expenditure tracking from 2006 through approximately 2010. This took me through our first home purchase and our marriage (both in 2008) and our son’s birth (2009). Why did I stop using Quicken? I’m not sure. I did always find it humorous that they would re-brand the same software annually with a new number and very little in feature upgrades. The software was also bloated with confusing menus.
My brief encounter with beautiful by weak Mint
Somewhere after Quicken I moved to Mint. I was using Mint before intuit purchased the company. I remember being impressed with the graphical interface. It certainly wasn’t a budgeting tool at the time, but it could track expenditures. It lacked upcoming transactions but included very pretty graphs. Overall I felt less than impressed by it and I quickly stopped categorizing my expenses. This software just wasn’t enough for my needs and I didn’t stick with it longer than a few months. I was needing something else but not ready to go back to Quicken.
Now we get to the good stuff; YNAB
After a brief stint with cash and envelopes (Dave Ramsey story for another day) I found YNAB (You Need a Budget). I started using it in 2012 through 2014. Then the birth of our daughter and a house upgrade in 2014 followed by a couple years of poor financial purchases. I picked up YNAB once more in 2018 with a renewed interest. For those not familiar with YNAB; it functions as a cross between Quicken and Dave Ramsey’s envelope system. You budget with money that you have placing the dollars in categories (as if they were envelopes). You can then spend using bank accounts and credit cards out of those category envelopes. The newest version is web based and has a recurring fee. I feel that the fee is reasonable and it’s along the lines of Quicken Deluxe. I feel their method of credit card handling is second to none. I’m a churner, so it’s very important that the software handles credit cards the right way. They are very generous with their trial so if you haven’t already, give them a try.
There is a strong correlation between tracking spending and having enough money to save. I know that I will not be able to achieve my FIRE dreams without tracking if I maintain the same income levels. I plan for the immediate future to continue the use of YNAB (You Need a Budget) and will use it’s data to share my cash flow and net worth increases with you.