Financial Tools

Tools

A good place to start the process of introducing you to our financial picture is to give you the lens in which we view our finances. I have tried many different methods to track, maintain, and develop our financial picture into a dynamic up-to-date tool to help us make decisions concerning how our money is spent. Below is a list of tools we use weekly:

  • Excel
  • Internet banking/billing portals
  • E-mail to discuss finances with siblings
  • Skype for same (Can share desktop with other people so they can review the same documents you are at the same time)

Now I have tried other products (Quicken and Mint.com) but have found them both severely lacking the tools to refine my financial picture down to the detail I prefer. Essentially, in the amount of time it would have taken me to learn how to operate and manipulate Quicken or Mint.com I was able to create all of the functionality I wanted into an Excel workbook. The beauty is that I never have to relearn a new update or system. If I do not like something or if I am interested in what changing this number would do to these all I have to do is change it and its done.

The toughest part in creating your own budgeting/finance program in Excel is just starting. What I did was one day in February of 2009 I sat down at my computer and just started creating columns with headers. I started with what I am going to call the holy trinity of personal finances (which someone almost certainly has coined before):

  • Revenue (Money coming in)
  • Expenses (Money going out)
  • Dashboard (Money coming in – Money going out)

So with that basic set-up you have the foundation to go further. For example, line items of particular Revenues (Warren’s salary, B’s Salary, Reimbursement Checks, Tax refunds, etc) and particular Expenses (Fixed Expenses, Entertainment, Restaurants, Online, Stores, etc). I ended up taking my expenses down one more level putting particular line items. For example:

  • Expenses – Restaurants – McDonalds

I would now be able to tell EXACTLY how much I spent at McDonalds every month in 2009, which makes you sad when you realize you give them $200 + annually.

In my next post I will give an out-dated example of one of my Excel sheet screenshots and give a basic overview of how to mimic it if you feel it could help you get financially on track. (I have helped a co-worker using my Excel template and she has seen great results! Never underestimate the power of knowledge. When you know where your money is going you are a much better steward of your dollars!)

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About odysseustoday

25 year old man starting his financial journey.
This entry was posted in Finances, Financial Tools and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Financial Tools

  1. Willis Yehl says:

    I thought it was interesting how you said that you had tried different financial softwares and the time it takes to learn those you could do the same on an excel sheet. That is so true. I have seen your excel workbooks but I can’t relate to them or utilize them because i don’t have all of the same incomes and expenses so most of the columns don’t make as much sense, but I can relate to the basics of just tracking your expenses in order to better negotiate where you choose to spend your money. Thanks for the insight.

  2. jillyn says:

    i also recommend http://www.mint.com. it is very simple to use as long as all of your accounts can upload. i find it very helpful to see all of my account information updated on a daily basis. it can be encouraging when you are working off a debt or trying to build up savings.

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