Archive for August 31st, 2009

Keeping track of expenses in three currencies does not simplify things.

Keeping track of expenses in three currencies does not simplify things.

For the last several years, well since starting college, I have kept track of my expenses using an excel spreadsheet.

It started out being several columns for the date, the place and the amount put onto my credit card. I felt I should keep track of what I used my credit card on in case a credit card bill was off. The following summer I was doing a bit more freelance computer work and wanted to keep track of the hours I worked, what I made and I what I spent it on. At this point still a disorganized spreadsheet.

My sophomore year started with a small jump forward, I now had columns for different expenses with subtotals at the bottom with a running overall total next to them. And I put a section for income so I could see how much I was losing that quarter. From here it evolved slowly into a more complex sheet but the same idea remained.

Now that I am moving away from that lifestyle (one where I mostly spent money) into one with a reliable income I decided to look at free personal finance software for OS X. I looked briefly a few times, gathered a list of potential applications and tried them out.

None of them did anything new. One had a better way to enter items and another and most had easier categorization (currently I use a column per category). One overarching “feature” was program specific file types.

The one feature that they had that I did not already have in my spreadsheet was pie charts and graphs for showing how much money has been spent in various categories. Graphs? Those are easy.

A few minutes later I now have a spreadsheet with two neat pie charts at the bottom. One breaking down expense categories and the other showing various incomes versus overall expenditures. Expenses in shades of red (for different credit cards and such) and income in shades of green (bank account, gift cards etc.). Now I just have to keep the green side from being eaten by the red side to stay out of debt.

I suppose that once I lead a more financial complicated life I will need a more advanced piece of software to track investments and the like. However for now when there is rarely anything over a thousand dollars a simple spread sheet has turned out to be the best of the lot.

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