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How We Keep Our Finances Organized

I’ve been emailed several times in the last few weeks with the same question – “How do you keep your finances organized?”  It’s definitely not a huge secret – I love Excel.  But my husband and I both work from home now, so there is a bit more to staying organized than there used to be.  Here’s how we keep everything straight.

Excel for the Business

We have several Excel spreadsheets to help us track absolutely everything related to our online income.  If the tax man ever comes knocking, hopefully he will absolutely adore us.  We’ve streamlined since I first started, so it is easier than ever.

We have one sheet that tracks the income that is 100% ours like the deals closed for Budgeting in the Fun Stuff and our commissions from clients.  We have another that tracks my client and co-owned blogs’ deals and all of the associated data.  Then we have a third sheet for all of our online expenses.   Between these three sheets, every deal, expiration date, and online cost is accounted for and searchable thanks to the Excel interface.

Since we do track every penny and try to keep all of the data we possibly can, the record keeping alone takes at least an hour a day (two or three during our busiest times) just for the online business.

Excel for the Day to Day

Since our lives are not completely online, I also keep an Excel spreadsheet for our daily living expenses.  Our budget has a column for our targets and then an additional column where I enter what we’ve actually spent.  I use a combination of our credit card statements and bank statements to track everything there to make sure we stay on track.

That spreadsheet also has automated calculations set up to assign any extra income each month to the appropriate savings and investments.  I manually transfer the extra money based on what it shows.

Credit Card Statements

Even though every expense is tracked in our budget, we also save the monthly credit card statements and highlight the different expenses based on what is tax deductible.

When we file each year (Mr. BFS literally does our taxes by hand now and then double-checks himself with software), we use those credit card statements and our business spreadsheets to figure out what we can deduct and what categories those deductions would fall into.  I highlight the business expenses in yellow to make them easy to find and total.  We save the receipts as well for the sake of records, but this highlighting method on the statements is faster for the actual forms.

Overall, by using our spreadsheets and credit card statements, we can track all of our income, all of our expenses, and make plans for our future too.

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18 comments to How We Keep Our Finances Organized

  • Have you guys ever considered using something like mint for your personal finances? We’ve been using it for years and for us it’s way easier than updating Excel all the time.

  • Excel is awesome, I have one spreadsheet that tracks all elements of our finances with sheets added and hidden as they are needed or no longer needed. I’ve looked at personal software but I’m so set in my ways that I couldn’t adapt to the big change required.

    To give perspective, I have my net worth history for over 10 years included in the spreadsheet, and it’s got data all that way back!

  • That’s really good to be tracking expenses in a detailed way such as this, as long as you have the time to pull it off. Excel offers a tremendous amount of flexibility in that you can build your spreadsheet and tracking function in a customized way to meet your own specific needs and preferences.

    Having said that, I’ve been utilizing Mint for dealing with tracking expenses. It’s not perfect, but automated and it saves an absolute ton of time vs. what I did with Excel – albeit not as customized to my individual tastes. So, I’m making tradeoffs.

    For general, bigger picture net worth tracking, that’s all Excel for me.

  • I used to use excel but now use quicken for my personal finances. In 2013 I plan to use quicken for income and expenses for my business and excel for tracking everything else.

  • Love the spreadsheets (I use 5 regularly), but do have to be disciplined in entering into them regularly. Otherwise, what a nightmare!

  • I thought I was the only nerd with spreadsheets! I use them for everything. I balance my checkbook, lists, etc.

  • @Mrs. Pop, my personal finance spreadsheet only takes an hour or two a month, so I’m pretty happy. :-)

    @Money Beagle, yeah, I have our personal budgets since 2005, lol.

    @Digital Personal Finance, I don’t spend much time tracking our personal expenses (about and hour or two a month), but thanks for the suggestion.

    @Lance, we thought about Quicken, but our Excel sheets are customized exactly like we want and super easy to change if needed. There isn’t that much flexibility with other softwares so far.

    @Rod, so true.

    @krantcents, nope, not just you. :-)

  • MikeS

    Count me as an Excel fan too. While I don’t have my net worth number going back 10 years like Money Beagle, the expense data goes all the way back to 1998. I too have various tabs in the file for different things. I’d be completely lost without it. All told, I probably spend 1-2 hours a month keeping it up-to-date.

  • Have you been able to use the spreadsheet I sent you? It was in beta, and didn’t know if it would fit your needs. If it does, awesome, if not, no big deal. I, too, LOVE Excel, and the fact that you can customize it any way you want :)

  • Thanks for answering this, Crystal! I wish I were an Excel guru – but I definitely am not! Mr. Thriftability is a spreadsheet guru as well. I use Quicken Home & Business, and have reminders set in my calendar so that I stay on track with entering in any receipts/cash expenditures.

  • Leprechaun

    Crystal-

    Been following your blog regularly for the past year or so. I’m of the type who does lots of reading but very little posting/commenting. I’m an ultra PF nerd like yourself…extremely meticulous about every penny and I’ll tell you without a doubt there is nothing better than Quicken for tracking finances. I have the rental property and investments version, but the simpler ones work fine. I’ve been using it since 99. It’s far superior to excel (and I’m an excel geek who does a lot of VBA programming) for getting budget and networth snapshots…and also spending by category(once you have your categories defined). There is a steep learning curve, but once you get through that, it is perfect for tracking everything from daily expenses, to savings, to retirement accounts and brokerage accounts. You can make any and all charts/graphs/budgets you could possibly ask for…net worth, year over year comparisons by month or quarter, you name it. I’m amazed how few PF bloggers use this tool which is hands down the best thing out there (no I don’t work for them). It gives the ability to automate many things, but for people who are into looking at every penny, you can enter things manually if you please (that’s what I do for most things). I strongly recommend to you and your readers to give it a look. Thanks for all you do…love your blog, your spirit, and all you do for the PF world.

    P.S. I used to live in Houston…absolutely loved it there. Definitely miss the low cost of living!

  • I am such an Excel junkie. And good for you and Len for making the necessary time to keep your business so organized. I used to love budgeting before I became pregnant—I would spend hours in Excel just playing with numbers to reflect different scenarios, LOL!

  • I too use Excel for all the daily/monthly tracking for not only my personal stuff but for my 2 online businesses and a combo of Excel and Quick Books for my brick & mortar business. I love Excel because of the flexibility and it’s ease of review for the need to know now types of situations. Great post for those A types and not so A types!

  • I am an excel junkie, I have excel spreadsheets for everything, I track everything in excel, I use VBA macros that get stock prices from yahoo and auto book values from Edmunds, my net worth is automated and updates itself whenever the market changes.

    I track all accounts, expenses, and investments in excel. I have workbooks dedicated to comparing mortgage scenarios both with and without HELOCS. I track amortizing loans and simple interest loans as well as hybrid which support interest only and principal and interest calculations. I have other workbooks which compare investments to determine expected returns and run Monte Carlo simulations. A long time ago I had workbooks which were used to optimize debt reduction (I no longer need those). You name it and I probably have an Excel workbook for it, if I don’t and it sounds cool I will build it, let me know what you are looking for.

    I think Excel is the single greatest piece of software ever written, I use it all the time personally and professionally (software engineer for Wall Street).

  • I’ll admit, I don’t do a hell of a lot! Our online banking is awesome and has a built in tracking tool, and as for budgeting, our expenses are more or less the same every week, so I I don’t need to do much in that regard.

  • We’ve just started using Excel and I think it’s going to be great for tracking out new budget.

  • Staying organized is insurance for your business. You can’t have financial documents not in order otherwise it leads to chaos.

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