Money Tracking
January 18, 2016 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning a frugal year to try and get ahead of some debts and hopefully generate a bit of savings. In aid of this I'd like to produce monthly reports of income and outgoings. Could you advise me on good software to track spending, input receipts etc. etc.

Sure, this is basically budgeting software, but I'm looking for any guidance on this project. How can I best optimise the workflow of producing a monthly report for a family of two and bit people.
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Work & Money (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Classic YNAB, aka YNAB4, would work well for you. They just launched a new web-based version, but it doesn't have reports yet so that's why I'd recommend the older version. I've been using it for a year and love it -- in fact, I'm testing out the new web version right now and may go back to classic YNAB for a bunch of reasons.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:45 AM on January 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

posted by Dashy at 11:49 AM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding Classic YNAB. It's worth noting that they also have a great app for on-the-spot budget entries and excellent training materials, including live webinar-based classes, where they can help you set up a workflow. It's pretty great.

Mint is helpful too, especially in concert with YNAB -- but I find it more useful for getting a general overview of my accounts. YNAB will help you track every penny.
posted by ourobouros at 12:42 PM on January 18, 2016

Another vote for YNAB. I have been using it for over a year and nothing compares. The mobile app (with Dropbox sync) is a great feature too, especially when you want to input your purchases as soon as you make them. I have heard people complain about having to input every single transaction. For me, that's a feature, not a bug, since it forces me to think carefully about every single purchase. Of course, there's also a recurring transaction feature to help with regularly scheduled stuff.

I did use Mint for a while but I stopped using it because it violates my user agreement with my bank and I wasn't comfortable entering my online banking card numbers/passwords on a third party site. YNAB avoids that issue completely.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:44 PM on January 18, 2016

Your bank's on-line site might include a bank report option. Mine allows you to set up categories for expenses and income. You can then assign all transactions to a category and generate reports for any time frame you want for any account. This is made easier if you run your finances through a single account, like a checking account through which you pay all bills and have income deposited.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 12:57 PM on January 18, 2016

Love the new cloud-based YNAB! You can connect your banks directly (ala Mint) and because of failing to use YNAB and other tools in the past because of forgetting to download and import bank transactions, I find the automatic import better for my needs.

What I like is the way it automatically helps you plan for the future, rather than only looking backwards. The new way it has for setting up flexible goals, as well, is really valuable. Their live classes are held frequently and explain how to use the system to your advantage.
posted by apennington at 12:58 PM on January 18, 2016

I wanted to like YNAB and have tried it multiple times, but keep coming back to Moneydance. Haven't tried the new cloud YNAB yet, though.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:09 PM on January 18, 2016

Neobudget. It's the old "envelope system" with some very nice, easy reports.
posted by Joleta at 6:25 PM on January 18, 2016

YNAB is the favorite around these parts. I love it.
posted by Brittanie at 1:01 AM on January 19, 2016

What's the cost difference between cloud and software?
I don't really use dropbox, which makes the older version less appealing. Also does the older version do the auto sync with my bank?

Will it do tracking of my specific expenditures, or is it purely a "this is what I ought to spend" thing?
Should I just shut up and try it?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:27 AM on January 19, 2016

You may as well try it considering there's still a free trial (they will sunset YNAB4 at the end of this year).

But no, it won't auto-sync with your bank. You either have to enter everything in or import statements manually.

It absolutely does track specific expenditures and let you run reports. It's not great about tracking split expenses or navigating multiple accounts, but I get around those problems using hashtags in the memo field (so I can easily search for a subset of transactions) and setting up my master categories by account (so I can easily eyeball if the budgeted total matches the account total).

I use YNAB but I only like it, I don't love it. My main gripe is how they shoehorn you into their vision for what your finances should look like, instead of creating a more robust tool that fits your circumstances. For example, the way they handle credit card usage is cumbersome because they (used to) think you shouldn't be using credit cards, even if you pay them off in full every month (to be fair, they've changed this for the SaaS version). There is basically no built-in support for joint or multiple accounts or for multiple currencies or even for reimbursed work expenses. You have to find your own ways to track that stuff and it's all possible, but sometimes clunky.
posted by mama casserole at 5:41 AM on January 19, 2016

I'm seeing that at the moment.
I'm trying to get it to deal with various different types of accounts and especially credit cards. It seems like it could be better. But I like it so far.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:50 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

YNAB can have a bit of a learning curve, and the new cloud version still has some kinks in it since they just launched it. It will probably get smoother. If you find yourself having questions as you are trying it out, there is a really active (if kind of messy) forum of YNAB users where people talk about the software and the method in super detail. You have to register to get access but it's free. The YNAB subreddit is also a pretty good resource.
posted by aka burlap at 7:02 AM on January 19, 2016

Will it do tracking of my specific expenditures, or is it purely a "this is what I ought to spend" thing?

The new YNAB does support bank importing but their philosophy is that you input your own transactions so that you actually know where every dollar you spend goes. This is what makes having the mobile apps so handy. You track the money the minute you spend it.

You set your own budget (you can read about the "envelope system" for more info on this philosophy). Give every dollar a job in your budget. The idea is that once you budget your expenses for the month, you have enough left over (even if it's $50) to put into a "Do Not Spend" category. If you overspend on, say, restaurants, you have to decide whether to cover that money with the Do Not Spend money, or money from another category, like entertainment.

The Reddit sub is great, and YNAB itself has a ton of videos on their get-out-of-debt philosophy and how the software works.
posted by Brittanie at 7:16 AM on January 19, 2016

I'm not thrilled about the new subscription model, but I will say that the new YNAB deals with credit cards much, much better than the old one. It's a difference that may end up winning me over.
posted by oblique red at 8:37 AM on January 19, 2016

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