In this holiday season, and in these economically challenging times, it pays (pardon the pun) to keep track of our spending so that you don’t allow gift buying and other money related activities to end up setting you back for months and months.
There are several ways how to track money and spending–from simple checkbook tracking, the budget envelop method, to reviewing our online banking statements on a weekly basis.
Mint Holiday Budgeting
I use Mint.com to keep track of my spending, and I have written about the site before. But in this holiday season, if you have never tried Mint or if you’re a current member, you might find it useful to keep a lid on spending for gifts, travel, parties, and decorations by creating a holiday budget.
Essentially, when you sign up on Mint.com, you allow the site to import all the transactions from your bank and credit card accounts. The site gets no control of your accounts, and nor can you or anyone else can use your Mint account to withdraw or deposit money to your financial accounts through Mint. It simply helps you keep track of your spending.
Once you’re set up in Mint you can create a personal budget to monitor your spending. This is the main reason I use Mint. For as John Maxwell says, “A budget is people telling their money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
For the holiday season, you could also create a budget for gifts, travel, parties, decorations, etc. to help you stay within your spending limit.
To set up a budget, first determine what amount of your income you have left after required expenses (rent, mortgage, loans, grocery, food, utilities, etc) have been met. This money is your expendable income—what you can afford to spend after required expense are dealt with.
Now in your Mint.com account set up a budget so you can keep track of your spending and stay within the limits of your budget. Mint will automatically send you a notice when you go over a budget item.
For more about how to use Mint.com, see my article here.
If you need to not only keep track of your spending but also the receipts of your purchases, you might want to give OneReceipt a try. This modest, well designed site allows you to email online receipts to your OneReceipt account where the essential information is grabbed and displayed for later reviewing and download if needed.
While it’s quite easy to save receipts on your computer, OneReceipt can be used as either a backup system for your receipts and/or a place to manage your receipts and spending. For your non-online receipts you can snap a photo of your paper receipts and email them to your account for processing.
Your account comes with a fairly broad list of categories including Entertainment, Food & Dining, Kids, Home, Web Hosting, but for some odd reason I don’t see a way to create custom categories. You can however create custom tags.
OneReceipt not only grabs information about your online purchases, it also provides you a running total of your purchases, and thus you have another way of tracking your spending.
As your OneReceipt account starts to fill up you can sort receipts by time frame, price range, categories and tags.
The site will also send you monthly alerts about your spending; and you can view a chart breakdown where your money is going.
Let us know what you think of these online tools for personal financing. And for other ideas on how to track money, see The 3 Best Free Personal Finance Managers for iPhone and Manage Your Budget & Expenses Using Google Budgeting Tools.
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