I think one of the biggest issues that a new homeowner can face is reevaluating how they should handle their budget. You can look back at some previous posts for some of my ideas on this topic, but I was thinking of tracking expenses lately. With tax time upon us, I imagine that many of us are considering how to best handle our records.
Coming from a background where I oversaw offices, and now run my own business, I have always treated my home accounting along those lines. I mark down on invoices when they were paid, the amount, and any other relevant information (like what it was for). I have monthly files, for invoices, and other files for related information to the bills. I track my expenses in a spreadsheet that I created, and I do a monthly analysis of my expenditures. I also track other financial information, like investments, in another spreadsheet. I then have a proposed budget based on the income that I expect to come in. At the end of the month I go over all of these reports to see how I am doing.
This may be overkill for the average homeowner though. I think organizing your bills is important, but what about the tracking of the information. I looked at Microsoft’s Money program, which came with my computer, but I was hesitant. The program seemed to be directing me to MSN.com for everything. I worry about the security of the program, and quite frankly, I wonder if Microsoft is collecting data on me that I do not want them to have. Maybe these concerns are unwarranted, but I feel that they are justified.
Looking into alternatives, I found a free program available on the Sourceforge website. It is called GnuCash. It works much like Money does, but I have a better feeling about it. I liked the fact that it had some basic accounting tutorials in the program. The set up was easy enough, but you will have a little work to do with it, mainly data input. If you use internet banking, the bank’s site will have an option for you to download the information in a QTIF (quick time image file) format. This file can then be used by GnuCash. This is the same method that Money uses. You will then have to update the program on a monthly basis. The result will be that you will have a good overview of your finances, which is the first step in being in control of your money.
You do not need to spend countless hours fretting about your finances. Spend a little time each week, and you will start to see improvements.