Ask the Readers: What Tools Do You Use to Track Your Finances?

By Ashley Jacobs on 20 January 2015 80 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Laura J, Donna, and Mary for winning this week's contest!

There are so many apps, gadgets, and systems to help you do, well, everything. Tracking your finances has never been easier... if you use the right tools for you.

What tools do you use to track your finances? Which tools or methods have worked well for you at the time, and which were not so successful? Do you think your current system still needs some tweaking, or is it right where you want it to be?

Tell us about the tools you use to track your finances and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — here's how you can win!

Mandatory Entry:

  • Post your answer in the comments below. One commenter will be randomly selected to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, January 26th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. Winners will be announced after January 26th on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
     
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
     
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  • You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

Good Luck! 

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Guest's picture
KelR1

I use a combination of good old-fashioned paper and pen as well as managing my accounts and paying bills online. It works just fine for me. By using both I can double check myself and always have access to my financial info whether I'm connected at the moment or not.

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Mary Happymommy

We've used Excel spreadsheets.

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Resa

I've used LearnVest for the past few years. It focuses on setting goals, not just creating a budget. When connected to accounts like credit cards or saving accounts, you can monitor your progress in achieving those goals.

I have to admit that I really miss the old Quicken software. I liked that I could categorize a cost is monthly vs. yearly vs. weekly.

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Elena

I just use pen and paper

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Melissa Spinner

Google calendar and an excel spreadsheet

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Marcia H. Hickey

I use Quicken. It interfaces with my banking and investment accounts and makes data entry easy. Keeps me on track with income, expenses and savings. Easy to use.

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Julie

I use Quicken to help me with my personal finances. Easy to use!

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Gina

I use a simple Word document that I update daily.

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katie

I love using mint to track my spending. it really helps me to realize where my money goes! I also like digit (a sort of text app), which analyzes your checking accounts and then figures out how much you won't miss if they squirrel some over into savings. so useful!

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Denise L

I use Excel spreadsheets that I created to track my household budget and track my debt payoff.

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Suz_Glo

My most basic financial tool is balancing my checkbook and checking our receipts against our Visa bill every month. This makes me review all of our spending and it's easy to see if/where we have gone overboard.

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MJ

I use Mint.com for a complete financial picture. I like that it sends me emails with graphs of where I spent my money that week. I also like the goal setting tool within it. For my monthly income tracking, I use a simple Excel spreadsheet that I created myself. I just enter where the money came from (employer, freelance client, focus group, etc.) and the amount. Pretty easy.

I would like some kind of software that analyzes my spending every month, though. That way I could concentrate on reducing the budget in various categories. Anyone know a good, free or low cost one?

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Kim

Check out the mint trends tab - you can see month by month comparisons of spending and download the data into excel if you want to do more complex analytics.

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KAY

I have just started manually entering my expenditures using Google Sheets. It's free, and I can access my records from any device.

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Betsy Barnes

I use a journal. It contains our budget and there are sections for various entries concerning savings. It helps me keep track of paying bills and what is in savings monthly. :)

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Deborah

I use You Need A Budget Software. I like the envelope method of budgeting and it goes great with Dave Ramsey's principles.

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Guest

I mostly use Excel, but I also have a Budget Pulse account, so I can keep track online and see all of my accounts in one place.

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VeraLyne

I actually use 3 different tools: Mint.com, HelloWallet, and YNAB (You Need Budget). They all have different purposes. I have used mint.com the longest, so most of my history is there. HelloWallet was free from work, so I use it as a means for guidance on what overall goal I should work on next (in this case building an emergency fund). It helps analyze areas that can use more work (like insurance coverage). YNAB is what I use for day to day because it require manual entry. It helps me better plan and work towards their philosophy of living on last month's income. I'm partly there, but not quite.

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Ernest S.

I am an avid fan of You Need a Budget (YNAB). It's a great budgeting program that I've been using for years, and has helped me to budget effectively and progress toward my financial goals. The developer has also adapted the application to the iPhone and iPad, which makes it so easy to capture new entries.

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Guest

I use Mint. It pulls in all of my info and accounts from various sources and consolidates it into one all-up summary. Love it.

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Shelly

I use Mint. It pulls in all of my info and accounts from various sources and consolidates it into one all-up summary. Love it.

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Rebecca B. A. R.

My husband uses our online accounts to manage our money and we also pay a lot of our bills online.

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Kathleen S.

I use You Need A Budget (YNAB). It's been a life-changer!

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Betty

I use online bill pay, and a cash envelope for my purse. I transfer money into savings every payday. I leave myself X amount of cash for two weeks for gas and groceries. Any money left in the envelope also goes into savings. It works for me!

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Happy Love

I check my accounts regularly online and add them up with a calculator.

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Liz

I used mint.com

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Jen

I use Quicken to track my finances.

Donna Freedman's picture

Mostly I keep it in my head, with an occasional use of pen and paper. Then again, my budget isn't that complicated.

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Tabathia B

I use my calendar and keep up with receipts

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BRB

I'm pretty fancy, I use my bank's website and a spreadsheet.

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Nick New

I use Mint.com and Mint Bills (both on desktop and iPhone app). Keeps all my finance info in one place and I can get alerts on when bills are due and set goals for paying off loans or saving.

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Susan P.

I pay my bills online and use the websites for my bank and investment company to keep up with my portfolio.

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Mary W

I use old fashioned pencil and paper combined with the power of my new computer to merge the best of both worlds.

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Liisa

a spreadsheet and bank/credit card statements. definitely room for improvement, though...

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Gabby

I use mint.com to track spending and an excel spreadsheet to set goals.

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Ronda

Mint.com is my favorite to keep track of all my expenses, income and investments but for debt tracking/payoff I use a good old Excel spreadsheet!

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lostAnnfound

We use Quicken and have for many years. It works well for us.

Guest's picture

I use a combination of Mint and excel spreadsheets. I like Mint not only because its free, but it is super easy to use and setup all your accounts. You can set a monthly budget and track your progress over time and drill down to see where you are spending money. And you can set goals.

However, I like excel in order to do longer term planning. I typically build and maintain a budget out 3-years.

I am getting ready to check out personal capital soon, as I have been hearing a lot about it lately.

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Lori

I use Excel to track my expenses and income. The program makes it very easy to add quickly, re-arrange data, etc. I still use a paper register and write out checks for bills.

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Spencer Pollock

We use an Excel based system that we created based on some of the leading industry experts - Dave Ramsey, Suse Orman, etc. The template runs a lot in the background allowing easy fill-in-the-blank numbers but generates forecasting, business style reports and takes about 10 minutes/week to maintain an annual budget like a small business. We view some of our family activities, like budgeting, as far more important than the businesses we are employed by, so we've put some build time into the process but reap the benefits in reporting quite often.

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Marktastic

Excel.

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Nancy

We monitor accounts online. My husband keeps a ledger of recurring, fixed expenses because he pays those bills, and I keep an excel spreadsheet of variable and non-recurring expenses, since I do most of that kind of spending for the family. We have a budget on paper that's our spending guideline. Hubby informs me when to curtail spending because big bills, like taxes, insurance, etc, are due. We haven't found more convenient tools because our income varies month to month. We have some regular income, but I work as a freelance writer so that income is different every month. We're making it work. We are debt free and have emergency savings for 5 months, which we are trying to build to 1-year, but it's slow going.

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Christie

I have a notebook for our savings account that keeps me sane. We save up for all our bills, etc during the year in one account, so keeping track is a necessity. I'm pretty organized, so this makes it easy to keep track of everything.

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Matt Hampton

Excel spreadsheet updated quarterly works very well. Summary page provides a complete history of where I'm at. Save summary pages so I can see my progress.

Guest's picture

I have used Quicken to track my finances, including for a time running my business with it, since it was available in a DOS format. I really liked the Windows versions, and was nervous about switching to Quicken for Mac 2007 when I decided to change over to a Mac desktop and laptop. The switch was painful, with many investment records not crossing over. As I look at current upgrades I've decided to stick with the 2007 version as newer upgrades are less robust. I've had to keep my desktop on an older OS version to run Quicken for Mac 2007 and my laptop is upgraded to Yosemite as the new 2015 Turbotax will not run on older OS versions. That is a pain. It makes me at least consider a move back to Windows based Intuit products, on my Mac or with computer upgrades.

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Diane

I use an Excel spreadsheet. It lists my accounts, payment dates, balances & payment due. It is divided into two sections for the 1st & the 15th of each month, with a monthly column to mark as payments are made, which serves as a reminder. I've done this for years & it works great.

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Donna Sako

I use Quicken and I have a similar program with my credit union on line. I also use a written one.

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Jennifer

Mint.com and an Excel spreadsheet

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Ashley

I love Mint.com and have been using it since 2009. It categorizes everything and even alerts me when I am close to a budget I have set. It has great graphics that clearly show where your money has gone. It also makes tracking expenses with my boyfriend simple, as we can both easily see what was spent and figure out what each of us owes.

As a small business owner I am considering some options to help better regulate my business expenses and invoicing, but so far I have done well with an excel spreadsheet.

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Richelle

I use personal capital now. I first used Mint, then graduated to LearnVest. Now that I have outgrown the two of them, Personal Capital really is the best I've found for tracking your networth and not just your budget.

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Bethany

I track through bank websites. Very helpful!

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Ravi Mantha

I use Quicken software

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Amritpal Singh

I user Mint.com. Its free. All credit cards, checking/savings/mortgage/401k/ROTH IRA even 529 accounts in once place. It saved me money by sending alerts when hit by a bank fee.

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Kristy

Mint.com works for me, but I usually start off with paper and pen.

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Brian

I use OpenOffice spread sheets for asset allocation and long term planning. For short term buy/sells and to monitor stocks I would like to buy when the price is right I use a fantastic inexpensive program called CoolTick.

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Britt

I use a combination of excel spreadsheets (I was an accounting/finance major, so those things are my best friend) and various money apps, including Prism for bill management, Level for budgeting, and Savedplus for savings. I actually wrote a blog post about my experience with SavedPlus and how to use the app itself, which can be found at the following link. I highly recommend all of these to anyone needing a little extra help in the personal finance department.

http://brittandthebenjamins.com/budgeting-saving/saving-made-simple-the-...

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Guest

I just use an excel spreadsheet. I wanted to try Mint but wasn't sure about linking it to my bank accounts.

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Guest

In the past I've used Excel and Mint.com, but now I'm all about Save Up!

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Dee Dee

Excel it is.

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Laura J

We use Excel to track our finances! We do monthly budgets and enter our spendings each month. Helps so much to have everything for the year budgeted out!

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An G

I use quicken

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Louly

I use the online tools provided with my bank to track my finances! They make it easy with exportable data and easy to use search functions.

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Vivi

I mainly use mint to track everything and to keep my budgets in check, and I use checkbook app which DOES not link to my banks and I want it that way. The reason, if you pay a bill doing EFT it may take 2-5 days for it to come out of your bank so I put every little expense into my checkbook app, then 2-3 times a week I log into mint. The amounts from the app and mint should match if they don't red flag. I check the discrepancy and most of the time its a transaction that hasn't cleared my bank yet so it looks like I have more money than I actually do and mint doesn't post it till it clears. I make sure to keep all my bills with reminders so I don't forget. Most importantly I watch my spending.

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SerenityNow

Just paper and pen, and online banking. I used to use Mint, but found that paper and pen worked just as well for my money management needs!

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an g

I use quicken

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Elle

I use pen/paper/journal. I don't keep track using the computer at all.

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Kim

Mint is my go-to for tracking finances. I love the interface both on the computer and the app. I review and categorize purchases as part of my daily routine and love seeing how I make progress towards my saving goals. I also use the 'budgets' feature for monthly budgeting and love how it is color codes to show if you are on or off track.

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Matthew

Quicken....

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Shay

I use an Excel spreadsheet and sign up for email reminders from companies (linked to my Google calendar) to make sure I pay online and on time. I also try to stay on top of my credit card statement and cross-check that with my spreadsheet every few days.

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Maura

An app named Mint

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Megan J

I use an Excel spreadsheet and have a monthly reminder on my Google calendar to alert me. I think it works pretty well and I like looking back to when I first started tracking to see how our debts/saving have changed.

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Lidia

Quicken

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Alyssa

I use quicken. I love the charts (money spent looks so much prettier in pie chart format). And the ability to download my transactions easily for review.

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Amanda Sakovitz

I just write them down.

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Mr. Mark

I use Quicken. Every time I have used other personal finance software, I just keep on coming back to Quicken. Nothing else in my experience comes close.

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Kat Skull

I like to use Mint and newly added Digit

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Thomas Murphy

I use Quicken

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ash

I love using my student loan website to schedule payments. Mostly I use my check register and my bank statements. I try to avoid using my credit card.