Tired of wondering where all your money is going? Want an easy way to determine your monthly savings rate? Then it’s time to take charge of your monetary life and get your financial house in order. Mr. IM is here to help.
The InterestingMoney.com Finance Tracker
What is it? Basically, it’s a spreadsheet to track your household financial life. No, it’s more than that – it’s a life-changing tool that promises to fatten your wallet, crush your debt, and make you a better lover. That’s a bit overboard. The truth is somewhere in between.
At its core, it’s a budgeting tool. You start by listing your monthly expenses (both fixed and variable) as well as your income. In each month’s individual sheet, you add your purchases and paychecks as they come. The IM Finance Tracker will graph your spending and reveal whether you under/over spent in each category.
OK, so it’s a budgeting spreadsheet. What else does it do? For one, it calculates and tracks your savings rate (how much you keep based on what you earn), both by the month and as a yearly average. As an example, Mr. IM knows that he has an average savings rate of 51% for the year (to date). Can you beat that? If so, I applaud you.
For those of you interested in financial independence, the IM Finance Tracker also graphs your passive income versus your total expenses (see the Income v Expenses sheet). Once the green bar (representing passive income) meets and regularly exceeds the red bar (representing monthly expenses), you will have achieved financial independence.
Who’s it for, and what does it cost? You, of course. More seriously, it’s for anyone who wants to dig in and manually take charge of their cash-flow. I say manually because you have to add each of your expenses individually (except recurring fixed expenses, naturally). Buy a cup of coffee? Add it to the spreadsheet. Buy a new gadget on Amazon? Add it to the spreadsheet. Rinse and repeat.
I originally thought that I would wait until the end of each month to open my credit card statements and dump them into the tracker. Boy, was I mistaken. Once I started using this tool, it became like an addiction – every time I made a purchase, I couldn’t rest until the Finance Tracker reflected it, and it became great fun watching the savings rate adjust with each purchase, paycheck, or dividend payment. You have to be a little OCD about finance to enjoy it, but for those of you out there, just give it a shot. I can’t imagine life without it now. As an aside, I don’t tend to use it as much as a strict budgeting tool as much as I rely on it to simply track where my money goes. In other words, I don’t let it restrict me, but rather I let it inform me about my own financial habits. As in: I spent how much money on Restaurants in May? WTF?! Or… Holy shit! I earned $720 in dividends in June! Sweet!
As for cost, you’re kidding, right? It’s free.
Why not just use something like Mint.com? Mint.com is great, so if you’re already using it and are happy with it, you have no real reason to try the IM Finance Tracker. However, if you’d prefer a more hands-on approach to your finances, then I encourage you to give it a shot.
Mint.com works by automatically logging into all of your financial accounts and pulling in all of your transactions. This means that you have to hand over all of your usernames, passwords, and security questions. If this gives you the heebie-jeebies, then you need to look for a different kind of budgeting tool.
The IM Finance Tracker does none of that, and some of you may find that to be a feature in itself. While I’m sure that Mint.com has a great security record, that’s still a lot of trust that you put in their hands. The bottom line is that if you’re uncomfortable handing over that level of trust, but still want a free budgeting tool, then the IM Finance Tracker is for you.
Anything else I should know? Because the IM Finance Tracker is hosted in Google Drive, it’s available to you anywhere you have Internet access (home, work, smartphone, etc). You should also know that the spreadsheet is most effective if you start at the beginning of the calendar year, but you can start using it anytime.
Also, I’m indebted to Neil Rothman, whose excellent Excel spreadsheet (see this FW thread) serves as the foundation for the IM Finance Tracker. I made numerous modifications and added some new features, such as the ability to track Savings Rate. If you enjoy this software and want to make a small financial donation in support of it, I humbly request that you make it to him, not to me.
That’s about it. Happy budgeting! Let me know if you encounter any bugs or want to see some new features.