The Infinite Kind Blog

The Infinite Kind Blog

Making my budget dance

I’m having a lazy day in Iceland today.  My travel buddy, Jon, is off hiking up a mountain and I decided to spend the day relaxing at the guesthouse and doing some serious window shopping.  I’ve read in several guidebooks  that Icelanders are very into fashion and design.  After spending a few hours walking along Laugavegur, the main shopping street in Reykjavik, I am totally convinced.  Even the used items for sale at the Red Cross second-hand shop are stylish and well-made!  I’m glad that I came here at the beginning of my travels, as the knowledge that I’ll have to carry anything I buy for the next six months has restrained my shopper’s instincts a great deal.  If I was heading directly home after Iceland I think I would bust my budget in the shops!

My travel budget is a great example of customizing Moneydance’s tools to meet my specific (albeit somewhat unusual) needs.  When I began planning this trip I realized that I would need a detailed budget.  I’m going splurge on a number of things, including a weekend in Brussels and a spa day in Budapest, so I need to be diligent about tracking my spending to make sure I don’t end up eating ramen noodles for the rest of the trip.  What this means is that I need a budget which is both flexible and permits a high degree of granularity.
The other complicated piece of expense tracking for this trip is that I’m prepaying about 2/3 of my hotels and train tickets.  For example, in August I purchased 3 train tickets for my travels through England in October.  I wanted my budget reports to reflect that these were October’s travel expenses, not August’s.  To do this I created sub-categories for each month’s lodging and travel costs so I can have a clearer idea of how much I’ve already spent for each month’s expenses.  I have a category named Lodging:October for which I have budgeted $1200 as a non-recurring expense.  This line item begins on August 1 and ends on October 31.  I have similar sub-categories for lodging and travel November, December, etc, allowing me to track how much I’ve spent for each month of the trip.
I really appreciate the budgeting feature which allow budgeting intervals from daily to yearly, as for me different intervals work for different categories.  Larger, less frequent transactions such as train tickets and lodging are tracked by month, but  I’ve divided my eating out, grocery, entertainment, personal care, and miscellaneous categories into weekly intervals.  This makes it less likely I’ll blow all of my money in the first half of each month and end up busting my budget or eating a lot of ramen at the end (or so I hope).

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On a budget related-note, my new favorite graph is the “Income and Expenses” pie chart. It’s an incredibly clear (and occasionally brutal) visualization of how my income compares to my expenditures. If you are trying to stick to your budget, especially if you are using the zero-sum calculation method, this is a great tracking tool.

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In my next post I’ll describe how I’m using liability accounts in Moneydance to help keep the finances between my travel companion Jon and I organized.

The information in this blog posts is only meant to detail my experience and should not be considered financial advice.