Don’t Feed the Alligators

A Personal Finance Blog from a Small-Scale Landlord’s Perspective

Creative Commons License photo figure credit: fimoculous

My wife and I are big fans of Google Apps, a suite of office type applications that run in a web browser and provide such services as Calendar, Spreadsheet, Document, RSS Reader, Email, and more. We have been sharing a number of calendars for a few years now, which is a fantastic way to keep track of all kinds of appointments from any internet connected computer. More recently, we have been using Google Documents, including Spreadsheets to share all kinds of information.

Google Apps are fantastic for collaborating on a project. Anyone with a Google account can share a Google item with any other Google user. Each user can see the item, whether it be a calendar entry, spreadsheet, or Reader item, and depending on the level of permission, can also edit the item. Multiple people can even be working on the same document simultaneously, and Google will merge the concurrent changes as they are made and refresh the other participants’ views.

This functionality seemed perfect to become a key tool for tracking spending and budgeting. A major problem that we had with tracking spending was capturing odd purchases or dividing up single bills into multiple spending categories. Often ScrapperMom or I would purchase something online from a vendor whose name we would not recognize at the end of the month when I sat down with Quicken to review and categorize our finances. A Google spreadsheet seemed like the perfect place to record such a transaction, since it was accessible nearly everywhere by both of us. Some other typical entries include grocery bills that also include a cash back portion, or bank deposits that include multiple checks.

Another great use for a Google spreadsheet is a budget. I can view and reorganize our monthly budget from anywhere. At the end of the month, I simply copy last month’s budget to a new sheet, and then make some minor modifications, if necessary, to prepare the spending plan for the coming month.

Lastly, I use Google Calendar to alert me when bills, transfers, or paychecks are due. I also set up alerts to remind me to check bank balances to make sure that always meet my minimum balances.

What technologies do you use to keep track of your finances?

6 Responses to “Using Google Apps to Track Spending and Budget”

  1. Chris Says:

    I like Google Apps too. You can upload and download the documents in a variety of formats (pdf, MSWord, Open Office, etc.). Also, in Google Calendar, you can set the reminders to pop up on your screen, or to send you a text message, or both.

    I do most of my banking online, and I checked my checking account online two days ago for the first time in a couple of weeks (mostly it runs like clockwork). That very day, there was a charge for over $1900. that I didn’t make. It wiped out not only my checking, but my line of credit and overdrew my account. I called them and they immediately canceled my card and sent me a new one. By the next morning, the charge was rejected, so I didn’t even have to file a fraud claim. But I’ll definitely check the account more often than every couple of weeks (and I often set reminders in Google Calendar to do things like that).

  2. MITBeta Says:

    This is precisely why I no longer use my debit card if I can help it. With a debit card, someone can clean out your bank account (and overdraft account…) before you know it. Debit cards don’t have nearly the same guarantees by law as credit cards. Most banks have pretty good protection policies (i.e. you’ll get all your money back…) you’re left holding the bag until you get things cleaned up, which could takes days at least and weeks or more at worst. In the mean time, there are mortgages to be paid, etc. I now try to use my credit card exclusively — in fact so much so that I often have a hard time trying to remember the pin number on my ATM card. If someone steals your credit card (or number) you aren’t actually out any money, and the bank can reverse the charges immediately, or at least suspend them pending review.

  3. Velvet Says:

    Was tatloly stuck until I read this, now back up and running.


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