Okay, the holidays are over! Time to get things under control in 2016 before it gets too late! if you’re serious about tracking spending and coming up with a budget plan to hold on to a little more of your money than you did the previous year, this is a good time to dive in. In fact, you probably have most of the data you need right at your fingertips already: It’s there waiting in your online bank and credit-card accounts.
For starters, most credit-card companies offer a 2015 Year End Summary or statement that breaks down all your charges on that card into categories so you can see where your cash went last year – and make changes for this year if you need to. If you log into your account and don’t see a link to your Year End report, give it a few weeks — most should be available for download by early February and could also be helpful at tax time if you take deductions for things like charitable deductions that you may have charged.
Some banks, like Wells Fargo (if you have an account there), let you really track your cashflow with an online spending report. Even if you don’t get fancy graphics, many financial institutions let you grab a copy of your account activity any time of year for a specified time period. By looking at the hard data, so you can better track the flow of money in and out of your accounts. If you write checks to charitable organizations, you can also confirm those totals in the scans of returned checks that should also be available to view online when you are logged into your bank account.
Some banks and credit-card companies even make the files compatible with financial programs like Quicken — which hardcore budget masters already know. But if you’re new to the whole idea of personal budget-tracking and don’t use fancy financial software, you can also download your files in standard formats like comma-separated values that open in Microsoft Excel (shown above), iWork Numbers for OS X or cross-platform freebies like LibreOffice Calc. Web-based spreadsheet wranglers like Google Sheets, Apple’s iWork for iCloud, Microsoft Office Excel Online, or other service.
As always, before you doing anything regarding personal accounts or finance, make sure you are logged into a non-public network, with secure website connections and you have the latest security software installed on your computer. Once you’ve got the computer locked down, it’s time to lock down that spending — or at least see just how much you may have spent on Amazon, Google Play and the iTunes Store last year…