Help me clarify my AskMe question July 17, 2006 8:08 PM   Subscribe

How could I have phrased this question in a more clear fashion that I didn't want any systems or methods or computer programs to track finances?
posted by bigmusic to Etiquette/Policy at 8:08 PM (22 comments total)

I assume the fault is mine, but I gave two ideas in the post that were the kind of tricks I was looking for, the first one is a low maintenance way to track finances, and the second one would force me to use a system.
posted by bigmusic at 8:08 PM on July 17, 2006

Well, you say This is really more of motivation thing , but then you talk about two possible systems/methods. So yes, I would agree that the fault is yours.
posted by bingo at 8:15 PM on July 17, 2006

Those are methods to ensure that my finances are tracked, not to necessarily track them.
posted by bigmusic at 8:22 PM on July 17, 2006

You said

I would like to track what I spend and what I spend it on. I have MS Money 2006, but I hardly ever use it. I could use Money, but I find it hardly ever categorizes everything correctly. This is really more of motivation thing then a "how to" or "what's the best system" question.

You opened the door with that sentence. You shouldn't have phrased it in such a way that led commenters to believe that you were interested in systems at all, but you're straddling the fence instead. And you shouldn't have mentioned MS Money or Money. All you had to do was ask for suggestions and tips on how to effectively track money and let commenters know you weren't interested in systems, although it seems that some of their methods were actually tied into them, so suggestions along those lines might be inevitable.

Rephrased, using your own words:

Do you have any tricks to ensure that you track your money? I would like to track what I spend and what I spend it on.

I've thought about just using checks, but that would be giving up the convenience of my debit/cards (plus the tiny percentage money back I get for using them.) I use my cards for everything. I save all my receipts in my wallet and empty them into a manila envelope when my wallet starts to feel too big - which could take a few weeks - . I would like to go thru my receipts and itemize everything; the problem is getting around to doing that. I'm not looking for suggestions for systems here; rather, tips that would work for anyone, even someone without a computer.
posted by iconomy at 8:23 PM on July 17, 2006

I dunno; I didn't even read the MI, and I got that s/he wanted to game themselves into actually *getting it done*.

Not learn how.
posted by baylink at 8:25 PM on July 17, 2006

It was just poorly worded and didn't really get the point across well at all. I had to read through it a few times to understand what the actual question was.
posted by iconomy at 8:33 PM on July 17, 2006

Um, so you list all the various systems/methods you've tried, and indicated how you were really looking for something that required the absolute minimal effort on your part. If it's not a question about methods and systems, why'd you list all the ones you've tried with no success?

I'm still not really sure what answers you're looking for. "Try rewarding yourself with chocolate after each time you manage your bills"? "Pretend you're a billionaire and all the money amounts are in megabucks"?
posted by fleacircus at 8:51 PM on July 17, 2006

By your post here, I'm assuming that none of the answers posted after your clarification were what you were looking for.

I read your question, the answers, the clarification and the more answers, and I'm not sure what you're looking for. Part of the problem may be that the word "systems" is somewhat ambiguous. Any process or habit that helps you record your finances could be called a system. Putting receipts into a folder until you enter them into MS Money is a system.
posted by justkevin at 8:51 PM on July 17, 2006

Those are methods to ensure that my finances are tracked, not to necessarily track them.

I am not really looking for a particular system unless there is a part of the system that ensures you track your spending.

Huh? I'm sorry but I'm totally not getting it.
posted by scarabic at 9:19 PM on July 17, 2006

I'm trying to figure out how checks would make any difference over debit cards.

Anyway, to force yourself to do it, put whatever software you intend to use in your Start menu (or whatever) so it automatically loads whenever you start your computer.
posted by mischief at 9:49 PM on July 17, 2006

I think he wants someone to light a fire under his ass. Which is lame. No one can make you do something you don't want to do. I guess it's been used as such before, but Ask Metafilter is not your mother.
posted by xmutex at 10:10 PM on July 17, 2006

Huh. If you're wanting motivation then read some good personal finance books. Go look up the power of compound returns. Learn the consequences of not maintaining sound money habits. Set some goals. Goals are great at providing motivation. Motivation comes from within. (You're welcome to come visit my personal finance site, too. See profile.)

iconomy is on the right track. I think asked something like:
Do you have any tricks to ensure that you track your money? I would like force myself to track what I spend.
Anything more just gets in the way and clouds the issue.

Ultimately, I think the best advice is:

Just do it.
posted by jdroth at 10:51 PM on July 17, 2006

This would be my rewrite:

Do you have any tricks to ensure that you track your money?

I would like to track what I spend and what I spend it on. I have software to do this, but I hardly ever use it. I'm looking for more of a software independent way of thinking about my cash flow that will help me stay on top of it. This is really more of motivation thing than a "how to" or "what's the best system" question.

What are ways to help me think about my money that will give me a better handle on keeping track of where it goes.

I think part of the problem is, you're looking for systems like "keep track of all your receipts by putting them in a big envelope" but not systems like "use Quicken at the end of every day to write down even the smallest purchases" and for a lot of people who have successfully tackled money issues, the software is exactly the system that helped them to this. Listen to jdroth, his site is neat and he's been doing this sort of thing for a while now.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:50 AM on July 18, 2006

bigmusic already got software-independent answers, though. What was so wrong with them that this thread was necessary? The problem with the question doesn't seem to be the question; it seems to be bigmusic's expectation of a magical motivational bullet.

"Try rewarding yourself with chocolate after each time you manage your bills"?

Or hookers. Just keep track of the receipts.
posted by mediareport at 6:11 AM on July 18, 2006

Yeah, I've completely explained this the wrong way. You have a system that you use to keep track of money. Great. What is it about that system that keeps you using it? For Example:

User A-
System: Custom Excel Spreadsheets
Tip/Trick: Keeps all the receipts needed in an envelope and goes thru it weekly. The thing that really makes it worth it for him is hearing the paper receipts rip when he smashes it down on his nifty receipt holder.

User B-
System: Envelopes and accordion folder
Tip/Trick: Keeps checkbook in the folder so that she is reminded to put the receipts in the proper envelope/folder. It's right by the door as she walks out the door so it only takes a few seconds to put the receipts in the proper place.

User C-
System: Uses checks exclusively.
Tip/Trick: Writes little symbols in the register as she writes checks to assign category the item belongs too.

User D-
System: Uses cash exclusively
Tip/Trick: At the beginning of the month puts all the budgeted money in different envelopes based on category. He has to get the money from the envelope so there really is no way to mistake where the money goes here.

and so on...
posted by bigmusic at 6:48 AM on July 18, 2006

Bigmusic, before you made this last clarification, I posted your question at GRS. I have to say that personally, I'm still confused as to what you want, even though you've clarified several times. I'm trying to help, but it really seems that the thing your looking for is something that has to come from within, is some sort of personal motivation. I don't get that from my receipts or anything. I get that from my goals for life, for which my money is just a tool...
posted by jdroth at 7:59 AM on July 18, 2006

Part of the problem with your question is that it's difficult to separate the two queries. I understand the distinction you are trying to make: on one hand, you have the actual system with which you track your finances; on the other hand, you have the tricks you use to motivate and remind yourself to actually use the system. However, any good system relies on built-in tricks. You can't really discusses the tricks without also discussing the system. Think of David Allen's GTD; the tickler file isn't just a trick to remind you use the system, it is part of the system. A good finance tracking system will work the same way. Indeed, your most recent comment bears out this point; the tips you mention all depend on which system you're using.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:21 AM on July 18, 2006

The biggest problem is that you don't seem to want to articulate a clear question, and would rather chat about different things until you arrive at a solution. Therefore, maybe AskMe is not where you will succeed.
posted by klangklangston at 9:31 AM on July 18, 2006

Actually I find saving receipts to be a losing strategy, so I use my charge card for everything possible. That way, I get a statement at the end of the month with the name of the business, the date, and the amount right there on it.

That's my "trick." :)
posted by scarabic at 9:45 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

scarabic, that was my "trick" too.

I do read questions carefully and figured that the End was to track his finances and the Means was what he was asking about - whether that be motivational tricks, system tricks etc. rather than artificial constraints such as "must keep paper receipts" unless there was a good external reason for the constraint - which I didnt see in the question.
posted by vacapinta at 10:05 AM on July 18, 2006

I don't know. I read the question. I "got it" (I think). I responded to it. But the people who were suggesting specific apps or websites were, I think, responding to one aspect of your problem: that what you were doing didn't work for you. They may have figured "well, MS Money is the problem; he should try this."
posted by adamrice at 9:58 AM on July 19, 2006

So yeah, Jessamyn's got the right idea, though it can be difficult to anticipate the angles people will take.
posted by adamrice at 9:59 AM on July 19, 2006

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