This month I decided to try getting more organized with tracking finances. Up until now, I have been using Mint to track my financial transactions through my US bank accounts and credit cards. It’s been working well for me for over a decade, but the product itself is pretty stagnant and hasn’t advanced much over the years. I can’t really complain since it’s a free service and does all the basics of what I need it to do, but the fact that it doesn’t work with non-US accounts is a bit of a problem since I live in Japan. Up until now, what I’ve been doing is using my US credit cards to pay for as many of my expenses as I can (both in order to track the transaction through Mint as well as to earn reward points). For expenses that aren’t able to be paid via credit card (utility bills, transit, copy machine, etc.) I set up a Google Form for myself that I bookmarked on my phone where I can enter in a cash expense and it gets sent to my main finance spreadsheet where it is categorized and totaled by month. When I do my monthly report, for each expense category I have a separate column depending on which currency (US dollar or Japanese yen) the expense was paid, and I tell my spreadsheet to use the current exchange rate to calculate a sum in US dollars for my report.
All of this works ok, but I also wanted to get a better feel for the cashflow between my accounts, as well as learn about accounting / bookkeeping practices. So I downloaded gnucash which is a free and open-source accounting package which can handle multiple currencies, as well as investment tracking and report generation. I’m still learning how it works, but I’ve spent several hours so far entering in transaction data and playing with its reporting capabilities. I wouldn’t say that I’m going to retire my existing spreadsheet that I’ve been using for over 6 years just yet, but having my data in gnucash is definitely more powerful and formalized than my cobbled-together mess of a spreadsheet. I think I will try to come up with a workflow in which my spreadsheet is the gathering place for all the financial data from various sources (Mint, my google form, etc.) and it will do some processing to transform it into input data that can be imported to gnucash once per month. That would save me a lot of manual data entry going forward and allow me to keep using many of my other existing tools.
Here’s my June expenses:
|Health||$371.84||Health insurance, plus dentist appointment and got new glasses.|
|Other||$60.71||Visa renewal fees, postage|
|Shopping||$150.39||Got some goodies for Prime Day|
|Travel/Parking||$250.00||CC annual fee for new credit card. Also did a staycation with my girlfriend, but was completely covered by gift card I purchased at discount in 2019, plus statement credits.|
|Software/Games||$20.95||Bought a couple of games during the Epic sale|
|Gross Income||$6,109.85||Salary + Q2 dividends|
Projected time to FI (assuming 6% growth and 4% withdrawal rate): 5 years, 7 months.