Spending Planner Tutorial for Quicken
Quicken's Spending Planner helps you to track and control your personal spending so you'll have more money available to save.
The Spending Planner is a page that contains a horizontal bar status graph at the top and, beneath it, a worksheet. It monitors your monthly spending and reserves and helps identify over- and underspending. Use it when you need:
- An easy method to only track the spending areas that are most important to you (where you have the most concern, control, or flexibility).
- To track your actual spending against customized spending targets.
- To understand how you make trade-offs between spending categories (you may overspend on dining for the month, but underspend in clothing so your overall target is maintained).
- A more flexible way to track spending than a spreadsheet style budget.
The horizontal bar status graph consists of five possible sections:
- Credit Card Debt
- Scheduled Bills
- Categorized Spending
- Left Over (expendable income)
The total of these five sections equals your Expected Income. Your expected income can change each month (you have have received a bonus check, tax refund, or finally sold that old cuckoo clock on eBay, so you have the ability to edit that amount. If you do edit the amount and want to revert back to what you normally bring in each month, simply click on Edit again, select use default expected amount and press OK. Easy peasy.
Let's start with Scheduled Bills. The Scheduled Bills section is for your bill reminders you've set up to pay on a regular basis (actual money that goes out within the month of your Spending Planner), such as your car payment or utility bill. This section of the Spending Planner allows you to graphically see what your bills look like against your categorized spending, saving, and expendable income. The Allocation section of the Scheduled Bills allows you to allocate more, above and beyond what is actually due for that particular bill that month. This would help you if you wish to pay more towards the principle of your mortgage or car loan and want to see what that looks like against other allocations, such as saving more or paying down your credit card. Changing the allocation does not change the actual amount due in your Bill Reminder. So, if your water bill this month is $50 more because you forgot to turn off the water when watering your prized petunias, you would not change the allocation of funds going towards this bill here. Instead, you would want to go to your Managed Bill & Income reminders and change the amount due this month in that area of Quicken.
To Add a Scheduled Bill from the Spending Planner:
- Click on Manage my Bills in the Scheduled Bills section, which will take you to your Bill and Income Reminders.
- From the top of the window, click on Create New, then select Bill reminder.
- Fill out the necessary fields (don't forget to fill in a Category!) and press OK.
- To get back to the Spending Planner, close the Bill and Income Reminders window.
Let's next talk about Categorized Spending. This area of the Spending Planner tracks your actual monthly spending against allocations you set on a per category basis. It's most useful when the included categories represent expenses you have some control over and where, taken as a group, you expect to do some degree of "borrowing" between the expense allocations you designated. If you decide you've spent a little too much money going to the movies lately, and you only want to spend say, $50 a month towards the cinemas, you can track how much you've spent so far and how much is left over.
To choose the Categories you'd like to watch in the Spending Planner:
- Click on Choose Categories to Watch in the Categorized Spending section, which will take you to a Choose Categories window.
- Select the categories or sub-categories you would like to watch. You can select more than one at a time. If you do not see your category in the list and know its there, you may need to select the Show hidden categories check box to reveal them all.
- Once you are satisfied with your selection, press OK.
Important note: The categories you choose to monitor your spending for, are specific to the sub-category you choose to monitor. For example, if you categorize spending for both Food & Dining as well as Food & Dining:Restaurants, and choose to categorize a specific transaction to Food & Dining:Restaurants, it will only show up in Food & Dining:Restaurants, and NOT in its main category of Food & Dining.
If you go over your allocation in a month, the rest of the money spent will show up in red on the graph. If you decide to change the allocation to stay in the green, is that considered cheating? Well, you'll be the judge of that. But you are able to juggle the money spent per category here. Maybe you're spending less money on your electricity because you've been more frugal lately. This may give you more wiggle room for spending more time at the movies. Its up to you to decide!
Let's jump up to the Credit Card Debt section towards the top. The amount you allocate here (if any!) is in addition to credit card payments listed as scheduled bills. Say you have a credit card debt of $4,000 and your monthly payment scheduled may be your minimum amount due. In this scenario, let's say it is $35 a month. Your scheduled bill is for $35. This month, though, you see you have $450 of expendable income (Yay!) and strive to put a dent in your credit card debt, so you allocate $100 more than what is owed for your scheduled credit card bill. The Credit Card Debt section allows you to visualize this endeavor. Remember, it is up to you to actually pay the debt. The Spending Planner won't do this for you.
Finally, we have the Savings section. The Spending Planner can also be viewed as the "Spending and Short-term Savings Planner" (if you choose to take advantage of this section!). Going back to the scenario above where you had $450 of expendable income and decided to allocated $100 of that towards your credit card, you still have $350 left of expendable income. Yes, you can decide to go out and buy the latest and greatest gadget out there with that left over money, or you could decide to put a portion of that towards the ol' piggy bank. You can specify how much of that you wish to save here, and see how that looks against all other planned expenses. Remember, just like the Credit Card Debt section, the Spending Planner wont throw the money you decide to save into your piggy bank for you - that is up to you.
Let's talk about the Rollover Reserve - the last column on the right. The Rollover Reserve as a different meaning for each section, so we'll break it down:
- A bill with an amount that fluctuates. In this case you schedule a bill for an average amount, but the actual bill is usually a little more or less, so the reserve represents a balance (for example, you don't use as much heating in the spring so you build up a balance that will shrink again over the summer months if you use a lot of air conditioning).
- Money being set aside for a large but infrequent bill (such as property tax). In this case, the Spending Planner prorates infrequent bills by dividing the amount of the bill by the number of months in the payment period. The amount in the bill's category reserve column will increase until the month in which the payment is made.
- Your monthly allocation for clothing is $100, but you only shop for clothes a couple of times a year, so a reserve builds up in the interim.
- Your spending varies; sometimes it's a little more or less than your allocation but over time it averages out.
- Your don't really spend your allocation in this category. If your category balance seems large and the above conditions don't apply, you should reexamine your spending in this area and perhaps reallocate the money elsewhere.
- For Savings: A savings target reserve is simply the amount of money you've set aside so far for general savings or for a particular savings purpose.
For Scheduled Bills: A rollover reserve for a scheduled bills indicate one of two conditions:
For Categorized Spending: There are several reasons why the categories you're monitoring might display a reserve:
Remember, the Spending Plan is only a short-term plan; it's up to you to actually use any money you allocate as a debt payment for its intended purpose.