Berat, Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Berat, Albania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? South towards Greece.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Free budget tracking software

Ever since we changed our lifestyle almost ten years ago, we have kept track daily of how much money we spend. Because we weren't independently wealthy, we had to know where every penny goes. And we still do it.

And we still publish our monthly expense reports here on the blog. We like to show people that you don't need a lot of money to travel...or to live, for that matter.

So yesterday, one of our Facebook fans asked what budget software we use to keep track of things.

But because we are frugal, I don't use any formal budget software. And, I wanted to keep things simple. So I designed my own Excel based spreadsheet.

It looks like this...

Click to enlarge.

This is what it looks like for the full year 2016. January through August are actual expenses, and September through December are what we expect to spend. Columns add themselves up automatically, as do the months and the average figures.

Like I said, it's all very simple.

On a daily basis, Ruth keeps a little notebook and pen with her where ever we go. When we spend money, she writes it down. And at the end of the day, I have a simple Notepad file where I put it in and manually add up the totals. At the end of the month, I put the category totals into the spreadsheet.

I don't even use Excel anymore. I use the free OpenOffice 4 software. We like free.

And because we like free, we're willing to share our own little budgeting program with anybody who wants it. I'll send you a copy of it exactly as you see above, and you can then zero out the figures and start your own. I'll even include a copy of the Notepad file as it stands year to date. Again, you can simply delete our items, and start your own.

You can even change the categories, or make more of your own if you know some basic Excel formulas.

Send me an email at [email protected] asking for it, and I'll reply with the files attached. And no, I have no ulterior motive...won't be keeping your email address for anything else. 

Hopefully this helps you get started on your own budget!

This highly rated Coleman Screen Room is on "lightning deal" for the next few hours...


  1. Mine is much like yours. Ours is a bit looser as I can't track 100% of hubby's spending but about 90%. We use our credit cards for most purchases so that makes it easier (for points paying them off 3 x per month so no interest incurred). It is actually interesting to see year to year what things are costing. I always find yours interesting with your travels

    1. When we are in Canada or the US then we tend to use credit cards most of the time as well for the points and then pay them off before they are due so we don't pay the interest but in places like Mexico and when we were in Africa and when we go to Romania, they don't use the credit cards in the all the small shops, towns and villages so we use cash and that's when I really need to write everything down. Especially on market days and you buy things things at different stalls all morning long. :-)

      Definitely interesting comparing the budget from one year to the next and even more interesting when you look at it from years ago.

  2. We have used an excel spread sheet even for many years before we went fulltime, and like you know how much we spend day to day and year to year, surprising how close out expenses are every year even with inflation and exchange rates changing. wWth the exception of family emergencies, like flying home unexpectedly.

    1. When we first met we kept track of our expenses for a number of years as well but then we stopped until we started full-timing back in 2007.

      Yes, it is surprising that the expenses seem fairly close one year to the next despite inflation and exchange rates but that might be due to either feeling you have a little more money on the years where exchange rates are in your favour or tightening the belt more on those tougher years and maybe doing without some things you may have bought or done on the better years.

  3. I use Quicken software which is based on Excel. We use credit cards as much as we can to get the rewards points and pay them off every month to avoid interest. The only slight difficulty is with the "Cash" category. I try to remember each day how much I spent as well as collecting as many receipts as I can. I enter the amounts every day or two and use a "Reconciliation" category to balance what is in my pocket to what Quicken says I should have. It is usually pretty close but if I am far off I can usually remember that quick lunch we grabbed or the grocery store stop.

    I really don't know how people can manage without keeping track of expenses. I also like knowing my net worth at any instant.

    1. Yes but you have to buy Quicken to begin with whereas the system we use right now is free! :-)

      We also use credit cards or our debit card as much as possible and like you we pay the credit card off before the interest gets added on so that we too can collect either cash rewards or air miles. However, some of the countries we travel in are more cash based so we have to write it down as we go or we will forget.

      We agree, we don't understand how anyone can manage their money without tracking their expenses.

  4. I found one online a few years ago, free and well done:

    It used to be just and excel file that you download, but it looks like they've changed it up a bit.

    1. That's a neat program. The only problem is the $5 a month...

    2. oh too bad! I downloaded it at least three years ago, at the time the file was free :-(

  5. You would love Trail Wallet, on apple products. It is very easy to use and you have your daily, weekly, monthly expenses. You have them by trip if you want, i think it is 5 or 7$ on app store. You do not need internet to operate. It is awsome.

    1. Thanks Daniel, Kevin might have a look at that but again you have to pay for it, although it is a very little amount and he likes apps that can be used offline. Our only problem again with that is sometimes we are in countries where we don't want to pull out our phone and bring attention to ourselves or make us a target which is why when we are out and about I write down our expenses as we go.

  6. We are just getting started and a budget is critical to my being able to sleep at night! What do you include in the categories Misc and Travel? In Motorhome, do you break that down on another sheet that feeds this one cell? There are a lot of expenses that could be attributed to maintenance of the motorhome, but I guess it depends on how finely you want to slice it. Also...what about personal human stuff like Rx, toiletries, medical, etc. And then there's insurance: motorhome, auto, health (in the US), life (if you're inclined), and possibly others. I could have a lot more categories, but I don't want to make it so cumbersome that it's a pain to keep has to weigh the benefit coming out versus the effort going in. Thanks for sharing so openly.

    1. Hi Dinah, I will try to break it down a little better but we do try to keep things as simple as we can. For our travel category we use this for any long distance travel not in the motorhome such as, airfares, trains/buses from on destination to another but we expense city buses/trains or taxis under misc.

      For the miscellaneous category that would include travel around a city or for day trips, certain items for the motorhome, cell/internet service, insurance for car or motorhome in the month that it is paid, gifts and odds and ends.

      For the motorhome, it would include anything major or mechanical that needs to be done to Sherman but stuff like, storage bins, or things to make him look better on the inside would normally go under misc. Kevin does keep a separate spreadsheet itemizing the work or parts needed for Sherman but as a monthly expense it is just added up and put under motorhome expenses.

      We don't have any Rx items and for the very odd time that we do it would go under miscellaneous along with any out of country doctor's bills.

      Again, insurance goes under miscellaneous and gets billed the month that we pay it for either the car or the motorhome. We are Canadian so we don't have any health insurance that needs to be paid unless we wish to purchase travel insurance and again if we did it would go under miscellaneous.

      Toiletries go under groceries.

      Overnight expenses would be any overnight expenses, such as an RV park for Sherman or if we aren't travelling in Sherman then it would refer to hotel/motel, Airbnb, hostel or any other paid for accommodation.

      Hope this answers your questions. :-)

    2. Thanks so much, Ruth. You answered my questions thoroughly.


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