Thursday, June 5, 2008

Categorizing My Monthly Spending

When we used our accounts at Wells Fargo, we could see a categorical breakdown of our expenses, but only for the Credit Card. My current Credit Union doesn't offer this functionality, but I had a driving need to know where my money was going.

Initially I would download the .csv (comma separated values) files, and manually sort them out into categories on a spreadsheet.

Of course, that grew old quickly, and I was forced to search the internet for something better. Coming up empty handed, I wrote my own script to sort out my different expenses into categories.

You run it on the command line like so

./ list.csv of.csv account.csv statements.csv

It will ask you how to categorize different expenses, and when it sees them again, it will remember what you entered last time. When it's done, it will ask you what to save the file as, and will create a .csv file with the different categories, and how much was spent in each category. It will also tell you how much you spent in each category in an average month.

With that data you can make charts, make plans and moan about how much you wasted on eating out....

You can find the script here:

The script is in Perl, since that's what I'm comfortable with, and it probably won't work as-is for you, unless your bank/credit union lets you download .csv files with the same format as mine does, and you're running Linux. You are free to edit the script however you want and redistribute it.

I have no idea if the .csv files I download are some banking standard, or if they're just the way my credit union decided to make them.


Angie said...

You could try using Mint ( I enjoy the graphical interface to see where money goes each month, although I hope they add functionality to track differences in categories from month to month.

Rich said...

I'd heard of Mint when it opened, but hadn't had any use for it. I just tried it today after your recommendation, but

1) ING account access is broken. A moderator in the forums says it'll be working again 'soon'

2) My credit union account shows up, except for the credit card information, which is where most of our spending happens.

Mint would've been nice though! I'll have to look into some of the alternatives that let you upload files.