Since I was dissatisfied with our 2023 profligate spending I am going to spend a few minutes each week reviewing our total outlay.

Many people asked what process or tools I used to track expenses.

For many years I used, but if you aren’t aware… will cease operation on March 23, 2024. Intuit, who bought the website in 2009 and ran it into the ground, recommends moving your data to Credit Karma with reduced functionality – which seems to be all the stuff I hated about mint with none of the stuff I liked. (Screen shots and shade included in post.)

So I am going a different route – This is How I Track Expenses.

How I Track Expenses

tldr; I use a combination of Empower and an Excel spreadsheet.

Back in the day when we were in our heavy accumulation days I had a fairly expansive spreadsheet that involved tracking expenses daily as recommended in the book Your Money or Your Life. (Amazon says I purchased this book on January 1, 2009.) This was very useful to establish a baseline and help internalize conscious spending habits.

But nowadays using an app gets you 99% of that with minimal effort. For this I am using Empower (Personal Capital is now Empower – I have an affiliate relationship with them.)

I have been using Empower for years for their investment and portfolio tracking tools, but have been using their budgeting and expense tracking stuff for a few months now… and this is better than by far.

Additionally – Since my primary concern is spending in just a couple areas (Amazon and Costco) I am putting those expenses under a microscope in a small spreadsheet.

Empower example

I have all of our spending accounts linked in Empower so all data is pulled in automagically from our bank accounts and numerous credit cards. Each transaction is assigned a category, and this has been fairly accurate for the most part. In the Transactions tab I can view each expense line by line, make adjustments to categories (1000x faster than mint), or split transactions across multiple categories (Costco is usually part groceries part other stuff.)

This is nice and all, but I”m a visual thinker and prefer to look at total category expenses. The Budgeting tool is great for this… I can view the big picture and click down to each individual category or transaction. Any changes update the charts immediately.

How are we doing on total Amazon spending? Clicking on the General Merchandise (aka Miscellaneous) category produces a breakdown by vendor… in February we spent $255.40 at Amazon, which on an annual basis would be a reasonable ~$3,000. I can work with that.

If I desired I could go deeper – breaking each Amazon transaction into subcategories… coffee goes to groceries (or perhaps spa services), tools goes towards home maintenance, etc… but this is a sufficient level of accuracy for what I aim to do.

Although my examples here are on a monthly basis I can view data over any time period – weekly, yearly, etc…

Spreadsheet Example

From Empower, plugging all of our expenses into a spreadsheet with a quick comment is easy. This gives me a way to see a greater breakdown on some categories (e.g. Amazon) at a glance. I could add this information as a note in each Empower transaction, but this is faster for me.

Since Amazon and Costco are my main focus I highlighted those total expenses at the top, and also did a simple forecast since spreadsheet math is easy.

Numbers don’t perfectly match between Empower and the spreadsheet because I haven’t updated it completely for the end of February spending, but even 90% alignment is good enough.

Stuff I didn’t like about

For the most part Mint’s expense tracking stuff worked fine – it is why I started using it back in the day. When Intuit bought them it seems like they tried to cram a bunch of revenue generating stuff into the mix – insurance recommendations, bank account promotions, etc… None of that was well targeted or even useful.

They also tried to give insights on spending or provide cheeky guidance. This was almost always wrong or at least misguided.

Here are some examples in screenshot form.

That time our spending dropped when the entire country was on covid lockdown


That time we didn’t own a car and paid $0 for auto insurance


That time mint tried to save us <0.001% of our quarterly budget


It all adds up and pretty soon you are talking about real money


Up 163%? Wow… amazing. Also false.


Mint.. the great demotivater

In summary – I’m almost glad mint shut down as it encouraged me to try something new.


Since we were a little overzealous with purchases at Amazon and Costco in 2023, I decided to pay a little more attention to our spending in those areas. If we are going to spend an extra $1k per month, I would rather put that into business class travel than random stuff that offers no life benefit.

Now is going away… Since I have been using Empower for years for their investment and portfolio tracking tools, I started using their other tools for budgeting and expenses tracking. It is great – way better than mint in my opinion. It’s worked well these past couple months for importing all of our transactions and making it easy to quickly and efficiently understand where the money goes.

I also use a small spreadsheet to more closely look at the Amazon and Costco expenses (and the rest since I’m looking at the data already anyway.) This is probably a short-term thing as it seems like Empower is meeting all the main needs/goals.

If you aren’t already, give Empower a try (if you do try it, we may get a small commission.)

If you are using it, let us know in the comments what you think.

If you are using a different tool, let us know that too.

How do you track expenses?

Empower Personal Wealth, LLC (“EPW”) compensates Go Curry Cracker! for new leads. Go Curry Cracker! is not an investment client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation or Empower Advisory Group, LLC.