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Getting hands on with your budget with Money Dashboard

Photo of David Sawyer, author of RESET.

David Sawyer is allegedly a guest poster at Monevator, but he seems to have gotten hold of the front door keys. Having already written several articles for us since publishing his debut, RESET, he’s now back to tackle UK budgeting tool Money Dashboard – one of his nine underrated tools for seekers of financial independence.

Sitting through a two-hour-long meeting. Eczema. That strange repetitive farty-clicking sound your nine-year-old makes in the recesses of his mouth.

Chopping onions.

Giving a staff member a ‘could try harder’ in their annual appraisal.

Mild annoyances

In modern life there is a long list of things that we simply do not like. They range from mild annoyances to activities that send shivers down our spine.

When we reach the sanctuary of our homes after a tough day at the office, we don’t want to be adding to them. Instead we pass the time on social media and watching boxed sets.

Even if we do summon the strength to do something self-improving, we choose our challenges carefully. Perhaps we read, phone a friend, scan a blog post, or pick up a podcast.

What we typically don’t do is make like an accountant, crack open a spreadsheet, and track our expenditure.

Sure we may have read Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad and imbibed the “take good care of every penny coming in going out of your pocket” mantra.

Sounds good, but he retired when he was just 47. I bet he doesn’t do it anymore?

Why not budget?

It’s funny, but among my friends I know no one who tracks their income and spending like me.

Yet most of those same people works for organisations with someone tracking all the money coming in and all the money going out.

This person is called the finance director – an important support to the CEO.

You wouldn’t run a business without someone looking at the books like this. So why then don’t we do it in our personal lives? Which is more important?

When I point this out to my friends, the usual excuses roll out:

  • I don’t know how to do spreadsheets.
  • Life is for living (take aim, FIRE!)
  • We always have enough, why do I need to know where every pound goes?
  • That’s boring.

For most of my adult life I agreed. Until a few years ago, I never realised how much my family was blowing every month on things we didn’t need or want.

Then things changed.

Over a few months in the summer of 2017 we saved £900 a month, and diverted that money to our investments.

But without the life-changing magic of Money Dashboard – assisted by Martin Lewis’ Budget Planner – my cash would still be lining Starbucks, David Lloyd, and Virgin et al’s pockets.


Zzzzzz. Yes, I know. It’s snore-inducing. It’s worthy. It’s not enjoyable.

On the flip side though, proper budgeting gives you a complete handle on your money – in most cases for the first time ever.

And if you use Money Dashboard it turns pain into pleasure.

David’s 13-point plan to mastering your budget with Money Dashboard

Other budgeting websites/apps exist. If you’re a fan of the US FIRE movement like me, you’ll have heard of Mint and You Need a Budget.

UK residents can use them, too. But the last time I tried, they didn’t sync with all my bank accounts. I gave up after a while.

So for the rest of this post I will explain how to get the best from Money Dashboard, a free website I use every few days.1 There’s an app, too, but my advice refers to using it as a website.

Note: Monevator founder and editor The Investor owns shares in Money Dashboard.

Never used a budgeting website before? Closest you get to tracking your money is logging in to your current account every six months?

Here’s my 13-point plan to get you started.

#1 Get Martin Lewis’s Budget Planner

Go on to Money Saving Expert and download the ‘spreadsheet version’ of Martin’s Budget Planner. It is an Excel document, but don’t let that put you off.

It’s split into 13 categories and 90 subcategories. In each of the 13 categories you can add a further three or so subcategories of your own, if you really want to break down your spending. Unfortunately, you can’t change the existing subcategories.

Download it to your computer/Dropbox/Google Drive ready for the next step.

Martin Lewis’s snazzy-coloured Budget Planner spreadsheet (Click to enlarge)

#2 Current account

Analyse your current account statements for the past year. Online or paper. Work out what you’ve been spending your money on.

Click the ‘What you spend’ tab at the bottom and fill out the subcategories in Martin’s Budget Planner (not too many or you’ll be creating work for yourself). Assign monetary values to each subcategory. Save this version.

This is ‘spendy you’.

#3 Amend and save a new version

Now have a look through every line item, chat with your partner/family and see where you can change your spending, normally to reduce expenditure but occasionally to increase it in line with what you want out of life.

This is ‘aspirant you’. Save this new version.

#4 Sign up to Money Dashboard

  • It’s free.
  • It’s fun to use.
  • Your passwords are safe. Everything’s encrypted.
  • Know that they do anonymize your data and sell it on to, for example, market research companies – but you don’t get owt for nowt as they say.

#5 Sync all your accounts

Sync all your accounts to Money Dashboard. Every current account, savings account, and mortgage account that you have.

It doesn’t take too long and they usually work first time with no hassles. (The only thing that’ll slow you down is finding all your passwords!)

#6 Set your budgets

Go back to your ‘aspirant you’ Budget Planner – that second version you saved with the more efficient spending you aspire to.

Now replicate the categories (Martin’s) and subcategories (some of Martin’s and all of the ones you added) in Money Dashboard.

To do this, click ‘add budget’ and type in the relevant category from Budget Planner. Then press ‘add tag’ and allocate the tags (subcategories) to the budgets (categories).

Repeat this multiple times.

Just name your budget category (in line with Martyn’s), set a budget for that category, and allocate the appropriate tags (Click to enlarge)

Adding your own tags in Money Dashboard enables you to replicate the pre-populated subcategories in Martin’s Budget Planner rather than finding similar-sounding Money Dashboard ones. This is crucial as you’re cross-referencing between your modified Budget Planner and Money Dashboard when you’re using the budgeting feature.

Set all these tags to be the same colour/type/icon so you can identify them.

#7 Transactions

By now you’ll notice your ‘transactions’ in the middle of the dashboard. Click on the ‘transactions’ tab at the top and they’ll go full screen. This is anything going into or coming out of your multiple accounts.

Transactions are important. By tracking all your myriad bits of moolah, Money Dashboard gives you a true ‘one pot’ look at your money (top left on the dashboard). And by money, I mean all that which is not invested.

As yet, Money Dashboard is no equivalent of the stateside Personal Capital, a truly one pot analysis of all your money.

However, more financial providers are hooking up with Money Dashboard all the time.

So, for instance, if your pensions are with PensionBee, a holistic overview of all your money in one place is possible.

For me (a Vanguard and Fidelity user) that dream will have to wait.

(Please Money Dashboard link up with these two global behemoths. Not to go all Kevin Keegan on your Edinburgh-based ass, but: “I’d love it if you did that.”)

#8 Tag your transactions

Every few days (or once a week if you like) go into your transactions, click each, and then tag them.

If you tick the box marked ‘Tag similar transactions’ it will remember for next time, so that when you log on seven days later after you’ve done another shop at Aldi, it’ll already have the transaction tagged as, for example, ‘food and household shopping’.

Of course, it’s not always as simple as that. If you buy a lot of gear from Amazon it’s unlikely to fall under the same tag every time, so un-tick the ‘Tag similar transactions’ box and tag each Amazon transaction.

#9 Splitting transactions

Whether you want to use this feature depends how anal exact you are.

Say if you were a fictional 47-year-old male from Glasgow who went to Lidl at Christmas for a mammoth shop.

On that trip, let’s say there was everyday ‘food and household shopping’, a big slug of ‘Christmas’ shopping and five January birthday cards (‘birthday cards and prezzies’).

You would go to the transaction, hover over the cost (in this case £242.34) and click ‘split transaction’. Then divide it three ways.

Splitting transactions in Money Dashboard is easy, albeit splitting £1.82 into three may be taking things too far! (Click to enlarge)

#10 ‘Offline Sources’ accounts

Aside from the obvious budgeting and one-pot benefits of Money Dashboard, for me this is where the gold lies – the ‘Offline Sources’ accounts.

These are accounts you set up and modify manually in Money Dashboard.

For instance, you could have:

  • VAT owed
  • Invoices out
  • Corporation tax owed
  • Dividend tax owed
  • Pocket money
  • Rental income
  • Cash in the house
  • Accountancy fees owed

This facility is most useful if you have different sources of income or own a business. (I used to get confused with all the tax I owed for different accounting and financial years, due at wildly different times of the year).

Most of you will be salaried but many people do have complicated financial lives, and this feature gives flexibility to bend Money Dashboard to your own ends.

Hell, it would be a bit Heath Robinson and you’d still have to track this elsewhere, but you could even now use Money Dashboard as a net worth tracker by setting up two offline sources accounts:

  • Value of investments
  • House equity

Leaving that aside, to give an example most people can relate to, say you and your partner share your money and have a pocket money system where you each get a certain amount a month in order to give you that much-needed guilt-free discretionary spending.

Here you would go to ‘accounts’, ‘add account’. Press ‘select my bank’ and scroll down to ‘offline sources’. Name it, for example, ‘David pocket money’ and add an ‘opening balance’. In this system you would assign a minus to the pocket money because it’s money that’s in your bank accounts but not available to spend.

Similarly, if you owe money, such as taxes, remember to stick a minus before the ‘opening balance’.

Plenty of money for a new pair of trail shoes…

#11 Hiding accounts

We are now entering the nether regions of Money Dashboard. Skip this bit if you’re not a power user.

Say you want to have an account in the accounts side bar on the left-hand side, but for some reason you don’t want to have the money in it showing in your overall balances because it confuses matters.

Go to ‘accounts’, ‘edit account’ then toggle-to-off the bit that says ‘include in total balances’.

This could be perhaps a mortgage account you want to monitor but don’t want to show in your overall one pot figure (‘net balance’, top left in Money Dashboard).

#12 Balance history

Not for everyday use this one, but a neat feature to use every few months. It shows the ‘trendline’ of your overall balance and each account.

Up is good. Down not so much.

#13 Back to where we started

After you’ve used Money Dashboard for a while (and note it won’t work for you if you don’t take the transaction-tagging seriously) it’s time to find out whether the ‘aspirant you’ second version of Budget Planner has become a reality or remains a pipe dream.

How frequently you want to do this is up to you. Some do it monthly. I’d suggest waiting three months before you check your spending, or only check the big varying line items such as ‘eating out’ or ‘food and household shopping’ every 30 days.

We do it yearly. Irksomely, the overall ‘budget’ figure only goes back six months, so if you click on ‘budgets’, ‘previous budgets’ you won’t get very far analysing your yearly spend versus budget.

To get around this, I (virtually) whip out Martin’s Budget Planner, open Money Dashboard and click on ‘transactions’. There’s then a bit at the top, above the transactions, where you can change the filter.

I set it for January 1 to December 31. Then I tap in the first of 65 subcategories and see if what I spent matches what I wanted to spend. Sixty five taps later I know where we are.

65 times! (Click to enlarge)

The every-12-months frequency works for us because we have a lot of one-off costs – seemingly every week.

For instance, deposits for holidays and holiday spending (we like our holidays!) exits our current account throughout the year. Unless we take a yearly look at spending in areas like this, we can’t see the wood for the trees.

Our next step is to analyse what we’ve spent in each subcategory and decrease or increase the amount allocated to each one in Martin’s Budget Planner (that colourful spreadsheet).

Our 65 subcategories (tags) form part of 12 budget categories. Make sure you go into the budget section of Money Dashboard and update the budget for each of your budget categories.

Last, there will be yearly and monthly costs that go up and down as inflation hits or you make efficiencies or change providers. Don’t wait until the yearly budgeting extravaganza.

Make sure you update both Martin’s Budget Planner and the budgeting category in Money Dashboard to reflect the modified cost.

(Note: You do not have to use Money Dashboard with Martin’s Budget Planner like I do. But having used both separately and together, I highly recommend it.)

Money Dashboard’s minor annoyances

There are minor annoyances with Money Dashboard.

I’ve already mentioned you can’t look back at the entire budget for more than six months, which is not ideal for yearly budgeting.

In addition, you can’t add transactions. I get why this is. But what it means is every time you pay for something using cash (a rarity, admittedly) you find yourself trying to find a random high-value transaction you’ve left untagged, to split and allocate a set amount to the tag category.

Also, some account transactions sync almost real-time, others (from different financial providers) take longer.

This is no-doubt due to factors beyond Money Dashboard’s control, but if you’re transferring money between two of your own accounts, it can mean your one pot figure is out of whack temporarily.

Wrapping up

They say whatever you track becomes a focus.

There’s a lot to the financial independence movement. But efficiency, making best use of your money, and developing good habits would be up there in the top 10 key pieces of the picture.

Developing the habit of tracking every pound that comes into your family and goes out is an obvious way to get a handle on your spending and grow your wealth long-term.

As I say, you do it at work. Why should home be less important?

Websites/apps like Money Dashboard (in my case coupled with Martin’s souped-up fancy-coloured Budget Planner) make this boring task less time-consuming and more fun.

The information you glean helps you spend more intentionally, relax about your money, and siphon more into growing your stash to reach FIRE a few years earlier.


Well @TI I did it, I won the bet – I managed to go through a whole Monevator guest post without mentioning my book!

David’s Book

David wrote the UK’s first financial independence book, RESET: How to Restart Your Life and Get F.U. Money. It’s available today on Amazon at £8.17 for the paperback, £2.95 for the Kindle and, if you buy the Kindle first, £3.49 for the audiobook.

If you’d like to find out what else David has to say, he puts out a weekly newsletter. If you sign up to his email list, you can get the first 8,000 words of his book for free. You can also read his other articles on Monevator.

Coda to the Codicil

Oh damn… How much do I owe you?

Do you track your spending? With Money Dashboard? Have you tried it? What other budgeting apps do you use? Let us know in the comments below!

  1. In case you’re wondering I’ve never received a bean from the Edinburgh-based company. []
{ 51 comments… add one }
  • 1 Neverland January 30, 2020, 11:57 am

    I dunno, I find just not spending money works pretty well and doesn’t require a spreadsheet

    Take for example financial advice books or ‘coaching’ on finance – all of this stuff is available for free on the internet

    If you want to be anal I would suggest diverting your energies into something like Mrs. Hinch or Stacey Solomon. Probably more useful with the virus apocalypse coming from China

  • 2 The Rhino January 30, 2020, 12:34 pm

    I’m not sure I know anyone in real life (as opposed to web-life) who tracks their expenses either (apart from the missus). She was doing it before me.

    Its so critical, I can’t really understand why everyone isn’t doing it.

    I like having control over the data and presentation, so its a spreadsheet for me.

    I sort of evolve it over time. A few years back I implemented automated categorisation so now it doesn’t take very long to do. Just download the transactions from the banks once a month and let it do its thing..

    I’d be gutted if I ever lost the sheet as its about ten years long now and a real trove of info.

    It talks to my investment sheet as well now in a new fangled symbiotic relationship after a major refactor after the last house purchase.

    I quite enjoy all that sort of stuff.

  • 3 The Gruffalo January 30, 2020, 1:22 pm

    If people took the time to learn basic double-entry bookkeeping, then there are loads of free programs that will do a more effective job than websites or spreadsheets. The technology has been around since businesses started doing their bookkeeping digitally. And I would wager that the time spent learning double-entry would be saved many times over by avoiding fiddly spreadsheets etc.

    I use GnuCash but they all do the same thing.

  • 4 JFK January 30, 2020, 1:49 pm

    I use Yolt – which is fairly prescriptive with regards to categories although it auto -categorises, is relatively simple but allows budgets to be set and transactions to be tagged.
    This seems more detailed/time consuming which appeals to one side of my brain.

  • 5 Steve January 30, 2020, 1:54 pm

    I’ve recently started using Money Dashboard again as the main bank accounts I use are now all accessible by Open Banking (so the bank protects you against fraud). I refuse to allow access to accounts by ‘screen scraping’ (which involves giving login details to a third party). NB I have some across other sites which purport to get data via a third party which uses Open Banking but I am not convinced the bank protection then applies (and a Which? review came to the same conclusion). It’s pretty clear on Money Dashboard which banks are accessed by Open Banking and which are not (yet). There’s a bit of a learning curve (as with any software) and I’m still finding my way, but the automatic ‘tagging’ of transactions by Money Dashboard is pretty impressive (except for Amazon and Ebay as mentioned in the article). As I am now retired, my initial aim is to monitor my total outgoings so i can then feed this back to my IFA to help in calculating appropriate levels of drawdown (to see what might be left for the children if I reach 100 and/or whether I can afford to spend more on myself or them at an earlier date.) I tried manually downloading data from my accounts every month for use in another (offline) package but its very easy to get behind as it required a lot of careful checking of the ‘tagging’ of entries. Using Open Banking access on Money Dashboard is automatic so I don’t fall behind and much less work is required to check/amend the tagging – so more time can be spent enjoying retirement rather than keeping on top of my finances.

  • 6 C January 30, 2020, 1:54 pm

    Having had to budget down to a penny in the early days of my adult life, I have zero interest in doing so now. My level of spending is such that this kind of management would likely uncover a potential saving of a few hundred pounds/annum at most. My free time and spare cognition capacity is worth more than that. When you’ve lived a few years extremely leanly, you tend to get almost a spidey sense if your spending is a bit higher than normal, and reign it in later.

    Presumably, no-one else is worried about giving all of their passwords for their bank accounts etc to a single website?

  • 7 Captain Flint January 30, 2020, 1:59 pm

    Money Dashboard was a game changer for me and I have been tracking my money through it since 2015. I update my bank accounts every day in the morning and edit transactions so I know exactly what they are (for instance, if I buy a book on Amazon, I’ll note the title of the book, if I have drinks with a particular person, I’ll note that was who I had drinks with as well as where). I have added my pensions and ISA as offline accounts and update them manually once every couple of weeks or so (that’s possibly too often but that’s another story). Money Dashboard also allows you to download all your transactions as a csv file and import it into a spreadsheet. I do this every month so I can track my expenses/budget for the whole year and compare with other years. I hugely enjoy doing all of this, it’s quite seriously one of my favourite things to do (sad or not). I’ve tried to encourage my friends to do the same but not sure they have so far – have one friend in his 40s who is hugely spendy and I wish he would get more of a grip on his cash. Thanks for this article. 🙂 I don’t use Money Saving Expert for the budget planner but do think MSE is a great thing overall.

  • 8 Vanguardfan January 30, 2020, 2:10 pm

    I think tracking expenses is great to do. Once every five years or so.
    I did manage a couple of years of YNAB, before I couldn’t be bothered manually inputting anymore. I think it’s still the best I’ve seen in terms of budgeting and analytic capabilities.
    Of the new generation linked apps, I went for Moneyhub as I prefer the idea of paying and not having my data shared. I love the automatic categorisation but it’s not all that flexible in terms of generating nice graphics.
    I only really track at a very high level these days- total amount, and basic/essential bills vs the rest. In terms of changing behaviour, I don’t really find that micro budgeting helps with this. The most effective strategy by far is making sure your savings get debited first, and you live within the rest of your means.

  • 9 Vanguardfan January 30, 2020, 2:12 pm

    The thing is, tracking on its own won’t make you spend a penny less. It can inject some realism, and give you ideas as to where the low hanging fruit are, but you just basically have to set your envelope and stick to it.

  • 10 xxd09 January 30, 2020, 2:12 pm

    Started with Quicken 2004 at retirement-still using it
    One of the many good things about it is husband and wife financial relations
    The home page flashes up all our investments, accounts and overall financial position each time as she goes to enter her purchases every one or two weeks
    No arguments about money because she knows our financial position at all times
    (I handle the money)
    Taken a lot of pressure off enforcing the budget-harmony reigns!

  • 11 Charles Pope January 30, 2020, 2:38 pm

    I can recommend Buxfer. It does sync to my main spending accounts and you have fine grained control over categorisation which can be automated. I never worked out how much I was spending so wanted to get some grip over it. This works really well and doesn’t take a lot of effort. Sadly, the introduction of Mifid meant that it could no longer sync to my investment accounts as it has to go via open banking rather than Yodlee. It covers my bank accounts and credit cards, so all the spending is tracked.

    Although it has its own reporting which works fine. I also export the transactions to Google sheets and use a pivot table to look at the data.

  • 12 Kraggash January 30, 2020, 2:58 pm

    STILL using Microsoft money for this sort of thing. Many of the things I need to track are investment related (income, tax, transactions) but still download banks statements and categorise household expenditure, all on the same platform.

    Why oh why is there still not a good MSMoney replacement? I would guess it would be a lot easier to do nowadays than when it was first produced.

  • 13 The Rhino January 30, 2020, 3:32 pm

    On a slightly, but not completely, tangential note. I’ve been using a google sheet to pull in live prices of late. Does anyone know the ticker/code/id whatever for pulling in vanguard LS fund prices? (if there is one). Its the only one of my holdings that I am still unable to pull in a live price for using the googlefinance() function.

    If there isn’t a suitable ticker I was thinking of harnessing the rebo API a la andy-liberate-life. Which segues seamlessly into @Kraggash – could the rebo app be an MSMoney replacement?

  • 14 Naeclue January 30, 2020, 3:35 pm

    @C, I agree with you. For those not yet out of the habit of wasting money, then scrupulously monitoring where it is going, might be worthwhile. I have the opposite problem. My wife frequently comments on the fact that we don’t spend enough. Frugal habits can be hard to break.

    Not in a million years would I sign up to a service that automatically accessed all my accounts, even for supposedly read only purposes and a promise the data will not be misused. Even if i think the service is honest, I would not trust their security. We have a TalkTalk phone line at a holiday home. It is ex-directory and only used for Internet. I have never given the number to anyone, but somehow scammers have got hold of the number and some of my personal details. This must have come about via a security breach at TalkTalk.

  • 15 Naeclue January 30, 2020, 4:11 pm

    @Rhino, have your tried the various fund codes on the Vanguard web site? SEDOL, Bloomberg, etc.

    I tried to use Google sheets a few years ago, but could not get everything I needed, so what I do now is use a Hargreaves Lansdown watch list. The watchlist contains everything I need a price for. When I need an up to date valuation across accounts I simply download the watchlist as an excel spreadsheet and paste it into another spreadsheet that has a tab for each account. vlookups are used to work out the value of each position. HL usefully supplies a price in pence, even for foreign holdings.

    I have a tab that works out asset allocation, etc. across accounts. Very straightforward, the only chore being to update positions after trading, which I do quarterly at most.

    The only thing I would watch out for are the share prices of US stocks outside normal trading hours as these can be way out. Best take a snapshot between 3pm and 4pm if you want reliable prices.

  • 16 Vanguardfan January 30, 2020, 4:21 pm

    A comment from someone knowledgable about cyber security might be helpful here.
    I’m not, but did read a bit about the difference between screen scraping and API(?) which to an extent reassured me that the latter should be ‘ok’. I’m fairly sure that the access to my bank account from moneyhub to my bank is via API (I phoned my bank to check, but the telephone operator didn’t know what I was talking about….).

  • 17 The Investor January 30, 2020, 4:39 pm

    Regarding security, everyone is going to have to make up their own minds on what’s secure and what isn’t and what risks they’re happy to take. I can definitely understand the concerns, but equally I know this is completely the direction of travel.

    As you’d expect the concerns are well-known to Money Dashboard — even I’ve spoken briefly to the CEO about it! Most of the London fintechs I’ve talked to (/in several cases have invested in) are doing doing some form of this, usually via Open Banking going forward — e.g. Monzo, Dozens, Coconut, many more.

    Many (/all?) of the major High Street banks are either supporting or promising to support this, too.

    e.g. Lloyds:


    I’m sure there’ll be a breach/upset with someone at some point, as with everything online. But I’m equally pretty convinced we’ll all have meshed all this stuff up in 5-10 years and it’ll be banally ordinary — and having concerns will look in retrospect like people saying: “What, you expect people to just type their credit card details INTO THE INTERNET?” (And believe me, I remember LOTS of people retorted that at the time.)

    As I say, totally get both sides and wouldn’t say anyone was silly if they decided to wait a couple more years for the technology to further bed down. But it’s not some wacky thing, it’s the future.

  • 18 The Rhino January 30, 2020, 4:54 pm

    @Naeclue – I’ve tried ISIN, SEDOL, Bloomberg, Citi, MexID all to no avail unfortunately

    i.e. for Vanguard Lifestrategy 80% Acc GBP

    ISIN: GB00B4PQW151
    SEDOL: B4PQW15
    Bloomberg: VGLS80A
    Citi: ACDT

  • 19 Steve January 30, 2020, 5:11 pm

    My understanding is that Open Banking is designed to protect us – you do not give your login details to a third party instead you authorise your bank to share the data with the provider and the bank protects you if there is fraud. Any arrangement in which you give your login details to a third party would, in my opinion, contravene the requirements from your bank that you don’t do this. Some of the other providers say their systems are as secure as those of the banks (and even use the same systems – this may well be true but will the bank protect you if you have given your login details to a third party?) As Vanguardfan notes, its impossible to get binding re-assurance from your bank that this is acceptable. It would be interesting for someone knowledgeable to explain Open Banking to us but what I have read (eg on the Open Banking website, Which?, MoneySavingExpert etc) is re-assuring.

    For those who don’t want to spend their time number crunching, an automated system is very convenient and provides a wide range of analyses at the touch of a button. I was brought up to be frugal and happily always earned comfortably more than I was spending so did not need to monitor it when I was working. But when you start spending your retirement pot, you then want to know how fast you’re spending it in comparison to its projected growth so you can see how long it might last – whether continued frugality is necessary or if you now have the opportunity to make better use of a lifetime’s savings.

  • 20 xxd09 January 30, 2020, 5:42 pm

    My Quicken 2004 runs in parallel with my Bank and SIPPS/ISAS- no internet connection
    (A Trustnet dummy Portfolio gives me uptodate Fund prices)
    No Open Banking for me-I like to keep it tight!
    Even so my Visa card still gets one serious attack every 3 or 4 years
    Luckily my financial setup is simple-one joint current account and one joint credit card account
    3 funds only in my investment portfolios
    Only simple manual inputs required to keep on top of records
    Security is a personal responsibility
    I am reminded of someone asking an IT expert why he had no antivirus installed
    He said all his professional colleagues were in the same boat
    He then stated that the best virus protection of all was for people not to do dodgy things like visiting dodgy websites
    Perhaps asking a lot of the average human!

  • 21 Andy January 30, 2020, 5:46 pm

    @The Rhino – I had the same problem with GoogleFinance not working on Vanguard funds, so I switched to using IMPORTXML to scrape the fund prices off the HL website, but then I found problems with IMPORTXML not loading. Currently I’m using a Google Script to scrape the prices from HL. Working fine so far.

    I could make a demo sheet of this public if anyone is interested.

  • 22 Andy January 30, 2020, 6:23 pm

    Will MoneyDashboard show me my Halifax credit card spending via Open Banking?

    I’m sort of tempted to give MoneyDashboard a go, but only if everything works via open banking, and it seems this is not the case. Their FAQ states that they pass your online banking credentials onto Yodlee.

    Money Dashboard does not directly store your online banking credentials (username, password, etc.) – these are passed to Yodlee, the World-leading specialist in this area, and cannot ever be retrieved by Money Dashboard. More information on Yodlee is available here.

  • 23 Scott January 30, 2020, 6:57 pm

    I don’t itemise expenses as such, but come at it from a different angle.

    I (we) have monthly/annual budgets which are not exceeded, for household, holiday, car, etc. The household stuff is the same every month. As many holidays as the budget allows, some years there’s a carry-over to the following year. Minor unexpected items (e.g. car repairs more than budgeted) come out of the hol budget.

    Personal discretionary spend is also budgeted, generally run a small surplus meaning I’m able to go slightly over some months when needed, but would aim to claw it back the next month.

    Works for me.

  • 24 Jan January 30, 2020, 7:19 pm

    I work for a company that provides Open Banking solutions and so can provide some insight on the security questions. Screen scraping is being banned and will be fully replaced by open banking based API access for consumer account access. This removes the need / possibility to provide bank credentials to a third party.
    As a consumer you own the consent process where consent is being given to a 3rd party to access your account. The consent is durable, up to 90 days before reconsent is needed, and can be revoked by you at any time. I believe the OB standards allow a consented 3rd party to access your account up to 4 times per day but in reality this varies by bank implementation.
    In Order to offer OB services a 3rd party must be FCA regulated, or use the services of a regulated 3rd party. There are a mixture of providers reselling services that provide either a full solution, including regulatory status, or just technology.
    OB services have a limited scope and so a 3rd party accessing account information has no potential to make payments. That is another service called payment initiation.
    Once a third party has your data it will be stored outside of the bank, you should assume indefinitely. That storage could be anywhere in the world and with varying degrees of maturity of control. Check the terms of the 3rd party you are consenting.
    Whilst the necessity to be FCA regulated gives some surety that the 3rd parties are fit and proper businesses, ultimately many are startups with varying degrees of maturity.
    I work in this space and would not at this time consent any 3rd party to access my accounts.

  • 25 Bastiat January 30, 2020, 7:30 pm

    MoneyDashboard had been a godsend for me for the past 5 years. Without it I would be lost between my dozens of current accounts, saving accounts, 0% credit cards, ISAs, investments, pensions, mortgages, etc.
    In a few clicks I can see my current and historical net worth and know if I’m on the right track or not.

  • 26 MJCROSS January 30, 2020, 7:46 pm

    Every month (or so) I log onto the bank website and export our transactions as .csv file(s).
    It’s very easy to import these into an excel workbook. I auto-categorise each transaction with a simple VLOOKUP, and then it’s easy to do bar charts, discounted cash flows and future ‘what if’ scenarios to your heart’s content.
    My other half (ex management accountant) thinks I’m totally bonkers. The cobblers children are the worst shod etc etc…

  • 27 Steve January 30, 2020, 7:46 pm

    Replying to Andy – you can see which accounts are accessible via Open Banking on Money Dashboard here https://www.moneydashboard.com/open-banking. When you click to add an account the list shows which ones have an Open Banking option. With these, my understanding is that you the login details are sent to the bank to authorise them to pass on the data. With accounts without an Open Banking option the login details are sent elsewhere (maybe to Yodlee as you say). I have read that Yodlee is as secure as the banks (indeed I think some banks use Yodleee). However, it is not clear that if something were to go wrong, eg fraud, that the bank would protect you if the data was not provided via Open Banking. It is a personal choice. I’m prepared to share data via Open Banking only.

  • 28 YNAB Fan January 30, 2020, 9:26 pm

    You should try YNAB again. You don’t have to import your bank data. Inputting the transactions manually allows you to own your money, and YNAB does make budgeting fun!
    Money Dashboard tells me nothing I don’t already know (and it doesn’t work with my Barclaycard). Where tracking money is fine (things that have already happened) you should be making a plan for your money, which is where YNAB changes your mindset about budgeting.
    YNAB has changed our financial lives. Yes You Really Do Need A Budget.

  • 29 gtim January 30, 2020, 10:03 pm

    I’ll own up to a homebrew solution for managing my money, including scripts for scraping multiple accounts, categorisation of transactions and outputs. What started as shell scripts has been re-written in perl and python before ending up in C. With fancy graphical outputs. What I know about coding has been learned over the last 18 years of evolving my scripts.

    My solution for scraping prices uses four different sources:
    1) https://www.fidelity.co.uk/investor/research-funds/fund-supermarket/factsheet/summary.page?fundid=
    2) https://markets.ft.com/data/funds/tearsheet/summary?s=
    3) https://www.fool.co.uk/company/?ticker=lse-
    4) https://www.charles-stanley-direct.co.uk/ViewFund?Sedol=

    @The Rhino, CSD is where you should look:
    wget –no-check-certificate “https://www.charles-stanley-direct.co.uk/ViewFund?Sedol=B4PQW15” -q -O csdtemp;
    pence=`cat csdtemp | grep GBX | head -1 | cut -d\ -f 1 | sed s/\,//g`;

  • 30 Bsdb3 January 30, 2020, 10:57 pm

    Also a GNUCash user, very good, free opensource software. Yes it does take a bit of time to add the transactions but if you do it regularly it’s easier to stay on top of. I’ve been tracking income and expenses for about 8 years now. It can produce balance sheets, p&l, cashflow and lots of other reports. Also has the ability to store share holdings and easily update the values. Moneydashboard sounds very effective, but I’m still reticent giving access to my accounts.

  • 31 Matthew January 31, 2020, 7:12 am

    My problem is that nearly everything goes through a supermarket – without itemising reciepts its hard to know whats food, whats clothes, whats dvds etc, although I must say that its difficult to really cut spending when wife/family has expectations – it becomes a difficult conversation. I am also a believer in bangernomics but I have to keep fending off peer pressure to change car

    You do get an average sense of spending and hard budgeting is for either the debt laden or hobbyists

    Also the economy depends on most people not being astute, so its something that benefits you individually but financial education should not be taught. You could argue that Martin lewis has suppressed profitability and therefore economic growth, although he has reduced the risk in the economy

  • 32 Gentleman's Family Finances January 31, 2020, 8:47 am

    Whilst I keep a track on our spending and cateogorise it I went through periods where I didn’t and before that where every penny was a prisoner.
    I suppose that counting pennies and pounds is a bit like counting calories if you are on weight watcher (pound gainers anyone?) – which is helpful if you do have a eating/spending disorder but you could perhaps be just as slim/rich if you know what’s good for you.

    One benefit I saw from our spending was that we spent a lot on travel and not so much on entertainment. So a family trip to London might cost £400 for flights, £400 for hotel, £100 in other travel costs and then we’d spend £50 going to a museum or show and think that’s expensive!!! But spend the same amount on an overpriced and underwhelming lunch!
    So, I’ve tried to focus more on days out where we get a lot of bang for our bucks – something like Zoo membership or National Trust is a wise purchase (and tax deductible!)

  • 33 JimJim January 31, 2020, 8:51 am

    Re “I work in this space and would not at this time consent any 3rd party to access my accounts.”
    From this, to clarify, I take it that wait and see for now before putting all your passwords in one basket is the sensible thing. Just in case that basket is a basket case?

    We work a duel system in our household, the day to day, month to month spending is handled by my double entry book-keeping trained better half, (we used to use Microsoft money for this, we got a free copy of it with a computer back in 1997, now the account does a reasonable job within the banks web site), the short term savings are kept in separate “pot” accounts to pay “holidays”, “car”, “repairs and emergency fund”, the long term savings and investments are handled and monitored by both of us, the research gets done, in the main by myself. All of this is kept off line, a dummy “research” account with a finance web site gives me near live prices of the investments and takes little maintenance. Our credit card has been hit twice in the last 25 years by fraudsters, we suffered no loss because of our careful monitoring but trust is a thing earned in my book. We have lived through hard times and know how to budget, the pennies are accounted for and checked by the two of us as the investments. Arguments over spending are few these days. From the growth of the latter, we are on target to achieve a modestly early retirement whilst still getting in plenty of fun and adventure now.
    I like the idea of a one place finance app. I do not currently like the idea of a one place risk. This is reflected in the diversity of our investments and accounts. Manual input for me for a while yet I fear.

  • 34 The Weasel January 31, 2020, 9:20 am

    I used to manually track every single little transaction with a mobile app called Expense IQ. Then I felt I was wasting too much of my life doing this and needed automation. I found MD OK, except the disconnected accounts didn’t allow me to track change over time. You could only change the total amount which I found lacking.
    Now my system is a mix of Yolt and a spreadsheet that I update monthly. Almost all the automation I’d like and all the flexibility I need.

  • 35 The Weasel January 31, 2020, 9:42 am

    Re: security. API’s are indeed more secure. It’s basically the same as some apps asking you to login using your Google or Facebook account. You are giving permissions, not your credentials.
    However, in the end, security is always a matter of trust. A website/app could trick you into handing over your credentials claiming they’ll be used to connect via open banking when they could be storing them.

    Some employee in your bank already knows all your details. What guarantees they won’t misuse all that info? Nothing. But you trust them.

  • 36 Naeclue January 31, 2020, 11:16 am

    @Weasel, “Some employee in your bank already knows all your details. What guarantees they won’t misuse all that info? Nothing. But you trust them.”

    I have no choice but to trust a bank if I want a bank account.

    I had no choice than to trust TalkTalk with my personal details if I wanted a phone line from them – they betrayed that trust.

    I have no choice but to trust one of these Fintech companies if I want to use their services. I don’t need to use their services, so there is a benefit/risk trade off to be assessed. I have decided the benefits do not outweigh the risks. I doubt I will change my mind.

    Over time I would expect banks themselves to start providing much of this monitoring and analysis functionality. It will be another way in which they can distinguish themselves and attract customers. Provided you do most transactions through one bank and a credit card issued by the same bank, I see little benefit in getting middlemen involved.

  • 37 Vanguardfan January 31, 2020, 11:33 am

    @naeclue, I agree that on the face of it, banks could easily provide Monzo-type functionality to their customers, and it does frustrate me that they don’t, nor do they appear to be rushing to do so. First direct apparently used to provide something along these lines, but they withdrew it because it didn’t meet the open banking standards (as I understand it). They’ve clearly chosen not to develop an alternative.

    I think the mainstream banks may be watching and waiting for Fintech companies to come up with the goods, and then, I dunno, maybe buy them up once they’ve proven themselves? (Also, maybe it’s complicated to join these functionalities to banks very old IT systems, and perhaps API is in fact the best/most efficient way forward). I’m just a lay person when it comes to IT though, so these thoughts may be way off the mark.

  • 38 The Rhino January 31, 2020, 11:51 am

    @Naeclue, Andy, Gtim – Thanks for the live(ish) fund prices workarounds. I’m sure one of those approaches will solve my problem. Gtim – perl to python to C is an interesting and unusual progression, thanks for the shell script snippet.

  • 39 ITinvestor January 31, 2020, 12:07 pm


    The ImportXML function can be handy for importing prices in Google Sheets.

    This should work in a Google Sheet for the Vanguard LS 80 accumulation units.
    =importxml(“https://www.bloomberg.com/quote/VGLS80A:LN”, “//span[@class=’priceText__1853e8a5′]”)

    You should be able to alter the URL for other LS funds if needed.

    The span[@class bit might need amending for other funds though. If you view a page’s source you should be able to find the part of the page that lists the latest price and swap the relevant code in.

    It takes a bit of trial and error, I’ve found, and sometimes it fails to get the data and comes up N/A instead. But works 99% of days I’d say.

    I don’t think it works using an URL on Vanguard’s site, though, as they structure their pages differently.

  • 40 LALILULELO January 31, 2020, 12:57 pm

    Regarding getting Life Strategy prices into google sheets, I’ve had the best luck with scraping Bloomberg. This is what I use for LS80:
    Occasionally it’ll throw up an error but has been pretty good and nothing like when I had to use Moningstar for my work pension fund. I think that was related to the ads you would have to skip some times. I’ve recently found a work around for that one using the FT website.

    Hope this helps.

  • 41 LALILULELO January 31, 2020, 12:59 pm

    Haha, just a few moments too late! Glad to see I’m not barking up the wrong tree though!

  • 42 The Investor January 31, 2020, 1:06 pm

    @Naeclue @Vanguardfan — Time will tell, but you’re standing in opposition to the direction things are going that’s for sure. 🙂

    Forget fintech companies versus banks — there’s an argument that all kinds of goods/services providers are going to roll financial services into their stack/cashflow etc.

    You already see this with e.g. Uber, Amazon, Apple all making money from financial services.

    There’s a school of thought that as emerging fintechs ‘unknit’ (my word) the various parts of the financial pipe/value chain, it’ll be ever easier to roll together new fintech services or incorporate elements into your own offering.

    There’s been some interesting presentations on this recently… perhaps I’ll stick a couple into Weekend Reading this weekend.

    We’ll see. 🙂 And as I say have no argument against anyone saying now is not the time for them, from a risk/reward basis. Personal choice.

  • 43 Fatbritabroad January 31, 2020, 3:18 pm

    I use moneyhub for this which is very similar I belive to money Dashboard

  • 44 weenie January 31, 2020, 5:22 pm

    @C (comment # 6)

    “Having had to budget down to a penny in the early days of my adult life, I have zero interest in doing so now.”

    This. Budgeting was something I had to do when I had no money, so it’s not something I would happily go back to doing. The dashboard would have been really handy back then and would have probably helped me clear my debts quicker.

    I like your spidey-sense analogy and yes, I too have an idea/tingling of whether I’m overspending or not.

  • 45 miner 2049er January 31, 2020, 7:45 pm

    Thankyou David for your book and this information, ive read your book many times and following advice that is in it and passing on the information to my children.

  • 46 Jan January 31, 2020, 9:00 pm


    To clarify my comment..

    In open banking land you are not giving your password to anyone. What you are giving is consent. That consent can only been given to a 3rd party who has passed the FCA tests for a fit and proper business.

    My concern is more your point about the basket being a basket case..

    Where will my data be held and for how long? Who will have access to it? Will it be resold? In particular for products free at the point of use, who is the customer? Am I the customer or am I the product? What if future financial products I use become more expensive based on a risk scoring of my transaction history? How would I know I’d this were happening? Many fintechs are startups, many will be acquired, who will have ultimate access to my data? Etc etc..

    I won’t use Open Banking account information services for the same reason I wouldn’t use one of the genetic profiling services. Your data has significant value, often greater than the benefit you’ll get from the service you’re using.

  • 47 Graham February 1, 2020, 1:24 pm

    Money Dashboard saved my life last year when I had to prepare for the Tory governments IR35 implementation. Really got to grips with my spending and planning with a budget.

    BUT then came Open Banking and Nationwide truely messed the whole thing up and their Credit Card transactions have been unavailable since September. Sadly Money Dash board and all the other Open Banking budgeting apps are dead to me and I’ve built out the equivalent in Excel using pivot tables to cut and slice views.

  • 48 Mezzanine February 1, 2020, 6:34 pm

    Guilty as charged.

    I’ve been using Moneydance (not Money Dashboard) since about 2014 and have tracked every penny since. I fed in bank statements back to the start of 2013 so have about 7 years of finely categorised and split income and expenditure. I shredded 20yrs of bank statements before I started which was probably for the best as I would have fed them in by now too 😉 Moneydance also supports investment accounts, so I’ve entered and tracked all of our pension and stock market contributions & returns dating back from 1996 – nearly 25yrs of transactions and performance data.

    I drive my wife mad when I take her through our current position (and where we’ve come from) as I draw out huge amounts of detail and graphing – the eyes glaze over – and I’ll be the first to admit that I spend too much time poring over and curating the data.

    I don’t set budgets though – once you have a good understanding of cashflow, reporting is more helpful to identify areas that need more attention.

    Years of tracking everything coming in and going out has allowed me to identify, prioritise and squash all sorts of inefficient spending, has helped illustrate good and bad financial decisions and given me a very robust understanding of our annual expenditure patterns.

    Perhaps the most important thing is that I don’t need to guess what we’ll need in early retirement – I know what we’ll need and have an increasingly accurate picture of what we’ll have…

  • 49 Northern Monkey February 2, 2020, 11:26 am

    To get updated figures on Lifestrategy I use Excel’s power query. Google something like. “How to get data from a website in excel using power query”. I use Morningstar for the website. If I recall correctly once you give excel the url the table with the data you need is table 2

  • 50 xxd09 February 6, 2020, 8:52 pm

    Just a comment from left field on Posting
    I notice a lot of blog websites have the ability for the poster to correct the posted comment for sometime after the original post-spelling mistake,wrong punctuation etc with an edit button
    Is it possible to include this facility sometime for us more impetuous posters!

  • 51 Andy February 10, 2020, 11:34 pm

    I just wasted my time trying Money Dashboard out to view my credit card spending. It got access to my transactions via open banking easily enough, but only 6 months worth and I want a minimum of a year, and preferably all the transactions.

    All I want to do is tag my transactions and work out how much I have spent per year over the last few years, but I can’t do this.

    Tagging seemed inflexible, you can create your own tags, but you can’t delete or amend existing tags that it suggests to you. You also can’t untag something that you’ve tagged accidentally.

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