Thomas Jefferson was so good at keeping track of his expenses that we still have records of almost everything he spent, including the tips he gave out at inns. (George Washington, by the way, was also a meticulous recorder of his expenses.)

Expense tracking isn’t a magic solution to budgetary woes, but it helps. Jefferson was an acknowledged spendthrift, for example, with an immense wine collection and a taste for fashionable clothes. He was often out of pocket and would sometimes borrow money from his slaves, keeping track of every penny, of course, and the date he paid it back.

Of course you can do that too – not borrowing from slaves, but tracking every penny. We’ve been testing a solution from, that makes it a snap to track of how much you spend. It costs $10 to set up and $10 a month for a six-month contract. Instead of having to save all your receipts during the day and enter them into a database at night, you can do it on the fly with a cell phone and this voice-activated service. For example, as you’re leaving a grocery store, you can call a special phone number, enter your PIN number, and tell the robot voice that answers the phone how much you just spent on the “grocery” category. The robot tells you what you have left of the limit you previously set for yourself, and your personal spreadsheet, available online, is automatically updated. A daily email gives you all your latest tallies.

Setting up was easy. After signing up at, you can tell the service how much you have available each month after taxes. There is a list of dozens of categories, already filled out with suggested amounts for each. You can click “edit” next to any category to apportion expenses that fit your lifestyle and you can also add and delete categories.

An obvious thought is why not save $10 a month by skipping the service all together. That’s the way to go if you have Thomas Jefferson’s habit of writing down every cost; we found we don’t. We liked how made us stop and think about where our money is going.

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