Balancing a checkbook, analog or digital, is a boring process. Let’s be honest. It means keeping track of receipts or logging things into your device as soon as you buy it. The latter of which I’m betting most of us forget to do.
But it’s important. Incredibly important. I had a friend dodge getting his identity stolen because he picked up a ten cent charge on his bank statement. The bank said it originated from a foreign country where they had recently seen hackers “testing” accounts before withdrawing large sums of money. They were checking to see if he was paying attention.
It’s also important because banks make mistakes. And because knowing where you money is going currently is the first step in shifting it to where you want it to go in the future.
So I’ve got some tips to make it not so mind-numbingly boring for you. Tried and true tips to make keeping track of those expenses a little more fun.
End All of Your Purchases with a Weird Number of Cents
If you’re balancing a checkbook, seeing ten $30 charges each time you buy gasoline isn’t fun to parse out. Especially if you go to the same gas station regularly. But if each time you end your transaction in a weird number of cents, it’s a lot easier to identify each receipt against what your bank says you owe. So instead of paying $30 every time you fuel up, spend $29.92, $30.58, $30.61, etc. Just make sure that you’re regularly balancing so that those odd number of cents don’t add up to push you a few dollars over budget.
Use Excel to Track Your Spending Habits
I got really excited when my bank(s) started implementing spending pie charts. I had been doing it for years on Excel, and I thought I wouldn’t have to do it anymore. It’s years later, and I’m still disappointed in my bank’s system. The categories include: healthcare, travel, automotive, restaurants/entertainment, everyday spending, merchandise, and other.
What do those last three even mean? The categories are so broad, and my purchases are so often erroneously assigned to the wrong category that their pie charts tell me little to none about where my money is actually going. I budget with Excel, where I make my own budget categories, and then plug in how much we actually spend, anyways. So making a pie chart that gives me an accurate reflection of our spending habits is just a few clicks away. That way I know what we’re spending our money on everyday as opposed to inherently legitimizing a bunch of purchases into “everyday spending.”
If you need a little motivation to get the mathematical cogs turning in your brain, get a visual. Have something your saving for? Or some place you’d like to go? Or an early retirement number? Take that image and make it the first sheet of your Excel document. Or glue it to the cover of your notebook. Or the front of your checkbook. Or make it the wallpaper on your phone. Wherever you keep track of your expenses, make sure that your “WHY” is always in sight so you’ll be able to overcome all of those, “But I don’t want to…..”s.
How do you make keeping track of your expenses more enjoyable?