Control your cash.
Simple tools to keep track of your money.
Keep a spending diary
If you want to be in control of your money, it is critical that you understand where your money goes. One way to do this is to keep a spending diary to record everything you spend.
- Track daily spending
- Determine income and expenses
- Find ways to decrease spending
- Find ways to increase income
Create a budget and stick with it! You can use this information to track your spending over a period of time, say a month, so that you can see how you are spending your money.
- Try our Personal Monthly Budget Worksheet (102 KB PDF)
Balance your checkbook
Keeping an accurate checkbook register is one of the first fundamentals of effective money management. This allows you to know exactly how much money you currently have to save or spend, and helps you to keep track of where you spend your money. At Tri Counties Bank, we want to help you simplify this process, and reduce the potential anxiety of balancing and managing your day-to-day expenses.
With a checking account, you can track what you spend and keep up with transactions using your check register and monthly bank statement to help you track your spending. It’s important as you continue to write checks, make debit card purchases, and Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) withdrawals and/or deposits, that you track these transactions in your checkbook register.
Record and keep track
You have to record every time you put money into your account (deposit) and every time you take money out of your account (withdrawal). Each month, you should make sure the amount of money you think you have matches how much the bank thinks you have. This is called “reconciling your account.”
In order to have a clear picture of your spending habits and know exactly how much money you have, you need to record the transactions and balance your account total in your checkbook register. Each month you will receive a bank statement showing every time money was entered or was taken out of your account.
- Always compare (reconcile) your check register entries with the bank’s entries to make sure they agree
- You also can do this electronically if you have budgeting software on your home computer (QuickBooks, Quicken, using Mint.com)
To verify your account balance in between statements, you may also want to consider signing up for Online Banking. If you forget to record a transaction, you can find it easily through Online Banking.
How to balance a checkbook
Before you begin balancing your checkbook, gather the following:
- Your last two bank statements
- Your checkbook and checkbook register
- Any Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) and/or Debit Card receipts that you did not record in your checkbook register
You should use a checking account worksheet to help you balance your account.
- Try our How to Reconcile Your Checking Account Worksheet (447 KB PDF)
Decrease spending and save more money
- Use direct deposit for your paycheck or federal benefits, such as Social Security
- Buy only what you need – do not buy things just because they are on sale
- Do not go shopping just for fun
- Use coupons to save money
- Control your use of credit cards
- Use a shopping list to prevent impulse buying for things like groceries and at home improvement stores
- Take your written savings goals with you as a reminder
- Take your lunch to work instead of eating out
- Shop around to get the best deal on big-ticket items, such as cars and appliances
- Don’t borrow additional money to pay off debts and/or bills
Pay yourself first: Savings tips
1) Set goals and priorities. This will help you determine what’s important. When you prepare to buy something, ask yourself, “is this purchase in line with the priorities I have set, and will it help me reach my goal or delay it?”
2) Cut expenses, and consider needs versus wants. Think about the items you purchase on a regular basis. These can quickly add up. Where can you save?
- Do you eat out at restaurants a lot?
- Can you cut back on daily expenses, such as coffee, candy, soda?
- Do you have services you do not really need, such as cable television or magazine subscriptions?
- Have you evaluated your cellular telephone service? Perhaps a less expensive package could suit your needs.
3) Direct deposit or automatic transfer to savings
- When you get paid, put a portion in savings through direct deposit or automatic transfer.
- If you have a checking account, you may sign up to have money moved into your savings account every month. What you do not see you do not miss!
4) Pay your bills on time. This saves the added expense of:
- Late fees
- Extra finance charges
- Disconnection fees for utilities such as phone or electricity
- Fees to reestablish connection if your service is disconnected
- The cost of eviction
- Bill collectors
6) Avoid debt that does not help build long-term financial security. For example, avoid borrowing money for things that do not provide financial benefits or that do not last as long as the loan. Specific examples include: a vacation, clothing, and dinners out in restaurants.
Examples of debt that DOES help build long-term financial security include:
- Paying for college education (for you or your child)
- Buying or remodeling a house
- Buying a car to get to work
7) If you have paid off a loan – such as a car loan or student loan – keep making the monthly payments to yourself. You can save or invest the money for your future goals.
8) If you receive cash as a gift, save at least part of it.
9) Save your change at the end of the day. Take that change and deposit it into the bank every week or month.
10) When you get a tax refund, save as much of it as possible.
11) If you get a raise or bonus from your employer, put the extra money directly into savings.
12) If your work offers a retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan that deducts money from your paycheck, join it! Some employers will match a portion of your contribution. The matched amount is free money!
13) If you use check-cashing stores regularly, you might pay $3 to $5 for each check you cash. This can easily add up to several hundred dollars in fees every year. Consider opening a checking account instead.
- If you decide to make investments, do your homework. Know what you are investing in. Get professional advice if you need it. You should have enough money in savings to pay for 2 to 6 months of expenses in case of emergency. Make sure you have an emergency savings account before considering investing in non-deposit products.
Other budgeting tools
Everyone is different – and it’s important to find a budgeting system you feel comfortable with and that works for you. Here are a few other budgeting options you can try at home.
Budget box system
- The budget box is a small box with dividers for each day of the month.
- When you receive a bill, check the due date and place it behind the divider that represents the bill’s due date.
- As you receive income, pay all bills that are due.
Computer / Online system
If you have access to a personal computer, you can create your own spreadsheet. You may also want to purchase a personal finance program (QuickBooks, Quicken, or an online program, such as Mint.com).
Using a computer to manage your finances is relatively simple. Once you set up the system, updating information is quick and easy. It is important to enter transactions frequently to truly understand your financial position.