Organizing Family Expenses by Maintaining a Well Kept Checkbook

Organizing Family Expenses by Maintaining a Well Kept Checkbook

Annie Harrington is a small business owner and freelance writer. She is also keenly interested in all aspects of design, including how to personalize checks.
We all know that family life can be quite hectic. Everything from getting kids to school to paying bills to work to feeding your family adds to the craziness that is everyday life. However, the easiest way to maintain your life, and your sanity, is to stay organized. So why not organize the most stressful part of life, finance? It is easy to departmentalize and keep track of all your expenses by using a well maintained checkbook. I know exactly what most people are thinking right now, “No one uses checks or checkbooks anymore!” While that is true, it is also wrong to some extent. Businesses still pay their employees with paper checks and many people still pay rent, mortgages and other bills with physical checks. Furthermore, even if you are using a debit card instead of a check, why not keep a record of all your expenses in your checkbook. After all the money is coming out of the same account the checks would have come out of.
Whether paying with a check or using your debit card it is probably a safe bet that a majority of your finances come out of one account. Step one is to figure out a date where you want begin tracking your finances. Choose a point in time and figure out any outstanding charges or checks that might have not cleared yet. It is imperative that you know what your base balance is and are not surprised by any charges that may come through. If you know of any charges that may have not cleared add them to your checkbook’s register and then subtract that total from what your current balance is.
Now that you know what your beginning balance feel free to go about using your debit card and checks as you would normally. However, instead of monitoring your account online or simply trusting that the bank will not have any errors, record all your transaction in your checkbook. This provides you with two services. First off you can keep a running balance of all your expenses, so if anything takes a little while to clear you won’t be surprised or caught off guard by it. Secondly you will have a paper record of where all your expenses are going. Make any adjustments makes this task easier for you. Some people may like adding the charges to their checkbook the second they write a check, charge their debit card or make a deposit into their account. Others may want to wait until the end of the day when things have settled down. Find what works best for you and go with it. I would do this for a couple weeks or maybe even month and see how it goes.
Once you have an organized, up to date checkbook register sit down and figure out where all your expenses are going to. I suggest making three or four categories to sort the various charges in, maybe something like groceries, bills, leisure, maintenance or really anything that you see fitting. Now once you have your categories start moving all your charges into the appropriate categories. Next you will want to add up each category individually. This provides you with the actual amount money you spent in each category for that period of time. Obviously the categories aren’t going to add up to the same amount every time but as time goes on you will have much better estimate of what you should expect to spend in each category, whether it be on a monthly, per paycheck or whatever you decide works best for you.
My hopes that are by organizing finances this way you will know approximately how much you spend and what it is spent on. Hopefully this will relieve a lot of financial stress and allow you to see how much of your money goes to specific areas of your life and can make any needed adjustments. This should allow you also to make financial adjustments on the fly when planning to save up for vacations or any other big finances that might pop from time to time. Ultimately the end goal of this exercise is to remove some stress from your life by staying organized.

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