How to Keep Track of Your Money

Before we take a look at few ways to keep track of your money, here is a simple test. Ask yourself these questions, and answer with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.

– Do I owe anyone money?
– Do I borrow money too often?
– Am I usually late to pay my bills?
– Have I put off doing something that I actually need to get done but can’t because I can’t afford it?
– Do I run out of money before my next paycheck arrives?

If you answered most of the above questions with a ‘Yes’, there is no other way to break it to you but to say – you need help, friend! It is not everybody’s cup of tea to manage their personal finances. However, the good news is, you can learn to do it pretty soon and quite effectively too. The following tips on how to keep track of your money are going to help you save money. It is never a good idea to live paycheck to paycheck; so if you don’t want to do that, follow the tips given below and start keeping a tab on your money!

Ways to Keep Track of Your Money

Wallet
Know the exact contents of your wallet. That does not mean you should keep track of every single penny that you put in or remove from your wallet. But it always helps to know how much money you have in your wallet. It even saves you from embarrassment – what if you were to have coffee with a nice girl in a nice cafe and you discovered you had no money left in your wallet? I wouldn’t want to be the girl with you! (Just kidding… I hope that never happens to you.)

Tip: Check in the morning before you leave the house how much money you have in your wallet. Even if you find some of it missing, you have only a day’s expenses to cross-check and trace back your missing money.

Expenses
It is best to keep track of your expenses to know exactly how much money you spend and on what. Many a time it so happens that we do not remember how much money we spent. We buy a box of liquor chocolates and forget we bought it. We pick up a bottle of wine on our way to someone’s house and forget we did. And then we rack our brains trying to remember where it is that the money was spent! So keep a track of your expenses. You can keep a record in a small pocket diary. If you want to be all pro, you can do the same on an iPad!

Tip: Do this daily (at the end of the day, before you hit the sack) and you won’t even have to keep a diary! It is not important to actually ‘write’ down all your expenses; even a mental check can suffice, as long as you are absolutely sure.

Credit
This is how credit cards work (in the simplest, crudest terms) – they (credit union) give you money to use for free. They give you a time limit within which you have to return the money. But if you fail to return it in that time, they charge you an interest such that you eventually end up returning a lot more than you borrowed! Now the problem is, somewhere we have this psychological block in our heads – credit card is somebody else’s money, so even if I overspend, ‘my’ money is still intact. So we tend to overspend. But that is so wrong, for we all know that ultimately we have to pay the credit card bill from our own money. Plus credit card bills are always unbelievable. We take one look at the bill, and we are like ‘Damn! When did I spend that much money?’

Tip: Switch to using an ATM card or a debit card. That way, you would think twice before spending, as it would be ‘your’ money. Also all your transactions will show in your monthly bank account statement. It makes keeping a track easier.

Budget
Set yourself a budget and do not spend outside the budget. If you do, make sure to keep a track of what you spent the extra money on. Did you indulge in a shopping spree? Did you lend anyone money? Were you hit by some unexpected expenses? Medicine? Dinner? Trip to somewhere? Keeping track of your money when you are out on a small trip, holiday or vacation becomes almost impossible. Everybody is in the mood to spend. It is essential you set yourself a budget to keep track in such cases.

Tip: Keep a comfortable margin. Too low a budget can make it seem like you are overspending all the time, when actually you are not. It can bog you down! Take into account all your monthly expenses before setting a budget.

Account
Monitor your bank account vigilantly. It is the world of e-banking, so make sure you subscribe for an electronic monthly statement of your bank account, and make sure you actually go through the statement when it arrives and check for any transactions that seem fishy or unaccountable. I do hope this never happens to you, but a possibility of theft cannot be overruled. Credit card scams are not something unheard of. A lot of people have a lot of reasons (though wrong ones) to tamper with people’s bank accounts. It is better to be careful than sorry!

Tip: Train yourself to read through the bank statement carefully. Do not simply throw it in the trash can. It hardly takes a few minutes. Also report any unusual transactions immediately, without further ado.

So those were some personal finance tips that will help you keep track of your money. Train yourself to deal with money responsibly. You can inculcate responsibility in your children right from their tender years, so that they learn to use money carefully from an early age. Everything in life is not about money, yes. But many important things are – food, clothing, shelter, medical help, for starters. So it is always a good idea to save and invest. Hope the above tricks and tips help you out. Cheers!

Managing Your Joint Finances

People are getting married later in life now. More and more couples are waiting until after certain milestones are achieved, such as graduating from school or attaining job security. This means that more and more people are independently financially stable before merging their lives – and money – with someone else. That can spell trouble for a new couple; when two people who are used to spending freely without consulting someone else are all of a sudden asked to share financial responsibilities. As a newly married woman, I have first hand experience with how difficult it can be to merge finances with the love of your life. We were both employed long before we met, and financially stable as independent people. Rationally, one might think that would mean we would be financially stable as a couple, but creating one budget from two independent ones is sometimes more difficult than it looks. No one can say what will definitely work for you, but here are a few tips to keep your heads above water.

Where Did the Money Go?

Even if you and your partner keep your finances mostly separate, you are still jointly responsible for rent or mortgage payments, food, and other shared expenses. When each of you are spending money from your joint accounts outside those shared responsibilities, you might find that your money is disappearing faster than anticipated. A good way to keep track of joint cash flow is to keep a budget somewhere you both can see and update it every time one of you spends any money. We keep a dry-erase board on our refrigerator with categories like Food, Entertainment, Gifts, etc. and monthly denominations written under them. For example, we like to spend under $500 per month on food, so the Food category has $500 written under it. Every time one of us spends shared money on food, we subtract that amount from the monthly total. Needless to say, when it gets to the end of each month, we end up eating a lot of inexpensive foods such as pasta and Ramen noodles, but at least we’re within our budget!

Set Priorities Early On

Is it important to you both to save for a house? Go on vacations? Buy a new computer? Start planning for children? Regardless of your priorities, it is valuable to set your priorities with your partner early on. You both have hopes and dreams for your life together, and usually those hopes and dreams cost money. No matter what you’re saving for, having concrete goals can help you stay on track. It also helps to know how much you realistically need to save. $1,500 won’t make an effective down payment on a house, for example, but it can buy a really nice computer. Discuss your goals with your partner, and decide what to save each month, and how that savings will be used.

Be Open to Change

Your life together right now doesn’t look like what it will look like five, ten, or fifteen years down the road. Things happen and situations change, and for better or worse, it is ineffective to use the same budget when your financial situations are different. Your spending habits will not be the same when you are first married as they are when you buy your first home or have your first child, for example, and every subsequent change means a change in your budgeting. Don’t try to stick to the financial system that worked for you just because it had worked at one point. There’s nothing wrong with reevaluating how your joint finances are handled when your lives change.

Talk, Talk, Talk!

Communicate about your finances. I cannot stress this enough! If you don’t talk about where your money is going, what you dream for your future together, and how your lives are changing, it will be impossible to reach an effective decision on financial matters. It is frequently said that money is one of the main reasons couples split up, but taking time to discuss your joint financial situation can help alleviate stress when it comes to spending and saving money.