How to keep track of money

Getting your family's monthly bills organized and paid is a chore that everyone in America goes through month after month. Ultimately a lot of families are also trying to budget their monthly bills as well as just paying them. The 2007 -2011 recession has hit middle income families hard. Budgeting has become a serious issue during this current recession. Middle income families just don't and can't spend money like they used to.

How to keep track of money is one of the very first steps that need to be taken if you are to get your family's monthly bills under control. Modern middle income families don't carry a lot of cash on them; today's family is more likely to have bank debit cards and their favorite "rewards" credit card to make purchases.

This move towards plastic has brought very good tracking mechanisms that try to help you keep an eye on your money. Unlike cash that you need to keep a receipt to know where the money has gone, plastic immediately records exactly what was spent and where.

Lovely except....

Keeping track of money has gotten harder since we moved from cash to plastic simply for the fact there are more ways to pay for everyday items. Now instead of reaching into your wallet and paying for your meal at Subway you use your debit card, when you go to J.C.Penney's you use your Penney's card. So at the end of the month you have bills coming at you from at least 10 different directions. It becomes real easy to loose track of the money.

Here are a couple of rules to follow when trying to keep track of your money:

  • Keeping track of money is all about creating a record of the purchase, and being able to decipher what that purchase was when you sit down to categorize and calculate your monthly bills on a family budget  worksheet or a software program like Quicken or Peachtree.
  • Carry one main form of payment with you. Your bank's debit card is the obvious choice but if you want to use a credit card that gives you "rewards" then that will be fine. Cash is also fine however if you choose the cash method you will need to also keep all of the receipts.
  • Don't worry if when you hear "debit" or "credit" from your local merchant. The only difference for you is when the money "posts" or comes out of your account.  A debit charge will post immediately a credit charge will normally post the very next day. I typically ask the merchant which is cheaper for them debit or credit since they are paying fees.
  • Stop using store credit cards. In our BillsOnly opinion, in the beginning moments of getting your family's monthly bills under control, it is far more important to know how much is being spent vs. getting an additional 10% off for using that particular credit card.
  • Carry one check in your wallet for an emergency. I can't tell you how many times I have tried to purchase something and the credit card machine is down. If you don't have cash write a check.
  • The cash in  your wallet is for emergencies as well. Don't pay for that lunch with cash, use your main form of payment. I know this sounds counter productive to budgeting and spending only what you have, but right now your family's monthly bills are out of control and you need to learn how to keep track of the money you have or think you have.
  • Try to group purchases together. Example if you are buying a $20 birthday present for someone don't add that $20 shirt that you need to this particular charge. Buy the present then buy the shirt. Don't purchase them together. When you finally get around to categorizing all of your monthly purchases it will look like you bought a $40 present when it really was only $20.

All of the rules above are just meant to help you quickly retrieve a record from your online bank statement or from your main credit card. The object is that 90% of all of your monthly charges show up in one place. That is why BillsOnly prefers debit cards vs. credit cards. Debit cards show up in your bank statement which is just flat out easier to find.

Now that we know where we can locate what we spent during the month the next step is to use some form of a family budget worksheet to keep track of the money. This is actually the simple part. The staff at BillsOnly still likes software programs that download the date from the bank statement but we realize that not everyone wants to keep up with another program. We created a free family budget sheet to help you with this.

Here's How:

1) Just place your receipts into each months "entry tab at the bottom of the family budget sheet. Each month has both a total tab and bill entry tab. Click on the tab.

How to keep track of money, family budget sheet monthly bill entry tabs

Start entering in the information by receipts. The spreadsheet will do all of the math for you.

How to keep track of money family budget sheet entry

Finally, if you enter all of the information into the monthly entry tabs our family budget sheet will not only calculate monthly bills it will also roll up to total yearly bills and average bills per month as well.

Use a family budget sheet to keep track of your money. Here is our new advance worksheet ready to be downloaded in an excel format. Click here for the advanced family budget sheet.


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