I know this doesn’t sound like a budget tool, but having a check register is so important. The most difficult part of budgeting is tracking your budget. A check register allows you to track how much money is left in your account. It can also help you prioritize your spending.
In 2012, consumers paid $32 billion in overdraft fees. With all of the technology we have, you would think the amount of fees would decrease each year. That has not been the case.
Why are people paying more in overdraft fees? Because we have relied too heavily on technology!
Most people look at their balance online and assume they have money. We tend to forget about the bills that are coming up later in the week, which we have automatically drafted from our account. I love automatic payment. It makes my life so much easier.
If you are going to use automatic payments, you need to track your account balances!
This is why you need a check register. Now, I’m not saying that you need to use an old school paper register. I use a Google Spreadsheet. You can also use an Excel spreadsheet. The reason I love the spreadsheet is that it automatically calculates my balance. No calculator needed.
Using a check register to improve your spending habits
My husband and I get paid on the same day every two weeks, which is very helpful for planning. On the day we get paid, I enter our deposits into the check register. I then use my monthly bills list to enter all the automatic payments that will come out of our account for the next two weeks. Anything that is not paid automatically but is due in the next two weeks, like our mortgage or our extra debt snowball payments, gets paid that day. This usually takes me about ten to 15 minutes.
Whatever is left in the account is our gas, grocery, medical, BLOW, etc money for the next two weeks. That’s it. I know our bills are paid and our extra debt payments are made. We’ve got to live with what is left.
When you look at what is left, you make different choices. You start to say no. When I look at our account online, we might have $1,500 in the bank, but my register tells me I only have $300. I know I need to be careful.
At the end of each 28-day budget cycle, whatever is left in the account goes toward the debt snowball.
I start a new check register worksheet each budget cycle
I do this for two reasons. First, it matches my budget. Only income and expenses from the budget I am working on show up on the register. Second, it allows me to easily zero out my account at the end of the cycle and start fresh for the next one. Whatever is left in the account at the end of our four week budget is moved to our goal, currently our debt.
If you want to download the check register I use for Google Spreadsheets or Microsoft Excel, you can get it here. Instructions for use are in the How-to Guide in the sheet, along with instructions to download and convert to an Excel Spreadsheet.
Please let me know if you have any questions about using the worksheet in the comments below.