There I was, studying away, plowing through Chapter 3 when suddenly wham! Life happened. You know those situations, when you get some news and you put your regular life on hold for a bit to deal with something big. We’ll return to regularly scheduled programming (studying) soon, but meanwhile, writer & editor Kaarina Stiff asked me how I track my money.
Are you ready to hear my magic secret? I use – drumroll please – a notebook!
Every month I sit down with my online banking accounts on my computer and do a check-in. It takes less than 30 minutes. When I hit a milestone I draw huge exclamation marks and stars; yes, just like a teenaged girl’s diary. I use funky colours and whatever else it takes to make it more fun and less of a chore.
Knowing what’s coming in and going out is important, afterall. How can you make any other financial decisions if you don’t know what you’re dealing with?
On my Financials page, I list my amounts in three categories: short-term (cash), medium-term (stocks, bonds, TFSA) and long-term holdings (RRSPs). Then I add them all up for my assets. I also add up my mortgage and any debt I have that month on my line of credit or credit card – that’s my liabilities. I minus my liabilities from my assets and voila! That’s my net worth. (Plus my condo – real estate rah rah rah!)
On my Spending page, I split it out into fixed expenses (mortgage, condo fees, utilities, insurance, etc.) and variable expenses (groceries, restaurants/entertainment, gas and other). I add them up to see how much money is going out every month.
When I first started I forgot to include gas. I also accidentally included my monthly savings under expenses, then couldn’t figure out how I was overspending every month while my net worth kept increasing. Oops.
If you’re more technically inclined than I am (which ain’t hard), there’s software programs like Quicken. The starter edition is $40 (and if you work for yourself remember to expense it!). It connects to your online accounts and puts your spending into categories.
However you do it, what matters is that you know what’s happening with your money. If that calls for a fuzzy cow pink pen, so be it.