With pay at the pump and every store asking debit or credit, balancing a checkbook has become even more difficult. If two people share the account, the multiple transactions and constant swiping and scanning can lead to disaster, especially if an actual paper check is floating around just waiting to clear. The goal and perhaps biggest struggle should be to maintain a positive balance that doesn’t teeter on invisible so that you can stay prepared for last minute emergencies and dire needs for cash.
Financial analysts always recommend paying yourself first. What this means is paying yourself by stuffing some money away in savings. So many couples think that a measly $20 will not add up, but over time, it will. Instead of spending that $20 on a new dress you don’t need, why not put it in saving? If you are lucky enough to win at the bingo, put your money straight into a saving account rather than spend it straight away. Just be a little bit more tough on yourself about putting your money into savings. The next piece of advice in balancing a checkbook is to create a budget and stick to it. Every good budget has a margin of error that will help you to keep your head above water should something that threatens to sink your ship occur. Living within your means, saving money whenever possible and learning to see your money as a breathing essence of your home and life is essential to not making a financial mess of your life. Don’t feel like using coupons, searching for discount codes online or waiting on sales is an inconvenience. As hard as everyone works for his or her money, it shouldn’t be let go of lightly. People that are rich financially are normally very adept at seeking bargains and understanding how to live well with less. Buying in bulk may cost more at the forefront but can save thousands of dollars if done with some planning.
If you and your family are having difficulties keeping the checkbook from being the bane of your existence, rise up to the challenge of not spending. When you try to see how many things you can go without and commit to asking yourself before every purchase big or small “Do I really need this right now” you will find that 90% of the time you can put items back without disrupting the flow of your life. Play a game with yourself that every expense that is $20 or more is considered a big one that requires a 2-day waiting period before you are allowed to purchased. 9 out of 10 times, you will see that your original thought was an impulse and that a $35 pair of jeans or the extra groceries that weren’t budgeted really wasn’t needed in the first place. This can help you to balance the checkbook, stick to your budget, save some money and become more conscious of the money you spend on impulse. Normally, it is these impulse buys and quick runs to the store or convenient store that breaks the bank.
One of the toughest issues when it comes to balancing a checkbook is keeping track of all those menial charges put on your debit card. Combine that with cash withdrawals and fees and a recipe for disaster is brewing. While both spouses should experience financial autonomy, this individual spending should be kept within a budget. Talking about the bills due, the ones looming and trying to handle the money together is the best way for two people to keep a handle on one account. If a joint account doesn’t work, then use two accounts and have each person keep track of it individually. Another option is to withdrawal a certain amount of cash every payday and put in a till. This till is all you got until the next payday and when it is empty you are plum out of luck. At first, this is a difficult experience and you will find that stretching your cash budget is difficult. However, with persistence and perseverance this policy really works well. Eventually you and your partner will be able to make the till last a bit longer and fast food lunches and packs of gum or overpriced drinks on the go will become a thing of the past. Much of financial planning is about remaining aware and heightening your consciousness of what you spend versus what is really necessary.
One of the problems with technology is that access to our money has become almost too easy. Online banking by sheer convenience should make keeping track of your account balances easier especially if you check it every day or so. However, the budget and communication is still a factor. If partner A has no idea what partner B is doing and check C for the yearly car insurance is due, your whole plan could be foiled. The foiling of this plan can have a ripple effect on the next several weeks or month ahead.
If you receive extra money for any reason such as a bonus or unexpected dividend check, sock it into the savings account. Refuse to have a checking and savings account that are linked by debit cards and if possible, open them at separate banks. This way transferring and withdrawing will not be so easy and in a pinch, you will be forced to think and act differently than you normally would. The best deals for growing your money in the bank exist in online institutions. Currently ING Direct and Ally Bank are offering interest rates that are far better than brick and mortar institutions and both are stable outfits. Another benefit to using these banks is that when your $20 a week savings inflates, you can easily roll the money into higher paying CD’s or 401K accounts without penalty of having low balances. Financial experts also advise placing the highest percentages possible into investment opportunities so that you will never get used to it. This way when you get raises you can continue to put more into your future and les into the frugal expenses of the future.
Balancing a checkbook is also about realizing that nickel and diming yourself to death in order to put on that needed new bathroom or purchase a car really defeats your purpose. Credit and lines of credit have a handy use and with low interest rates and realistic payments, you can actually put money in the bank while paying for large expenses. Trial and error is really the bet way to take hold of your finances and your metaphorical checkbook. If something doesn’t work, remain flexible in changing it as long as your best interests are always in mind. Budgeting and communication are by far the most two important elements in keeping both your checkbook and your life in balance!