Gradually Improving Our Finances Over Morning Coffee

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Gradually Improving Our Finances Over Morning Coffee

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Gradually Improving Our Finances Over Morning Coffee
With me sitting at the kitchen table sifting through my email inbox on my work laptop, and Vonnie sitting at the counter in front of our personal laptop, we're in our usual morning locations. She sips her coffee and logs into our online banking portal to inspect the latest checking account transactions. She asks about each transaction, making sure everything is as it should be, including a recent charge from a Rhode Island based online gaming company from which our son purchases games.

"What hasn't come through yet?" she asks.

The question prompts me to retrieve the checking account register from the kitchen drawer, and list aloud the handful of transactions that haven't posted yet. We talk about how much money we really have in the account, and what the funds are marked for.

It's a morning routine that we have welcomed. It forces us to talk about our finances on a daily basis, ensuring we're always on the same page.

It's the kind of communication that had been lacking in our relationship for years.

As we've become comfortable with our current routine, we've started to look for ways to streamline our process. The thing that sticks out as an area for possible improvement is the checkbook register. I've wasted endless amounts of time searching for arithmetic errors due to incorrectly plugging numbers into a calculator. Also, a person can forget about a transaction that hasn't posted yet (like a check written out to a school that doesn't get cashed for months) if it's not on the current page of the register.

Many people use spreadsheets to track their finances, and I think we've finally arrived at a point where it makes sense for us to move in that direction. I have a coworker that has created what he calls a "financial dashboard" using a spreadsheet. It keeps track of not only his checking and savings accounts but also his investments. 

Vonnie and I will start simple and just move the tracking of our checking account into a spreadsheet. 

Keeping track of our checking account using a spreadsheet will simplify our morning financial review. Arithmetic errors will be eliminated as the program will do that for us. Together we can cross check the newly posted transactions from the online banking portal with the spreadsheet. Rows can be easily moved around in a spreadsheet, so outstanding items can be kept together at the bottom in plain sight. 

Instead of spending our time looking for errors, we can spend the time creating our budget and spending plan.

Streamlining our finances is an iterative process. Once we become comfortable with using a spreadsheet, we may move onto more complicated functions such as categorizing expenditures and using that data to track spending more closely. What makes me happy is that we're moving forward, and with each improvement to our process we're getting better and more efficient at handling our finances.

Related Links:

The Budget; Let's Keep it Real

Organizing Your Finances Doesn't Have to be Complicated

How the Budget is Going

 

Travis Pizel, Debt Management Plan Customer with Leading Provider of Debt Relief, CareOne Services, Inc. Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family in Minnesota. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

Follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles

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  • Love this post, Travis.  Regular communication about finances brings a new level of accountability that can really change your financial life and your marriage, too.

  • It is great that you are on the same team. Letting the issues help you learn to communicate better and be more engaged with each other is wonderful. What a way to use the difficulties to strengthen your relationship! Have I mentioned what a fan I am of Quicken? Really - they should pay me for advertising. It works just like a check book register but you can do so much with it. I do use a spread sheet too but I use that to organize my bills so nothing slips through the cracks.

  • As always you and Vonnie are working great together!  You are not only learning to communicate  you are learning as well as teaching others new ways of making things come together financially!  I love it!

  • I agree one billion percent, Laurie.  I read a post this week titled "How Having a Budget Brings Peace to Our Marriage ."    I loved the post, but I didn't have to read anything past the title.  I just love that title, and it's SO True.  Communicating about finances (and everything else for that matter), and being truthful with your spouse  (which I lacked for years) just fixes so many things.  Peace <- what a fantastic word. It just relaxes me to say it......

  • Yes, I had read you are a big fan of Quicken, Kimberly - if I remember right you update Quicken and check on your financials before even your morning coffee.  I said it before, and I'll say it again - You're HARD CORE!    I can see how it would be very useful....baby steps though.....we'll get there.  :)

  • Being a software engineer, I use spreadsheets all the time, so it's been a pretty easy transition for me.  Vonnie had her doubts though - she always second guesses herself when it comes to technology things like this.  Of course, this is the same woman who didn't think she'd ever catch on to her new job in a public defenders office because she had to learn so many new computer skills.  Jeesh, 6 months later she OWNS that job.  When I pick her up from work I like to sneak in and watch her working at her desk for a few minutes.....I'm SO PROUD of her.  She'll get this too, the mental block is her biggest.  :)  As always, Monica, thanks for reading, and for commenting!

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