Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Ultimate Slacker Mom confession




I have to tell you something.

Promise you won't judge, OK?

I don't balance my checkbook.

Like, EVER.

Are you shocked?

This is how I used to keep track of my bills:

I am très chic, no?

Years ago I kept one of those teensie tiny little checkbook registers, adding and subtracting everything down to the penny. But you know how those things are...one little mistake and you end up with half a page of scribbly blue and black ink.

Some time after we got married, Hubs and I bought a computer and Quicken software came with it.

Somehow I just couldn't keep the thing synched with our bank account properly.

(I admit - I actually sent in for that free training CD from the Video Professor. That didn't help me, either.)

Once it was off by a hundred dollars or so I'd scrap the whole thing and cheat, putting in a fake entry to make it balance.

That quickly got irritating and I made up my own system.

Enter The Big Purple Notebook.

The Big Purple Notebook was simple. Because we don't get many paper bills and pay most things online, I would simply keep a page for each month listing our bills, when they were due and how much they were for. In that list (sorted by date) were also our pay dates with approximate amounts filled in as well.

The page or two following would be left for doing math and estimating what our remaining balance would be.

Our online bank account records were reviewed regularly to make sure no "weirdness" was going on, and to confirm that our payments went through. We're relatively conservative spenders, so this worked well for many years. We always kept a few hundred dollars of "cush" to cover any unexpected expenses or to pay for a larger item or repair if we wanted it or needed it.

Lately, though, I've wanted something more. My system (or complete lack thereof) didn't allow for a whole lot of budgeting. I browsed Web sites for hours looking for the perfect accounting materials.

I gave up. Products with good reviews looked like bus driver mileage logs with grey carboard covers and vague shots of graph paper inside.

I have an affinity for pretty office products, people.

So I bought this at the local Wally World:

Definitely a step up from the The Big Purple Notebook but its far from perfect. I'd love to find a great organizer and budgeting system that's easy to use and pretty, too. (You'll see I have a pretty new notebook and an expanding organizer that matches for miscellaneous paperwork.)

What do you use for bill organization and budgeting?


VDog said...


I just use my Bank's online bill pay stuff.

Automatically calculates everything for me. Awesome.

Donna @ Way More Homemade said...

I totally LOVE the striped binders and spirals at wally world. I buy a new set every year for my bible study lessons and notes.

My bill organization method... my husband. period.

What would I ever do with out him?

Zoeyjane said...

I am MS Excel's dirty little whore. But my agenda book looks like those stripy notebooks and yeah, I love me some office supplies, too.

Anonymous said...

I use online organization and since all my bills are fixed amounts I love that I can set up my bank account so these are paid on certain days and I dont have to even think about it, I love automatic. I find it is the easiet way for me.

Kati said...

I use a cute little notebook like that too. I gave up on the checkbook since I rarely use it...

Manic Mother said...

You still use a checkbook, and you keep track of it all? You are far more organized then me. I do everything online, and hope that I don't overdraw my account.

Buffie said...

I have a serious love of office supplies too. For my checkbook I have a 2 column account ledger book where I keep it. This allows me to put my monthly budget on one page and the next page has the transactions for the month. And so on and so on for every month.

The ledger itself is rather plain looking so I had to jazz it up with stickers. If anyone knows where you can get cute account ledgers, let me know.

The Halbert Home said...

My husband created an excel spreadsheet. If you asked me to recreate the formulas I couldn't tell you though. We have a column for each thing in our budget, gas, groceries, insurance, and each week we put what we need in it's column. We have a pokey receipt holder (like you see at restaurants)that we put receipts on and at the end of each week we put it in the computer. I don't really worry if it matches up with the bank's final total, I just make sure that everything from that month's statement was entered in the computer correctly. It helps us stay on budget and keep up with purchases. I used to not keep my checkbook register and this helps a lot!

Wanda said...

I'm ashamedly joining in here.
I don't balance either! Gasp!

I use a basket for stacking the suckers up and then I go through and purge them. Paying and writing down what I need to pay on paper.

It's not a brilliant plan! I'm so busy....it just works for me.

Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

Because we live paycheck to paycheck (fun!), I balance our checkbook with the register. However, I usually only do it every couple of weeks - after a million receipts have threatened to take over my entire purse. I balance it against our online bank statement.

And for paying bills, I've finally found a system that works. It's so simple - I'm not sure why I didn't figure it out sooner! I divided the bills into two categories - ones we paid on the 15th and ones we paid on the 30th. And that's what I do. (Seriously - WHY did it take me a good 8 years to figure this out??)

Superchikk said...

I too am an Excel freak. I have a budget/ledger sheet for each month AND use a checkbook register. I'm just anal like that, I suppose. But it does help me keep track of each and every penny, which is very important!

Kim H. said...

You are hilarious -- I love the striped notebook -- yes, big step up.

And you don't want to know how I organize my paper bills. I have an old USPS bin that is full of them, until I put them into a file box and store it away. I still never know what to keep and for how long -- and don't tell the PS that I still have one of their bins, kay? You don't work for the feds do you?....

Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas said...

Oh pretty!

I go though comparing the online statement to my checkbook.

Twice a year like clockwork.

Rebecca said...

To balance or not to balance? That is definitely a question of personality. I not only balance our checking, savings, and investment accounts upon receiving every statement, I also balance charge card statements when they arrive. I used to have a part-time bookkeeping job that entailed balancing multiple accounts each month. My sister, the non-balancer, was convinced that if she lived my life she'd go insane. For me, seeing those matching amounts at the bottom of the page is a victory, something I have conquered, a cause for celebration! Let's go make some brownies!

Beth said...

My husband and I started using mint.com last year. It's amazing. It's an online system that allows you to link your credit cards, loans, mortgage, bank account--everything to one. It keeps track of it all online, sends reminders, tracks your budget. It's been a huge help. I was a little leery at first in this day and age when entering all our info, but we have had no issues and it has been a lifesaver for us.

Plus this way, there is no notebook to loose. =)

Burgh Baby said...

I must show this to my husband. I personally am one of those crazy people that must balance to the penny (and can), but when he took over doing all of our bills, I quickly learned that he can't. He uses a crappy old notebook and is ALWAYS way off. Heaven forbid he compare to the statement, too.

A cute stripey notebook would be a step up. For reals.

mb said...

I don't balance mine either. I pay most bills online through my bank. And we use Mint.com. LOVE it. I used to use Quicken and it was a nightmare. Mint is so easy and I love that I can track certain budget categories. We don't use a lot of cash though. I guess if you use a lot of cash, you would still just classify amount of cash in Mint into different categories. I think it would work. It's worth a try though...it's free.

Kat said...

I too gave up keeping a checkbook. I do everything online. You are one step ahead of me though with that sassy notebook! I don't even have one of those :)

Tara R. said...

I haven't had a checkbook in over a year. I use a debit card and just check the available cash online. I couldn't balance the thing to save my life.

Ter said...

I let my husband do most of it.... but he died.

Anonymous said...

Me? I balance my checkbook to the penny daily. I use the online system to see what has cleared and that I match and I make sure that if it doesn't I figure out EXACTLY why. I am too anal to try a purple notebook. LOL

Good luck with the new notebook.

Have you looked at www.mint.com yet? It's free and I've heard FANTASTIC things about it. Might be worth checking into!

Melisa with one S said...

Ugh. I know everyone does things differently, but I have to say, though I luv ya, your notebook system nauseates me. :)

I've had my checkbook balanced for 12 years w/ Microsoft Money.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Dude, your old notebook? Looks JUST like my current notebook, only mine is blue. I am that totally lame STILL.

Anonymous said...

I am a devout Quicken follower. I highly recommend you give it another shot. I'll never go back to a manual check register again.

Colleen said...

Hey... at least you have a system. We don't write anything down. We just pile up the bills and pay everything certain times. Then we just keep track by checking our accounts online. I haven't written down a check amount in years. Oh... we do have those checkbooks that have the duplicate page.