How You Do: Balancing Your Budget

If the last time you opened up your checkbook to track your expenses was around the same time you snuggled up with your parents to watch a Disney VHS… well, then, maybe you need a little help.
Balancing a budget is the kind of thing that everyone hates, but we all know it’s necessary. Especially now. While the economy crumbles around us. And our money disappears.
Unless you are truly loaded and/or naturally meticulous, you could probably use a few tips to help you get your stash of cash in order. So read on:
1. Save your receipts.
That’s right… all of them. This might sound unnecessary, but it’s really important. If your bank statement comes and you find something on it that isn’t right, you’ll need those receipts to prove your point and get your money back. After your statement comes, you probably won’t need the receipts anymore, so you can get rid of them then.

2. Write stuff down in your checkbook.

Every time you make a purchase with a check or your debit card, write it down! That means you’ll have to keep your checkbook with you almost all the time, which can be annoying, but it’s worth it. (Not only does this protect you later, but it also forces you to pay attention to your spending!) Keep a separate list of your credit purchases. Write down the date of each expense and its exact amount. Then…
3. Go over your bank and credit statements.
As soon as you get those statements, bust out the checkbook and your credit list and compare each transaction, cent for cent. If there are any discrepancies, consult your pile of receipts (which you could neatly store in a box by date… but OK, that’s not entirely necessary). Talk to your bank or credit company about incorrect charges. Finally…
4. Balance.
Make sure the final amount on your statement is the same as the amount you’ve calculated that you have in your account. If there’s a difference of more than a few dollars, it means that either your math or something else is screwed up. You can find out what that something might be by re-doing the math and looking for the exact place in the list of transactions where the difference occurred.
Do all that and you have a balanced monthly budget, an understanding of where all that money is going and a place to start when attempting to cut some corners.
Easy as pie.
[Image courtesy of easyauctionrichesrevealed.com.]

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