I have a few questions for you: Do you know your monthly net wage? Do you know how much money you spent on groceries last week? If you consolidate all of your accounts, including checking accounts, credit cards, and investments, how did your assets and liabilities develop per month during the past 6 months?
These may seem some tricky questions perhaps, but how can you maintain a grip on your finances if you are not able to see how your finances develop over time, or if you can’t match your budget with your actual expenses? Making your finances transparent and visible is perhaps one of the first essential steps in gaining financial control.
Doing your very personal bookkeeping means making your finances transparent. Bookkeeping does not need to be as boring as many people imagine it to be. Actually, it can be great fun, since you are actually seeing how, for example, specific changes in purchasing behaviour have a direct impact on your financial strength. Generally, Bookkeeping requires nothing more than a piece of paper (or a pre-printed book of household accounts) and a pencil. You will require separate columns for the following information:
- Date of the transaction
- Credit amount, or the amount you received
- Debit amount, or the amount you spent
- Transaction category (e.g. groceries, real estate, living, automotive. You can define your own categories as you see fit).
- Description / further comments
Alternatively, you can use a programme such as Microsoft Excel. Microsoft Excel offers the benefit, that you are able to set filters easily and create statistics. For example, if you would like to gain an insight on how much money you spent on automotive last month, you can set the appropriate filters and Excel will calculate this information.
If you are looking for an all-round solution, which allows you not only to do your daily bookkeeping, but also assist you in evaluating the results, you may want to consider purchasing a product such as Microsoft Money or Quicken. These programmes are specifically designed for personal finance purposes. They allow you to create multiple accounts, categories, budgets, and to enter all your transactions. In the background the programme will evaluate the data, and the programme may supply you with all the information you need. Additionally, such programmes often allow its users to do research on companies and shares, and to plan possible future scenarios.
The benefit of using personal finance software is tremendous; if administered regularly and precisely, you will know exactly where your money is coming from and where it is going to. Once you have your finances visible, it will allow you to make changes to how you handle money and the success over time.