The Boring Newsletter, 4/8/2023 🐰 🍷

Hello Friendos!

Have you filed your taxes yet? Well if not, put down that basket of eggs (or egg matzo) and get to it! Make sure to take advantage of the IRS Free File program if you’re self-preparing and qualify.

What is more boring than filing taxes? Monitoring your checking account? I do that a lot more often so I’ll nominate it. Better to be boring (and on top of your account) than suffer overdraft fees (aka, fees for insufficient funds, aka NSF). The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says banks are deeply dependent on these fees. Even after lots of litigation regarding overdraft fees, you can still get hit with them.

There are just as many ways to monitor and manage a checking account as there are to make a budget – old school pen and paper, simple spreadsheets, desktop software, and smartphone apps all have their fans. I first learned how to balance a checkbook using a paper register (thanks Mom!), then moved to a free desktop program called AceMoney Lite, and then added a spreadsheet in the mix when I wanted to track a third checking account because of course I’m too much of a tightwad to pay for premium software.

I want to show you my spreadsheet and then break it down a little (this version uses stylized numbers for simplicity):

#1: I have a row for each amount that has already come into or out of the account. Column F updates the balance in the account after each transaction. Column G shows if that transaction has been reconciled to my monthly bank statement, if it has merely cleared the account, or if it’s still pending.

#2. Then I have rows for upcoming items.

#3. A little reminder about how to avoid a monthly account maintenance fee on this account. 

#4: The usual transactions in this account every month. Some I already know the exact amount because it’s always the same, some are approximations. At the end of each month, I add these at the bottom of “upcoming” for the next month out. For the approximate ones, I fill in the exact number when I know it. Then, as transactions actually take place, I move them up above.

The desktop program I use is even easier, as it lets me schedule recurring items and populates things for me automatically.

How do you forecast your checking account cash flows to make sure you don’t get hit with overdraft fees? Whatever system works is a good one in my book.


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