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Tracking My Cash Spending

This article was written by in Software. 7 comments.


Somehow, I haven’t been diligent enough in tracking my cash spending. According to my Quicken software, my cash account balance is about $550. That means I should have $550 in my wallet and coin jar. That is obviously not the case. My lowest cash balance was $50 in May 2005. Since then, the recorded balance has grown in spurts to its current amount. Here’s a screenshot from Quicken (click to enlarge).

cash-balance.jpg

In reality, I have $80 in my wallet plus $20 in coins at the most. I’ll need to adjust my account for the $450 variance over the past year, at $37.50 a month. I’m thinking of categorizing these adjustments as Food:Dining Out or Food:Convenience. These categories most likely contain transactions I’d be inclined to forget to record in the software, for example, while I’m out of town on weekends.

Feel free to share how you handle these discrepencies. They can really add up over time if left unadjusted.

Updated July 14, 2010 and originally published August 21, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar brett

If the discrepancy is a “good guy” (i.e. the amounts I should have are less than what I actually have) I just throw it into additional capital gains on my savings accounts.

If the discrepancy is a “bad guy” then I apply the amount to wine expenditures. Wine is one of the few areas of our budget where we spend way more than what is necessary, so that’s what gets hit when an expected bad guy appears.

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avatar D

Ouch. I hate not knowing where my money went.

Suggestion, to fix this loss of info:

1. Acquire a manilla envelope or a small cash bag.
2. Keep in your vehicle.
3. Receive receipts for EVERYTHING – yes even that morning coffee.
4. Place receipts in envelope.
5. Once a month carry envelope into house and enter on Quicken.

Note – sometimes receipts are not available. What I do for my husband is add to the envelope a small note book. He quickley writes in any thing without a receipt. Which, he hates, so he always remembers to ask.

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avatar J.D.

Dude! I have this problem all the time. I’m a huge advocate of using cash instead of credit, but this is one of the very real drawbacks. It’s just not as easy to track cash, especially since it’s easy to walk away from a cash purchase without a receipt. During those periods that I try to go exclusively cash-based, I carry a pen and notecard with me to write down every transaction. Most of the time, though, I’ll come to the end of a week and wonder, “Where did that $15 go?” And I never do know. I need to have a special Quicken category for “unknown cash expenses”.

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avatar Tricia

When we have cash, there is always an overage in our cash account because of missed expenses. Almost always I stick them to dining or groceries. Food is usually the culprit. A pop here, a snack there. It all adds up.

I think your idea of spreading it out over the months is a great idea.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,465 (Platinum)

My project for the remainder of August and September will be to try to write down my cash expenses right away so I don’t forget to add them later. Thanks for all your suggestions. I’ll add expenses every month going back for the last year as Food:Convenience.

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avatar Madame X

Do you use a PDA? I use Pocket Quicken on my Palm and synch it to desktop QUicken– entering the little cash transactions on my Palm throughout the day makes them so much easier to capture. And it’s a great way to look like a geek in public.

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avatar Id R

I have the same problem with Quicken. The cash amounts never seem to reconcile, but I don’t sweat it because it is usually small amounts.

Since almost of the cash in my possession comes from the ATM, I let Quicken sum up the amount of ATM withdrawals at the end of the month and then compare that to my Cash account which I use to record all of my cash expenditures. Then, every month I have a reversing entry to cancel out the ATM withdrawals, because withdrawing money from the ATM isn’t ‘spending’ it, it’s more like withdrawing it. Just like paying a credit card bill isn’t really spending, it’s paying, since the spending happened some time before the payment

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