Money Management

Financial Planning Checklist

Which of the following items would you like to learn more about?

Understanding your Statement

Do You Fit in One of these Categories?

Nice try, but… 
You try to balance your checkbook using pencil and paper, but find it frustrating and have difficulty making the numbers agree.

See No Evil
You avoid the frustration altogether by ignoring your monthly statement altogether,  using the institution’s balance, or keeping an approximation in your head.

How Your Statement Works

Seldom will your statement and checkbook register agree. But, that is no reason to panic. It’s merely a matter of timing.

Your statement lists the transactions posted to or cleared to your account as of the closing date. The closing date is usually found in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of your statement.

Once your statement has closed, it will take a few days for the information to be printed and for it to arrive in the mail. Meanwhile, you are continuing to write checks, make ATM withdrawals and/or deposits, and hopefully, keeping track of these transactions in your checkbook register.

Remember, it also takes a few days for your checks, ATM, Visa Check Card, and/or deposit transactions to be recorded on your account.

Record, Balance, Repeat

Recording each transaction in your checkbook register and adding or subtracting it from the balance is the first step to simplifying the balancing act.

It’s important to record the transaction at the time you actually write the check, make a withdrawal, or make a deposit.

By recording the transactions and balancing your account total in your checkbook register, you’ll get a clearer picture of your spending habits and know exactly how much money you have. And, if for some reason you detect a problem, the sooner you can correct it, the better.

The Balancing Act

Balancing your checkbook each month within a day or two of receiving your statement will not only reduce your stress level, it will lessen the amount of time it takes to complete the task.

On the back of your monthly statement is a handy form to help you balance. Use it along with the following steps to make balancing a snap.

Before you begin, gather the following:

  • Your last two statements
  • Your checkbook and register
  • Any ATM and/or Visa CheckCard Receipts that you did not record in your checkbook register
  • A pencil
  • A calculator

Eight Simple Steps for Balance Your Checkbook

1. Record Interest Earned

In your checkbook register, enter all of the interest earned on your account (if applicable). The interest earned will appear on the front of your statement. Add this balance. Be sure to record any other credit amounts listed, such as corrections by the institution.

Last Checkbook balance + Interest from Statement = Subtotal - Service Charges from Statement = “New” Checkbook Balance

2. Record Service Charges, etc.

In your checkbook register, record any charges that have been subtracted from your account, as shown on your statement. These charges may include:

    • Monthly services charges
    • Per check charges
    • ATM transaction charges
    • Non-sufficient Funds fees
    • Subtract these charges from your register balance

 3. Verify Deposit Amounts

Look at your latest statement and verify that all deposits listed match the deposit amounts listed in your checkbook register.

Make a list of any deposits that are listed in your register but do not appear on your statement. Add these together. Tip: Use the worksheet on the back of your statement.

Add together any deposits that are listed in your register but do not appear on your statement.

4. Match All Check Entries

Match the entries in your register with the transactions listed on your statement. Compare check numbers, dates, and dollar amounts on all checks written. If these items match, place a check “P” mark next to the transaction in both your register and on the statement.

If they, don’t match, circle the item in both places so that you can come back to fix the error once all of the transactions have been checked off.

If transactions don’t match, check for one of three errors:

  • The item was recorded incorrectly in your checkbook register,
  • The item paid or was credited to your account for the wrong amount, or
  • Your check numbers were listed incorrectly.

To correct the errors

  • Simply look at and/or recheck your canceled checks or check images, deposit receipts, and/or ATM and Visa Check Card receipts.
  • Remember some items will not be checked off. These are called “outstanding items.”

Note: If you do not have cancelled checks or images returned with your statement, contact your branch and have them send a copy of the item in question.

5. Check for Outstanding Items from Previous Statements

Be sure that all of the outstanding items from your previous statements have been included in this statement. Otherwise, they are still outstanding.

Note: If an item is outstanding for 60 days or more, contact the person or company you wrote the check to and see if the check has been received. If it hasn’t, the check may have been lost and you may want to call the institution and place a stop payment.

6. Verify Other Debits on Statement

Verify that additional withdrawals listed on your statement, other than checks, are charged for the amount actually drawn. This includes ATM withdrawals, Visa Check Card transactions and any automatic debit transactions like insurance payments, loan and/or utility payments.

7. List All Outstanding Checks

Make a list of all outstanding checks or ATM/Visa Check card withdrawals. These are transactions that appear in your checkbook register that do not have a check “P” mark next to them. Add these items together. Tip: Use the worksheet on the back of your statement.

8. Balance

Now, balance your checkbook register to your statement. Use the formula below, which is also located on the worksheet on the back of your statement.

Statement Ending Balance + Deposits Shown in Checkbook Register, but Not on Statement = Subtotal - Total Outstanding Checks = Total

Compare this total with the ending balance in your checkbook register. They should be the same. If not, there’s a mistake. Do Not Panic! This can be easily fixed. If they are the same Congratulations! You’ve successfully balanced your checkbook.

If Things Don’t Add Up

  • Take a short break to clear your head.
  • Start by re-verifying your outstanding items.
  • What’s the difference? Is your checkbook balance higher or lower than your statement? Subtract the smaller figure from the larger one to get the difference. Now…
    • Divide the difference by 9. If 9 goes in evenly (that is, with nothing left over), the problem is transposed numbers. For example, $258 was recorded as $285. Look over your receipts and cancelled checks and double-check your amounts.
    • Divide the difference by 2. If the answer you get is a “normal” dollars-and-cents amount (i.e., $7.19 rather than $15.125), look for that amount in your register---it was added instead of subtracted, or vice versa.

Still Doesn’t Balance?

Well, you’ve tried hard and made every effort. Now it’s time to ask for help. Call or come by one of our branches. You will need to bring in your current statement and your checkbook register. Every effort will be made to assist you to balance, and next time it will be easier.

Personal Budget Planner

To create an effective personal budget, download this planner and follow the 12 steps below.

Step 1. In Table 1, fill in the estimated dollar amount that you spend on Essential Monthly Expenses in the column labeled "Current Spending." Use the blank lines to describe additional expenses that are not already on the list.

Step 2. Add the total of all of your Current Essential Monthly Expenses in the Total Essential Monthly Expenses row (first column).

Step 3. In Table 2, fill in the estimated dollar amount that you spend on Other Monthly Expenses in the column labeled "Current Spending." Use the blank lines to describe additional expenses that are not already on the list.

Step 4. Add the total of all of your Other Monthly Expenses in the Total Other Monthly Expenses row (first column).

Step 5. Write the Total Essential Monthly Expenses number from Table 1 in the Total Essential Monthly Expenses row in Table 2 (first column).

Step 6. At the bottom of Table 2, add the Total Other Monthly Expenses and the Total Essential Monthly Expenses to get Total Living Expenses.

Step 7. Copy the Total Living Expenses number into the Total Monthly Living Expenses blank in the formula below.

Step 8. Calculate your Monthly Gross and Net Income. Your Net income is your in-come after income taxes and other withholdings, like 401k, are deducted.

Step 9. Copy the Total Net Income number into the Total Net Monthly Income blank in the formula to the right.

Step 10. Using the formula above, subtract Total Monthly Living Expenses from Total Net Monthly Income. If the number is positive, then you are living within your budget and should consider investing the "excess" money in a savings account, money market, or other investment option, or payoff outstanding debts. If the number is negative, then you are spending more than your income allows.

Step 11. Review each line in Tables 1 & 2. Determine if you can save additional money by reducing certain expenses, especially those in Table 2. Write these reductions in the Necessary Changes column. You may be surprised just how much money you find without adding any new income.

Step 12. Write the new values for your monthly expenses in the Planned Budget columns of Tables 1 & 2 and calculate your Planned Budget.

Your Planned Budget represents your goal for next month. Monitor your expenses, and at the end of the month compare them with your budget. Make modifications to your budget as necessary.

Congratulations on taking your first step to better money management!

Debt Reduction Strategies

The following tips are designed to help you reduce your debt quickly and economically.

  1. Create a Budget and Stick With It. Your budget should include all of your current expenses. Request a copy of the Personal Budget Planner for more information on creating a budget.
  2. Don’t Borrow Additional Money to Pay off Debts or Bills.

  3. Cut Expenses. Get this number by analyzing your budget and determining where reductions can be made (e.g., eating out, buying snacks and lunch at work, going to the movies, etc.). Once you have determined how much you plan to cut, use this “found” money to pay down the balances on your debts.
  4. Optimize Your Monthly Payment. Pay the maximum amount towards your highest interest rate debts. Pay the minimum amount on all other debts.
  5. Ask for Reduced Interest Rates. Some creditors, especially credit card companies, will reduce your interest rates if you just call and ask. If you receive offers for other credits cards with lower interest rates in the mail, use those offers as leverage when you are re-negotiating your rates with your current creditors.
  6. Set Goals and Priorities. Determine what’s important. When you prepare to buy something ask yourself if this purchase is in line with the priorities you have set and will it help you reach your goal or delay it.
  7. Download a Debt Reduction Calculator. This calculator that allows you to determine the amounts you should be paying towards each of your debts and calculates the money you will save by paying your debts in the recommended order. Additionally, the program tells you when each of your debts will be paid off.

Seven Steps to Better Money Management

The following tips are designed to help you manage your money more effectively.

  1. Calculate your Net Income. Know all your sources of income after deductions, like income taxes and 401k, are removed. This number ultimately determines what you can spend each month.
  2. Create a Personal Budget. A budget is your roadmap for spending and is a tool to help you achieve your financial goals. Save your receipts and take the time to add up all of your expenses for a month. Subtract your expenses from your Net Income, calculated in Step 1. If the result is a positive number, then you are living within the limits of your income. If the result is a negative number, your expenses are exceeding your income. Look for non-essential expenses that you can reduce and recalculate. Ask yourself if each expense is a “want” or a “need,” and try to minimize spending on the “wants.” Most importantly, once you create a budget, stick with it. Make adjustments, as necessary. Having a budget will allow you to control your money rather than your money controlling you. Ask your banker for a copy of the Personal Budget Planner, which will help you create a budget.
  3. Balance your Checkbook. The balance in your checkbook is a critical number in money management because it allows you to know exactly how much money currently you have to save or spend. Keeping an accurate checkbook register also allows you to review where you spend your money. Be sure to record all transactions, including ATM/Visa Check Card transactions, checks, and deposits. For more information on balancing your checkbook, request the brochure “Eight Simple Steps for Balancing Your Checkbook” from your banker.
  4. Minimize your Use of Credit Cards. Millions of Americans are in debt. Credit card debt is an easy trap to fall into. The best way to avoid this trap is to avoid using credit cards altogether. If you like the convenience of a credit card, consider getting a check card instead. Check cards are accepted at most places that accept credit cards. The difference is that the expense is automatically deducted from your checking account balance, which reduces your urge to spend more than you have. Be sure to track each check card transaction in your checkbook ledger, just like you would if you wrote a check.
  5. Pay Down Your Debt. If you have Credit Card debt or other debts, pay the maximum to your highest interest rate debts first and the minimum on lower interest debts to pay debts faster.
  6. Establish Savings. Pay yourself, first. When you pay your monthly bills, write a check to yourself and put it in your savings accounts. If you get your paycheck deposited automatically, ask your employer about having a portion of your paycheck deposited to your savings account.
  7. Know Your Credit History. Credit reporting agencies collect data regarding your credit repayment history and sell this information to lending agencies. If your report shows that you are late paying bills, have maximized lines of credit, or have bankruptcies or other collection activities, this will negatively impact your ability to get credit.

You can request your credit report from the following credit reporting agencies:

If you have been denied credit, you can get a copy of your credit report free. Otherwise, a small fee may be required.

If you find incorrect information in your credit report, contact the credit reporting agency. They are required to investigate the information within 30 days and delete the information if it cannot be verified. Your rights are further described in the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Effective Strategies for Saving

The following recommendations are designed to help you establish and or grow your personal savings.

  1. Pay Yourself First. When you pay your monthly bills, write a check to yourself, first and put it in your savings account.
  2. Don’t Borrow Additional Money to Pay off Debts or Bills.
  3. Cut Expenses. Get this number by analyzing your budget and determining where reductions can be made (e.g., eating out, buying snacks and lunch at work, going to the movies, etc.). Once you have determined how much you plan to cut, use this “found” money to pay down the balances on your debts.
  4. Optimize Your Monthly Payment. Pay the maximum amount towards your highest interest rate debts. Pay the minimum amount on all other debts.
  5. Ask for Reduced Interest Rates. Some creditors, especially credit card companies, will reduce your interest rates if you just call and ask. If you receive offers for other credits cards with lower interest rates in the mail, use those offers as leverage when you are re-negotiating your rates with your current creditors.
  6. Set Goals and Priorities. Determine what’s important. When you prepare to buy something ask yourself if this purchase is in line with the priorities you have set and will it help you reach your goal or delay it.
  7. Download a Debt Reduction Calculator. This calculator that allows you to determine the amounts you should be paying towards each of your debts and calculates the money you will save by paying your debts in the recommended order. Additionally, the program tells you when each of your debts will be paid off.

Managing Expenses &
Understanding Credit Card Debt References

Helpful Books

For more information on effective money management and financial fitness, consider the books listed below.

Pay It Down by Jean Sherman Chatzky. November 2004, Penguin Books, Inc., ISBN:1591840635

The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman, March 2005, Putnam Publishing Group; ISBN: 1-57322-2976

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D. Danko, November 28, 2000, Pocket Books; ISBN: 0743420373

How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt and Live Prosperously by Jerrold Mundis, April 1990, Bantam Books; ISBN: 0553283960

Credit Card Debt: Reduce Your Financial Burden in Three Easy Steps by Alexander Daskaloff (April 1999) Avon; ISBN: 0380807009

Slash Your Debt - Save Money and Secure Your Future by Gerri Detweiler, Marc Eisenson, and Nancy Castleman, October 1999 Financial Literacy Center; ISBN: 0965963837

9 Steps to Financial Freedom: Practical and Spiritual Steps So You Can Stop Worrying by Suze Orman, 1st edition (December 15, 2000) Three Rivers Press; ISBN: 0609801864

Helpful Websites

For more information on effective money management and financial fitness, consider the web sites listed below.

Mapping Your Future provides tips for financial fitness, understanding your income, managing your bank accounts, creating budgets, and establishing savings. Features several helpful calculators, including a Savings Calculator and test to help you gauge your current financial situation.

MyMoney.gov is a government sponsored website that provides additional helpful resources for retirement planning and financial fitness, including free online calculators.

Vertex 42 provides a free download Debt Reduction Calculator that allows you to determine the amounts you should be paying towards each of your debts and calculates the money you will save by paying your debts in the recommended order. Additionally, the program tells you when each of your debts will be paid off.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a national non-profit network of 1,450 Member agencies designed to provide assistance to people dealing with stressful financial situations. The site provides links and information for financial counseling, debt planner tools, and other helpful websites.