Starting a Household Ledger – With Pen and Paper

My wife and I recently stumbled across a brilliant idea, and have decided to adopt it July 1st. And what better time? Many businesses close the books on their fiscal year June 30th, and July 1st begins a new fiscal period. That’s the approach we are taking in our house as well. So what’s the big idea? We plan to write down all income and expenses in a ledger book…with a pen.

That’s right; every single transaction, from the monthly electrical bill to the Sunday afternoon run for an ice cream cone, everything goes down in writing. We got the idea from fellow blog reader, and frequent Frugal Dad commenter, Mrs. White, who blogs at The Legacy of Home.

Creditor's Ledger, Holmes McDougall by edinburghcityofprint

*Our ledger is a little smaller than this one, but what can I say, this one looks more impressive!

Why A Household Ledger Account?

Here lately, we’ve recognized that we are a little detached from our household spending. We have all utilities and recurring bills going directly to our credit card. Occasionally, we use the credit card for other types of spending if we are low on “walking around money” – my description of cash.

This makes things pretty convenient. We get one credit card bill at the end of the month and pay it off. The problem is, we rarely know exactly what that bill represents. I’m not prepared to go to an all-cash basis because to be quite honest, it is a bit of a headache scheduling all the various household bills (electric, water, cable, etc, etc) online and/or writing checks.

However, we will begin recording all of our household transactions in a ledger, with my wife taking the lead on reconciling the household ledger book.

Where Did this Idea Come From?

Household ledgers are very old-fashioned, which is why I like them so much. It’s my opinion that the further we get away from common-sense financial practices (in other words, the more “sophisticated” we become), the more financial problems we have as a society.

We’ve discussed before the transactional pain associated with spending cash, something very few of us do these days thanks to online payments, and credit and debit cards. Before these tools were invented, people had to fork over cash, and it hurt. Imagine the difference in swiping a credit card for a $99 bill and handing over five 20-dollar bills and receiving a single one-dollar bill back. That latter transaction stings, and it should.

I’ve seen various examples of a household ledger account, but it seems the original use can be traced back to Puritan households, such as the one of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. Jonathan Edwards was a Puritan minister whose wife kept meticulous records of their household spending in her ledger. In those times, the husband earned the wages, and the prudent housewife recorded all the money that came in, and all the money that went out.

Sure, it’s a bit old-fashioned, and these days I encourage couples to work together to reconcile their finances, but the concept itself is inspiring. My wife is a stay-home mom, and while we do have regular discussions on our household finances, I handle most of the “mechanics” – reconciling bank accounts, scheduling investment transactions, making the credit card payment, etc. Handling this ledger book will give her “more ownership over the household finances” (her words).

Hang on to those Receipts!

Here’s how we plan to organize the ledger. Beginning July 1st, all expenditures will be recorded in the ledger book from receipts collected throughout the day – doesn’t matter if an item was charged using a credit card, a check, or cash.

Credit card transactions will be coded with a “cc” to indicate they were charged to the credit card. When the credit card statement arrives the bill will be paid, but not recorded in the ledger. Instead, all of the charges marked “cc” will have a check mark in the “reconciled column” indicating they have been paid for.

Spending History Could Prove Helpful

Besides being a great exercise for improved money management, I like the idea of having something of spending journal to look back on months down the line. We can compare increases (and hopefully a few decreases) year over year, and even month to month, in various spending categories.

We can easily calculate our total average household monthly expenses which helps in planning how big our emergency fund should be. We will also have a consolidated view of past expenditures, which is great when trying to figure out if you paid the kids’ yearbook money for the year (was that a check, or did I pay cash?). It’s easy to look back at past spending and scan for “Yearbook” in the “for” section of the ledger, regardless of how it was paid.

I’ll report back at the end of July to let you know how the ledger is coming along. I’m looking forward to getting a better handle on how we are using our financial resources, and learning how we can be better stewards of those resources.


  1. Hello FrugalDad.

    Have you thought about doing this using an excel spreadsheet or a financial software like Quicken? The advantage I see is afterwards you will be able to see your spendings by category, month…. It will be easier to track where and when, because the software will calculate to you. And in the paper you will have to calculate all this if you want. I have written all my expenses in quicken for a time and I can see all my history and profile with it. And I also track investments. I do not want to make free advertisement to Quicken, but it is the one I use and can talk about, but there are several other softwares and even free software.

  2. I agree with Andre that there are simple, cheap tools to help with this process. It’s fine to do it the pencil and paper way, but should you find yourself spending too much time reworking old numbers for the umpteenth time to create income/expense reports, try using a spreadsheet or an old version of Quicken or Money you can pick up online. I use Quicken 2000 (how dinosaur am I! hey it was free to me). Everything you mention doing above I can do with a few clicks. Cash is easy to track. Each time I go to an ATM, I keep the receipt in my wallet as a mini-ledger until all the cash on it is spent. Then I use the “split” category in Quicken to allocate it out to various areas of the budget.

    I don’t have to worry about credit cards. Gave those up years ago, and I don’t miss them.

  3. Buy why with pen and paper? My mom did this for 30 years. She would spend most of a Sunday afternoon getting the books updated every couple weeks. It seems like an enormous waste of time when there are much better tools available. Spreadsheets were mentioned in the comments, but they still have to be entered manually and there’s a huge margin for error.

    I’ve created a tool that does exactly this, and I got my mom to replace her pen-and-paper method. It’s called NeoBudget ( You can use your debit card, but it still has a transactional cost as you mentioned. You import your bank statement into NeoBudget and allocate each transaction from certain envelopes.

    The benefit is huge. There isn’t any room for human error since the transaction amounts come directly from your bank (you don’t write them in manually). Just ask my mom. She thanks me every time I see her because NeoBudget saves her HOURS of time that she used to spend reconciling and tracking down where she wrote a number down wrong.

    I’m all for tracking your spending. Doing this has revolutionized my finances. But there really are much better and easier tools than pen and paper. I can guarantee you’ll spend a lot of time tracking down why you’re off by $5.71.

    • I’m going for the old-school feel here. Managing money the old-fashioned way. I’ve tried Quicken, Excel, MS Money (when it was around) and other budget programs in the past. They had some neat bells and whistles, but writing down expenses in the household ledger has more emotional impact on me and my wife.

      • Frugal Dad,

        I agree that if you are going for the old-fashioned feel, that this is an ideal way to do it. However, what if you want to calculate your yearly expenses for eating out. Is your wife (or you) going to sit there, look through hundreds of pages of transactions, and add each item up manually? Or would you rather do it by pressing a button on a web interface ( or summing up a filtered column in a SpreadSheet.

        I think it says a lot that you are going to be trying this approach, but it really seems silly to me, especially given that there are so many other more practical alternatives out there. I have used for two years, and it definitely does everything you are looking for, and more (charts and graphs!).

        Good luck!


      • I have watched my parents go and “do the bookwork” all my life, I used to marvel at the ledger and all it’s neatly printed columns, then my parents decided that since they were getting older they needed to give me the location and names of their accounts in case something happened to them. It turns out that all they had was a checking account, two savings, a CD and a safety deposit box. What a let down, I do more financial wrangling every week through mint then they do in a year; it’s laughable how much of their life they wasted on this. You should track that as well, for every hour you spend tallying the books throw away $20, in the trash; just toss it out. Lets see how much the “old-school feel” is really worth.

        • Brad,
          Your parents may have done the bookwork for many reasons. We sit down with our books to talk about the entries as we make them. “Was it a wise choice to buy this?” “Do we have enough in the back up account to pay taxes?” “What do we spend on and why?” It tends to be a two hour conversation.
          We started at 14 accounts and plan on seven (2 IRAs each, brokerage, savings and checking) by the end of next year. Maybe it will be a let down for our children as well- but they will probably be happy with they amount they see in the accounts.

          • My husband and I are starting a ledger. We also have recently signed up for So you may ask why? For those conversations. To teach ourselves AND our children (because they will have a ledger for their piggy banks) about our spending and saving. Will we use it forever? Maybe. Maybe not.

  4. I have a spiral notebook, simply named the “bill book”! I get paid every Wednesday, so on each page, I write in 6 Wednesday dates. Under each date, I list the bill to be paid from that paycheck. I’m also getting out of debt, so I add things like smiley faces when something is paid off, and encouraging notes to myself, like “only 2 more payments”. When I pay a bill, or move money into my emergency fund, I cross that item off. I lay everything out one year in advance, and use white out to adjust numbers where necessary. It’s easy to flip back through the pages to see what my electric bill was during a certain month, etc.

    I started this about 7 years ago, and I’m on my second notebook (they cost me 5 cents each during a back-to-school sale). It’s very low tech, and while I have Office 2007 and could use a variety of other methods, it is very satisfying to me to cross the items off one at a time!!

  5. I think the paper ledger is a nice idea…I use Excel for my record keeping, and it works well, but in a way I feel just as removed from my finances as when I pay with credit cards. I would expect that having something tangible, like a book, would help with maintaining accountability for purchases, because its necessary to take that time out, sit down and copy down all purchases. Of course, I’m certainly not discounting the convenience of electronic record keeping, and for now, at least, I’m going to continue using Excel for the convenience factor – but you’ll definitely an interesting experiment going on!

  6. We have been doing this to a somewhat lesser extent for quite a while and it has proven helpful. In addition to the normal checking account ledger, we also keep a written ledger for all credit card transactions. Since we charge everything we can, this method enables us to balance the charges with the income for a given period. I use Quicken as well but the handwritten ledger provides a quick status anytime.

  7. My vote-pen & paper. The husband likes to argue this point with me also. Use the computer he says, i don’t want to i say. I like to be able to open my notebook (that’s what i use, but a ledger is a great idea, i may switch over)…anyway i like to open up the page and see it all there in black & white. For me it is more ‘real’. When i am recording my expenses and i am using a more traditional measure it is like using cash to pay for an expense instead of a credit card. It is tangible and i can ‘touch’ it. In actuality just like using cash over credit, i am MORE mindful of what is going on in my own economic world.
    I think it is a great idea for you and honestly it does not take any more time for me to write items down than it does to hit the keyboard. So i have to use the manual calculator once in awhile, to me this just helps keep my skills sharper. I can’t have the computer do everything for me after all.

    • HUZZAH! I’ve been working with people and their money for decades and have learned many things. One of them is — if you like the pencil and paper, and it works for you, USE IT! 🙂 Since your husband thinks the computer is so far superior let him key your handwritten data into it, heh?

      In my experience, many people who strenuously argue for the computer and against the pencil aren’t actually doing either.

      Great point earlier about how it becomes a family meeting, not just a simple bookkeeping function. I’ve had many revelations while balancing my checkbook regarding the wisdom of certain purchases — and been excited to find myself not making other purchases as I realized that in a month I’d be sitting there wondering why I made THIS purchase.

      When you download the BANK’s record of YOUR transactions you are assuming that no mistakes have been made. I was reconciling a dentist’s bank accounts and found that one day $1,000 (right, a THOUSAND BUCKS) had simply disappeared from the account without any explanation, just gone. Checks get paid for slightly wrong amounts all the time.

      It’s not just a matter of having a list of transactions or efficiency, there’s more to it than that. Keeping track of your money is much more than that.

  8. Despite spending my working day and personal correspondence on the computer – because e-mail has advantages of not being dependent on time zones – I am a pen-and-paper person. I love the feel of it and I love the sense of connectedness and mindfulness of it. I don’t like the idea of having to turn on the computer to handle finances and my calendar, too. I love taking my notebook to my corner of the sofa with my pen and allotting that time to making connections and plans on many levels. While inserting numbers into spreadsheets is efficient and enjoyable for many people, I appreciate that Frugal Dad appreciates old-fashioned but still highly useful method at least for me, and so satisfying.

  9. Great post! We use Mvelopes from Crown Ministries. It is a lot like the cash system with envelopes used for each category only it is computerized. My dh has been able to track our spending and tweak things so that we can build up our savings. He is also able to tell where we are spending too much! Just another tool to check out. 🙂

  10. For the past four years I have tracked our savings by pencil and paper. There is something amazing about opening to the front of the composition book and seeing the amount grow month to month with my handwritten notes.
    We retired at the beginning of June.
    We are moving to a ledger on one July as well. I am clearing “past bills” in between reading and writing blogs. I have my lists of expenses and categories. In ten years it will be fun to look back at the amount we spent on things. I still have a ledger I kept over groceries that we bought our first year of marriage—28 years ago.
    The only thing I will not ledger is anything we spend our allowance on. That is our personal business and well worth the privacy. Getting into the allowance is an easy target for nit picking- BTDT!
    My mother reconciles her bank book every Saturday. She is 80 and now I believe her when she states, ” My mind is much sharper and my household is on a better track with me doing it by hand.” My sister put mom’s investments on line so it would be “easier”. My mother can tell you hourly what the household costs are—but still has no idea what her investments are since she does not track them by hand.

  11. Frugal Dad….faithful reader here. I’m interested to see where this goes. It’s an interesting idea that would provide a time capsule like look back into life in the years to come.

    BUT…I still don’t understand why you hesitate so much from going to all cash. Frankly I think you’re being a little lazy in that arena. And it doesn’t take much time at all. It took us a couple months to get the swing of things, but now I spend about 1 hour on finances on the 15th and the 30th of each month.

    With a cash system, you cannot go over budget, ever! Give it a try!

    • You’re right, Mike…I am lazy when it comes to this area, and dropping the credit cards is something we are strongly considering along with this move to the ledger system. We’ve been using the credit card more since becoming debt free, and we’ve noticed our spending has increased as well.

      I’m not blaming credit cards, I’m blaming our residual undisciplined spending habits – something that is masked a bit by the credit card usage.

      I’ll let you now what we decide in a follow up post.

  12. My husband and I have been keeping track of ALL of our expenses for over 15yrs. We started doing it to track our expenses for 3 months like financial advisors frequently advise. It was such a eye-opening experience to know exactly where all of our money was going that we just continued doing it . We have found that it is much easier to cut back when you can actually see where the money was going. It has not been hard at all to keep up with this as some people suggest. We buy a new notebook at the start of every new year and keep track by the month. We write down all catergories that we spend and then leave space to write purchases in underneath. I keep a basket on my desk that we will throw receipts in if we don’t have time to write it in our book immediatelyand then every few days or so I sit down for 5 minutes or so and write them down. We also keep track of our income in this book. At the end of the month I tally everthing up and start the next month’s section. If our spending was excesssive in an area that month we can see where we need to cut back. At the end of the year I tally up for the whole year by just adding up each month’s section. It can be very eye-opening. For example, when you can see in black and white how much money exactly you have spent on eating out , it makes us much more motivated to cut back. I’m happy to save that by using this method, we were able to pay off a 30 yr. mortagage in 71/2 yrs., save for retirement, and for our kids college. I have found I can keep a more detailed account of our spending writing it down vs. using a computer program.

  13. I love this. I have been a faithful Mint user for close to two years now. I do love that I can quickly check balances and see my trends, but it really doesn’t help me stop spending.

    I have been considering keeping a ledger as well. I used to do so in Excel, but again, it really didn’t hit home. I fondly recall balancing my checkbook back in the day, so I think I will return to a ledger of sorts. I currently live on 80% of my income and save the other 20% (automatically deposited to savings) and strive to live on 60% by the end of the year.

    Keep us updated on your progress and we’ll return the favor in the comments.

  14. I agree – the closer you are to your money, the more it hurts to part with it. That’s why I like cash for our groceries and misc. expenses. But it would be hard to do everything on cash like the bills. I’m impressed you’re going hand written. Hope you have a good slide rule to help keep the numbers balanced 🙂

  15. This seems like a cool idea for retrospective purposes of seeing where money went. I’d love to see a sample of your ledger to see how you categorize things, how often you have to add things up, etc.

    I’m also really interested to read someone’s experience with using cash, since that seems like a really good prospective budgeting system. I’ve tried it a few times in the past without success because I didn’t stick with it. However I need to get on a system and get out of debt. Does anyone have a link to a good description of how some family is actually using a cash system? i.e. do you pay everything with cash? any auto bill payments?

    I’m really looking forward to seeing updates on this project.

    • We are on a cash system. All the bills we pay with check so that money is the only money in the checking acct. Savings goes into our savings acct. including investing. We use cash for groceries/food, gas, clothing/shoes, blow $(activities, entertainment, etc.), personal (hair cuts, etc.).

  16. I REALLY enjoyed this post as like Rebecca, I have been using spiral notebooks and use the weekly payday as the heading, and deduct what is due accordingly from each paycheck. I don’t find it that time consuming and I also feel that it keeps me in touch with my spending more than the online gadgets which are fine for some. I wish you much success in this endeavor and will look forward to updates.I might even consider the *ledger* route and give it a start ofn July 1st as well. Thanks for the continued encouragement!

  17. I hope this works out for you!

    My husband and I use our rewards credit cards for as much as possible since I keep an Excel budget and love how easy it is to see what we spend on since it’s marked on the credit card statements. I simply go down the list and put the appropriate charge into the right category and remember to mark down any cash we take out and our income as well. The whole process takes me about 1 1/2 hours a month and allows me to look back at our spending over the last 5 years.

    I hope the ledger achieves what you need it to as well!

    • We do something similar now, but I’m conflicted over the “rewards” card benefits. It’s a cash back card, so we can move the accumulated earnings to our savings account, or opt for a statement credit any time the balance is over $20.00.

      My concern is that the easy spending on the credit card causes us to spend much more than the earnings we get back from rewards. It’s convenient, but I’m not sure it’s lucrative enough to continue.

      Another thing…I just plain don’t like the credit card industry these days. The Visa in question is issued through our credit union, and I do like their service, but the larger issuers (AT&T, Citi, BofA, Chase, Discover…you know who you are!) have such crappy service I no longer want to do business with them.

      • I understand giving up companies for bad customer service (just take a look at my Crappy Companies list, lol) but we have the Discover More card and have never been let down. The two times I needed their help because of a merchant error, it was handled immediately and everything was well explained. I was impressed.

        I also understand that easy credit makes it easier to spend, but it’s hard to get me to spend anyway, so I don’t need cash to feel the pain. My husband may splurge a little more often on wants because of the easy factor, but they would have been bought anyway…it just saves him the hassle of going to an ATM first (which I know he’d do anyway since that’s what he was doing when we met…he’d even pay fees for using an out-of-branch ATM…that’s like crazy silly to me…).

        When I counted calories a couple of years ago to lose weight, I sometimes decided to skip a snack so I wouldn’t have to write it down (yes, I’m lazy)…maybe this will have the same effect on you? I’d just start resenting my husband’s spending more…

  18. Now you know how I’ve done it all these years 🙂

    For convenience, I would suggest double entry bookkeeping – and the ledger pages that run landscape, rather than portrait. The 1st column can be for the total expense, and then the dozen or so columns following that are for the categories.

    Columns can be for eating out, kids’ expenses, food, utilities, capital expenses, medical, etc, and always leave a misc. column with room to write in the item.

    Credit card total payment can be entered in the first expense column, and the breakdown in the various categories it goes into.

    At the end of the page, it takes literally two minutes to balance the page. (If you are good on a 10-key)(that’s an old adding machine for you youngsters) Add each category total up, then run the category totals over to make sure it balances the first column of total expenses.

    If you need to, add a column for income also – but I found it easier to just do the income and the distribution to savings and investments, etc, on a separate page.

    My uncle introduced me to this type of business bookkeeping about 40 years ago when I was a teenager looking for a summer job 🙂 We did ALL the books by hand on ledgers 🙂 Simple once you figure out double entry 🙂
    Very basic! Have fun with it!

  19. I can see the “pen and paper” approach, but…
    If you feel you’re not getting close enough to your spending using the computer, an option might be to use a spreadsheet, *and* scan in all your financial documents into the computer. It takes time so you are forced to review your spending and it also gives you a permanent record. I have a “file cabinet” folder on my computer that contains all my receipts, manuals, bank statements and tax forms. I will tell you, it has save my bacon with regards to taxes and warranties more than once.

    Good luck,

  20. Thanks so much for the mention!!

    I look forward to seeing how this works for you.

    This month, I started having my 12 year old son do all the entries for me. He sorts all my receipts and is doing every transaction for me. It is an excellent lesson for him.

    I plan to have my 15 year old daughter do it next month.

    For the children, it’s kind of like teaching them to do math by hand before they are allowed to use a calculator. Doing a ledger book by hand writing each entry is a great life skill for them.

    For me, I like to see every single thing I buy while looking in a book, rather than spending more time staring at a computer. I also love the idea of having a historic record my descendants can hold in their hands.

    Mrs. White

  21. I have kept a household ledger for more than 35 years, and I still do it the old-fashioned way with paper and pencil.I spend about five minutes a day and maybe half an hour per month, and for me the time is not wasted, because I love to do it. From time to time, I leaf through some of the old ones and marvel at the “good old times” when things were so much cheaper, but a glance at the income usually shows that they really weren´t.

  22. I love the idea, but it will never work for my household. I am having a hard enough time getting my husband to update Microsoft Money. He always complain that it is all online when you log onto our bank account. This will only work when both parties are willing to use it.

  23. My dad has kept a ledger book for many years. It was always fun to look back at the pencilled in entries for 1965 and compare them to how much things cost now. Please share with us if you don’t mind what ledger book (mfg and model) you bought, I’m anxious to start one myself! I have kept a checkbook register ever since I opened my account – my BF scoffs at me for doing it by hand but I really prefer it that way.

  24. Hi! I am en joying reqading your blog. I have some ledger books of my grandparents from the 50’s & 60’s . It is neat to look at& ther math skills were beyond anybodies today. My Dad can mentally do matnh & tell you before you can even do the paper figuring getting started. I plan to get a ledger & do this. The older generation knew just where they were finacially & I feel this is why.Besides if your computeer goes down, you still have your pen & paper. Lisa

  25. I love the old-school feel of this one, but I must say modern tools are so much faster and simpler. But your argument makes sense: actually writing down your expenses, you are forced to see the dent you make in your bank account with every bill and every meal out.
    I use Buxfer myself. It is accessible anywhere with my cell phone’s text plan (since I don’t yet have data), AND transactions can be tagged easily. So I can see how much I spent in a particular month very quickly, or see if my water bill is up or down from previous months, etc. It rocks.

  26. I downloaded a cheap app for my iTouch called “iXpenseIt”. I’m the kind of person that will ask for the receipt with the intention of writing it down when I get home, but rarely do. So, I searched around for various apps that were -real- simple but still let me freely categorize things as I saw fit.

    Now, I immediately record my transactions (either expense or income). This circumvents my laziness and allows me to look back at what I’ve been spending. Heck, I’ve even break down my spending into how much of it was in taxes, tips, etc. I’m hoping by the end of the year, I’ll be able to precisely look at everything in a higher degree of accuracy.

    P.S. There’s many kinds of apps for the iphone/itouch that do this very same thing. I’m not trying to push this one or any other one. It’s just the one that suited my needs by allowing me to immediately record my transactions and provide the interface that I prefer.

  27. I use a paper and pencil budgeting method. Use it to track investments too. I have been doing this formally since 1997 (and monthly scrap-paper method for years before then).

    It does take more time but I agree that the act of hand-entry forces me to pay attention to the numbers and whatever results or trouble I am getting myself into. With computer spreadsheets (which I have tried), I get lazy and sloppy. I just let the downloading and updating handle it all and barely checked in by looking at the occasional graph etc.

    I went back to paper and pencil method and am much happier. I spend about 1 hour every Sunday (chore day for me) balancing the “Household” books. It is not a big deal nor a huge time expense for me.

  28. IF you are a person who watches TV (I don’t) this can easily be done during the commercials of a 1/2 hr show or less 🙂

  29. Hehe, I do this when I make up the orders for my lab. It works only because I am so incredibly anal-retentive as to do it for EVERYTHING I order, even right down to the paper clips, but I can’t see this working for my boyfriend.

  30. I still use this old-fashioned method for tracking my income. I work at home for a place where I can control how much I make. So to make sure I know I’m getting paid right, every night I write down my earnings for the day, my earnings for the pay period (I get paid twice a week) and my earnings for the month in a colorful notebook. It’s so handy. There’s a lot to be said about keeping it simple. I’m just not a fan of spreadsheets. They just look so boring to me and I don’t feel as close to the process as I do with pen and paper. And then, since I get paid through PayPal, I keep another notebook (a Commonplace Journal) to track my deposits and spending. I make transfers from PayPal into my ING Direct savings and I make note of those deposits too. I have another check that goes into my checking for my few bills and that account is so simplified that I know what I can spend, so no need to track it at all. I honestly don’t do much on the computer when it comes to money. I have some notes I keep in FoxPad, a Firefox add-on, about how the money is divided, but that’s it. I just can’t be converted to the computerized system of spending. It’s too impersonal for me.

  31. Oh, and I just have to add that writing down my earnings takes a few seconds. If I had to pull up a spreadsheet, enter the figures and save it, it would take me 5 to 10 times longer!

  32. I think this is a great idea. I may have to share this blog post with my husband. He has tried the Quicken method before. I think it would be useful for us to do it on BOTH! Keep the ledger with us at all times and write in it when we spend money and make sure to mark if it was cash or card.Then when we have time we could input it into Quicken to double check our math and also sort them into categories to see what we spend too much on and then cut that spending out. My only problem is I would have to have my husband text me whenever he spent money so I could put it in the ledger. I am not certain he would do that every time. Might have to have seperate ledgers and then that would be another reason to have quicken so that we could combine the two into one on occasion. thanks for this post. it has given me some good ideas to start on!

  33. I carry a spiral memo notebook in my purse (2 x 3 inches) and write down every expense in this notebook as soon as I make it. Right there in the store! I learned this from Debtors Anonymous and from a book they use by Jerry Mundis. Some weeks I total my expenses and others I don’t. I have found that it is the act of writing it down every time, the mindfulness of it, that is as much the advantage as the tracking where my money goes. Even just flipping through the pages of the past few days can show me if I am getting off track-“Gee, i had a so-called inexpensive lunch out today, and yesterday, and the day before–even at $8 each time that’s $24 that would have gone a lot farther at the grocery store..” etc. And I also write down debit expenses at the same time in my -gasp- checkbook register that I carry with me in my purse. I double check my checking acct online every morning which takes about three minutes. This works for me! It seems like the most important thing is to do what is most helpful for each person. There is no right or wrong. We all have the same about of time–24 hours in each day! Whether we use those hours on the computer or writing in a spiral notebook is entirely up to each of us.

  34. Whoa! I’m all with you. The emotional satisfaction of writing it down (even with the occasional error that needs to be sorted out) is great. I feel a direct connection between the writing and my budget decisions. When I use electronic programs, it just feels like numbers. When I do it by hand, it has concrete images and reminders of what I am doing with my small budget. Thanks for the cool ideas.

  35. Are you still doing this? I am literally just starting pend and paper ledger, and I like them already! Even though I am a Sr Systems Engineer, I have always preferred pen and paper for everything. Let me know if your still doing this.