Take control of your money -- keep a credit card register


As we were kicking around favorite grocery store peeves, I realized one of mine is the person in front of me at the register that carefully enters his/her check info in the check register and calculates his/her new balance. I also realized that I'm an idiot. This person should be held up as a paragon of wise personal finance.

Why? Because this person knows how much money he has. The credit/debit card industry has grown fat partly because most of us don't keep a running tab of our charges. Most people, like me, jam receipts in their wallet to balance at the end of the month (if then). All too frequently, I'm abashed at the result, and I'm not alone. U.S. credit card debt is on track to soon surpass $1 trillion.

If you want to keep track of your expenses, the first step toward taking control is to adopt the habit of the check writer. Carry your credit and debit cards in a checkbook or similar case, one that has a register for each . There are also credit card tracker forms you can download and print to carry with you.

Cultivate the habit of keeping your credit card/debit card receipts there, and write each transaction in the register and update your balance immediately after each purchase. We know that the act of writing is a valuable mnemonic tool, and the act of recording each expense will cause you to consider your balance. That's one reason I don't believe ability to access my balance via cell phone or PC is as good. I simply wouldn't make that call every time I made a purchase; would you?

This simple step can change your attitude about the end of the month from one of dread to a pleasant realization that you've gained control of your spending. And don't worry about those morons behind you looking peeved as you write down your expense. They'll catch on eventually.