Balancing Your Online “Checkbook”: A Guide for Teens to Track Their Spending

You may have heard your parents talking about balancing their checkbook, and rolled your eyes or LOL’d. We’ll admit, it sounds old school, but sometimes that’s a good thing! Even if you’re not logging all of your purchases in an old-fashioned checkbook, you should still track your spending through a Google Sheet or budgeting app; you’ll get a lot of value from it. Taking the time to balance your account helps you catch mistakes and save money in the long run. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1) Keep good records.

Keeping good records is relatively easy and can save a lot of headaches down the road. Save your receipts, whether they’re physical or electronic. When you’re entering them in a Google Sheet or budgeting app, make sure to include how much you spent, what date you spent it on, and who/what business you paid.

Step 2) Compare your records with your statement.

Review your receipts and transactions alongside your online credit union or bank account. Does anything look off? You may have forgotten to log one of your purchases in your budgeting app. Notice something that’s in your records but not listed on your online account? That doesn’t mean you didn’t spend that money. The transaction probably just hasn’t hit your account yet–sometimes there’s a lag. Leave it in your tracking, keep an eye on when it clears and update your records.  

Step 3) Do a little math.

Okay, we promise it’s not that bad, but you’ll need to do a little math now. From your online account, subtract any purchases that haven’t cleared, and add any deposits that haven’t arrived yet. This new amount you calculate should match the balance you have on your records. If it doesn’t, double-check your records for errors. If it still doesn’t add up, or if there is a transaction you don’t recognize, give your financial institution a call to figure out what’s up.

Again, it doesn’t matter if you take an old school pen-and-paper approach, use an app or an online spreadsheet. Try one of The Summit’s easy budget tracker templates to get started. All that matters is the fact that you’re doing it. It gets easier once this habit is built, but if you fall off the checkbook balancing train, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just carve out the time to get back into the habit again or set a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget. Your bank account will thank you.

Are you saying, “wait, I don’t even have a checking account yet”? We’ve got you covered there too.