Have you found yourself ordering online during this holiday season with your credit card and then can’t remember how much you spent? Do you brandish your credit and debit cards when making purchases from local businesses? And, yes, occasionally do you actually write checks and even sometimes pay with “real money” at your favorite restaurant? With all these differing ways of spending money it’s no wonder that people often don’t have a sense of where their money actually goes.
By Elin Kittelman, Fallon/Carter County Extension
“MSU Extension has a fact sheet that describes a management technique that shows exactly how much you have spent or have left to spend in family living categories,” says Elin Kittelmann County Extension Agent. “The system is designed for those who want a simple way to track expenses during the holiday season and into 2017 without having to spend a lot of time doing it.”
“While the illustrations were developed originally for individuals who have a checking account, the system can be easily adapted for those who use cash, credit or debit cards,” observed Judith Ward, former Hill County Extension Agent and originator of the system. “The system was featured in Good Housekeeping magazine several years ago and thousands of orders were received,” stated Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension Family Economics Specialist and co-author of the fact sheet. “It’s a great way to track how your money was spent. If you need to make adjustments in spending because of changed family circumstances, such as the job loss or cut-back in hours of the family earner, you can see where the cuts can be made.”
To try out the system, can use your own check register with lines drawn as illustrated in the fact sheet or purchase one specifically designed from MSU Extension for $1.00. Drop by the county office or order here: store.msuextension.org/Products/Check-Register-Tracking-System__EB0050.aspx.
“A couple of years ago a Grandma from central Montana purchased 10 of the MontGuides and registers to use as holiday gifts for her grandchildren,” said Goetting. “She shared that her grandchildren always use credit cards and have absolutely no sense where their money was being spent. They don’t even know the balance in their bank accounts!” I explained that kids today use their smart phones to obtain balance information from their banks like she used to do with her check register. “Doesn’t matter,” stressed Grandma, “that smart phone doesn’t tell them where their money goes in categories like the register that you provide. They need to be more aware of their spending habits!”
A MontGuide describing the system is available without charge. Contact at the Fallon/Carter County Extension Office, 10 W Fallon, Baker or call (406) 778-7110. Or, you can print out the fact sheet from the web:
You may even wish to make a New Year’s Resolution to use the system to track your expenses for a minimum of three months in 2017. You may be surprised at how much you are spending on what.