Going paperless

August 22, 2011

Good-bye, check registers. Good-bye, printed bank statements.

At least two years ago, I signed up to “go paperless” with the bank (actually it’s a credit union, but it functions the same as a bank as far as I’m concerned) that I use for most of my payments. I was never waiting until the paper statement came anyway – I’d go online occasionally to check my account balance and add any transactions I had missed to my checkbook register. So by the time the statement came, all I did with it was add it to a stack of papers to eventually store in a box somewhere.

It worked fine as long as I made most of my payments by check. But as I made more and more payments online or using my debit card, the job of keeping my check register up-to-date became increasingly tedious. Having the bank data all online was great. Having to writing it all on a paper register, just so I could do the bank reconciliation (where the errors were always mine, or else too small to spend time tracking down when they were most likely mine anyway), was a pain.

Now and then I thought about the possibility of getting a computer program to record all my finances. That way I’d not only take care of the bank records, I’d also be able to run reports showing me what I was spending my money on. For a while I had tried to track details of my spending in a spreadsheet, but it was a pain to do all that data entry. I don’t know if I’d dislike the chore as much if I had lots of money, but looking at the numbers is always an unpleasant reminder that I wish I were in much better shape financially – but don’t see that happening anytime in the near future.

Paying money for a program to do what I could do manually didn’t appeal to me, though, even if I didn’t like doing it manually. And while there may be freeware out there for that purpose, I wasn’t keen on relying on a program without customer support. (I did decide to pay for money a program to do my taxes this year, but that was because I was pretty sure it would save me money by making sure I didn’t miss any deductions.)

I finally have a solution I’m happy with, however. In recent weeks I’ve been working on using Visual Basic for Applications, together with Microsoft Access, to simplify keeping track of software licenses for my company. I really enjoyed the project, and I started looking for other ways to use my VBA skills. What about making myself a nice little application to record income and expenses and track my bank balances, I thought. Since I would be dealing mostly with numbers rather than names, I decided this time I would work in Excel instead of Access.

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