Budgets are like the New Year’s resolutions of personal finance. We all know we should have
one and we all know it’s a fairly simple thing to follow—at least in theory. Like resolutions,
we often map out personal budgets with the best of intentions, only to abandon them a couple
of weeks later.
Checks hold an odd place in our personal finances. In many ways, checks seem like relics from a
previous era. We maybe write one or two checks a month (usually for rent or similar bill-paying
situations where electronic payment simply isn’t an option). This is vastly different from only
a few decades ago, when checks represented more than 85% of all non-cash retail payments. Infographic Handout
Good vs. Bad Spending
When you start looking for financial advice (or any kind of advice, for that matter), experts
will share their take on what’s “good” and what’s “bad.” In personal finance, there are some
classifications that we can all agree on: Debt is bad. Emergency funds are good. Overdrawing
your account is bad. Earning interest on your savings is good.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a sobering reminder that financial challenges come in all
shapes and sizes. Some obstacles—such as job loss or income reduction—are immediate and
obvious. Others—such as fear or uncertainty about the future—are more subtle, but they can
still disrupt our regular spending and saving patterns in a negative way.
Every year, it’s nice to do a bit of “financial spring cleaning” and declutter your filing
cabinet, your desk drawers, and the various hiding places where miscellaneous scraps of paper
tend to accumulate and multiply. Find out what you should be saving, and what’s OK to shred.