Ask the Readers: how do you track your household finance?

When it comes to entering monthly incomes and expenses, Mrs. T and I are both very good at entering them in our budget spreadsheet. Because we’ve been entering things in the spreadsheet since 2011, monthly budget has become second nature for the both of us. Semi-annually, we sit down together to analyze the budget and see which expenses we can further optimize.

But when it comes to tracking investments, dividend incomes, and paying bills, I am the one that has been doing them.

The other day, Mrs. T mentioned that she felt that she’s too dependent on me when it comes to our household finance. First of all, she couldn’t keep track of all the investment accounts that we have. She knew that we have a bunch TFSA’s, RRSP’s, and taxable investment accounts, but she didn’t know which brokers we use. Although we keep a record of all the account numbers in our file cabinet, she wasn’t sure how to log in to all the different accounts. Furthermore, she was unclear how to log in to all the credit card accounts that we have so she could check the monthly statements (we use e-statements, so no paper statements). Luckily we have a joint chequing and savings account so she knows how to access this account.

“If anything were to happen you one day, I would be totally lost. I wouldn’t know how to pay our bills and I wouldn’t know how to track all of our investment accounts.”

This raised a huge concern for me and made me thinking.

Have I been taking too much control on our household finance?

By taking charge of tracking all of our investments and paying our bills each month, I have been slowly making Mrs. T more and more dependent on me when it comes to our household finance.

So today I’d like to ask the readers: how do you track your household finance with your parnter?

Here are some options that Mrs. T and I came up with:

Option 1:
Summarize all the account numbers on a piece of paper or in an email. Separately write down the login ID’s and passwords on different pieces of paper. Store these somewhere in our house.

Pro: easy access, everything is written down.

Con: Not secure. Someone else can potentially gain access to these information.

Option 2:
Summarize all the account numbers on a piece of paper or in an email. Write down all the login ID’s on another piece of paper. Store these information somewhere in our house. We won’t write down the passwords, just have to memorize them all.

Pro: Slightly more secure than option 1.

Con: Need to remember all the passwords.

Option 3:
A slight variation of option 2. Instead of writing down the login ID’s and not the passwords, we do the other way around. We’d write down all the passwords somewhere on a piece of paper. We’d memorize all the login ID’s.

Pro: Slightly more secure than option 1

Con: Perhaps not as secure because all the passwords are written down.

Option 4:
Summarize all the account numbers on a piece of paper or in an email. Memorize all the login ID’s and passwords.

Pro: Perhaps the most secure method

Con: Require complete memorization and can potentially forget the information.


I currently just remember all the login ID’s and passwords without writing them down. Between all the different email accounts, investment accounts, credit card accounts, and work accounts, I must have more than 20 different login ID’s and passwords. That’s not counting the social media accounts! Some of them even require regular password changes. For me, this is definitely a way to keep my brain active. Since I log in to these accounts regularly, memorization is pretty straight forward.

We have gone ahead and summarized all the account numbers. We have not decided which option we’ll implement though. Last night Mrs. T and I sat down together and together we logged in to all the different accounts and went over the overall process. The plan is to have Mrs. T tracking the dividend incomes and pay the bills the next few months so she is actively involved in the monthly process. Once she’s familiar with the process, she should feel more independent on our household finance.

Dear readers, how do you track your household finance with your partner? I’d love to hear your methods.


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41 thoughts on “Ask the Readers: how do you track your household finance?”

  1. 1. This will work for Apple and Windows computers. I do this because I am paranoid.
    2. Buy a computer that only does your finances, absolutely no email.
    3. Install TrueCrypt or VeraCrypt both are freeware.
    4. Make a mountable encrypted file of 50 to 200 GBs.
    5. With Excel (or other modern spreadsheet program) make a file that contains all of the info that is needed.
    6. Mine looks like this:
    Account Name Account Number ID PW URL to login

    When I want to access my accounts I click on the URL then copy and paste my ID and PW into the appropriate browser box. All of my financial accounts are here, banking, credit card and investments. This method has the advantage of creating very long passwords and changing them often. Also TrueCrypt and VeraCrypt are very secure. If your account has a challenge question

    The draw back to this method are:
    1. Once you create a locker its PW cannot be changed.
    2. When the locker is open you are open to a hack attack. That is why I use this PC for finances only. But this is the only drawback that I can see.
    3. I store all of my personal info in this locker.
    4. Only open the locker when work is to be done, never leave the locker open (I know this is a hassle).
    5. Only turn on the PC when you are using it, never leave it on.

    that’s it good luck

    • That is a very secured way to track stuff, but tracking on one computer only doesn’t necessarily make sense for our household. Thanks for sharing your method.

  2. Similar situation in our household Tawcan, where I’m the one mostly interested in the numbers, but I also do all the tracking, and give my wife a summary each month. Have to say, I love using my manual spreadsheet to track everything and create summaries!

  3. I have it all written down. Everything. In a document called, “If Hannah Dies” My biggest concern is not dying around the time that our car/house insurance premiums are due- I don’t think Rob would get around to it on time.

  4. 2 part response:

    for expense tracking: I’m in the KISS school – I have a paper (!) monthly expense capture sheet where ALL (I do mean ALL) cash outflow amounts are recorded in one of the 25 or so categories I’ve set up ( groceries, gas , hydro, clothing, etc.) – at month end I transfer the numbers into a spread sheet with corresponding categories (takes ~5 minutes) – the sheet is setup to total to yearly totals – one sheet per year linked to an accumulation sheet year over year. – has worked for me for 30+ years (first few years were paper only 🙂 until I transferred them ) – from this I can accurately predict what in costs for me to live my lifestyle and it sorta neat to see the history of expenses.

    as for keeping logins and passwords check out KeePass ( free ware, multi platform, not web based – basically its an electronic safe (via encryption) for stuff on your devices (note: you can put other stuff you wish to keep private in there too )- you will need one secure password to access keepass (and don’t EVER forget it 🙂 )
    see and
    for ideas

    I use Red to Riches idea too but only for websites that are ‘throwaway” i.e. specifically NOT anything financial, tax or medical related.

    as for using Mint or Personal Capital – one is letting a 3rd party get a lot of very personal information – just to much exposure for benefit gained.

    • Good point on the budget system, we’re doing something similar as well. I’ve looked into keepass and other similar tools as well. The problem seems that the info is stored on one single computer. What happens if you need to access on someone else’s computer? You don’t want to have to install the software.

      Totally agree with using a 3rd party software and giving away lots of very personal info.

      • Tawcan my system is not a budget system (personally I do not believe in budgets for individuals(me) ); its an expense tracking system – big difference mine is reactive (ie. I know where the money when ) vs. a budget is proactive (i.e. you set what your outlays are going to be ).
        Yes I can use my numbers as a good guess for future outlays but I only use them as guesstimates – not budgets which I find to restrictive, but then I’m not a spendthrift by nature.
        Very simple example: say grocery budget = $250 but there is a excellent sale on a non perishable item X which if purchased in quantity will push you over the budget limit – if you buy you negate the budget process, if you don’t you’ll eventually spend more on X – neither is a win scenario.

        You also might be a bit misinformed about KeePass see

        you can use as a “portable no installation required” device – i.e. put it on a USB key that you can use in other devices; if you go this route your psw file resides in an encrypted file on the USB key – remember that STRONG password? and yes you have to carry that usb around but I ask why are you accessing such private info on some else’s computer/device? that thought scares me 🙂

        the way I use it is to have the base(master) encrypted file on my main computer (I prefer desktops) and then to have copies on the other devices I use (my portable netbook, phone and tablet ). I transfer the master file to the subordinate devices via direct linkage (i.e. no internet involved); also I keep a copy on a usb key (as above) in a safe place – that actually is a safe bolted to the house. ( tough for a thief to walk off with even if they did find it- as an aside the safe also holds critical documents (eg. wills) that can only be paper based and is more for fire protection than theft – you have massively large other problems if burglary is a big concern – I’d move out of the location post haste)

        yes using sneakernet is not instantaneous but really how often does the core information for this type of information change? and if they change that frequently maybe that should be addressed instead?

        works for me 🙂

        ps. aside, is there a way you can put in a notification method when posts have responses ?

        • I’ll have to take a closer look at KeePass then. Thanks for letting me know. Hmm I’ll have to take a look at a notification method.

  5. I add my fixed expenses to see what’s going on, sometimes I calculate my saving rate, sometimes I don’t. Frugal is in my blood, so even if I spend some money, it was necessary. 😛 includes the 5 vacations and many long weekends I’ve taken so far this year 🙂

  6. I think Option 1 or 2 is the way to go for simplicity. Mrs. T may find it hard to memorize the logins and PWs if she isn’t engaged in the activity regulalry. I know I have trouble if I don’t log into an account for several months. With password security more strict on certain websites, I know I have to add random variations to what used to be my “standard” password.

    Currently, I have a Word document with many of my usernames and then jsut “password hints” to myself, like “normal one with ! at the end” or “normal with capitalized X.”

    Ms and I are not married yet so we only have a combined checking and savings for our common housing expenses, but no joint investment or credit card accounts. Everything is basically automated and we review it every few months to see if we need to contribute more or less to the accounts.

    • Hi Red to Riches,

      I think we’ll utilize either option 1 or 2 but store the information separately. Like keeping the account info in Google Drive, and keeping the login ID’s one a piece of paper somewhere in the house. The important thing is to have both of us engaged in the activities regularly. I would probably forget if I don’t login regularly too.

      A password hint document is a great idea. It’s probably best to come up with passwords and hints together so both partners can determine right away.

  7. Thanks for sharing Tawcan. Glad your wife wants to be more proactive 🙂
    I look after everything as my wife is really busy with the kids. However, 90 percent of our asset is in her name ( houses / cars / stocks ). I just manage everything and she has no desire to look after our money. I update her every month what our net worth and how we did as a summary every month. I also discuss goals and keep her in the loop, that’s all she wants to hear.
    Thank you for taking the time for the article, cheers buddy.

  8. We have similar problems with 6-7 accounts to track. I have a paper file with is in a safe. The problem is when the passwords change, accounts are split (401ks love to make changes). For now, it is very manually. I definitely hear your pain.

    • Hi D4S,

      Yeah some passwords need to be updated regularly and it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage all the passwords. Perhaps writing down hints for the passwords is a good idea.

  9. After my grandfather passed away last year my grandmother really struggled with keeping up with things. Luckily we have a pretty close family and two of her sons/my uncles live pretty close by to her. She had been kept out of the loop from their finances for decades. Not that she didn’t know the things but simple things like figuring out who all was owed what each month. With the increase in paperless and only online access I think this is something that will be a bigger issue than many expect. I’ve been meaning to sit down with my wife to discuss these kinds of things because I handle all of the investment side. It’s not that I expect to pass away anytime soon but you never know what life will bring so being prepared makes the most sense. I’m not sure what would be the best route for keeping the accounts/account numbers/log ins/passwords secure but she definitely needs access to them in case something happens. My concern with a safe is that most safes you would consider for your house are probably so small that it wouldn’t take much for a potential burglar to just pick up the safe on their way out. You only have a safe if there’s something important or valuable you want to hide which makes ones that are easy to handle prime targets for picking up and taking back to their lair to then fiddle with busting it open. So now you have to figure out a really good place to hide a small safe if you store it at the house.

    • Hi JC,

      Sorry to hear that your grandma has struggled with keeping up with things financially. I think it’s tough especially for women since historically men have been taking charge of household finance. With everything becoming paperless and everything getting online, it’s getting harder and harder remembering everything. Good point about a small safe at home, it doesn’t seem super secure to me either. Maybe a good way is to keep the info written separately like Our Next Life suggested but still have them easily accessible.

      • I’m not sure of the logistics of it but a safe deposit box at the bank could be an option. Although it would probably only make sense if you have other things to store in there because there is a cost associated with it. But it would make updating it more cumbersome.

  10. I have been trying to figure this out. My wife can see all the accounts with Mint, but she doesn’t know the log-ins or passwords. I was thinking of writing down some of it and putting it in our safe and then putting the passwords in code (abbreviate or something) and then having a cheat sheet to break the code.

    We started using YNAB for budgeting because I really like the giving your dollars a job when they come in perspective. It is nice to apply my paycheck to the fiexed expenses and then allocating the rest to whatever we want.

    • Hi Vawt,

      Mint is great to see the overall picture but it doesn’t allow you to get into the individual accounts I believe. I also don’t like the idea of giving out all of our login info to a 3rd party company. Writing things down and store it in a safe might be a good idea.

  11. Tawcan,

    I don’t follow a budget. I pay myself first when I get paid from work. At the end of each month I do pay myself first with the investment income also. My goal at the end of the month is have positive cashflow that is large enough. So I basically hope to subtract the 70% of the dividend income, option premium collected and interest income from the cashflow left at the end of the month. If this is result is positive, the I place this amount into the investment account.

    For keeping track of everything, I just use various spreadsheets. For each month, I have a personal financial statement that I update on a regular basis when ever I spend money on anything.

    • Hi Investing Pursuits,

      I suppose our budget system isn’t the same as the typical budget system, I should really write a post on this. To summarize, we pay ourselves first too.

  12. I do most of the investments too.

    One idea I had is to write all the log ons down for each account. The have a few key words each assigned a letter, and a number after it which you add or subtract something from. Then next to each log on you write B15 which corresponds to Potato14 or whatever…

    Think like a spy.

  13. You could try “Mint”. It is an online platform that “links” to most banks, credit unions and credit card companies. It may be more limited for investment companies though, particularly in Canada. When you create your profile, Mint will link it to your accounts and automatically download all the transactions you make. You can allocate them in the applicable budget categories. I don’t think you can’t pay bills from Mint, unfortunately…so still a lot of login info to remember!

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Maybe I’m paranoid but the idea of providing an online application all the bank and investment information doesn’t seem very secure to me.

  14. This is a great question and I’m sure applies to lots of people. We each have our own logins for our primary bank, but manage some of our other accounts separately, and often found ourselves asking each other for our login info. Solution: we keep partial account lists and passwords in different online places, which we hope makes the info more secure. No account logins and passwords for the same accounts are stored together. Using a combo of Google Drive, Evernote and email, we have all the bases covered. We also have a book that we put together that we keep in the house that has all of our account numbers and bank/company phone numbers, so we think we could find a way to get access the old school way if something catastrophic happened, but thieves wouldn’t be able to verify our identities (again, we hope).

    • Hi our next life,

      Good point on keeping information in multiple places and separate them. Will have to take a look this method.

  15. I’m with Fervent in that Personal Capital pretty much puts everything together in one place. But to be honest, my wife doesn’t often want to know the latest net worth updates. Usually, I just tell her verbally what it is. And yes, she still receives some paper statements so she sees those accounts there. I was going to switch her to paperless…but then she’d probably never check. I do try to keep her up to date as to what’s going on, but we probably need to be more organized about it.

    • Hi Andrew,

      Does Personal Capital allow you to pay bills and buy investments through them? For overall visual we already have our budget and net worth spreadsheets. It’s really a matter of getting Mrs. T familiarized so she knows how get all the different statements and pay bills if needed. 🙂

      • I’m not sure…I honestly just use it to check out my net worth. I do not think you can pay bills through them. I have my bills automated. I do think there is an investment aspect. I think they will manage your portfolio and they’ve called a few times but I haven’t gotten a chance to speak to them. I’m not really interested in that service anyway.

  16. Tawcan,

    I do 95% of our finances. I agree, it is something I need to leave notes behind on. We have a joint account, so my wife has complete access to our funds, but just in case it would make sense to share information – on credit cards, accounts, and log ins.

    I will probably keep it simple, have a folder with our account stuff located in our safe. If the need arises the information will be located there for easy access to all accounts.

    Good post.

    – Gremlin

    • Hi Gremlin,

      Good point on having a folder with all the account stuff located in the safe. Maybe a safe is something we need to look into.

  17. Honestly I believe Personal Capital to be the best thing since sliced bread. I log on, and all my cash accounts, retirement, investment, student loans, and credit cards are all linked up. One stop shopping. I heard Mint is better for the day-to-day expense tracking and budgeting, but those aren’t things I spend too much time on.

    • Hi Fervent Finance,

      Unfortunately Personal Capital isn’t available for us Canadians. I’m not talking about tracking the day-to-day stuff but rather, how to make sure Mrs. T knows all the accounts and how to pay the bills.


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