Tracking your income will provide you with an in-depth look at your financials. Overall budgeting and expense tracking are important, but tracking your income properly will give you the figures you need to develop the budget and know how much you can spend.
One of the biggest mistakes when budgeting is tracking your income incorrectly. With so many rules and regulations in place such as overtime wages, hourly or salary, social security, state and federal taxes, it can be quite the challenge to keep track of your income. However, if done properly, tracking your income can become routine and make your financial life a lot less stressful.
Know Your Pay Schedule
One of the first things you need to do to track your income properly, is to know your pay schedule. Too many employees simply work and wait around for their paychecks. What they do not always try to figure out or simply ask for, is what dates the paychecks are cut. This knowledge is important for a couple reasons.
The first reason it is important to know your pay schedule is so that you can know when you have money coming in, so that you can budget for your bills accordingly. For example, you cannot pay all of your bills on the first of the month, if you don’t receive your first paycheck until the fifteenth of the month; unless you already have money in your account. Most credit card companies will allow you to change your “due date” for paying off credit card bills. You should conveniently schedule these to be after your paycheck has already cleared into your account.
Another reason knowing your pay schedule is important to tracking your income, is because of missed payments. Chances are there is either a human representative person and your company that works with a payroll company to get you your paycheck. Unfortunately, humans make errors. If you are not tracking your paychecks you might not notice if your company forgets to pay you.
Understand Gross Versus Net
Another important factor into tracking your income properly, is understanding the difference between gross and net pay. The concept is fairly easy, however it is also easy to always consider your income in the gross terms. It typically is a more exact number which makes it easier to remember. For example a person might earn $50,000 per year or $10.00 per hour. However, it is a lot more challenging to remember that you are actually only making a net pay of $36,555.33 annually or $7.65 per hour.
Understanding this difference and knowing your actual take-home pay will go a long way to tracking your income properly.
Track Your Hours Worked
If you are paid on an hourly basis, it is critical for you to track the amount of hours you’ve worked. Regardless of how nice your manager is, mistakes can be made when calculating your hours worked. It is important for you to know the pay period and the amount of hours you’ve worked in that pay period.
If you don’t track the hours you’ve worked yourself, you are relying on someone else to do it for you. While they may have the best intentions, keeping tabs of your hours worked are not exactly the highest of priorities for them. After all, they are probably tracking their own hours. It is also in your best interest to track your own hours because of overtime wages. Earning one and half your regular rate for hours worked over forty hours in a week is a huge pay bump for you. Knowing the amount of hours you worked in overtime will greatly increase the amount of income you track. It will also help you keep track of overtime pay should any disputes arise with your employer.
Even if you are a salaried employee, it is still in your best interest to at least have a general idea of how many hours you work. This can go a long ways towards providing evidence of why you deserve a raise once your year review rolls around.
Understand Your Deductions
Tracking your income properly also means understanding your deductions. Every single American pays federal income tax, social security, and most states have a state income tax that is automatically deducted. All of these deductions play a role in determining your net pay.
However, you may also have deductions for healthcare insurance and retirement savings accounts if your employer offers it. While the money you earn that goes towards this is technically income, you won’t actually see any of it on your paycheck. It usually is automatically withdrawn, thus decreasing your net pay.
Keep A Hard Copy
Finally, to track your income properly, you should always keep a hard copy of your pay stub and budget. When I say hard copy, I actually mean some form of proof. So in today’s digital world, you can either scan a copy of your pay stub or simply take a picture of it. Storing these on something like Evernote or Google Drive will help you keep track of it all.
You should also have a hard or digital copy of your budget. You may be a smart cookie, but you don’t have the memory capacity of spreadsheet. Keep your income tracked on a spreadsheet or budget workform to give yourself a crystal clear idea of just how much money you are bringing home.