4 Things I Learned When I Tried to Track Down All My Accounts

4 Lessons from Creating an Account Master SpreadsheetI have a lot of credit cards.

That’s actually not a surprise. After all, I opened them. Truthfully, I have far fewer credit cards than I used to. I pretty much opened a credit card at any store that asked back in my 200-plus-pair-of-shoes heyday. I never got into any consumer debt with them, but I burnt through thousands upon thousands of dollars that could have worked harder in places besides my closet.

When I decided to create a master spreadsheet that detailed all of our financial accounts this week, I knew the credit card tab would be obnoxious.

What I didn’t realize, though, is how many other accounts we have. Though I do try to keep apps on my phone, the problem (or blessing?) is how consolidated the accounts appear thanks to the single sleek app. That Bank of America app? It’s housing not one, not two, but three active credit cards. That’s not the only app like that on my phone.

I grabbed my phone and my laptop, and I got to work creating our account master spreadsheet.

What Went Into Our Account Master Spreadsheet

I wasn’t working off of anything other than one of our goals for the remainder of the year. We are working on rounding up all of our accounts, and a spreadsheet seemed simplest to me. Our budget, our tracking, and pretty much all of our other financial records live in spreadsheets, so we know it works for us.

In a single spreadsheet, I created tabs for the following accounts:

  • Savings accounts
  • Checking accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Debit cards
  • Retirement and other investment accounts
  • College savings account (529)

After I tracked down all of this information, I compared it to the details in Credit Karma. Like the terrible financial blogger that I am, I actually had to double check that I hadn’t forgotten about any credit cards. Phew! Safe!

In addition to that little mental jab to consider closing some accounts or lock boxing them away safely, I came to several other realizations about my finances when I saw everything in a single spreadsheet.

What I Learned Creating an Account Master Spreadsheet

The first thing I learned is I really need to add a line item in our budget for a standing desk. This process took longer than I thought, and I am so tired of hunching over in our dining room. Ergonomics aside, I learned some financial lessons as well.

1. We combine our finances…mostly.

My husband and I both have separate Roth IRAs and separate credit cards. We’re fully transparent with what we each have saved for retirement, and neither of us use the credit cards. They’re equal parts credit score boost (our oldest accounts!) and just-in-case (we plan to stay together forever, but we’ve heard enough horror stories of people who combine everything and can’t even come up with gas money to get out).

Other than those accounts, our money is totally combined. In theory. What I quickly realized from this activity, though, is that I am a barrier to entry. As the money nerd in our relationship, I’m definitely more hands on with our money. That’s fine, except he needs to know where everything is too. This spreadsheet helped remedy that.

2. Bank bonuses create lose ends.

Remember when high-interest savings accounts were all the rage because they actually paid high amounts of interest? Insert wistful sigh here. Several years ago, I opened an online savings account with Discover. It’s one (OK, fine, two!) of my favorite credit cards, so a savings account with them seemed like a no-brainer.

But I’ve also chased account bonuses to two other online banks. One, I adore. The other, I tolerate simply to keep our Christmas sinking fund totally out of sight. We also have several other savings accounts at a community brick and mortar bank.

3. Financial clutter bothers me a lot.

About halfway through this spreadsheet task, I wanted to quit. The clutter felt overwhelming. Unlike my Gmail inbox that practically screams at me whenever I open my phone, this clutter remained relatively quiet.

Once I started collecting the information, I immediately felt a sense of unease. None of the accounts bear bad news. If anything, we’d get gold stars. Lots and lots of gold stars. While it’s too much of a good thing, it also felt like it could quickly turn into a bad thing since it’s much harder to keep an eye on everything. Plus, I really hate clutter.

4. A password manager is a GOOD goal.

Now that I’ve rediscovered all of our accounts, I’m slowly syncing them with a password manager. I put this off for years, telling myself that password managers are unsafe.

Using guesses and hunches to determine how many credit cards you have and where the rest of your money is stashed is obviously much more problematic.

Plus, this gives my husband equal access to everything.

My only regret is not doing this years ago.

Final Thoughts on Tracking Down Our Accounts

This activity was definitely one of the nerdier money things I’ve done in a while, and I’m really glad it’s checked off our list. We decided to review it at least once year. There are no bells or whistles, but it definitely helped us sort through our finances and get more on the same page spreadsheet.

So Tell Me…Does financial clutter bother you? How do you manage your accounts? Teach me your ways!

14 Comments

  1. Rachel

    I imagine that I have quite a few less accounts than you do, but I also did this practice recently as a step from a financial book that I am reading. I found it really enlightening and helpful to see everything laid out that way! Definitely part of the spreadsheet / number nerd in me, as my S.O. would hate to do anything like that.

  2. Pamela Gray

    As an a lodger couple with a blended family, we also found it necessary to keep track of beneficiaries for each IRA/401k account too. But I’m a little nervous about tracking credit cards! Since I rarely use retail store cards, do you recommend closing them?

    • Hi, Pamela!

      I don’t know that I recommend closing them. If you’re happy keeping track of them, you can keep them. Sometimes, that’s a nice boost to your credit score. I’ve actually had banks close a few of my store accounts for inactivity, which has less of an impact on your credit score. That said, if credit scores don’t matter to you and you don’t like the account clutter, closing them might make a lot of sense!

  3. I use a two bill minder apps , one for personal and one for business. Everything’s listed, even if its a zero balance. I check everything monthly to ensure no surprise charges on those accounts. This keeps me well organized.

  4. Leigh

    I love this, Penny! I tried to count our accounts recently and we have like 40 checking, savings, and investment accounts and 12 credit cards between the two of us? It’s really even too many for me, but it’s hard to reduce when we don’t want to 100% combine. Our most recent mortgage had a requirement of opening a checking account with them and making automatic payments from it for the first year. It also comes with free checks, which is nice! But that just adds a layer of unnecessary complication to managing the system.

    A password manager sounds like a great tool! We have a shared folder that we put passwords into and also set up the “emergency access” feature so if one of us dies or is so sickly they are unavailable, the other one can get access to their passwords.

  5. We each have two credit cards, so four total. But we have so many bank accounts and stock accounts… Back 3 years ago I was thinking about consolidating, but then things started getting fascist-y and I thought maybe it’s a good idea to have multiple different providers since if like, Wells Fargo decides to freeze accounts of political dissidents because the US government says to and if for whatever reason we’re on that list, then we’ll have another bank as we attempt to flee the country. It seems so paranoid, and yet…I do have relatives who died in the holocaust.

    • KellyB

      I’ve been putting off the password manager too, and really need to just do it. Looked at LastPass but heard it doesn’t play well with the Microsoft Edge update. Which one are you using?

  6. We finally got our password manager this year and I’ve been working on winnowing down the number of accounts we have and adding all the joint accounts to the password manager and creating spreadsheets we both have access to for tracking accounts and bills and … PiC is still going to have a devil of a time figuring out how this works.

    I keep working at simplifying and then adding new giving projects to my plate so I finally opened extra accounts just for the giving projects so they’d not clutter up our main checking account. We’re a mess 😅 I am going to go through and close more unused accounts though. Our credit histories are long enough now that closing a few accounts won’t hurt. It’s just our credit reports look a dang mess because of my credit card churning and bank bonus chasing but there’s nothing I can do about that now.

  7. I still remember all the passwords in my head… maybe I should try password manager one of these days. For some reason I’m always weary having someone else or something remembering my passwords for me.

  8. Steveark

    We have 18 different accounts with six different providers, and three active credit cards. But it’s not hard to keep track because we link them all to Personal Capital. You can check every transaction for every account in one easy place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.