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I've started my personal finance management a couple of weeks ago and I'm having a problem with monetary adjustments. I have three possible solutions (two precise and one approximate):

  • take in account all monetary adjustments, even the smallest coins;
  • drop the coins and add some correction from time to time;
  • take in account only some approximate, for example, divisible by 10 money values.

What's the best solution for this problem?

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Why can't you track to the penny? If that's too much effort, round to the nearest dollar, but at month end, you may be off by a few dollars up or down. In the end it's a personal choice. – JoeTaxpayer Dec 19 '12 at 13:43
What specifically is the problem? – Aaron Kurtzhals Dec 19 '12 at 21:40
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Be precise:

If you are off by coins, how can you be sure that you only made a typo and didn't miss a transaction? To start off, I would strongly you find a way to be precise. It doesn't matter so much in the accounting, but the habit of doing a thorough job will pay off in other dividends down the line.

  • Good books mean you will understand where you money really went
  • Understanding where your money went, helps you create a trustworthy budget,
  • Having a trustworthy budget will tell you where you need to spend less to achieve a goal
  • Having realistic goals means you can achieve them predictably
  • And getting real results is a positive feedback loop that will help you continue budgeting.

Basically, do the pennies now. Tryout some free online software to save the headache of data entry.


Since my primary goal is to get you to do the budgeting, and if you really hate the coins, just be consistent in how you fudge the debits and the credits.

Always round down to the nearest whole in income, and always round up on expenses. You won't overspend this way, and your back account should have a little bit of padding because you will assume less money in and more money out.

Honestly, I do tracking in both Quicken and, so the transaction size is no big deal to me. If I did it all in Excel, I would round to whole notes. You didn't tag your question with a country, so I don't know if or similar is available to you.

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Here is what we do. We use YNAB to do our budgeting and track our expenses. Anything that gets paid electronically is tracked to the penny. It really needs to be, because you want your transaction records to match your bank's transaction records.

However, for cash spending, we only count the paper money, not the coins. Here is how it works:

If I want a Coke out of a vending machine for 75 cents, and I put a dollar bill in and get a quarter back as change, I record that as a $1.00 expense.

If, instead, I put 3 quarters in to get the Coke, I don't record that expense at all. Spending coins is "free money."

We do this mainly because it is just easier to keep track of. I can quickly count the cash in my wallet and verify that it matches the amount that YNAB thinks I have in my wallet, and I don't need to worry about the coins. Coins that are in my car to pay for parking meters or coins in the dish on my dresser don't need to be counted.

This works for us mainly because we don't do a whole lot of cash spending, so the amount we are off just doesn't add up to a significant portion of our spending. And, again, bank balances are exact to the penny.

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