The system is flexible and allows the temporary adoption of subheads when these seem worth while. For example, if the cost of the meat used has a tendency to mount too rapidly during the winter, a card can be written for Food-Meat Nov. 1922-Feb. 1923, the note being written just below; Other months on main Food card. A subhead adopted and later judged useless is
The cards are spread a little to show the arrangement of headings. When the Clothing cards of the little daughter Barbara end, another guide lettered "Clothing (A.B.)" begins the mother's record.
quickly got rid of by adding the total to the card with the main heading, and filing the itemized account in Used Cards.
The card containing the Budget is better placed at the beginning, before the alphabetic file. The Income card or cards may follow it or may be put into the alphabetic file. This card, by the way, is conveniently kept in two divisions (either different columns, different sides of one card or different cards) for income on which tax must be paid and for that which is exempt. The latter must of course be reported in the income tax return, but the separation has to be made there, and time is saved if it is made currently. The Assets cards are more conveniently kept clipped together at the back of the file, as they are not used with any frequency. Extra cards of record, such as the record of bonds described in Chapter XV, or a card for Loans, or any other item relating to expense, are filed into the alphabet for easy reference.
Arrange this file, then select headings for the guide cards. The first, with the tab at the extreme left, is naturally Accounts, then the next, whose tab falls just to the right, may be Clothing. The one with the middle tab may be Food, the one whose tab falls just to the right of it Income, the one whose tab falls at the extreme right Postage. The exact headings chosen are not so important, but the guides should be so arranged that one does not hide another and the headings chosen should be among those often used. They greatly facilitate the finding of the cards needed. At the back of the file place the blank cards that are left, and the unused guides. Complete the file by placing at the very front a piece of blotting paper cut to the size of the cards.
The cards may of course be strapped together with a heavy rubber band or a narrow elastic, but they are easier to use and suffer less from wear and tear if they are kept in a regular file box. These are obtainable in wood, the outside measurements being approximately 6 1/2 x 5 1/16 x 3 5/8 Such a box will hold the cards for the accounts of a family of five for at least three years, perhaps more. Select a box with a hinged cover, rather than an uncovered box (allowing dust to settle on the cards) or one with a removable cover, which is easily misplaced and not as easily replaced on the box without damage to the guides. The box can easily be decorated by a coat or two of coach paint, some stencils and a coat of white shellac. A gay account box has a certain psychological effect. If the box seems at the moment an extravagance, a box or tray can be contrived of a small wooden or strong pasteboard box of approximately the right size. The sides should be high enough to hold the cards upright, but low enough to allow the handling of the top of the cards from the side; a good height is three inches. All these details may seem trivial, but it is very important to make the machinery of account keeping as easy as possible to use. Some of the details have other importance. For example, if the year date is left off the top line of any card, confusion may result several years later, when one wants to look up the details of earlier expenditure.
With the file and notebooks all ready - well before the date of beginning the accounts - the first day sees pencil entries in one or more of the notebooks. Let this run on for a week, then at a stated time (not necessary, but on the whole easier), enter on the cards all the items of the week. Collect all the notebooks and the sheets from the kitchen pad. Perhaps there has been some odd note during the week, in which case the natural place to drop the paper containing it is the Accounts box, in front of the file. (Here go any temporary notes regarding accounts, such as a loan to be repaid in a day or two.) Then there is the check-book, which has been used also, perhaps, as is advised in Chapter XIV. Gather them all and enter the data. Obviously the entries cannot be made in a sprawling or careless hand. A printing such as is represented in the illustrations is easily acquired and economizes space, but any neat small hand will do. Ink should be used, as the mark of even a hard pencil is rubbed when the cards are handled.
In the first column goes the date - not the year, since that is at the top of the card, but the month (or abbreviation) and the day. Where several purchases of the week can be classed together, there is no point in giving separate entry to the several items because they were on different days. For example, during the week beginning July 6 vegetables may have been bought every day but Sunday. The entry is then not detailed, but under Food-Vegetables "July 6-11 3.14." In such a case of detailed subhead, the card may even have its entries run along with a cumulating total, as is described under Postage in Chapter V. If matches were bought on July 8 and kerosene for the oil stove on July 10 the entry under Fuel reads
July 8-10 Matches .12 5 Kerosene .85 .97
Or, if there is no danger of failing to identify entries in case of doubt, the month alone may be used
July Matches .12 5 Kerosene .85 .97
Economy of space is desirable and many devices there are to obtain it.
One of these is for such frequent small expenditures as newspapers or magazines bought away from home, the small fees paid for polishing shoes, the cost of sending parcel post packages. In any of these cases a slip of paper clipped to the back of the proper card in the Accounts enables one to note these expenses here as they occur and then occasionally to make one entry such as: