Do You Balance Your Checkbook?

posted by Andrea | 10/27/2011

source:

The other day, I was having a conversation with one of my friends and some how we got talking about my checkbook and that I had made a simple addition mistake that got everything out of whack.

Fortunately {since I check my online account and balance my checkbook at least once a week} I caught my error early on and could quickly go back and make the appropriate changes.

Yes, I do still use a paper checkbook register! 

Even though I do almost ALL our banking electronically, automatically pay all our bills electronically, and rarely ever write paper checks, I’m still in the habit of regularly monitoring our different checking and savings accounts to make sure everything balances out. Maybe this is old fashioned, but you would not believe how many mistakes I’ve caught because of this!

However, as I was talking with my friend, it quickly became apparent that she didn’t balance her checkbook… or even HAVE a checkbook register! She just relied on her online bank statement to be an accurate account of how much money she did or didn’t have.

So that got me thinking…

  • what if you write a big check or make a big payment but it takes a week or more to “clear” from your account… so you think you have more money than you actually do and run the risk of over-drawing your account?
  • what if your bank makes a mistake — but you never catch it because you don’t keep your own checkbook register balanced and up-to-date?
  • what if someone gets ahold of your debit card or account number and steals some or all of your money — but you might not notice because you don’t keep your own records?
  • what if you get charged the wrong amount for something but didn’t realize it because you threw your receipt away and never wrote it down in your own checkbook register?

I know I’ve caught mistakes and errors in the past — only because I had things accurately written down in my own checkbook register. However, my friend seemed to think it was not necessary to have her own checkbook register.

Why I Use a Checkbook Register:

  • I feel like I’m more “in control” of my money and my spending
  • I know exactly how much money is available to me at all times {and this is not necessarily the same amount as my online statement might show}
  • I can more quickly and easily catch any mistakes that might have been made either by myself, by the bank, or by the company I purchased a product from.
  • It’s a great habit to get into and helps me stay on budget

Do You Balance Your Checkbook?

Am I the only “old-fashioned” person left who takes time each week to balance my checkbook registry and check for any issues?

What are some of the reasons you do {or do not} take the time to balance your checkbook?

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30 comments

  1. Judy @ A Meek Perspective

    10/27/2011

    A resounding “Yes!”. I am an accountant so I am very particular about my checking account. I have created an Excel Spreadsheet as my check register so I no longer fill out a paper register. The Excel Register automatically does the additions and subtractions for me. I store the file in Drop Box so if something happened to my computer unexpectedly (which it did last week), I always have the file where I can access it from any other computer. I always know how much money we have.

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    Laura Reply:

    Ditto, Judy! My response was going to be pretty much word for word what your repsonse says!

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    Tammy Reply:

    Any chance you’d be willing to share that spreadsheet? I would like a way to track our register without paper since I rarely write checks.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Just an FYI Tammy, I have a link to my spreadsheet here — and it’s totally free to download!

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    Tammy Reply:

    thank you! I have downloaded that actually, I love that you offer it…I have been looking for an electronic replacement for our register though…without buying a complex financial program. I can’t tell you how much I have loved your tips, recipes and systems!

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  2. Kristia {Family Balance Sheet}

    10/27/2011

    I use Quicken to balance my checking account and I check my account weekly. I haven’t used a paper ledger in years. I hardly write checks anymore, because I use online bill payer.

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  3. Tonya

    10/27/2011

    You definitely are not the only one who uses a paper register and balances to the bank weekly (sometimes daily). I would feel so out of control if I didn’t have my paper tracks.

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  4. Mary

    10/27/2011

    Ive never understood how people DONT balance it. I agree with you, how do you know how much you have left? However, being that I am on the computer at least 4 times a week ALL DAY, I balance mine in excel because it has formulas for you and it minimizes the chance of adding mistakes. I have a spreadsheet with different tabs that I use to track every transaction, deposit, withdrawl. I have tabs for savings goals, special project expenses vs budget, credit card balances (when I plan on paying the off), etc…

    I break up my bills within the 2 pay periods I have a month and I change the amounts as they change and hi light them when they are paid. That way I dont miss any bills since I still like receiving paper bills and sometimes they get lost. It helps me to know when can I afford the next project, how much do I have saved for my son’s college days, are my bills exceeding my income..etc…

    Im suprised you havent done this Andrea! You should def try it. its worth it. You can filter your spreadsheets…I know you guys dont spend much on eating out and all that stuff, but if you wanted to track business expenses, you could add a column that says personal/business and it helps for taxes, what nots. I like it because I own three different properties and I like to keep them separated for tax purposes yet I can put them in the same spreadsheet.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds like you have a pretty good system down Mary!
    And I DO have a very elaborate series of spreadsheets that I use to track every single penny we earn and spend. However, that is totally different than my checkbook register.

    Since we pay for almost every single thing with our credit card, none of those transactions would ever show up on our checkbook register — so that’s why I use my budgeting spreadsheet. The checkbook register just manages our income, our credit card payments, mortgage payments, and the few other things we don’t/can’t put on our credit card.

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    Ashley Reply:

    I <3 Excel spreadsheets!

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  5. The Diaper Diaries

    10/27/2011

    I balance my check book but do everything online. I don’t even know where my checkbook register would be!! I use Microsoft Money which I love because it budgets, graphs and does all the math for me. Super easy!!

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  6. Holly

    10/27/2011

    We don’t use a paper check register either. We keep track of all our transactions and budget using Mint.com. Once a week we sit down and balance that with our online bank statement and our receipts. It’s worked really well for us and has majorly streamlined the process since we balance the books and the budget at the same time and it pulls transactions in automatically.

    Another thing we have worked to do is save up one month’s worth of expenses to keep in our checking account. We are actually spending the money we earned last month on this month’s bills and expenses. We never have to worry about bouncing a check since the right amount of money is in our checking account at the beginning of each month. It takes a while to save for, but the peace of mind is totally worth it!

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  7. Cheryl

    10/27/2011

    I balance all my accounts when I get the statements. I don’t keep a paper register, but I enter everything into Money. We use a credit card for everything we possibly can, then pay it off at the end of each month. I enter the receipts into Money just like I would a checking account, and save the receipts until I get the statement. Several times I have caught overcharges at restaurants this way (most recently, someone added a dollar to the tip and I was able to catch it while reconciling the account, and I also had the receipt to take to the restaurant). I couldn’t stand not knowing how much money I have and where it is!

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  8. cristy

    10/27/2011

    I don’t balance it. I don’t enter charges into anything. I’m so bad. We have a savings account attached to the checking in the event of overdrafts that has never been used. I do look at our account online daily and make sure that any charges posted are legitimate, while they’re fresh in my mind. But that’s it!

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  9. Zolane

    10/27/2011

    I’m going to make you feel very modern! I still balance my checkbook – HAS to be exactly right, use a check register and still write paper checks to pay my bills! The thought of paying my bills online electronically makes me too nervous! (Guess I like to feel have the illusion of control :)).

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  10. Debra Schramm

    10/27/2011

    I use a paper checkbook register also. I’m an accountant and keep up with every penny. Good stewardship requires that you know where your money goes and how much you have available. I also do the bookkeeping for my church and I am amazed at the people who tell me they don’t balance their checkbook. I’m also amazed at the number of people who think the online balance is their actual balance. What if your mortgage check hasn’t cleared yet? I just don’t get it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  11. Julia

    10/27/2011

    Andrea, I don’t keep any kind of register! I wish I did sometimes, but I’ve not had a major event. I mean, we live within a very a strict budget, and only use the bank to pay bills that I enter into billpay. I don’t know how, but we keep good track of our records nonetheless… and we get bank balance alerts sent to us. I even manage our rental properties this way! Eeek. So maybe God is really kind to me or we’re on top of it in our own unique way.

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  12. Jen

    10/27/2011

    I totally still use a checkbook register and i write checks :) i would be so paranoid if i didn’t balance my checkbook! for all the reasons you listed!

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  13. Shannon

    10/27/2011

    I still use a paper check register! I pay a lot of bills online but I like seeing the register on paper and I balance it every few days.

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  14. Kristin

    10/28/2011

    If I didn’t use my register, I’d feel extremely lost. I don’t use any spreadsheets and I balance via our banking website once a week. I have friends that don’t use any kind of register… they are frequently over-drawn and always struggling waiting for their next paycheck. I have tried to talk them into budgeting & actually using some kind of system to register, with no luck. (It is awful to hear their problems, but all you can do is try!)

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  15. Patty Gardner

    11/12/2011

    I balance my checkbook a couple times a week. I keep track of my spending in my Franklin Covey compact planner using the check register pages. I highlight each item as it clears the bank and put a little “B” next to the balance to show it balanced. I, too, have found many mistakes. There’s no way I would trust the bank or rely on the balance shown on-line.

    I do pay my bills on-line and keep several things on the computer but my check register is on old-fashioned paper. I did try using Quicken and a spreadsheet but paper works best for me. It also allows me to update my checkbook anytime – even when I’m out or sitting on the couch.

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  16. Kim c

    03/05/2012

    I love this post! I actually enjoy balancing our checkbooks. Each week I balance six different accounts. We also handle financial matters for my mother in law who can no longer handle it for herself. My husband and I each work together using our strengths, he takes care of investments and I handle bill paying and balancing of accounts. Then we sit down together once or twice a month to make sure that we are both on the same page financially. I am happiest when I know we are being as responsible as we can with our money and my mother in laws money.

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  17. Cathy D

    03/05/2012

    I use two registers for the same account; one for recurring bills/expenses the other for everything else. I figure what all of my recurring bills will be for the year and divide them by 52 (we are pd weekly). I split our weekly pay between the two registers. I have automated all of my regular bills. When I get a draft notice or bill pay report I deduct it from the register immediately even if it won’t draft for several days because I consider the money already spent. The money in the bill register is not used for anything that is not on the list. I try to maintain a minimum balance in the spending money register as a cushion. When it comes time to reconcile I just add the two balances together. Even though I use Quickbooks for work and the PTA, I haven’t found an electronic method that suits my method. I’ve tried Quicken and Mint but they just don’t seem to suit me either. Another thing I do is subscribe to automatic alerts for credit card transactions and account balance. I also keep a savings account that I automatically draft part of our paycheck to every week to build our emergency fund and protect us from overdraft. I know it sounds kind of convoluted, but it works for me. I’ll admit I slacked off for several months a while back and I found it very stressful.

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  18. L.

    04/01/2012

    can u post instructions on how to balance a checkbook? and maybe some pics?

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  19. Kim

    09/24/2012

    We use a system called Mvelopes. It does cost a little, but it is well worth it. All of our accounts (bank and credit) are attached to it. I even have a mobile app where I can input transactions as I make them. It is basically an online “envelope” system. You can divide stuff into your envelopes when you get paid and it subtracts as you go. It is amazing!!!

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  20. Mark

    02/02/2013

    I do both a checkbook register and online banking. I keep an electronic register on my iPhone (since I don’t always have a pen handy). I also reconcile that with what is on the online records once every two weeks.

    As far as online banking being reliable in place of a register: it is not. I am a landlord, while we deposit the checks we get from our tenants within 2 days of receiving them, they have still been caught off guard. The forgot about an outstanding check, or a recurring automatic withdrawal, and our check gets retured. Unless you have a ton of disposable income, it is absolutely necessary to have a mechanism to know exactly how much immediate liquidity you have at any given time.

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  21. Susan Young

    10/28/2014

    I, too, still maintain a checkbook register even though I do most of my banking online! I am 65 yrs. old and it still seems strange to not pay for everything with a paper check but I do enjoy the ease of online banking. And like Andrea I am on my banking site several times a week to “check on things!” I also regularly (several times a week) go on our Discover and Visa websites to verify purchases and charges. And I have found mistakes made by my bank and a recent charge to a credit card not made by me! And I never ever use a debit card!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I never use a debit card either — in fact, I have never used one in my entire life and I’ve also never been to an ATM. It’s that crazy!!

    I’m just a “pay for it with credit card” and online banking kind of girl I guess :)

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  22. Michele

    10/28/2014

    Yes and no. Yes, I balance my checking accounts myself, but I set up an Excel spreadsheet so that the math is done for me. I just set it up exactly like a check book register. (I even put in a column for the few checks I actually write; when they clear, I mark it with an “x”.) But no, I don’t leave it up to the bank to keep me on track. They make mistakes just like we do.

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  23. Donna M.

    10/28/2014

    It’s been years since I balanced my check book and I used to be a to the penny balancer. I lived in fear of bouncing a check. That was when every penny was needed for bills. I was a SAHM with two kids and there were days I was in tears, not knowing how we were going to make it. Now we are at a point where we no longer have to watch every penny and it helps that neither of us are spenders. We have money direct deposited into 2 checking accounts, a savings account and a Christmas club account. One checking account is for big expenses like taxes and insurance for house and vehicles and for expenses on rental properties. Kind of like an escrow account. The other checking is for everyday living and bills. In October the Christmas club account is automatically transferred to that account. The savings is for emergency only. I do check all of these accounts daily online and check with my husband if I see anything I don’t recognize. I’ve never had a problem with this. It’s funny that the only time I had a problem was when I used a register before computers. Someone stole checks I was mailing out of our mailbox and used other stolen checks which they made out to me and using our stolen account number, deposited the stolen checks into our account and got cash out on the deposit. They went to 3 branches before they were asked for ID. I caught that immediately because I would check my account daily via telephone. All of our bills are paid by automatic debit except for one credit card which I pay off monthly online. This works well for us.

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