Thursday, June 10, 2010
Balancing the Checkbook
For years, I've carefully filed all my ATM and bank receipts, so that at the end of every month I can reconcile them with my bank statement. I go through and check everything off in the checkbook to indicate that it's cleared and then balance the remainder of the transactions to be sure the bank and I agree how much money I really have.
Recently, though, I thought about how absurdly antiquated the process is. It was designed for a time when bank statements came monthly in the mail. Nowadays I can hop online and check the status of my account at any time. I can make sure my checks and ATM transactions clear correctly in a matter of days, and there's much less ambiguity about outstanding transactions. (Especially now that I write far fewer checks, preferring to use electronic fund transfers.)
I tried to abandon the practice. I just logged on and checked my account every now and then, to make sure everything looked kosher.
But I never got past the uneasy feeling that I didn't know exactly how much money I had. There were always a few things outstanding that weren't yet shown online. And what if the same ATM charged me twice within a period of a few days -- would I even notice? I felt a little careless, a little sloppy.
So today I sat down and entered three months' worth of transactions in my check register, and I'm going back to my old system. It seems silly to work with so much paper, but old habits die hard. How do you all manage your checkbooks? Do you balance them or just keep an eye on the account directly?
(Photo: Art by Dasic in Bushwick, Brooklyn.)