Do you balance your checkbook? I don't.

After reading a few recent threads on various skills people do or don’t have, or were or were not taught, the skill of balancing a checkbook has come up more times than anything else. Now, I didn’t really think this qualifies as that much of a skill, it’s really just adding and subtracting, I don’t really see what’s so hard to learn about it.

Maybe my concept of what it is is wrong, but I’ve always assumed balancing a checkbook is, at the end of the week, let’s say, you go through all the checks you’ve written, ATM withdrawls, deposits, debit card purchases, etc…and come up with a total amount out or into your account, then figure out your new account balance. Why is this something that needs to be taught? Isn’t it just common sense that you should know how much money youi have? Hell, I don’t even do it, I just keep a running tally in my head. Granted, sometimes I do lose track of what I have bought and how much it was (just recently, for example. I have made several small purchses and deposits cause I just moved.) But, more or less, I know how much I have without having to write everything down, and if I do need to double-check, I just look online and voila, there is my balance, though it might not have all of today’s transactions.

So, anyone else out there use this method? For some reason it just seems easier for me to do this than to remember every week to balance my checkbook. It’s easy for me to forget to do small tasks like that, so if I tried to do it, I’d probably not do it for two motnhs and find out I’m overdrawn by $500. By forcing myself to keep a running tally in my head, I (almost) always know how much I can spend.

Of course, I only have one bank account. I’m willing to agree that if I had more than two, then I would probably need to do some more organized form of management to keep track of all of them, but for now, this works for me just fine.

I don’t balance mine.

Of course, i also keep too much money in it.

When people talk about balancing their checkbook they usually mean comparing there own idea of how much they have with the bank’s idea of how much they have, using the end of the month statement from the bank. Occasionally the bank will make errors and it’s good to catch any errors before they cause problems.

I don’t think people do it as much today because online banking makes it possible to see every transaction more often than once a month.

I balance it every day.


Get out of bed.
Shower, etc.
Make lunch for kid.
Breakfast with CNN.
Wife and kids leave for school.
Balance checkbook.

Each day I log on to my online banking and check to see what’s cleared overnight. Most of my transactions are by check card these days (I only write checks for bills)(I detest online bill-pay because it violates my ‘money comes IN quickly and goes OUT slowly’ policy) so I track them closely.

I also use Quicken. Anytime I make a purchase I save the receipt and enter them into Quicken every day or so.

That way, when I see something that doesn’t belong I can ask Lady Chance if she bought something or call the police, whichever is appropriate.

Yes, because I’ve found that if I don’t, I get the notices in the mail that there’s been a transfer from my savings account to my checking account (they’re linked as my OD protection. I prefer it that way) when I don’t expect it. Balancing my checkbook lets me know before that whether I need to transfer funds (free vs. $5 a shot if the bank does it automatically) or whether I’m carrying too much in my checking account and need to transfer some over to my savings account - which keeps me from spending money I’d rather save.

So at least once a week, I sit down and balance my checkbook, using my register and the online banking. Then I write checks for the bills that have come in during the week, transferring funds as necessary.

A big shout-out to Quicken from the Genghis household. We pay most of our bills online, and we (usually) enter those transactions we make in the meat world.

Balancing the checkbook against the bank statement takes all of 5 seconds, once a month. On the few occassions when they haven’t balanced, it’s been because of a double-entry on my part, but one time I did catch a transaction that didn’t belong to me (somebody got hold of my Debit card number and ordered satelite TV for themselves!)

I suppose balancing isn’t really necessary, since I can see the online balance that the bank thinks I have, but as others have pointed out, it’s good to know what transactions have not yet hit the bank, for cash-flow planning purposes.

I don’t balance my checkbook. Considering it is used only to pay my monthly utility bills, I give my banking statement the once over when I get it, but as long as nothing looks out of line, it is fine.

Everything else is paid for by credit card, which I of course do not balance, but peruse carefully, especially restaurant receipts.

You keep too much money in your chequebook? Yes, I guess you do.
Another non-balancer here. I’ve always wondered about the expression “balance your chequebook” I couldn’t see why anyone would bother, maybe if you’re constantly on the brink of going overdrawn and need to know from day to day what’s gone out and what is still pending.
I just wait for the monthly bank statement and look for anything out of order. And yes I keep to much money in the bank (reminds self to overpay on the mortgage again)

BTW you can get instant balances and often mini statements from many ATM/hole-in-the-wall machines here, if I was close to going overdrawn that’s what I would check with, rather than trusting my own accountancy skills.

I haven’t felt the need since banking went online, I also keep too much money in my checking account. I only write checks for 3 bills (rent power and water) the rest are paid online.

Balancing your checkbook is a necessary tool because lots of people don’t grasp the concept that checking your balance online or on an ATM receipt is useless unless you have something to compare it to. The only thing your current balance tells you is what your balance is right that instant, not whether all of your obligations have cleared…if you have no record of what transactions haven’t yet cleared, it’s meaningless.

For example, I’ve seen people whine time and again that their ATM balance said they had $500 so they spent a bunch of money they thought they had, but then their mean, nasty landlord went and cashed that rent check they’d given him 2 weeks ago and now they’re overdrawn and it’s not their fault, damn it! The ATM said they had money!! :rolleyes:

I didn’t get into the habit of balancing my checkbook until a few years ago. I enter all checking account transactions into my checkbook the day they happen, so I always know what my available balance is, but a few years back there was a significant discrepancy between what the bank thought I had and what I thought I had. Because I’d never balanced my checkbook it took AGES to track down the error, and it turns out I’d forgotten to enter an ATM withdrawal. Since then, I’ve balanced my checkbook every month – which only takes a few minutes. My records are good, but I’m also only human…I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten to log another ATM withdrawal, but there have been one or two times when I copied the total from a receipt incorrectly.

Not only does balancing my checkbook let me verify that my hand-held records are correct, it also lets me know if, say, a check that I wrote 3 months ago hasn’t cleared yet (so I know to follow up on it).

Jadis has an excellent point that your online account info (or worse, just the balance from an ATM) won’t take into account any transactions that haven’t cleared yet. If you can keep a cushion of several hundred dollars in your account at all times you may not need to ever balance it, but I don’t have that luxury.

I reconcile my checkbook (actually both my checkbook and my wife’s checkbook – a joint account) to the bank statement at the end of the month, just before I pay my bills. This ensures that I have enough money to actually pay my bills.

I don’t keep a running tally – two checkbooks makes that difficult. When I finish paying the bills, I just make sure there is enough there to get through the next month. If either of us needs to write an unusally large check, we make adjustments as necessary.

I balance my checkbook mainly because my mother was a bookeeper and raised me to be anal-retentive.

But it has proven useful to me. Sometimes the running total in my head isn’t accurate and entering the reciepts keeps me from going into the red. There was actually at least one case a few years back where I did spot a bank error and was able to get it rectified. The habit of balancing and reconciling spilled over into my credit card accounts and keeps me looking at my transactions.

I have lived paycheck to paycheck enough in my life that I needed to know exactly how much money I had between pay periods. Now with identity and account theft becoming more common, I am glad I’m in the habit of keeping a close eye on my accounts.

But that’s just me. I think a lot of people don’t bother with all this rigamarole and are no worse off for it.

I don’t. I only do one thing by cheque - pay rent. I do, however, check my online statement, which is NOT an account balance but a list of all the transactions, fairly frequently.

I make sure nothing is there that I don’t remember doing, I pay my credit card online (the money is deducted from my account imemdiately but only pays off the card a couple of days later), that’s it.

I basically do what LaurAnge does, except that I don’t pay any bills by check. I keep a balance in the account that prevents me from overdrawing, and I make all of my online and large purchases with my credit card (for the protection it provides). I figure that any errors against me are balanced out by the lack of time I have to spend dealing with my finances.

I haven’t had checks at all for a few years, nor a checkbook, natch. Everything is payed online or with credit cards. There was something I needed a check for about a year ago and I had to get my wife to write one for me. :wink:

In five years I’ve had checknig accounts, I’ve written less thasn a dozen checks. Now, the only thign I have to write them for is rent. Even then, I could get buy just givign cash, but that’s a pretty stupid thing to do, cash isn’t traceable.

I’ve occasionally tried to get in the habit of doing it, but I’ve pretty much given up. I have a general good idea of how much money I have in my account at all times, and I check the balance online at least every couple days to make sure I haven’t forgotten some purchase and my mental balance is wrong.

Works fine for me.

Since this is virtually word for word what I would have written, I’ll just say: ‘Me too.’

I’ve only just gotten my first checking account in the past month and have yet to get my first bank statement but I do keep a general running tally in my head of what I have sent (which is fairly easy… I’ve only written five checks so far) and check my online bank account every couple of days to make sure they are being cashed.