Do you balance your checking account?

Is there anyone else out there that never balances their checking account? This is something I simply do not do, and haven’t done for over ten years. My philosophy is that the amount of money I might lose from an incorrectly entered amount isn’t worth the time I’d spend every month trying to keep track of receipts and balance statements. I figure that checking my account when the statement comes in for any unusual purchases is good enough, and in the ten years I’ve done this, I’ve only had to correct one or two things and double-check a few more.

Anyone else out there like this?

What time? I stick a receipt in my checkbook when I use my debit or Checkcard and enter it in when I get home (so I don’t hold up the lines at the stores). Every week or so, I go online and see what has cleared, make sure it’s the same amount, and that there aren’t any “extra” charges that I didn’t make.

I spend maybe 15mins every time I balance it, and that includes loading time on the website.

I let the receipts pile up for about 3 or 4 months, and then I’ll finally make an afternoon of balancing the checkbook once I feel sufficiently guilty about it. I have sometimes found some whopper errors. Discovering that the bank entered “$24” instead of “$224” is worth the time IMHO.

I wonder why the front page of this forum shows the last poster as Unregistered instead of drewbert.

See, I never feel guilty about it. I would notice glaringly obvious discrepancies in the statement, but I just can’t be bothered with making sure that each side zeroes out.

And before anyone wonders, I haven’t bounced a check in 10 years either.

I write checks for most things except when I buy food. I will normally go a few weeks between even balancing it then spend a few mintues to make sure I haven’t made a mistake and taken out too much money. Other than that no I don’t spend much time with my check book.

I’m too forgetful to try to keep up with how much money is in my account. I take all of my check card receipts home at the end of the day and enter them into Quicken. When my monthly statement comes in it takes about 15 minutes to reconcile. It’s saved my butt on many occasions.

I also don’t balance my checkbook. I look at my monthly statement and just work from that. Hasn’t been a problem thus far.

We actually do it twice. My wife prefers her “paper and pencil” method and balances the books in her checkbook. I prefer Microsoft Money and balance it there as well.

Zev Steinhardt

I’ve gotten in trouble when I haven’t balanced it. If I just work off of ATM receipts, I tend to think I have more money than I actually do, because I forget to take into account checks that haven’t cleared yet. Then I end up spending money I don’t have. So I try to balance it every week or so.

I am extremely anal-retentive about this, and always have been. I don’t write many checks - for most purchases I use a credit card and pay it off at the end of the month. It only takes me about 2 minutes to balance my checkbook now, since I use Quicken on-line and have all my transactions downloaded.

We don’t balance our checkbook right now…and I feel horrible about it. On the upside though, I keep track of everything in my head, and check with the bank on a daily basis (on the phone and online.) We never have to worry about checks that haven’t cleared yet, because I check every day, and we only write checks for bills anway. Most of our spending other than that is in cash, and I rarely forget our ATM/debit withdrawls. So so far, it hasn’t bitten us in the ass, however, I plan to start balancing in the very near future.

I always keep my checkbook balanced, if only because I keep as little money as possible in my checking account, and don’t want to get with overdraft fees.

I used to balance my checkbook by hand, but occassionally got some errors. Nowadays, I use Quicken, and it’s easy enough that it doesn’t bother me at all.

Funny you should bring this up.

My husband and I have separate checking accounts. This occured after a few months of my frustration over trying to reconcile our checking account, pay bills, etc. while he was using his debit card and not giving me the receipts. He got his own checking account and a few bills to be responsible for, and we were both happy. Until…

We are both set up in Microsoft Money, which makes it very easy to keep a running balance. I usually enter all my receipts / pay bills once a week, when I get paid. Looking at the list of accounts, it is clear to me that Mr. V hasn’t been balancing his account. When I bring it up, he assures me he is on top of it, just behind in entering receipts in Money, but he knows what he has. Fine.

A few months ago we bought a house, and I set up a savings account that we put money into every week (auto transfer) so we have money to pay our property taxes, which are not part of our mortgage payment. Summer taxes, due in June, we estimate to be a little over $1.000.00. Microsoft Money tells me by now we have more than enough. Great.

Mr. V and I get separate bank statements, but from the outside you cannot tell which is which. I opened his statement by accident for April, and promptly had a coronary. You see…

Mr V’s checking account is linked to this savings account (which I was not aware of). If he overdrafts his checking account, it takes money from: first his regular savings, then from this account. Mr V has been grossly overestimating his financial situation. Mr. V’s “running total in his head” was off. Way off.

Over the course of a month and a half, Mr. V has managed to deplete our entire tax savings account. It. Is. All. Gone. To what? I gathered all his receipts and entered them for him. $20.00 here, $50.00 there. Overdraft, overdraft, overdraft.

After a thorough “discussion” when he got home, he is sincerely ashamed and penitent. Mr. V. now balances his checking account. Every day. Tax savings account is no longer his overdraft backup.

I should have married an accountant.

Every month, to the penny. They should have taught me how to do it in school…to hell with algebra.

I keep all my receipts with me in my wallet, and then after about a week, pull out my checkbook and balance the fucker. Mainly because everytime I go to an ATM machine, the balance is WAY off, so I can’t really trust it. I feel more confident in my own methods, and whenever it arrives, I compare my books with my bank statement. Hey, I’m poor, I need to keep track of every penny.

What we do that’s kept us from ever overdrafting is that we consider an amount over $0 to be a zero balance. For example, in college, our zero balance was $500. If we had $510 in there, that meant we only had $10 to spend, not $510. Now it’s higher since we’re not dirt poor any longer. The only excuse for going below our zero balance is an emergency.

I know you’re not supposed to keep a lot of money in your checking account because it doesn’t make any interest, but we maximize our retirement plans to the point of saving about 30% of our gross income and can afford to essentially “waste” some of our money.

Lawsy, child, I haven’t balanced the damn thing since the Reagan administration (and I’ve only had a checking account since 1985). Even early on, I always operated by cash machine; keeping tracking of each of the receipts was much more trouble than it was worth. Lately it’s even more useless since I write so few checks: since 1998 I’ve done almost all of my transactions using a MasterCard debit card, automatic withdrawal or internet payment, reducing the number of paper checks I write to 5-6 a year. So far this year, I think I’ve written one.

That said, I’ve also always monitored my balance closely - first by ATM, then by phone, and now by net as technology marches on. Come to think of it, the only time I ever bounced a check was when I was still balancing the book. Never since. So I always know exactly what’s going on. I’ve caught unauthorized charges within hours of their occurring.

I do not worry about the bank’s ability to handle basic arithmetic. Given my close monitoring, I feel quite certain that whatever small losses I may have suffered over the years are de minimis compared with the time and aggravation balancing involves. Plus, I now download my statements into Excel - and I’m damn certain Excel does just arithmetic just fine.

Maybe next year: completely paperless banking. Ahhhhh.

I never balance mine - I just keep in my head. Also, my bank has one of those 24 hour automated lines that let’s you know which checks have cleared, which deposits have been credited, withdrawals subtracted, etc - so I just check when I am uncertain

I haven’t balanced my checking account since . . . ?

I follow a few simple rules:

  1. Never spend more than you put in.
    Well, I forget how much I put in since I have automatic paycheck deposit and my paycheck can vary by $500 if it includes a reimbursement for work travel. I write a note about how much my pay was, but I usually find it buried in a pocket when I’m doing laundry.

  2. For every check you write, round it up by to the nearest $5 when figuring your balance. This will build a nice cushion over time.

Of course, I put everything I can on the credit card to get airmiles. I write about 4 checks a month.

I just look at my printout of which checks I’ve written to make sure that nothing seems out of line.

Balance it?

I’ve pretty obsessive about this - I write lots of checks (riding lessons, music lessons, paying my soul to this silly college…) and always balance it every night when I’ve written a check. I do it far more so that I know how much money I really have than to check the bank’s math. Plus I find it strangely enjoyable… I know I could do a lot of the things I do with checks electronically, but I’d far rather have everything there on paper in front of me than in my computer somewhere.