I have had my own checking account for all of my adult life, and there was a time when I failed miserably at keeping it balanced. My father showed me how to accurately balance a checkbook when I was just 15 years old, but I have to admit one fact. I’m lazy when it comes to my finances. Anything that makes my life a little easier when it comes to managing my household finances is a good thing in my book. So naturally, I was thrilled with the concept of debit cards. Unfortunately, I fell into the trap the banks set for those of us who don’t follow our balances religiously. I discovered that just because my debit card cleared a transaction didn’t mean I still had money in the bank. Debit cards weren’t check-bouncing insurance.
The laws have changed recently, so that banks are forced to decline debit card transactions that would place an account holder’s checking account balance in the red. That doesn’t help me, however, when it comes to managing my checking account balance, so I have reverted to the trick I used when paper checks were all the rage.
Register and Record Everything
Many friends of mine don’t bother recording any of their transactions into a paper or electronic register. They have this uncanny ability to recall every tiny detail of their financial lives. Others pocket all of their receipts and enter the information daily or weekly. I don’t have the memory needed to mentally track my checking account balance, and I don’t have the energy or discipline to sit down on a regular basis and enter information into a program, or a paper register.
I’ve renewed an old habit, instead. I carry my check book register with me and record every transaction as it happens, just like the old days; before carbon checks or debit cards even existed.
No, I’m not talking about horses, cows or the latest sale circulars. I’m talking about math. Because I’m neither disciplined nor energetic when it comes to updating my balance in said register, I created a method for keeping track of my checking account balance with room to spare.
I round up the nearest $5.00 increment. If I spend $37.24, I enter $40.00 in the register. The math is incredibly simple at that point, and my checking account balance is always up to the minute, with a little cushion. At the end of the week or month (or if I need to make a purchase for more than my written checking account balance reflects) I can do a quick online check of my account to add the “extra” back in.
The one bonus of this particular trick is the “bonus” factor. I know it’s only psychological, but I feel like I have “found” money when I do my final update. And in this economy, who doesn’t want to find a few extra dollars at the end of month?
Sources: Personal Experience
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