Thursday, June 25, 2009

Checkbook Reconciliation

I was recently surprised to learn a couple of my friends don't maintain a checkbook register. Both friends said they just monitor their spending by checking their balances online on the banks' websites. Then again, one of them recently fretted that his rent check would bounce since his bank failed to immediately post another prior transaction that would put him over his balance. I asked whether this would convince him to keep a register and he said, "Heck no. I'm just going to change to a bank that will post my transactions real-time."

I think my friend's system is reckless since I always believe that there will be a lag-time between when deposits/payments post onto our accounts. Additionally, with online bill pay, if people set some payments to future dates, their current realtime balance would never coincide with their true balance.

Case in point, my checking account balance is currently reported as $3,849.46, but there are $3,778.68 payments currently outstanding. That would mean my real balance is $70.78. My check register says my balance is $18.00, but the discrepancy comes from the fact that when I calculate my balance, I always round-up my payments and I round-down my deposits. I play this silly game to ensure I will never be overdrawn. (Silly, I know.) But when I'm short some months, my "cushion" has often come to my rescue. :-P

Anyhow, my checkbook reconciliation is such a pain in my patootie. Instructions on how-to reconcile your checkbook aren't all that simple either.

Do you keep a check register? If not, how do you maintain the balance of your checkbook to prevent overdraft?


asgreen said...

Since I started tracking all my expenses I no longer feel the need to balance my checkbook. I guess you can just say I'm now balancing my checkbook on excel instead of with the little books they give you.

444 said...

I have to actually keep a paper register. In fact, (I know this is funny) I hoard those paper registers that come with a new box of checks. I don't write many paper checks but I do plenty of electronic transactions. So I have plenty of registers when needed - I just pick one out of my hoarded stack.

Right now I have four active paper registers on my desk: One for my main checking, one for Mr. 444's main checking, one for another bank's checking he uses but with less traffic, and one for yet another bank's checking that I use even less frequently. (We have zero joint accounts.)

He uses a spreadsheet to keep track of his accounts and I know he thinks it's quaint of me to use paper, but it works for me. Sometimes I actually like to hold something in my hand and write in it with a pen or pencil. Weird, I know. But my paper version is the authority and the online versions are only checked so I can reconcile the two, pretty much every day. Occasionally we check my paper versions against his spreadsheet for a triple-check. This makes for zero mistakes (overdrafts) when done properly.

Ms. MoneyChat said...

I'm with asgreen. I used to maintain a register prior to this year. My income and expenses are in excel so in essence, I guess that's a form of maintaining a register. For the most part my transactions are the same each month and all of my bills are done via online bill pay (scheduled real time). I do reconcile the account monthly to the bank statement.

My discretionary spending is a separate account, to which I only have a debit card ... no checks, no online bill payments. I transfer my blow money to it each Friday. Unlike my main account, I don't have an excel file or register for the blow money; nor do I reconcile it. It's primarily monitored online and in my head.

Anonymous said...

I never balance my checkbook. Really, I don't think I ever did, but I never overdrafted.

I track my spending, and really, almost nothing comes out of my checking account except monthly credit card charges, which I do manually and typically just pay to $0 each payday (which is overkill).

Rent has it's own dedicated account (money market w/check writing). I like to keep my cash flow checking balance around $500, unless I have some unusual thing come up where I know I'll need cash.

Zyzzyx said...

Check register? Whazzat? ;)

Been with ING for a couple years now, do nearly everything online. Still have a WAMU (now Chase) account, but have probably only written 6 checks in the last two years.

I log in to my account at least every other day, and have various email notifications set up. Don't keep track of it externally, but I've always got a good idea of where I'm at. And with low-balance notifications, I can transfer money over if I know there's drafts that are coming up.

Miss M said...

I've never, ever kept a checkbook register. I've never balanced a checkbook. I use carbon copy checks and track our spending in my budget spreadsheet. I have a color system to note things spent but not yet paid, once the bill (or whatever) is actually paid the color changes again. I've bounced now 2 checks in my life, the last cause I mailed the mortgage payment a little early. It always takes a week to process but somehow it was cashed the day after I mailed it in! Lots of us don't balance our checkbooks.

chacha said...

I keep a check register and it's almost always accurate to the cent. That way I can always grab it out of my bag and obsess over it. It's probably an OCD thing, but it helps me know exactly what's going on with my money.

Happy birthday! Mine was Monday :o)

Anonymous said...

I don't use cheques - never have, and don't see why I ever will. I keep tabs on my accounts via online banking and so I guess I've never learned to "balance" a checkbook!

MoneyMateKate said...

Nope, don't keep a check register. I write one a month for rent and every now and then one for doctors' co-insurance, but that's pretty much it. I've never been overdrawn, never gotten any nasty why bother?