Shortly after my wife and I were married, I decided it was a good idea to lay off my anal-retentive checkbook balancing that had gone on for many years as I dug myself out of debt.
In fact (and I'm ashamed to admit this) I almost entirely stopped tracking our expenses altogether. I figured we were making a decent amount of money that we really wouldn't have to “worry” about registering our debits and credits.
Fortunately enough, this phase didn't last long. Mainly because it didn't work very well.
Now, I know there are many of you who are great with their money and don't keep a budget. Nor do you track your expenses on paper. Perhaps you have automated everything and you use the online bank statement as your “register”. That's great.
This just does not work for me.
I love my checkbook register
I love having an updated account of things coming and going – in real-time. I don't have to wait for money to “clear” or checks to be cashed. What I have available for funds is determined – to the minute – by what my check register says.
I don't foresee ever going back to the register-free days. And looking back, I can't imagine living like that again!
The advantages to using a checking register
I recently read a report that said 90% of folks still write checks every month. And, that more than a third believed they will always need to write a check.
I thought this was good news. Now, I don't know if the folks writing checks are registering what they are spending – but indications appear as though the checkbook will continue to be a fixture in our everyday personal finances.
There are several benefits to keeping a check register. Among them:
Real-time account info. As I mentioned – nothing is more reassuring than having up-to-the-minute stats about your financial well-being. When you keep a register, there is no second-guessing or wondering. What you have in the account is what you have.
Track it all. In my checkbook register, I keep everything related to our finances. Deposits, checks, check card transactions, ATM, and other withdrawals. It is the playbook of our finances.
Budget aid. At the end of the month, I love being able to easily sort through my register and put our expenses and income on an Excel spreadsheet. The information from the register provides the info needed to build an accurate and reliable budget.
Record of payment. Going along with the real-time benefit of using a register – having a “record of payment” can be very valuable. My online bank statement does not provide me with the name of the payee on my checks until the monthly statement. And if I need to find out who a check was written out to – the info is easily accessible in my checkbook.
They're free. Most banks will give you free check registries simply for the asking. They'll also provide a checkbook cover. Can't beat that.
Are you using one?
I'm curious – are you still using the check registry? Or, have you found a better method for tracking your finances in real-time?