177 – June 26
“The truth will set you free—but first it will piss you off.” –Werner Erhard
“Please balance my checkbook for me!” My new client, an attractive blond woman who held a highly responsible job in city government pleaded with me. “No matter what I do, I just never can get my checking account to balance.”
I soon discovered why. When I started matching her bank statement with her check register, I discovered that she rarely wrote in the correct amount of the check. The check and the bank statement would show that she wrote a check to the cleaners for $42.30. But she recorded this check on her check register as $40! The check to the clothing store was written for $178.62, but her check register said $200. Most of her checks were rounded figures instead of the exact amount. Then, of course, there were the six or seven checks she just forgot to record at all…
In the twelve years I owned my bookkeeping service, I encountered many people who just couldn’t master balancing a checkbook. Twenty-six percent of Americans say they have balanced their checkbooks in the past year, according to Maritz Marketing Research. Not that many, is it?
In the twelve years I owned my bookkeeping service, I encountered many people who just couldn’t master balancing a checkbook. Twenty-six percent of Americans say they have balanced their checkbooks in the past year, according to Maritz Marketing Research. Not that many, is it? Some people regularly closed their checking accounts and started over every year in order to get a fresh start at trying to keep track of it. But this became the new habit pattern, and they still didn’t balance their checkbook, knowing they’d get a fresh start next year. These people also tended to have the unfortunate belief that they could call the bank each day to find out how much money was left in their account. Please note: This doesn’t work because the bank can only give you the total based on the checks that have gotten to them for payment. They don’t know about the $300 check you wrote yesterday and mailed to someone, so they aren’t deducting that amount when they give you your total!
Balancing your checkbook is part of counting your money. It’s important to know how much money you have at your disposal at any given time. Otherwise, you have tension and stress every time you write a check, wondering if it will bounce! Here is a handy tip for keeping your check register correct: Always write the amount of the check in your register first. Then write the check. This will become a habit, and you won’t ever again forget to record checks. This will make the process of doing a regular monthly bank reconciliation easy and smooth—a “no more tears” proposition—and it will only take five minutes. Your tension and fear will dissipate and you will enjoy feeling in control of your money.
“I love to count my money and I create lots of money to count!”
People don’t use as many checks as they once did, paying a lot of bills through online banking, automatic charges to their bank account, or using credit cards. It’s still important to keep track of your spending, no matter what method of payment you use. How many of you are surprised when the credit card bill come in to see how much money you spent? Credit cards are handy tools, but people get in trouble when they don’t keep track of how much money they actually have.
There was a time (yeah, in the distant past of the 60s and 70s) when credit cards weren’t accepted at the grocery store. I went to the store with a certain amount of cash and if my total went over that amount at the cash register, I put things back. Now my tendency with the credit card is to just buy whatever I want and worry about paying the bill when it comes in next month. I have a pretty good feel for my “ballpark” figure of food expenditures, but sometimes it goes a bit over what I expected, and I think back – did I really need to buy the garlic butter spread? I only used it once…
What helps this situation is to have a check register for credit card charges. Write them all down as they occur, just like you do with checks. Then you’ll never be surprised at your bill again, and it just might stop you from spending on unnecessary items.
What do you do to keep your credit card charges in line with your budget?