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How to Balance Your Checkbook

balancing checkbook

How do You Balance Your Checkbook?

Balancing your checkbook may make you want to run and hide.  Please don’t!  It really is not anywhere near as hard as it might seem.  Here we are going to look at the different tools that you can use to balance your checkbook plus how to balance your checkbook by hand and with Quicken.

Tools for Balancing a Checkbook

 

Today there are many options available for managing your checking account and other financial accounts.  We are no longer regulated to just a pen and paper.  Following are the options you can consider for tracking your checking account.

  1. Pen and Paper – maybe you like doing it the good old fashioned way.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.  And I believe it has some major emotional benefits when you write out your expenses.
  2. Downloadable Software – this is software that you typically purchase and use on your own desktop.  This gives you the benefit of maintaining control over the data so you can use it down the road.  I prefer Quicken (Quicken Review).
  3. Online software – these include sites such as mint where you link your accounts to their software and you run your financial management from their site.  The number of these sites seems to grow each day, so look Google “online personal finance software” as there may be new ones available.  Ones that I have checked out and like: Mint, Personal Capital, and Manilla.
  4. Phone apps – I personally have not used one of these but know that there are many of them available.  I recommend you pick out two or three and use them simultaneously in order to determine which one you like the best.  I recommend simultaneously because you can quickly get the feel for which one matches your management style and then you can be off and running, you won’t spend months looking for the right one.

A couple of things to keep in mind when you select your checking account tracking method.

  • You don’t want to have to duplicate too much work, so don’t use Quicken and a tracking app on your phone unless they automatically sync together.  The easier you make it the better as you are more prone to stick with it for the long run.
  • Select what works for you.  If you rarely find yourself sitting at a computer then a phone app might be the best option for you.  Select the tool that matches your personality and lifestyle.
  • Select a method that you can continue to use as your financial life changes.  You might not be investing right now, but hopefully you will be soon, so ensuring that you can manage all aspects of your money is a good feature to look for.  The last thing you want to do is commit time and effort to setting up a program and then have to change it because your life changes.

How to Balance Your Checkbook with Pen and Paper

 

Step 1: Enter Your Transactions

Using the register that came with your checks enter in the information for each transaction that occurs; including checks, deposits, ATM withdrawals, and debit card purchases.

Include the date, a check number, description of transaction, and the amount.

When the transaction is entered in the register, calculate your new balance by adding or subtracting your payment/deposit from the last balance.

Example:  Starting Balance $100

Number Date Description Payment Deposit Cleared Balance
271 1/10/13 Target 10.00 90.00
Debit 1/11/13 McDonalds 3.00 87.00

Step 2:  Balance to your statement

When you receive your bank statement, go through and put a check in the cleared column of your register for every transaction that is on the statement.  At the same time mark it off on the statement to ensure you have cleared it on your register.

After you have cleared all items grab your calculator and add or subtract those items in your register that are not cleared.  When you have done this for all un-cleared items, the total should match the ending balance of your bank statement.

Example:

Number Date Description Payment Deposit Cleared Balance
271 1/10/13 Target 10.00 90.00
Debit 1/11/13 McDonalds 3.00 87.00
272 1/12/13 Water Bill 50.00 37.00
Debit 1/13/13 Starbucks 4.95 32.05
Deposit 1/14/13 Paycheck 150.00 182.05

Statement Balance: $232.05

Your Balance: $182.05

Non Cleared Payments: $50.00

Non Cleared Deposits: $0.00

Added Back to Balance for New Total: $232.05

With this example your checkbook is balanced.  At this point you are done until the next statement!

If the balances do not match you will need to go through and determine where you made a math error or if your bank might be off.  By checking off the transactions on the statement and the register you have already found any transactions that did not get entered into your register.  You may however need to make sure you did not double enter a transaction into the register.

How to Balance Your Checkbook with Quicken

 

Software has made it so you don’t have to do it by paper anymore!  When you are balancing your checkbook with Quicken it is as simple as downloading the transactions and clicking reconcile!  The following video gives you a quick look at how you can balance your checking accounts both manually and from downloaded transactions.

 

Ways to Make Sure Your Checkbook Balances:

  • Keep all receipts in one place if they need to be entered and another if you already entered them.  I have a place on my desk that all un-entered receipts go.  Once they have been entered I have a file for current month receipts that have been processed.  The simple act of having a process makes it easy to not miss expenses.
  • Use a calculator – eliminates many problems.  This is not a school math test where you cannot use tools to help you with the addition and subtraction, use a calculator!
  • Double check your work – if you just entered lots of transactions it may be beneficial to recheck the math just to be safe.  I know when I used to balance by hand this was often when I would make a mistake, after a session of lots of bill paying!  So if you are doing this by hand, take an extra couple minutes and check your work.
  • Do it at a minimum monthly – don’t get too far behind, this is when it becomes a headache that seems to take forever to solve.  By balancing more frequently you very quickly catch problems.

There you have it, the easy to manage process of balancing your checkbook.  See, that was not so bad!

 

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