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July 30, 2010


One word: Quicken.

Same word as Jack: Quicken. Of course, no software conquers the GIGO factor.
And since I've been using Quicken for 20+ years, it's hard to remember the transitional pain of learning the software and developing the new routine of entering the data (each check/deposit) on your computer. I'm quite certain learning the software took less than four hours, though. And ever after, checkbook reconciliation is so phenomenally accelerated, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Jack and Trish, I used Quicken for many years, but usually not for keeping track of my checkbook. This was before the era of online banking (at least at my West Coast Bank), so I'm sure checking entries can be downloaded from the bank now.

When I did use Quicken for this back in the old days, fairly soon I got tired of how much time it took to manually type in entries from my checkbook. It was nice to know how much we were spending on various categories (kind of scary also), but I was spending too much time figuring that out.

Anyway, good advice. However, most months it just takes me a few minutes to balance my checkbook. And I actually enjoy the mental exercise. It's sort of the same reason I do a lot of yardwork that could be hired out. It isn't actually fun, but the physical labor is satisfying and healthy.

For now I think I'll improve my balancing system rather than go with Quicken, but I might change my mind if this sort of frustration happens again.

I so wish I could balance my checkbook like you do Brian. I try so hard but to no avail i spend 3 plus hours every month TRYING to balance my checkbook. What I usually end up doing is finding my errors, correcting them and just write down in my register what the bank says I have and go on. I never get that sense of pride about a balanced checkbook I so desire. I need help if you hear my plea - please point me in the right direction so I too can have the "balanced checkbook feeling!"

lisa... the link I included in this post has some good advice:

Here's my own Most Important TIps:

-- balance every month. EVERY month. Letting the check register get out of date complicates the process.

-- circle the checkbook entry which shows the ending balance which matches the bank's statement, once you have everything balanced. This tells you when everything was fine. If the next month isn't fine, you know where to stop looking for mistakes (at the circled entry).

-- assume the bank statement is right, because it almost always is. Look for errors in your check register. Have a systematic way of checking for those errors. Mine goes something like:

1. Have I made sure that I have every debit (check/withdrawal) and every credit (deposit) that the bank has on the statement? Put a mark in the check register to indicate this, in the column meant for that mark.

2. Make sure you account for every unchecked debit and credit. Meaning, adjust the ending balance on the bank statement for this. The statement should have a place to do this on the back of the statement.

3. I then check for subtraction/addition errors in my check register. I start back at the circled entry, when everything balanced. Then, using a calculator, I check to make sure that I subtracted or added correctly. Often this is where my mistake is.

4. I also double check to make sure that what I wrote down in the check register is what the bank has for the debit/credit. Sometimes there is a difference, such as when the bank reads what I wrote what my bad handwriting differently, and debits a few cents differently.

The key thing is to remember that the check register HAS to balance if you have added in all the deposits on the statement, and subtracted all the checks on the statement, accounting for the outstanding debits and credits.

Note in this post how I indicate that all items have been cleared in the check register -- with a mark at the bottom of a register page. But occasionally (rarely, really) I find that actually a check hasn't cleared, like when a relative doesn't depoit a Christmas check for a long time.

Anyway, hope these tips help. A key is being calm, systematic, not looking upon balancing as a struggle, or a battle between you and the check register. It can be fun (almost), if you approach it in the right frame of mind.

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