Balance Your Checkbook - A Vital Habit to Develop

By: Thelma Coleman

Bounced checks can have an adverse effect on your credit score, depending on the reporting policies of the financial institution involved. I think that we can all agree that spending a little time with your calculator and checkbook beats the daylights out of dealing with bounced checks, the not so insignificant fees associated with them and the deleterious effect on your credit rating. You’re in our program to get your credit under control and eventually rebuild your credit Balancing your checkbook is fairly easy, especially if you take a few simple steps to streamline the process. Every time you earn money and deposit it in your checking account, write it down in your checkbook ledger. Or if it makes it easier, buy a separate ledger and use that (they’re often larger than the one you get with your checkbook). Also take an envelope and set it aside for receipts you get when you use your bank debit card to withdraw funds (or make a purchase) so you can calculate your account balance as accurately as possible.

The same goes for other spending you do. Make a point of writing everything down. If you forget even a single item, it can result in undue time and effort trying to reconstruct these expenses from memory or to purchase the information from your bank. In fact, you might do well to make a habit of saving every receipt, maybe in a shoebox or something like that, so that you always know that between your ledger and your receipts you have everything you need – even if you forgot to record something. But this must become habit or you’ll only end up frustrating yourself even more.

At the end of every month, add all your deposits together and record that number in writing. Then you add up all your expenses. Subtract the expenses from the deposits and add that to your beginning balance (or last month’s balance). Check your statement to see what fees your bank charged and deduct that and Voila! You have an accurate account balance! Check your figures against your current statement and you might even want to take advantage of your bank’s telephone based customer service to confirm your numbers.

If you find no discrepancies, everything is really pretty close if not perfect and you’re done – until the following month rolls around. Then spend a few minutes to do it again; you’ll be very glad you did… this is time well spent and you will reap the rewards of developing discipline in your financial management methods and philosophy. No surprises in the mail (returned checks), no bounce fees (to your bank and the merchant), and most importantly—no damage to your credit rating.

We cannot emphasize the importance of developing these kinds of good financial management habits.

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