Keeping a checkbook register

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Good Listener
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Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Good Listener » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:18 pm

I have always kept a checkbook register. I am now 65, but can literally look up an entry for any check I've ever written or see any direct deposit easily by date. I do balance the checkbook but most important for me is so that I can quickly scan for things I might want to see. I keep my number of entries to a minimum as I hate making entries and using lines and pages :oops: so i often pay for utilities say at an amount of about one year's worth, ditto my Medigap and Medicare drug plan premiums.

I know that many have stopped doing this and essentially no millennial types use checkbooks. I am completely fine using online services and frequently check my checking account. Chase tells me that they keep statements available for 7 years. I suppose one could just download them monthly.

I am considering changing to not keeping a checkbook and a clear benefit is I could go to monthly debits for everything for example. But I worry about the ease of finding information quickly as if not certain about the date you might have to look at many statements. Can people let me know what they think and have any regretted not having a checkbook to look at after stopping?

Added after numerous comments:
Thank you all for your comments. It seems that most are comfortable not keeping a register and most in that group use an alternate like Quicken or Mint. Im not interested in those. Without these, would you still not keep a register?
Last edited by Good Listener on Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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GerryL
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by GerryL » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:29 pm

I'm a bit older than you. I keep all my financial data in Quicken, where I reconcile my checking account every month. I am not paper-free as I print out the monthly statement to mark up as I reconcile against Quicken entries. I retain the printouts for ~2 years. (I also print out most bills and retain those the same amount of time.) It's easy to search Quicken for what was paid to whom, when. The printouts are useful for additional research, when needed. (Some people might choose to save digital copies instead of dead trees.)

I only use the paper check register on the rare occasions when I write a paper check, when I may not have Quicken open. Everything else goes directly into Quicken. Only in the past 2-3 years have I stopped carrying a checkbook with me. If I know I will need a check (for instance, at my fossil club annual auction) I just bring a single check with me.

livesoft
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by livesoft » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:32 pm

I wrote 2 paper checks today in order to pay property taxes without a fee and on a specific date in person. The check book was last used about one year ago for the same purpose. The check book went back into the drawer for another year. I never have carried a check book with me.
Last edited by livesoft on Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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bob60014
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by bob60014 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:32 pm

I havent used a checkbook in many years. You can download your Chase statements in spreadsheet form (excel, csv) or if you have it, Quicken files, and use the sort and search functions from the software to find transactions.
Last edited by bob60014 on Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bloom2708
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by bloom2708 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:33 pm

I set my parents up on Personal Capital. They are 72/70.

My mom loves it. She is the financial tracker in the family. She logs in every other day or so and categorizes transactions.

So far she has not had any trouble. Occasionally an institution might change how the serve up the data.

I myself do not have any issues logging in with the various credentials to aggregate data.

My mom loves seeing everything in one place. I showed her how to add manual accounts for items that can't sync. She has their whole financial picture in front of her with a login.

I also use PC. There are some threads/comments about PC that you can browse. Some love it, some hate it.
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Sandtrap
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by Sandtrap » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:35 pm

I use a checkbook for 2 banks and also schwab.
It is easier for me to flip through the pages and find something quickly.
And, I like making a copy of a "real" check to pay certain transactions.
Also, writing a check nicely in good script seems like a lost art form nowadays.
j :D

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flamesabers
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by flamesabers » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:40 pm

I have three checking accounts (one I had since I was a minor, one I have for work and another for to qualify for my USAA Limitless Visa card). The first two I maintain a checkbook for as I write checks from these accounts and I otherwise keep a precise balance in these accounts. The third I don't because I only use the account to pay rent and my credit cards.

There are reasons to maintain a checkbook:

1. Keep track of outstanding checks
2. Avoid overdrawing your account
3. Redundancy (websites can go down, hard drives can crash, digital data can get garbled, etc.)

If none of these are a concern for you, I doubt you really need to maintain a checkbook unless you really want to.

Invest4lt
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by Invest4lt » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:49 pm

In my mind, registers are most helpful for dealing with paper checks. And I am not crazy about paper checks.

A paper check usually includes your name, mailing address, bank routing number (public information), your bank account number, and your signature. Way too much personal data on a single piece of paper for my comfort. Plus, with mobile apps these days, a picture of your check is deposited. My bank suggested destroying the check 90 after depositing, but who knows if the person you give the check to will simply throw it in the trash after taking a picture? Perhaps merchants are more careful to shred, but who knows?

So, no. Checkbooks and checks are not for me. Too much risk. Ymmv.
Last edited by Invest4lt on Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by Doom&Gloom » Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:58 pm

I'm a bit older than OP. I have two checking accounts--one individual and one joint. I wrote 8 & 3 checks, respectively, from them in 2017.

The reason I continue to maintain a check register is not for past transactions but for pending and future transactions. In addition to regularly scheduled monthly deposits and withdrawals, I schedule payments for credit cards on their due dates as the statements arrive. I like being able to see what the balances of my checking accounts will be just prior to all transactions as well as what they will be immediately afterward. I suppose I could live without that information, but I am not yet ready to do so.

surfstar
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by surfstar » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:05 pm

Now that I no longer make a rent payment, my checks get used even less. They are from 3 addresses ago and when Washington Mutual still existed. Never had one not cashed, though.
I pretty much only use them for camping fees now.
I see no reason to "balance" my checkbook.

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oldcomputerguy
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by oldcomputerguy » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:08 pm

I built a spreadsheet in LibreOffice that functions as my check register. It's been years since I used a paper checkbook.
It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

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Watty
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Watty » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:26 pm

We have always used the duplicate checks where it makes a carbonless copy as you write the check. If I ever need to look up something I can just look at the old checkpad with the copies of the checks. This will also have what you wrote in the meno line which can be useful. We only use about two checkpads a year now if that. I pay pretty much everything I can by credit card to get at least a 2% rebate.

Once the checking account information was available online I stopped keeping a check register.

An interesting things about changes with checks and signatures and millennials. When my son was getting ready to get his drivers licence he ended up in a bit of a panic because he had never learned to write in cursive so he did not know how to sign his name for his drivers license application. :oops:

The schools he went to barely taught cursive writing and we moved to a new school district the year before he would have had the cursive lesson in the old school district. The new school had taught cursive the year before so he missed it at both schools. When we talked to the teachers about this they did not think it would be a problem.

Being a teenage boy he never asked for help but probably used Youtube to figure out how to make a scrawl where the first letter of his first and last name can sort of be recognized so that is still how he signs his name.
Last edited by Watty on Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

texasdiver
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by texasdiver » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:28 pm

I write paper checks for 3 reasons:

1. to pay my daughter's piano teacher each month
2. to pay our cleaning lady. I leave a check for her on the counter.
3. to pay the occasional school fundraiser and school fee. Although even that is getting easier and easier to do online.

Those represent about 10% of the total monthly transactions in my checking account. The rest are all online transfers or auto-payments and such. So it doesn't really serve any purpose for me to maintain a paper register. I just click the "update now" button in Quicken and it transfers all my recent transactions into Quicken so I can see and review them. I manually enter into Quicken all my upcoming transactions like mortgage payments, credit card payments, and payroll deposits so I can see what is coming, and then match them when the actual transaction clears.

I maintain a credit line with autodraft protection on my checking account in the event that I accidentally have an overdraft.

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KSOC
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by KSOC » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:42 pm

I still write checks. Just looked at the last year. Doctors,Labs,Weddings,Baptisms,Pet Registration,Car Registration,House Sitter,Christmas Charity.
I keep my register on a spreadsheet program I downloaded.
I enter my recurring data a month or two ahead so I can see my cash flow levels. All comes out of "House" account.
My preferred method of payment is credit card but depending on the extra charge I just mail it in.
Too soon old, too late smart.

TwstdSista
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by TwstdSista » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:50 pm

Quicken is my checkbook.

And I still write checks as well -- at least 14 personal checks per year: 7 to insurance company (5 different policies), 2 for property taxes, 2 for life insurance, and 3 for vehicle registrations.

I write more business checks because some of my vendors don't take credit cards, and my bank doesn't allow bill pay for business accounts.

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ClevrChico
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by ClevrChico » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:51 pm

I'm know I'm in the minority, but I reconcile my checking account with a Google Docs spreadsheet weekly. Every dollar inbound and outbound flows through my checking account, so it's important to me to track it. Plus I can do precision sorting, subtotals, and graphs to track expenses. Whether a physical check or ach transfer, I have a record of it. Any fraud will be caught quickly, which you might miss if you're on autopilot. Who needs Mint or Quicken? :-)

I worked for a three comma business owner years ago. He hand signed every business check.

UpperNwGuy
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by UpperNwGuy » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:59 pm

I use Moneydance software to track my accounts, and it takes the place of a checkbook. I key in all my transactions manually because (a) it forces me to think about each transaction, and (b) it adds a layer of security because I don't connect Moneydance to any of my online accounts.

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FreeAtLast
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by FreeAtLast » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:04 pm

Old Fogey here and I still use checks to pay bills (utilities, car loan, rent, credit cards) and still fill out a register. Continue to reconcile the latter every month with the mailed bank statement. The only concession to the 21st century I make is that I receive an email alert on my cell phone for account withdrawals over $300.00 (and yesterday I used an "oldie type" can opener - you know, the type you could easily fit in your pocket when you were a teenager - to access a bottle of Guinness Extra Stout). :beer
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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Doom&Gloom » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:07 pm

oldcomputerguy wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:08 pm
I built a spreadsheet in LibreOffice that functions as my check register. It's been years since I used a paper checkbook.
Thanks for this post! I just went online and found a LibreOffice template for a checkbook register.

Only 11 paper checks (across two accounts) in 2017, and I think I am now free from paper registers :sharebeer

DetroitRick
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by DetroitRick » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:29 pm

We stopped using a checkbook years ago. Can't recall how many, but at least 8 years ago. Since Quicken (software) is my check register, that meets all our needs (balance monitoring, reconciliation). Plus we've migrated to almost all electronic transactions anyway: mostly by credit card, by debit where vendor charges for credit card use, and then roughly 3 paper checks per month. Those all negate the benefit that we used to get from having a checkbook - two people writing checks and needing to make sure sufficient funds were there. That need went away as our check writing declined. Plus, when the very rare need arises, my wife is comfortable opening up Quicken to check a current balance. We also started keeping a "petty cash" envelope with a month or so of our cash needs - reducing ATM transactions to one per month at most.

Even without Quicken, I would probably not keep a checkbook.

I'm roughly your age, and started handling banking and bill paying last year for an aging mother-in-law. She, in theory, kept a checkbook but never reconciled it anyway (making it kind of pointless for her). She does not miss the paperwork. Quicken summary reports suffice for her inquiries.

All banks that I'm involved with (including Chase, as you have) have stellar websites. I've had to grab copies of cancelled checks from online images several times in the last 5 years. Even that was much easier than sifting through boxes of cancelled checks (not to mention that most checks are processed as electronic images now anyway).

I keep pdf copies of bank statements (offline in multple places), but that's about all I do. In summary, definitely NO REGRETS and never had any problems.

keaton
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by keaton » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:44 pm

No checks used here..

All autopay, and everything gets funneled through credit cards for CB. All accounts linked to Mint so transactions are catagorized and I can inspect for anything out of place ASAP.

All pretty much hands off, why write checks and pay for stamps when autopay exists. Keep it simple!

Good Listener
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Good Listener » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:55 pm

Thank you all for your comments. It seems that most are comfortable not keeping a register and most in that group use an alternate like Quicken or Mint. Im not interested in those. Without these, would you still not keep a register? I have added this to the initial post as well.

TwstdSista
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by TwstdSista » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:58 pm

My concern with not having a register of some sort would be how to know your balance? I have things outstanding all the time, I can't just check the balance online and rely on that since Chase may take a week to process my cc payment. Or State Farm might not have cashed my homeowner's insurance check yet.

I keep a cushion, but I want to know what the balance is supposed to be once everything clears, not what the bank thinks it is right this second.

123
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by 123 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:08 pm

I still keep a checkbook register and don't anticipate giving it up. While the amount of checks has decreased it's still helpful to know what checks are "out there" and which haven't yet cleared. Some checks can take weeks to wind their way back to my account, the recipients may not be in a rush to cash them. The register is also a good record of what periodic manual payments I've made (i.e. credit card payments). It's also helpful to enter deposits so I will know the source, since I won't necessary remember every oddball check like those product rebate payments etc.The register is also a record of my ATM cash withdrawals so I've got some idea of how much cash I'm burning through. The check register is an easy way to keep track of things. I reconcile the bank statement to the check register every month. Sure I could keep a high balance in the checking account and not worry about a register, but then I wouldn't have a clear idea of what is going on with the account.
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keaton
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by keaton » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:10 pm

If your not interested in alternatives, then what’s the point of this topic. If I didn’t have mint, I still wouldn’t keep record as I would just see my balance on my phone via any of the apps for all accounts. Plus I don’t keep that close of a margin for any accounts.

How does chase take a week to process a payment? All mine go through very quickly when the process.

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Toons
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Toons » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:15 pm

One check per year
Property Taxes(They fill it out ,I sign it.My handwriting has become atrocious since the advent of the digital age) :mrgreen:
As others, I use Quicken as the "checkbook"
For many years. :happy
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TwstdSista
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by TwstdSista » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:17 pm

keaton wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:10 pm
How does chase take a week to process a payment? All mine go through very quickly when the process.

I think they don't play well with my credit union's bill pay program. They are the only vendor in my bill pay list who receives a physical check, the rest are all electronic. It can actually take two weeks sometimes. I don't understand it, I just deal with it.

epictetus
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by epictetus » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:23 pm

i still keep a paper checkbook register.

for the last several years i have used a spiral notebook for the register verses the little paper register that comes with the checks.

it is easier to make entries and it can hold several years' worth of transactions in one notebook.
Focus on what you can control

keaton
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by keaton » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:23 pm

TwstdSista wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:17 pm
keaton wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:10 pm
How does chase take a week to process a payment? All mine go through very quickly when the process.

I think they don't play well with my credit union's bill pay program. They are the only vendor in my bill pay list who receives a physical check, the rest are all electronic. It can actually take two weeks sometimes. I don't understand it, I just deal with it.
Switch to electronic autopay?

TwstdSista
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by TwstdSista » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:33 pm

keaton wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:23 pm
TwstdSista wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:17 pm
keaton wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:10 pm
How does chase take a week to process a payment? All mine go through very quickly when the process.

I think they don't play well with my credit union's bill pay program. They are the only vendor in my bill pay list who receives a physical check, the rest are all electronic. It can actually take two weeks sometimes. I don't understand it, I just deal with it.
Switch to electronic autopay?
Is that where I let Chase come into my bank account and take the money? Because I won't do that. My sister had a vendor take more than they were supposed to once and then they told her it would take 6-8 weeks to put the money back. No thank you!

keaton
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by keaton » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:45 pm

TwstdSista wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:33 pm
Is that where I let Chase come into my bank account and take the money? Because I won't do that. My sister had a vendor take more than they were supposed to once and then they told her it would take 6-8 weeks to put the money back. No thank you!
Ok, a vender is a lot different then a CC company charging a set amount to a savings or checking account.

Halicar
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Halicar » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:52 pm

Like several others, the only checks I write are for property taxes twice a year. As for a register, I keep track of all my finances in an Excel spreadsheet, and this includes a transaction register for all accounts: checking, savings, and credit cards. I then use a pivot table to show my spending by category per month, and SUMIF formulas to show current account balances that I can compare with the online statements.

TwstdSista
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by TwstdSista » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:54 pm

keaton wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:45 pm
TwstdSista wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:33 pm
Is that where I let Chase come into my bank account and take the money? Because I won't do that. My sister had a vendor take more than they were supposed to once and then they told her it would take 6-8 weeks to put the money back. No thank you!
Ok, a vender is a lot different then a CC company charging a set amount to a savings or checking account.
By "vendor" I meant Verizon. She had landline service through them, then they randomly decided to also charge her for three months of DSL and just took it from her checking account. She did not have DSL, she had cable (Comcast).

So no -- no one will be taking money from my account. I will gladly send it to them, and deal with the Chase delay.

And I apologize for the off-topic tangent!

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blueblock
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by blueblock » Thu Dec 28, 2017 8:03 pm

Good Listener wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:18 pm
I can literally look up an entry for any check I've ever written... I worry about the ease of finding information quickly...
Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've never needed or wanted to look up a check from years ago. Is this something people do?

I only write a check or two a year and don't bother recording it in a register. I just watch for it to appear on line as a debit. Been doing this for more than a decade. Works fine for me.

pshonore
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by pshonore » Thu Dec 28, 2017 8:08 pm

I use an Excel SS to track all income and outflow from the checking acct. I usually reconcile with the online balance every few weeks. If I'm looking for one item, its not hard to use find (CTRL F) and key in the first few letters to locate it. Probably write a dozen or less checks per year but lots of electronic deposits and billpays/pulls by CC etc. Also allows me to project cash flow, etc for the next 2 or 3 years by entering estimated transactions in and out for the future.

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KSOC
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by KSOC » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:02 pm

TwstdSista wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:58 pm
My concern with not having a register of some sort would be how to know your balance? I have things outstanding all the time, I can't just check the balance online and rely on that since Chase may take a week to process my cc payment. Or State Farm might not have cashed my homeowner's insurance check yet.

I keep a cushion, but I want to know what the balance is supposed to be once everything clears, not what the bank thinks it is right this second.
I keep on top of things too. I run my accounts slim because they earn next to nothing. It drives me nuts because my daughters used to leave receipts lay around. Never check their stuff. Not what I preach. My wife's debit got skimmed at a Publix Presto. I was checking our account and $700 was debited in Texas. I'm in Florida. Took two weeks until in was back in our account. Gave a friend a check for work at my house (he is not a business) and noticed 6 months later he still didn't cash. I thought he was being nice because he didn't want to take my money. I asked him and he said he cashed and it showed in his account. Took almost a year for it to show deducted from mine. And lastly a buddy years ago made a cash deposit of $250 of tips, got a receipt, yet it didn't show in his account. The bank said they had no record. He's pretty glad he kept the receipt.

We no longer use the debit, always credit, except I'll get cash occasionally, but only at my banks ATM's. Credit cards have had errors too.
I keep a ledger monthly of all my cash flow. I thought most people do the same as I do.
Too soon old, too late smart.

arsenalfan
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by arsenalfan » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:10 pm

I'd vote for continuing your system, or at least keeping those checkbooks with carbon copies. I would have NEVER said this before today.

I am very detailed about my finances and have never kept a register. I just edit in the online app each debit/deposit, in checking/savings/credit card accounts. I've caught some billing mistakes, and once I caught ID theft.

That said, I am sloppy with my checks in that I have multiple checkbooks around the house to use out of convenience (study, kitchen, one at work) - and hence the checks aren't always written in sequential order.

Of course i had to stop payment on my 2018 property tax payment today, when my county/the IRS clarified I probably couldn't deduct it in 2017. Luckily I found the correct checkbook and could see from the pen impression that it was the prior check - you need the check # (which I didn't have) and the exact amount to stop payment.

2015
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by 2015 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:22 pm

oldcomputerguy wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:08 pm
I built a spreadsheet in LibreOffice that functions as my check register. It's been years since I used a paper checkbook.
I do the same only in excel. It's in a workbook with other financial spreadsheets for efficiency, speed and accuracy. I don't like paper of any kind, and resent the once every three years or so some vendor requires me to waste time filling out a paper check.

Northster
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Northster » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:22 pm

I too like to use a spreadsheet but the LibreOffice template seems pretty simplistic and is cluttered with '0.0' in empty balance cells. With a little programming that can be improved. Or you can find Excel code online.

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CAsage
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by CAsage » Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:42 pm

Good Listener wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:55 pm
Thank you all for your comments. It seems that most are comfortable not keeping a register and most in that group use an alternate like Quicken or Mint. Im not interested in those. Without these, would you still not keep a register? I have added this to the initial post as well.
So what problem are you trying to solve exactly? Are you trying to see whether you can live without a register or ????
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Bungo
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Bungo » Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:55 pm

I haven't bothered with a checkbook register since I started using carbon copy checks 20+ years ago. These days I only write a few checks a year, and I can look at their images online if they've been processed, so there's not much need for manual record-keeping.

Dead Man Walking
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Dead Man Walking » Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:33 am

I keep the checkbook register that comes with the checks. My wife writes checks for her accounts because she isn't comfortable with internet banking. We write checks for all medical expenses (which are considerable), and I use a highlighter to distinguish them from other expenses since I itemize them on my state tax return. We also record cash withdrawals, deposits, and interest. I pay many bills via the internet and record confirmation and transaction numbers in the register. I reconcile the account twice a month using the bank's website.

I used Quicken years ago, but found it to be time consuming and cumbersome because I had to be on a computer. I can write faster than I can type, so my deficiencies may be the reason I go old school. Furthermore, I can do arithmetic in head. I'm older than the OP.

DMW

AntsOnTheMarch
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by AntsOnTheMarch » Fri Dec 29, 2017 5:05 am

I haven’t used a register for 25 years. First it was quicken, then something else, and for the last 4 years, a set of financial spreadsheets. I used to balance monthly but stopped years go. I receive email alerts for transactions and look over my accounts from time to for any discrepancies or funny business. I think the best way to avoid undetected fraud is with alerts (and protect your accounts with good security). If an institution allows me to set the alert to anything over $0, I do so. Most have some minimum though (like $100). If I’m at a restaurant and give the waiter my card for the bill, I usually receive the alert with the amount before he comes back with the slip to sign.

I record and categorize every expense in our lives except miscellaneous cash—which for budget purposes gets lumped into one category. I make digital receipts of anything that may require me to look up the info for tax returns or other reasons. I only write maybe 5 paper checks a year so for example, if I’m writing a check for property tax, I make a receipt of the check and the slip that goes with it using my smartphone. I then record it in my spreadsheet ledger.

As for knowing my balance, I keep some extra money in checking but since almost all my bills are paid online, between current balance and pending payments, it’s pretty easy to figure it out. That’s handy sometimes when there are major pending payments.

My spreadsheets have grown to epic complexity with lots of formulas over the years because they are so handy and save time. If I want to calculate my taxes for the year, it’s already done because income and biz expenses (self-employed) are getting pulled in from actual numbers. If I want to know what will happen to my AA, etc, if I transfer or withdraw funds, I don’t have to go around finding my account balances because they are updated automatically and totaled on the spreadsheet every night when prices get pulled in. Any calculations are run off the actual numbers. If I want to know how much we’ve spent on food ytd, it’s all there on the ledger. I can get it in a few seconds. The spreadsheets are also great for showing the wife what’s going on when she asks (not often). In this way, I try to make any task a non-event so I don’t have to make a point of sitting down, to get the numbers, to do the job. If my wife wants to know something at coffee I can usually get it on my smartphone in a minute. I have found this has gotten her more involved in understanding our financial picture because it’s no big deal, so she asks more questions.

That said, I would never discourage anyone from using paper registers, notebooks, paper receipts, etc. I’ve worked in production jobs my whole life and perfecting systems is overrated. Success is more about how well a system is followed. In this case, only one person needs to follow the system so anything the record keeper does consistently will work. When multiple users are involved, it’s trickier. That said, in this day and age, one who eschews electronic solutions to these tasks is surely giving up efficiency and that equals time. Time is a more precious commodity than money. Give me another 50 years of life and I’ll make more money than I know what do with. But I have no way of getting another 50 years. Otoh, some people like spending time with their record keeping chores (not me) or don’t want/need as much detail in their lives.

Sorry for the rant. I can really get going sometimes.

rapishad
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by rapishad » Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:47 am

ynab.com

Every dollar

Quicken

Excel Spread sheets

mouses
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by mouses » Fri Dec 29, 2017 7:01 am

Good Listener wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:55 pm
Thank you all for your comments. It seems that most are comfortable not keeping a register and most in that group use an alternate like Quicken or Mint. Im not interested in those. Without these, would you still not keep a register? I have added this to the initial post as well.
I used to keep a paper register and despite being careful and arithmetic-friendly :-) most months I would have go wade through it to find a small mistake.

A year or two ago I changed to keeping it in a Word document. The entries look like this:

check 1061 Dec 12 Pocasset $25
balance 621.95

check 1062 Dec 14 charlies rubbish removal $396
balance 225.95

The entries are in bold type and I change them to normal when a check is processed.

This is a lot cleaner than paper, because if I make a mistake I don't have crossouts for several items, I can just go through and change them. And for some reason I almost never make a mistake doing it this way. It is just cleaner with more space.

Once the file has gotten to be more than about a page, I archive the beginning of it with no unprocessed checks to a subfolder. If I ever need to find a check, I use Windows search.

I could use Excel so I didn't have to add and subtract, but then it would make archiving a mess.

I should add, this only works because I write all my checks at home, where I have easy access to my pc. I haven't carried my checkbook in my pocketbook in I don't know how long.

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bertilak
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by bertilak » Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:12 am

Good Listener wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:18 pm
Added after numerous comments:
Thank you all for your comments. It seems that most are comfortable not keeping a register and most in that group use an alternate like Quicken or Mint. Im not interested in those. Without these, would you still not keep a register?
Can't say. Without Quicken, I would need to re-think my entire financial process. If I couldn't make it about as easy as Quicken (including not relying on a physical checkbook) I wouldn't be without Quicken or some other equivalent.

Actually I DO keep a register but not a paper one -- Quicken is my register, one that is flexible, can see into the future, make payments in addition to recording them, reconcile itself against actual transactions reported by the bank, and automate nearly everything.
May neither drought nor rain nor blizzard disturb the joy juice in your gizzard. -- Squire Omar Barker, the Cowboy Poet

bluebonnet
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by bluebonnet » Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:37 am

Good Listener wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:18 pm

Thank you all for your comments. It seems that most are comfortable not keeping a register and most in that group use an alternate like Quicken or Mint. Im not interested in those. Without these, would you still not keep a register?
I use Quicken for everything! I also keep a paper register for my primary checking account. I only update Quicken on most weekends and feel better with the check register that is always with me - because that account is very active, I write plenty of checks due to kids' care and activities, and most of the transactions I need to reference are from that account.

I also work in an area without access to my cell phone, so can't access Quicken mobile during the day.

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jabberwockOG
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by jabberwockOG » Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:53 am

We write very few paper checks preferring to make direct electronic payments for almost every bill that allows electronic payment, and outside the house we exclusively use credit cards for everything unless a business won't take cards and then we pay cash. We do not use debit cards as they are as bad or worse than paper checks in terms of your financial security and consumer protection laws.

A check is an anachronistic holdover from the days before computers. A paper check is an extremely insecure form of payment (containing too much info on you and your example signature) and it is super easily for a bad guy to use the check in multiple ways for identity theft and also for cleaning out your bank accounts. Checks can be stolen or copied anywhere along the path that checks typically travels from when it is mailed or used to even long after it clears.

Bottom line is avoid using checks if at all possible, and if you do have checks at home (where one or more can easily be stolen sometimes with you being unaware until too late) be sure to keep the checkbook in a secure location (like a safe). Never take a checkbook out of the house. Use the register to maintain tabs on every check so you know if a check has gone missing or did not clear (which can serve as a warning a used or unused check is now in the wrong hands and your bank account is going to take a big hit or your identity has been stolen). And good luck getting your money back in case of check fraud if your bank feels you were even slightly negligent in terms of safekeeping.

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DaftInvestor
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by DaftInvestor » Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:05 am

What jabberwockOG said.
Avoid checks - too insecure.
Also - if you want to track your cashflow in/out of your account and don't have a program - you can do so easily in a spreadsheet (with $0 math mistakes which might happen in your old-fashioned check register).

(just deleted all my text - jabberwockOG nailed what I was writing).

scrabbler1
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by scrabbler1 » Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:36 am

I keep a checkbook register but also have a spreadsheet which replicates the paper register and does a lot more than the register itself. The only special thing I use the register for any more is when I balance the checkbook - I can make easy notations to keep track of outstanding checks.

I write very few checks per year any more, maybe 20, and most of them are for doctor office copays and charities, as I prefer to have a paper record for the latter.

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