Keeping a checkbook register

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
stan1
Posts: 5902
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 4:35 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by stan1 » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:06 am

My solution to uncleared checks is to keep an extra $2000 in my checking account. Yes I do realize this means I'm giving up $20 in interest per year (assuming I could get 1% yield on this money in a money market savings account). It is absolutely worth $20/year to avoid tracking cash flow or fretting about bouncing an ACH payment out of my checking account.

I do use Quicken and download transactions. I have not found a bank error in a checking account since the early 1990s and have never found an error on an ACH transaction since I've been using them. I download credit card transactions into Quicken every day and I also receive an email every time a charge is made. When there is a fraudulent credit card charge I'm on the phone to the financial institution within minutes of getting the email. Back in the 1980s I made many errors on my manual check register and stopped keeping it as soon as I made enough to keep a couple extra grand in my checking account as a cushion against overdraft.

User avatar
oldcomputerguy
Posts: 3320
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2015 6:50 am
Location: In the middle of five acres of woods

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by oldcomputerguy » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:46 am

Doom&Gloom wrote:
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
For the OP (and anyone else who might be interested), I've uploaded a "sanitized" (i.e. blank) version of the checkbook spreadsheet file I use. Please feel free to download and try it. The filename is "Sample Check Register.ods" and can be found here.

The columns are as follows:

NUMBER: whatever you normally would put in the first column, either the check number or some code to show the entry type (formatted for any entry)

Date: the date of the entry (column is formatted for dates)

Transaction Description: pretty self-evident (formatted for general text)

Payment/Debit: enter your checks and expenditures here (formatted for currency)

Deposit/Credit: put entries for deposits here (formatted for currency)

Current Balance: auto-calculates a running current balance based on the entries in the "Payment/Debit" and "Deposit/Credit" fields. Formatted for currency, cells are protected to prevent accidential munging of the code.

Cleared: a checkmark in this column tells the "Recon" column to kick in (see below). Cut-and-paste the checkmark from the top cell in that column into any item that has cleared the bank.

Recon: a running auto-balancing function. Based on the status of the debit and credit cells and the "Cleared" cell, the code in this column does a running reconciliation for each line. The last value shown in this column should match what the bank shows that you have. (Saves checkbook balancing from the monthly statement.)

I hope this is of some value to someone.
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.

montanagirl
Posts: 967
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:55 pm
Location: Montana

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by montanagirl » Fri Dec 29, 2017 12:06 pm

I keep a register and write down my debits and checks on-site. I'm afraid I'll forget if I don't, and trigger a NSF because I try to keep most cash in savings.

About once a month a self-checkout clerk will warn me that they don't take checks (duh), because they see me writing down my debit. They think it's weird that someone keeps track like that? Somehow I don't think my fellow WalMart and Albertson's shoppers are all running home to enter stuff on spreadsheets.

NotWhoYouThink
Posts: 2050
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2014 4:19 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:03 pm

I keep a register, and have never used MINT or Quicken to keep track of balances. I have a very simple Excel spreadsheet to track monthly spending, but may phase that out as the spending is never out of control, it really was just to help me visualize where the money goes and what it will take to keep the household going after DH bids farewell to Megacorp. Maybe then I'll see about tracking retirement income and spending for a while on some spreadsheet or app.

If you like keeping detailed electronic records and putting every outlay into a category and analyzing the categories over time, go for it. If you like stamp or coin or Precious Moments collecting, go for that. We set spending and savings targets which are met without detailed tracking, and that's good enough.

I put more thought into tracking investments than tracking spending.

User avatar
Sheepdog
Posts: 5159
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:05 pm
Location: Indiana, retired 1998 at age 65

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Sheepdog » Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:22 pm

Yes, we keep a checkbook register and have all of those entries also on my Microsoft Money 2002. I know where everything is spent.

The checkbook register not only shows all checks, but all auto deposits and debits. We try to do everything by auto debit and deposits, but still have to write checks. We wrote 72 checks in 2017
What checks do we write and why (people and places who do not accept debit or credit cards)
My wife's hairdresser (almost weekly)
Dog groomer
Garbage man
Rotary club dues
Few Charities
Special personal gifts
Property tax
Income tax

Plus, since my wife will not use a computer (she's stubborn!!), the register is really necessary.
It's not what you gather, but what you scatter which tells what kind of life you have lived---Helen Walton

ImUrHuckleberry
Posts: 136
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2017 7:44 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by ImUrHuckleberry » Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:29 pm

I write about 2 or 3 checks per month on average, but I also use the checkbook register to track all the electronic payments I make every month until they clear the bank. I track net worth and rough monthly spending in a spreadsheet so that I can plan a budget with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Good Listener
Posts: 599
Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2015 5:24 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Good Listener » Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:02 pm

oldcomputerguy wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:46 am
Doom&Gloom wrote:
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
For the OP (and anyone else who might be interested), I've uploaded a "sanitized" (i.e. blank) version of the checkbook spreadsheet file I use. Please feel free to download and try it. The filename is "Sample Check Register.ods" and can be found here.

The columns are as follows:

NUMBER: whatever you normally would put in the first column, either the check number or some code to show the entry type (formatted for any entry)

Date: the date of the entry (column is formatted for dates)

Transaction Description: pretty self-evident (formatted for general text)

Payment/Debit: enter your checks and expenditures here (formatted for currency)

Deposit/Credit: put entries for deposits here (formatted for currency)

Current Balance: auto-calculates a running current balance based on the entries in the "Payment/Debit" and "Deposit/Credit" fields. Formatted for currency, cells are protected to prevent accidential munging of the code.

Cleared: a checkmark in this column tells the "Recon" column to kick in (see below). Cut-and-paste the checkmark from the top cell in that column into any item that has cleared the bank.

Recon: a running auto-balancing function. Based on the status of the debit and credit cells and the "Cleared" cell, the code in this column does a running reconciliation for each line. The last value shown in this column should match what the bank shows that you have. (Saves checkbook balancing from the monthly statement.)

I hope this is of some value to someone.
That is very nice of you to provide this. May I ask whether this is as much or more work than just writing it down? And I have used a pencil so it is easy to erase errors. I view this as a huge decision, a tribute to stickiness of patterns that one has adopted and hopefully not a sign of severe neuroticism.

User avatar
oldcomputerguy
Posts: 3320
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2015 6:50 am
Location: In the middle of five acres of woods

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by oldcomputerguy » Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:10 pm

Good Listener wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:02 pm
That is very nice of you to provide this. May I ask whether this is as much or more work than just writing it down? And I have used a pencil so it is easy to erase errors. I view this as a huge decision, a tribute to stickiness of patterns that one has adopted and hopefully not a sign of severe neuroticism.
Well, maybe it’s just me, but I find it much easier than keeping a paper check register, especially given that I do all my bill paying via computer; it’s pretty easy to key in amounts as I pay bills.

This sheet also saves me a boat load of time that I used to spend trying to track down a few cents’ worth of math mistakes that I always seemed to discover when balancing the 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.

User avatar
nisiprius
Advisory Board
Posts: 36655
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 9:33 am
Location: The terrestrial, globular, planetary hunk of matter, flattened at the poles, is my abode.--O. Henry

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by nisiprius » Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:41 pm

We write so few checks that we no longer bother keeping a check register; it's a rare month when we write more than one, so, you know... we keep it in our heads and/or look for the check images online when reviewing our checking account.

I will say this: for about thirty years, in the days when they mailed you your canceled checks, I saved them all... because every three or four years when the cancelled check box filled up it was always easier to stick it in the closet and buy one more than to figure out what to do. Eventually, I decided to throw them all out, but as I was going through them I found that they almost formed a diary and that they were full of little reminders of things I'd forgotten. I ended up scanning about fifty of the most memorable of them and putting them into a little Word document called "cancelled check reminiscences!" Stores we used to go to all the time that closed, doctors we used to see, little weekend vacations we'd forgotten that we had taken, and so forth. Also--as with old bills and bank statements--it was fascinating to watch the typography, design, and style of checks evolve over the years.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

rgs92
Posts: 2166
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2009 8:00 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by rgs92 » Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:43 pm

For me, I rarely write a check any more. For some reason my garbage collection service only wants checks (strange but true).
The only other uses may be for a housekeeper or personal service or a plumber or other maintenance person sometimes (or maybe a gift to someone or a tip).

But these may be as few as 20 to 30 a year, so it almost doesn't pay to keep track of them at all. And you can see them all online when they are cashed.
And with cash reserve, there is no chance of having insufficient funds.

GCD
Posts: 537
Joined: Tue Sep 26, 2017 7:11 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by GCD » Sat Dec 30, 2017 11:20 am

nisiprius wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:41 pm
I found that they almost formed a diary and that they were full of little reminders of things I'd forgotten.

Also--as with old bills and bank statements--it was fascinating to watch the typography, design, and style of checks evolve over the years.
Yeah, the reminiscence factor is about it. My wife pays a few things with a check, stuff like donations to school athletic fundraisers, etc. But everything else is by CC and electronic bill pay. I have no current functional use for them. I recently was cleaning out old stored stuff and found some checkbooks that I got caught up in looking through. Nobody but an old retired guy has time for that though...

barreg
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:49 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by barreg » Sat Dec 30, 2017 1:47 pm

I track my checking account with an Excel spreadsheet. We write very few physical checks, but I generally try to keep a minimum $1k balance in our checking account (and the rest in a higher yield money market account at a different bank). Keeping it in Excel lets me track out planned spending for the next month or two and I mainly use it to determine how much and when to transfer $$ to online savings account.

User avatar
mickeyd
Posts: 4612
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:19 pm
Location: Deep in the Heart of South Texas

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by mickeyd » Sat Dec 30, 2017 3:18 pm

Maintaining a check register makes total sense. Riding herd on your debits and credits is essential in business, so why not in your personal life?

We seldom write a paper check, but pay all bills online automatically as many other folks do. I have always reconciled my checking account monthly and probably always will. It takes so little time and effort to do so, and if there is an error along the way I know about it ASAP. Any balance over $1K goes into Ally savings for future fun.

I understand that it's not fashionable to take this monthly action, but it helps me sleep well and nice to see my Ally savings account grow.

update: I no longer bank with Ally. My cash is now residing in PMMF getting north od 2.04% yield.
Last edited by mickeyd on Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Part-Owner of Texas | | “The CMH-the Cost Matters Hypothesis -is all that is needed to explain why indexing must and will work… Yes, it is that simple.” John C. Bogle

takeshi
Posts: 1175
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2013 10:02 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by takeshi » Sat Dec 30, 2017 5:58 pm

OP's questions include a lot of matters of preference so asking others with differing preferences may not help the OP. I use Mint but I also maintain an Excel spreadsheet that started as a checking account register but now also tracks credit card accounts as well and provides some crude budgeting capabilities. You'll have to find what works best for you. If you prefer a paper register then stick with it regardless of what others do or do not.
Good Listener wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:02 pm
May I ask whether this is as much or more work than just writing it down?
I find a spreadsheet much easier than a paper register but I have a lot of experience over many years with spreadsheets going back to the days when Lotus 1-2-3 under DOS was the most popular option. I find it a lot easier to reconcile using a spreadsheet (I even reconcile each credit card account) but mine has formulas to help with this and I just have to tick off cleared transactions and punch in the current balance from the bank. The spreadsheet, of course, handles all the basic math which is where much of my time used to be wasted when I was using a paper register.

Again, YMMV. If you're not very comfortable with spreadsheets then you might find relying on one very cumbersome. You might or might not be able to adapt with time and experience but I cannot speak for you.

blmarsha123
Posts: 141
Joined: Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:23 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by blmarsha123 » Sat Dec 30, 2017 6:15 pm

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?
When I used other tools for tracking (spreadsheet, database, MYM and the like), I still kept a register. After I gave that up (except for my simple budget spreadsheet), I still keep a register. Admittedly, I write fewer checks these days, but I still (also) enter the automated bill pay stuff in the register.

User avatar
abuss368
Posts: 12842
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Where the water is warm, the drinks are cold, and I don't know the names of the players!

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by abuss368 » Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:06 am

We keep a checkbook register.
John C. Bogle: "You simply do not need to put your money into 8 different mutual funds!" | | Disclosure: Three Fund Portfolio + U.S. & International REITs

HIinvestor
Posts: 1654
Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:23 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by HIinvestor » Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:14 am

I keep several different checkbook registers, one for each checking account. I don't use any of the numerous online programs to track our checking accounts on a regular basis. I have one checking account as the primary for H & myself. Most of our funds cycle through that account. I have one checking account for the nonprofit I run. I have separate checking accounts for the two rentals we own as well. I also have checking accounts with Schwab, USAA, and PenFed, none of which I use much.

I really like having paper checkbook registers, which I find handier than having to log onto my computer and putting entries about checks and deposits. At tax time, I highlight and copy relevant pages of the register for the CPA. I know it's old school, but it works for H and me. We have never been particularly interested in any online program, though my kids swear by them.

hudson
Posts: 1486
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2007 9:15 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by hudson » Sun Dec 31, 2017 6:02 am

oldcomputerguy wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:46 am
Doom&Gloom wrote:
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
For the OP (and anyone else who might be interested), I've uploaded a "sanitized" (i.e. blank) version of the checkbook spreadsheet file I use. Please feel free to download and try it. The filename is "Sample Check Register.ods" and can be found here.

The columns are as follows:

NUMBER: whatever you normally would put in the first column, either the check number or some code to show the entry type (formatted for any entry)

Date: the date of the entry (column is formatted for dates)

Transaction Description: pretty self-evident (formatted for general text)

Payment/Debit: enter your checks and expenditures here (formatted for currency)

Deposit/Credit: put entries for deposits here (formatted for currency)

Current Balance: auto-calculates a running current balance based on the entries in the "Payment/Debit" and "Deposit/Credit" fields. Formatted for currency, cells are protected to prevent accidential munging of the code.

Cleared: a checkmark in this column tells the "Recon" column to kick in (see below). Cut-and-paste the checkmark from the top cell in that column into any item that has cleared the bank.

Recon: a running auto-balancing function. Based on the status of the debit and credit cells and the "Cleared" cell, the code in this column does a running reconciliation for each line. The last value shown in this column should match what the bank shows that you have. (Saves checkbook balancing from the monthly statement.)

I hope this is of some value to someone.
Thanks oldcomputerguy!
I saved a link to your contribution and will come back when my Microsoft Money Sunset stops working. It has stopped before; Microsoft updates or upgrades have killed it before; Microsoft keeps it alive for free...for now: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/downloa ... x?id=20738

Note: Money came out in 1991 for Windows 3 which required an 8086/8088 processor or better. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Money

User avatar
abuss368
Posts: 12842
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Where the water is warm, the drinks are cold, and I don't know the names of the players!

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by abuss368 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:30 am

oldcomputerguy wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:46 am
Doom&Gloom wrote:
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
For the OP (and anyone else who might be interested), I've uploaded a "sanitized" (i.e. blank) version of the checkbook spreadsheet file I use. Please feel free to download and try it. The filename is "Sample Check Register.ods" and can be found here.

The columns are as follows:

NUMBER: whatever you normally would put in the first column, either the check number or some code to show the entry type (formatted for any entry)

Date: the date of the entry (column is formatted for dates)

Transaction Description: pretty self-evident (formatted for general text)

Payment/Debit: enter your checks and expenditures here (formatted for currency)

Deposit/Credit: put entries for deposits here (formatted for currency)

Current Balance: auto-calculates a running current balance based on the entries in the "Payment/Debit" and "Deposit/Credit" fields. Formatted for currency, cells are protected to prevent accidential munging of the code.

Cleared: a checkmark in this column tells the "Recon" column to kick in (see below). Cut-and-paste the checkmark from the top cell in that column into any item that has cleared the bank.

Recon: a running auto-balancing function. Based on the status of the debit and credit cells and the "Cleared" cell, the code in this column does a running reconciliation for each line. The last value shown in this column should match what the bank shows that you have. (Saves checkbook balancing from the monthly statement.)

I hope this is of some value to someone.
That is a nice spreadsheet and the reconciliation feature would prove valuable.
John C. Bogle: "You simply do not need to put your money into 8 different mutual funds!" | | Disclosure: Three Fund Portfolio + U.S. & International REITs

User avatar
abuss368
Posts: 12842
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Where the water is warm, the drinks are cold, and I don't know the names of the players!

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by abuss368 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:34 am

NotWhoYouThink wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:03 pm
We set spending and savings targets which are met without detailed tracking, and that's good enough.

I put more thought into tracking investments than tracking spending.
Hi NotWhoYouThink -

In your response, the above statement made a lot of sense to me. I feel we use the same strategy. We pretty much know our expenses (i.e. mandatory and discretionary) and unexpected expenses are a way of life that really can not be budgeted for 100%. We have savings and investment goals each year and spend our time watching that.
John C. Bogle: "You simply do not need to put your money into 8 different mutual funds!" | | Disclosure: Three Fund Portfolio + U.S. & International REITs

dcabler
Posts: 622
Joined: Wed Feb 19, 2014 11:30 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by dcabler » Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:38 am

Haven't kept a checkbook register in something like 25 years. And these days there are probably only one or two checks a year that I right. The rest is either on autopay, paid by credit card, or cash. Of course I get online and look at transactions to make sure I can identify everything that's there, but that's about it.

User avatar
abuss368
Posts: 12842
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Where the water is warm, the drinks are cold, and I don't know the names of the players!

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by abuss368 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:30 pm

So how many Bogleheads actually reconcile their checkbooks?
John C. Bogle: "You simply do not need to put your money into 8 different mutual funds!" | | Disclosure: Three Fund Portfolio + U.S. & International REITs

User avatar
Sheepdog
Posts: 5159
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:05 pm
Location: Indiana, retired 1998 at age 65

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Sheepdog » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:41 pm

abuss368 wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:30 pm
So how many Bogleheads actually reconcile their checkbooks?
I don't know how many, but I do every month. And, if it's off a penny, I search for it until I find it :)
Last edited by Sheepdog on Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
It's not what you gather, but what you scatter which tells what kind of life you have lived---Helen Walton

User avatar
abuss368
Posts: 12842
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Where the water is warm, the drinks are cold, and I don't know the names of the players!

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by abuss368 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:42 pm

Sheepdog wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:41 pm
abuss368 wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:30 pm
So how many Bogleheads actually reconcile their checkbooks?
I don't know how many, but I do every month.
We have for many years. We also stopped using Quicken 10 years ago. It takes mere minutes to reconcile and know how much cash is available.
John C. Bogle: "You simply do not need to put your money into 8 different mutual funds!" | | Disclosure: Three Fund Portfolio + U.S. & International REITs

User avatar
abuss368
Posts: 12842
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Where the water is warm, the drinks are cold, and I don't know the names of the players!

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by abuss368 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:43 pm

Sheepdog wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:41 pm
abuss368 wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:30 pm
So how many Bogleheads actually reconcile their checkbooks?
I don't know how many, but I do every month.
One thing we did do over the years was really simplify banking and cash management. We no longer have savings account(s), and all transactions essentially hit the credit card where possible with no fees. A few utilities draft out of checking. Our checks written during the year are minimal. Never any Debit card transactions for safety and security purposes and simplicity.
John C. Bogle: "You simply do not need to put your money into 8 different mutual funds!" | | Disclosure: Three Fund Portfolio + U.S. & International REITs

User avatar
cfs
Posts: 4154
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 1:22 am
Location: ~ Mi Propio Camino ~

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by cfs » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:50 pm

I use a military notebook as my checks register, and I just closed one of those notebooks covering from 2003 to 2017, now using a similar notebook. My actual checks are to pay quarterly and property taxes, however, I have all other payments in auto mode (ACH) and I use the notebook to keep track of all the monthly payments. It is easier than having to open my computer to check a payment. Whatever works for you, good luck, thanks for reading.
~ Member of the Active Retired Force since 2014 ~

Broken Man 1999
Posts: 1440
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 11:31 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:51 pm

I keep a register of the check number, payee, amount, and date, but I do no balance reconciliation. I just keep an eye on my online info to make sure the check is cashed.

Some small trades folks don't accept credit cards (nor would I want to increase their expenses even if they did), and I usually write checks for my CNAs Christmas bonuses. As well, if an online billing system is used, it takes a few days, and trades folks probably desire to be paid quickly.

My lawn service is ongoing, so they get paid by the online billing system.

So, I suppose I keep a partial register of check number, amount, and date. Not nearly as tedious as balancing and all that stuff. I haven't balanced a checkbook since my checking accounts appeared online, many years ago.

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go. " -Mark Twain

User avatar
Doom&Gloom
Posts: 2240
Joined: Thu May 08, 2014 3:36 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Doom&Gloom » Mon Jan 01, 2018 2:00 pm

Sheepdog wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:41 pm
abuss368 wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:30 pm
So how many Bogleheads actually reconcile their checkbooks?
I don't know how many, but I do every month. And, if it's off a penny, I search for it until I find it :)
Same here. Long-time habit and I see no reason to change now. With online banking it only takes seconds each time I log in to my accounts; it is much less of a chore than when it was done via monthly statements.

And now, with oldcomputerguy's check register spreadsheet, it can be done at a glance. I can't even fathom not keeping a register of some type.

User avatar
cheese_breath
Posts: 7930
Joined: Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:08 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by cheese_breath » Mon Jan 01, 2018 3:52 pm

scrabbler1 wrote:
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.
Ditto.
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.

AlwaysaQ
Posts: 483
Joined: Fri Apr 13, 2007 7:37 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by AlwaysaQ » Mon Jan 01, 2018 4:42 pm

I use a spreadsheet check register and do balance it when I get my statement. The paper register in the checkbook is only used when I am out and writing a check so I don't forget to put it in my spreadsheet.

Limoncello402
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed May 03, 2017 3:58 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Limoncello402 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 5:08 pm

I keep a checkbook. I like writing things down, and it is very easy to look through.
Each month, I enter my bi-weekly paycheck, which comes to my checking account. I subtract automatic payments, savings, mortgage, online payments, and the couple of checks I write each month (utilities, misc).
All my monthly transactions are covered between my checking account and my one credit card. It is just a handy way to have everything at a glance and to the penny. About once a week I'll make sure my checkbook tally jibes with my online checking account tally. In that regard it is a kind of "backup."

Maya1234
Posts: 97
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:10 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Maya1234 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 9:36 pm

Don’t keep a checkbook. I pay my bills on the day they come in via online bill paying ( not auto pay). I write 2 checks a year for real estate tax. EVERYTHING else is via electronic payment or I make a check request online from Chase. The money is withdrawn from my account immediately and a check sent to the few people who need paper checks: gutter cleaner, plow guy. If for any reason a check isn’t cashed in 90 Days Chase voids the check amd puts it back in my account.

I keep no spreadsheets. 99 percent of our expenses are via credit card and it’s all tracked via category there. That’s enough for me.

RudyS
Posts: 1299
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:11 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by RudyS » Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:14 pm

Sheepdog wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:41 pm
abuss368 wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:30 pm
So how many Bogleheads actually reconcile their checkbooks?
I don't know how many, but I do every month. And, if it's off a penny, I search for it until I find it :)
I reconcile monthly,and have done so for 60 years, but if I am off a small amount, I no longer always hunt it down, but just make another entry: "adjust to bank." Most of our checks are gifts and charities. There are also entries for automatic draws by insurance, and when I make the online charge card payment to cover most of my expenses.

Luke Duke
Posts: 765
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:44 am
Location: Texas

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Luke Duke » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:35 am

I got my first checking account 21.5 years ago when I left the house to go to college. I don't think that I've balanced a checkbook in 20 years. I did it for a couple of months because that's what my parents did. I quickly realized that it was a waste of time. I also don't write many checks, because that too is a waste of time.

tomd37
Posts: 2844
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:39 pm
Location: Middle Tennessee

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by tomd37 » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:42 am

I am in my early 80s and have had a checking account since age 15. Always reconcile my account monthly and check off reconciled checks in the check register. Two days ago received and reconciled December's statement and found three $100 personal gift checks dating back to mid-October that recipients had failed to deposit. Contacted all three and they were very appreciative and looked for and found the checks and will deposit them. :dollar
Tom D.

scrabbler1
Posts: 2219
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:39 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by scrabbler1 » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:45 am

AlwaysaQ wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 4:42 pm
I use a spreadsheet check register and do balance it when I get my statement. The paper register in the checkbook is only used when I am out and writing a check so I don't forget to put it in my spreadsheet.
Back when I wrote a few more checks than I do today, especially monthly ones, my checkbook register and checkbook spreadsheet were more in sync with each other. Now, because I write so few checks, sometimes going more than a month between them, I fall behind with the register and have to catch up when the monthly statement arrives for me to balance.

User avatar
DaftInvestor
Posts: 4057
Joined: Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:11 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by DaftInvestor » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:34 am

montanagirl wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 12:06 pm
I keep a register and write down my debits and checks on-site. I'm afraid I'll forget if I don't, and trigger a NSF because I try to keep most cash in savings.

About once a month a self-checkout clerk will warn me that they don't take checks (duh), because they see me writing down my debit. They think it's weird that someone keeps track like that? Somehow I don't think my fellow WalMart and Albertson's shoppers are all running home to enter stuff on spreadsheets.
They aren't running home to enter debits in spreadsheets because most shoppers use credit cards rather than debit cards.
For some folks this might be bad (because they don't pay them off monthly) but for the disciplined you can get 2% cashback and have a register (your credit-card online account) with only a single debit per month (your credit card statement).

RudyS
Posts: 1299
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:11 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by RudyS » Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:12 pm

tomd37 wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:42 am
I am in my early 80s and have had a checking account since age 15. Always reconcile my account monthly and check off reconciled checks in the check register. Two days ago received and reconciled December's statement and found three $100 personal gift checks dating back to mid-October that recipients had failed to deposit. Contacted all three and they were very appreciative and looked for and found the checks and will deposit them. :dollar
Me too! Except I don't always try hard to find the source of an imbalance; just make an adjustment for small amounts. I bet the checks were to grandkids! These days, I'm happy when they send a thank-you by text!

pennywise
Posts: 480
Joined: Sat May 31, 2014 6:22 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by pennywise » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:59 pm

Good Listener wrote:
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 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?

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 don't use Quicken or Mint but other than finding the payee of a check by looking it up manually I cannot see any possible benefit any more to a paper check register. Even the look up feature doesn't seem to outweigh what you say yourself is an aggravating menial chore that is now easily available and maintained automatically online, quickly accessible at any time and requiring no effort on your part. I also find that there's no more monthly schedule any more; I look at my online register whenever I need to because it's again literally there 24/7.

I would strongly advise giving up a paper check register. If you are nervous, give it a try for a month or two to see if you like it and if so, go for it. At a minimum it will ease your clerical burden not to mention allowing you to quit giving utilities an interest free loan of your annual expense :D . If not you can continue your current system.

User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 48041
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by LadyGeek » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:31 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum (checkbook).

I use a register in case I forget to enter the number in Moneydance (Quicken competitor).
Wiki To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

User avatar
AAA
Posts: 1042
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:56 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by AAA » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:36 pm

I keep a checkbook register and also have a spreadsheet. If I have to write a check, which happens a few times a month, it's just easier to enter the information in the register at the same time rather than wake up the computer and open the spreadsheet for each check. When I get the monthly bank statement, I enter all of my new checks and deposits into the spreadsheet, flagging the items that are on the statement, and reconcile the net sum of the flagged items with the statement balance. That saves me from doing some math. I also do a manual balance of all items in the register to get an actual, up-to-date balance as some recently written checks are not yet on a statement. Maybe there's an easier way, but I'm reluctant to go all-electronic at this time.

User avatar
abuss368
Posts: 12842
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Where the water is warm, the drinks are cold, and I don't know the names of the players!

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by abuss368 » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:49 pm

We stopped using Quicken 10 years ago (after using it for the previous 10 years). Much more time for other matters that we felt were more important.

We also stopped printing bank statements. They are available online for 7 years. The cloud has changed everything.
John C. Bogle: "You simply do not need to put your money into 8 different mutual funds!" | | Disclosure: Three Fund Portfolio + U.S. & International REITs

User avatar
N1CKV
Posts: 761
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:18 am

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by N1CKV » Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:44 pm

I keep a Google Spreadsheet (Google Sheets) that functions as my "checkbook register".
There is a tab for each of my accounts that looks pretty much exactly like a classic register.
I start a new tab every year to avoid clutter and hide the prior year tab. Looking now I have been doing this since 2009.
I also hide lines from two months prior and older, just to reference the immediate prior month and current, then I fill out the rest of the year to project out cashflow. My expenses and income are fairly consistent. I can easily use sort to rearrange if the dates move and and/remove lines as needed.

By having it in Google Sheets / in the cloud I can access it from my home computer, work computer or even my mobile phone.

I even have a tab that tracks each paycheck (from gross, to deductions and even calculates income taxes at the bottom).
There is a tab with specific setup for tracking CDs along with maturity dates.
I have a few other miscellaneous tabs for other special cases also. This works really well for me.
I have met a lot of people that claim to love money, but they also seem to be the same people that are in the biggest hurry to get rid of it.

Nowizard
Posts: 1545
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 5:33 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Nowizard » Wed Jan 03, 2018 4:02 pm

I do make most payments by check and do keep a register, though the reason for doing so has changed. I keep the registers forever, as they provide a snapshot of what was purchased during a given year, something that our children will enjoy looking back at in the future and laughing.

Tim

User avatar
Tyler Aspect
Posts: 1088
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:27 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Tyler Aspect » Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:26 pm

I use a text file based checkbook register to keep track of my cash based financial accounts.

This is one example of a single month's statement.

Loan her Chase card
{ 35 => 61.89 (from 2017-06-10 to 2017-07-09)
06/27/17 phone, Cricket Wireless, 35
06/23/17 dining, Shen Hong Restaurant, 37.42+12.47
06/21/17 rebate, Chase Bank, 23
06/18/17 PayFrom our bank, 35
}

I am into the second year of using this system. I can view monthly expense by category, plus some other types of tabular reports by pointing and clicking. The current version of the application supports a built-in text editor.

https://sourceforge.net/projects/cash-flow

text editor
Image

one category view
Image

one account view
Image
Past result does not predict future performance. Mentioned investments may lose money. Contents are presented "AS IS" and any implied suitability for a particular purpose are disclaimed.

SrGrumpy
Posts: 703
Joined: Wed Aug 05, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by SrGrumpy » Thu Jan 04, 2018 11:23 am

Sweden got rid of checks in the '70s, according to a WSJ story today about how far U.S. is behind China in terms of mobile payments. My check register still has calendars for 97, 98, 99. Or thereabouts: I have no idea where my check book is.

User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 48041
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by LadyGeek » Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:42 pm

oldcomputerguy wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:46 am
Doom&Gloom wrote:
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
For the OP (and anyone else who might be interested), I've uploaded a "sanitized" (i.e. blank) version of the checkbook spreadsheet file I use. Please feel free to download and try it. The filename is "Sample Check Register.ods" and can be found here.

...
I hope this is of some value to someone.
After a PM exchange, oldcomputerguy's spreadsheet is now in the wiki. See: Check register
Wiki To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

47Percent
Posts: 336
Joined: Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:59 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by 47Percent » Mon Jul 09, 2018 9:50 pm

livesoft wrote:
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.
I started paying the property tax payments also online a few years ago through Schwab billpay. But recently, my county has implemented direct debit from the checking account. So I can use either the push or pull method.

I go even one step further to avoid writing paper checks. I schedule periodic checks mailed to my address through billpay for periodic payments I pay for home services such as gardening. The checks are made payable to "Mr Yours Truly OR Mr Gardener Extraordinaire". They are scheduled to be delivered a few days before I need to pay. They arrive like clockwork. If a payment needs to be skipped, I can hold the check and use it next time (skip the next automatic check), or deposit it back in my account.

For most personal payments I just use PayPal or adjust in some other way. In the past 8 years, I may have written a dozen checks in all.

Jablean
Posts: 250
Joined: Sat Jun 02, 2018 2:38 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Jablean » Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:26 am

What's a check register? No not really but why? I dropped that and reconciliation when I went to online banking and bill pay and had enough to not worry too much about overdrafts. My credit union's system tells me what bills I've scheduled to pay in the next two weeks and how much transfer money I've scheduled to cover it. Occasionally I get a bill I can't pay online with a credit card but most of my recent checks have been to my DS to get him to at least look at his bank account. Just transferring money to him (which I could do online) would be too easy.

I move everything in and out of one account so I look at the account register at least monthly and categorize anything that's not self evident. For budgeting everything I buy is mostly on credit cards, those I wouldn't mind having a better tracker for. No Quicken etc for me. I track my account totals in a spreadsheet quarterly and insert comments on cells that need it such as vacation to San Fran.

rgs92
Posts: 2166
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2009 8:00 pm

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by rgs92 » Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:52 am

If the reason to do it is to avoid insufficient funds, just get overdraft protection for about $5000 to $10,000.
That should do it.

Post Reply